Formula 1's Driver Power Rankings After 2014 Belgian Grand Prix
The Belgian Grand Prix was yet another action-packed instalment of the 2014 Formula One season.
Remember when people were saying "this new Formula One" was rubbish?
Daniel Ricciardo powered to an unexpected victory at a circuit which wasn't expected to suit his RB10, but he needed a little help along the way.
Nico Rosberg provided it. He first took out his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and lost time with a long pit stop to replace his nose.
He then badly flat-spotted his tyres and cost himself more time. This second error would prove crucial—he finished just 3.3 seconds behind Ricciardo at the end.
Valtteri Bottas continued to impress and claimed his fourth podium of the season, while Kimi Raikkonen put in a beautiful drive to finish fourth.
Note on Power Rankings
These rankings should not be confused with the actual championship table.
Rather than looking solely at points, they also take into account race results, qualifying, overall performance of each driver and how they stack up against their team-mates. The relative pace of each driver's car is factored in.
Only performance at the last six races is considered.
The previous rankings, created after the Hungarian Grand Prix, are here. All position changes are relative to the positions in that article.
Jean-Eric Vergne drops out of the Top 10 after an average race.
Sebastian Vettel didn't do as badly as the stats suggest—with so little running in practice (including none at all in the key P2), his third place in qualifying was hugely impressive.
But two errors early on cost him places, and finishing 52 seconds behind your team-mate is never a good thing.
Kevin Magnussen was close to a place, too. The rookie defended like a grizzled veteran against the likes of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to finish sixth.
But he put a dampener on an otherwise excellent display with an ill-advised piece of overly aggressive defending down the Kemmel straight, pushing Alonso on to the grass.
The resulting penalty dropped him out of the points, wiping out all his excellent work.
10. Jenson Button
Jenson Button has shown more signs of his old self in recent races, quietly putting in solid displays and hauling McLaren up to fifth in the constructors' championship.
He qualified 10th after an error on his final lap. It's now 6-6 in the qualifying battle with team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
After three laps, Button was up to eighth and on Magnussen's tail.
He pitted several laps later than his team-mate at each round of stops and lost some ground, but late in the race he came back at the cars ahead with fresher tyres.
A four-way battle between Button, Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso had long been brewing, and the fight exploded in spectacular fashion on the 40th lap.
The four men passed and re-passed each other, the order changing frequently as Magnussen desperately defended. Button was shuffled off the track and ended up at the rear of the battle but got back past Alonso on the final lap to finish seventh.
He was elevated to sixth after the Dane's penalty.
9. Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez out-qualified team-mate Nico Hulkenberg for only the third time in 2014. He lined up 13th, with Hulkenberg in 18th.
A good start saw Perez jump both Toro Rossos on the opening lap, and he settled into 10th. Several laps later, he was up to ninth as Felipe Massa dropped back.
Though quick enough in a straight line, the Force India wasn't too good over a single lap. Daniil Kvyat caught him up, but Perez was able to defend the position.
He made an early second stop to stay ahead but at the cost of needing to manage his tyres to the end. That's one of his strengths, but Kvyat still caught up.
The Mexican defended well under pressure and held on to take a well-deserved eighth place.
8. Jules Bianchi
Cometh the rain, cometh the Marussia.
Jules Bianchi wrung the neck of his MR03 in qualifying, setting a Q1 time a second and a half quicker than team-mate Max Chilton. It bought him a pass to Q2 for the third time in 2014.
Rain often magnifies a lack of downforce, so Bianchi's achievement was all the more impressive. He now leads the Marussia qualifying duel 9-3.
But Bianchi's hopes of a good Sunday were wrecked at the first corner. He stayed out of trouble around the outside but was tagged by Romain Grosjean and suffered a puncture.
A slow lap and pit stop followed. After two laps, he was 50 seconds behind the fight between Chilton and Marcus Ericsson.
Bianchi was quicker than the two despite a less-than-optimal strategy, but the gap was too large and he never caught up.
He retired close to the end with a gearbox problem, the icing on a disappointing day—but his driving deserved better.
7. Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat missed out on a spot in Q3 by a single 10th of a second and started 11th. He out-qualified his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne by half a second to draw level in the team-mate battle.
It's now 6-6.
Kvyat was passed off the line by Sergio Perez. That early loss of position would prove crucial later in the race.
The Mexican wasn't especially quick over a single lap, but when Kvyat caught him on Lap 16, he had enough straight-line grunt to remain ahead on the straights.
The second set of stops didn't shake up the order, and having stopped three laps later, Kvyat again closed up on the Force India's rear.
But again, he couldn't get by. Ninth was his reward.
It was a disappointing result but a strong performance from the young Russian. Had his Toro Rosso possessed sufficient horses to pass Perez, Kvyat would have had enough pace to at least get close to the four-way fight for fifth.
6. Nico Hulkenberg
After a rotten Hungarian Grand Prix which saw his 100 percent scoring record in 2014 come to an end, Nico Hulkenberg had another stinker on Saturday.
Choosing to stay out on one set of tyres for the whole of Q1, Hulkenberg made a couple of costly errors in the wet and even his fastest lap featured a big mistake.
He lined up 18th, missing out on Q2 for the first time this year—but a good start and strong opening two laps moved the German up to 12th.
He spent several laps behind Daniil Kvyat's Toro Rosso, losing time to team-mate Sergio Perez; for once his Force India didn't have the straight-line speed needed to make a move stick.
A long middle stint dropped Hulkenberg further back but almost paid off late in the race. With fresher tyres than his rivals, the Force India man closed up to Kvyat and Perez.
But it was too late to have a proper stab at overtaking them.
Hulkenberg finished 10th, less than two seconds behind eighth-placed Perez.
Scoring in 11 out of 12 grands prix is good, but he hasn't seemed as strong in recent races.
5. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg had looked slightly the slower of the two Mercedes drivers through practice, but when the rain came on Saturday, he was immense.
Rosberg powered around the Spa circuit to claim pole position by just over two-tenths of a second. It was his fourth pole in a row.
On Sunday he made a poor start and was passed by Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel handed him the place back with an error at Les Combes, and Rosberg—who appeared to have a lot more straight-line speed—closed up on Hamilton.
He could have waited or at least made a proper stab at passing. Instead, the German had a half-hearted effort around the outside into Les Combes. Hamilton remained on the racing line and Rosberg's front wing hit his tyre.
Slow-motion replays shown on Sky Sports F1's post-race coverage revealed Rosberg had made a secondary steering input which brought his wing into contact with Hamilton's tyre. The Brit suffered a puncture and Rosberg damaged his wing.
BBC F1 later reported Rosberg told Mercedes bosses he could have avoided the incident but chose not to.
He lost time as he struggled with the damaged wing, and a longer pit stop to change it left Rosberg with a lot to do. A badly flat-spotted tyre caused by a lock-up and the resulting early pit stop to replace it made his job even harder.
After his third and final stop, Rosberg was 23 seconds down on Daniel Ricciardo. He closed up fast but couldn't quite catch the leader, who recorded his third win of the season.
Rosberg's moment of poor driving cost Hamilton 25 or 18 points, Rosberg a potential seven and opened the door for Ricciardo once more to take advantage.
A good result for Rosberg but not a great driving display.
4. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton had looked on top during free practice but didn't get the job done when the rain came down in qualifying.
He suffered with a glazed brake and couldn't get the maximum out of his W05, ending up second—a few 10ths of a second shy of team-mate Rosberg.
Hamilton got a great start in the race and led the first lap. He seemed to have less straight-line speed than Rosberg, who attempted a pass around the outside at Les Combes.
The German hit Hamilton's left-rear tyre, causing a puncture. The flailing tyre carcass damaged the rear of his car, and though he rejoined the race, he never had good pace.
He retired four laps from the end, capping a miserable weekend in which he once more lost points through no fault of his own.
3. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso qualified fourth but was on the back foot before the race had even begun. His car wouldn't start and his mechanics were on the grid beyond the allowed time.
They got Alonso going before the entire field had passed and he was able to take his grid slot for the start, but the rule breach meant he was awarded a five-second stop-go penalty.
The additional time added to his first stop dropped the Spaniard to 10th, leaving him with a lot of work to do.
He made slow but steady progress back through the field, hampered a little by the poor straight-line speed of the F14 T. With three laps to go, he challenged Kevin Magnussen for fifth.
The young Dane defended a little too robustly, nearly pushing Alonso off the track at 200 miles per hour on the Kemmel straight. He had to pull out of the move to avoid a nasty crash and was passed by Jenson Button.
He spent the remaining laps in a battle with Magnussen, Button and Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso made a rare mistake and lost part of his front wing on Vettel's rear end, leaving him short of downforce for the final lap. Button got by again, and Alonso cruised home in eighth.
He was later promoted to seventh after Magnussen's penalty.
2. Valtteri Bottas
Williams were expected to be the main challengers to Mercedes at Spa, but it didn't turn out that way.
Bottas qualified sixth in the wet qualifying session, more than a second quicker than team-mate Felipe Massa. The Williams didn't really have the pace to be any higher.
The Finn held position at the start. He moved up when Lewis Hamilton hit trouble, and after a few laps to settle, he picked off Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to run third. It became second when Rosberg stopped for a new nose, and the lead—albeit for just one lap—when Ricciardo stopped.
Bottas emerged from his own stop behind Rosberg but made an opportunistic pass when the German flat-spotted his tyre in an aborted attempt to pass Vettel.
He later overtook both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on his way to third, and a fourth podium of the year.
1. Daniel Ricciardo
Christian Horner didn't think Red Bull would have a prayer of winning at Spa—and he wasn't the only one.
No one told Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian qualified fifth and ran fourth early on after Lewis Hamilton dropped out of contention. He passed Fernando Alonso on Lap 4 and was close behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel on the fifth lap.
When the German made an error at Pouhon, Ricciardo pounced and moved up to second.
Nico Rosberg's long early stop put him temporarily out of the running, and Ricciardo took the lead. With the exception of a single lap when he made his first stop, the Australian never relinquished it.
Towards the end, Rosberg was on much fresher tyres and catching at up to three seconds per lap. It looked like he might have a chance to challenge for the win.
But Ricciardo was just managing his pace. He set his fastest lap on the 44th and final tour, taking the chequered flag by 3.3 seconds.
All rankings of this nature are very much opinion-based, and it's likely yours will differ. Feel free to comment with your own rankings or tell me where I went wrong.
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