Formula 1's Driver Power Rankings After 2014 Russian Grand Prix
The 2014 Formula One Russian Grand Prix was the first to bear the name, and unless the title fight develops in a certain way that's likely to be the only reason it will be remembered.
An unholy trinity of excessive fuel consumption, lack of tyre degradation and a fairly uninspiring circuit conspired to deliver a race in which very little happened and few drivers had a chance to shine.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton cruised to the easiest win of his F1 career, while Nico Rosberg put in a beautiful recovery drive to finish second—but he was fixing an error of his own making.
Valtteri Bottas rounded off the podium. The Finn could maybe have given Rosberg more of a race had he stopped a few laps earlier, but had to settle for the fastest lap instead.
The stand-out performer near the front of the field was perhaps Jenson Button, while Marcus Ericsson's qualifying effort is worthy of applause.
But aside from individual moves, it's hard to think of any more top-class showings.
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, as is the identity of his team-mate.
Only performances at the last six races are considered.
The previous rankings, based on the six races up to and including the Japanese Grand Prix, are here. All position changes are relative to positions in that article.
For the second race in a row, Marcus Ericsson appeared to drive very well. He missed out on getting through to Q2 by just one tenth of a second, had good race pace and is suddenly looking like a very decent driver.
Felipe Massa had a great opening lap—it would have been interesting to see how he'd done on a more conventional strategy.
And Kevin Magnussen did well to recover from a grid-drop penalty to finish fifth.
10. Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg out-qualified team-mate Sergio Perez to take a 12-5 lead in the Force India qualifying battle. He set the 12th-fastest time, but a five-place penalty for a gearbox change dropped him down to 17th.
Perez inherited 12th.
The German was one of the big gainers in the messy opening laps, moving up to 13th. But having started on the slower medium tyres, his initial pace wasn't good.
Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber managed to easily keep clear, and when Hulkenberg emerged from his solitary stop on Lap 24 he found himself in 16th.
Utilising the extra grip of the soft tyres, he was one of the fastest men on the track before he encountered traffic. He got past the two Toro Rossos, then latched on to the rear of Felipe Massa's Williams.
Massa was stuck behind Perez, seemingly a lot quicker but unable to get by. Hulkenberg followed them to the flag, where the trio were separated by just 1.3 seconds.
He finished 12th, and drops to 10th.
9. Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat put in the qualifying session of his life in Sochi. His best lap of 1 minute, 39.277 seconds was seven-tenths quicker than his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne and four-tenths clear of the quickest Red Bull.
Perhaps most admirably, it was only eight-tenths off pole.
But it all went wrong for the young Russian as soon as the lights went out on Sunday.
Kvyat made a hash of the opening lap and dropped to eighth, and by Lap 5 he was down in 10th. With his Toro Rosso suffering more than most with excessive fuel consumption, he was never likely to mount a fightback.
He dropped more places at what was planned to be his only stop, then a lock-up and subsequent flat-spot necessitated another visit to the pits.
Kvyat emerged in 15th and ran at close to the leader's pace to the end. But he could only make up one place, and finished a disappointing 14th at his first home race.
He's down a spot to ninth.
8. Jenson Button
Jenson Button is in a fine run of form as McLaren enjoys a strong finish to the season.
The 2009 world champion qualified a strong fourth, half a second clear of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
He moved up one place at the start when Nico Rosberg was forced to pit, and held off the early attentions of Fernando Alonso before settling in to a quite lonely race in third.
It looked like a podium might be in his grasp, but Rosberg was suffering lower than expected tyre degradation and pushed Button down to fourth when the McLaren man stopped.
The Mercedes was soon out of sight and Button resumed his solitary race in fourth. He was quicker than Magnussen and Alonso behind, but unable to live with the Mercedes duo and Williams up ahead.
Fourth is where he finished, adding 12 valuable points to McLaren's total.
He moves up two spots to eighth.
7. Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel continued his mediocre qualifying form at Sochi, setting the 11th-fastest time and departing at the Q2 stage for the fourth time in 2014.
That's more than in the last four seasons added together. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, ever-present in Q3 this year, qualified seventh.
A good opening two laps saw Vettel move up to seventh and ahead of Ricciardo, and a smart move on Jean-Eric Vergne bumped him up to sixth.
With Ricciardo right behind him and looking to be quicker, it was only a matter of time before the Australian was on the team radio hinting he'd like to be let through.
No message to Vettel was broadcast on the main TV feed, and it's unclear if one was at all—but the German responded to something. He sped up slightly, leaving Ricciardo a few seconds down the road.
Red Bull split their drivers' strategies, with Vettel doing a long opening stint on the softs while Ricciardo went for an early switch to mediums. By the time Vettel emerged from his one and only stop on Lap 31, he was down to eighth and behind Ricciardo.
He closed the gap by a few seconds, but was unable to challenge and eighth is where he finished—over a minute off the lead.
He remains seventh.
6. Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez again had a slightly disappointing qualifying session, but in the context of the season as a whole it wasn't too bad. He was 13th, a tenth slower than team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who he has beaten only five times all year.
Hulkenberg's grid drop moved Perez up to 12th.
The Mexican held position at the chaotic start and moved up to 11th when Nico Rosberg stopped at the end of the first lap. Having started on the mediums, he was unable to bother the cars ahead, but kept in touch.
Just before his one and only stop, Felipe Massa caught up, but couldn't get by. The duo stopped within two laps of each other, and a good out-lap from Perez was enough to keep him ahead.
Massa's Williams was clearly the faster car, but he couldn't find a way through. By the end of the race, Perez had spent 30 laps fending him off.
His reward was a solitary championship point for 10th.
He remains sixth.
5. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg was quickest in the first practice session at Sochi, but team-mate Lewis Hamilton took the lead from P2 onwards.
It was all to play for in qualifying, but Rosberg couldn't quite match Hamilton's pace. He ended up second, which some—myself included, in my race preview—thought may be the best slot on the grid.
The German looked like he was proving that theory true by pulling out of Hamilton's slipstream and taking the inside line into the first braking zone.
He had the corner, but blew it by braking too late. He suffered a huge lock-up, effectively destroying his tyres and forcing him into the pits at the end of the lap for a new set of medium compounds.
The team advised him early on the team radio that he'd probably have to run these tyres to the end of the race. It seemed an absurd aim, but Rosberg drove in a calm and controlled manner and as the race progressed, it began to look more and more possible.
He gradually made his way through the field, and a well-timed pass on Valtteri Bottas completed his recovery to second.
It was the first time we've had a chance to watch Rosberg do a recovery drive, and one cannot find a single fault in his driving from Lap 2 onwards.
But that first lap error could cost him the title.
He remains fifth.
4. Valtteri Bottas
After good but steady runs in Friday, Valtteri Bottas broke cover in FP3 and marked himself out as the man most likely to challenge the dominance of Mercedes.
He carried this form through to qualifying and in the dying seconds of Q3 was on a lap which would have put him on the front row. Unfortunately, the Finn made a couple of errors in the final sector, but was still quick enough for third.
Bottas moved up to second when Nico Rosberg pitted at the end of the opening lap, and his early pace was very strong. Lewis Hamilton was pulling away, but the margins were tiny—a tenth here or there. Fifteen laps in, Bottas was less than five seconds down.
But he was one of the few drivers to suffer noticeably from tyre degradation, and he began to fall back. Williams left him out too long, and by the time he left the pits he was 18 seconds down on the race leader and had Rosberg breathing down his neck.
Bottas later revealed on the team website he was taken by surprise by Rosberg's move and struggled to get his medium tyres to work.
Eventually he did and spent the run to the chequered flag trading fastest laps with Hamilton and Rosberg.
It was one of the few interesting parts of the race and a final tour of 1:40.896—which would have put him 14th on the grid—gave the Williams man his first F1 fastest lap.
He remains fourth.
3. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso could have been excused a dip in form as he prepares to leave Ferrari, but he again delivered a strong performance.
Qualifying didn't go so well, but the Spaniard still set a quicker lap than team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. From 16 races in 2014, Alonso has qualified ahead 14 times. At Sochi, he managed the eighth-quickest time, with Raikkonen a tenth slower in ninth.
Starting seventh after Magnussen's penalty, Alonso negotiated the first-lap melee to emerge in fourth. He put pressure on Jenson Button in the early stages but a couple of ropey laps saw the Ferrari man drop back.
A problem at his one and only pit stop cost Alonso several seconds and allowed Kevin Magnussen to turn a four-second deficit into a six-second advantage. It also brought Daniel Ricciardo into play.
The Red Bull man was parked on Alonso's gearbox for the last 15 laps but, like so many others in this race, couldn't find a way through.
Alonso finished sixth, almost 19 seconds clear of Raikkonen.
He stays third.
2. Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo extended his lead in the Red Bull qualifying battle to an unassailable 10-6, setting the seventh-best lap. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel could only manage 11th.
Like his 2015 team-mate Daniil Kvyat, he had a poor opening lap and dropped to 10th. But unlike Kvyat, Ricciardo recovered somewhat—he was up to seventh by the end of Lap 4.
Finding himself tucked up behind Vettel, Ricciardo made a not-so-subtle request for some team orders, but they were not forthcoming and he seemed to be losing pace—one of the few drivers to perhaps experience a bit of tyre degradation.
He pitted on Lap 10 and committed to a marathon 42-lap stint on the medium tyres—a move which paid off.
When Vettel emerged from his own single stop, Ricciardo was ahead. The Australian caught up to Alonso in the closing laps, but couldn't get by.
He finished a fairly disappointing seventh, but was the best Renault-powered runner.
Ricciardo remains second.
1. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton looked like he had the edge over team-mate Nico Rosberg all weekend long.
Qualifying on Saturday saw the Brit notch up his seventh pole position of the season, two tenths of a second clear of Rosberg. He'd been quickest in all three parts of qualifying.
But with such a long run down to the first corner, pole position didn't look like much of an advantage. So it nearly proved when the race got started on Sunday.
Hamilton got a good start but Rosberg was able to tuck into his slipstream and attack down the inside.
The German looked to have the line for Turn 2, but he braked too hard and too late, suffering a huge lock-up. He had to pit for new tyres at the end of the first lap.
From then on, Hamilton cruised. Never threatened, he took the chequered flag by a little over 13 seconds to record his fourth successive victory—and ninth of the year.
He remains in the top spot.