Formula 1's Driver Power Rankings After 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2015

Formula 1's Driver Power Rankings After 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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    Vincent Thian/Associated Press

    The opening race of the year was a dull affair, but Formula One has a habit of giving its doubters a bloody nose when they least expect it. The 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix produced action, drama and a surprise winnerand proved this is still a sport that can excite and entertain.

    Sebastian Vettel put in one of the drives of his career to claim victory for Ferrari in only his second race with the Scuderia. Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosbergbeaten on pace for the first time in the V6-turbo-hybrid eracompleted the podium.

    Kimi Raikkonen recovered from a first-lap puncture to take an excellent fourth, while the highlight further back was Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen. The 17-year-old Dutchman finished seventh, and in doing so, he became the youngest points-scorer in F1 history.

    At the other end of the scale, there was disappointment for Felipe Nasr. His Sauber team-mate, Marcus Ericsson, also had a weekend to forget, as did the Force India duo.

    With two races down and 17 to go, the rankings are very fluid at this stage, and we have a new man in the top spot. Read on to see who that is.

    Note on Power Rankings

    These rankings should not be confused with the actual championship table.

    Rather than looking solely at how many points each driver has, they take into account race results, qualifying, the 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.

    For each race, every driver who took part is awarded a score out of 10. The sum of these scores across the previous six racesor fewer, at this stage in the seasonis given on each driver's slide and determines the driver's ranking.

    All position changes are relative to where the driver was in the previous set of rankings, published after the Australian Grand Prix and available here.

Honourable Mentions

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    Nico Hulkenberg drops out of the top 10. The Force India man had a great first lap and ran as high as second in the early goings following the safety car, but the poor pace of the VJM08 saw him fall back.

    He slipped further down the order after an uncharacteristic lunge down the inside of Daniil Kvyatfollowing a mistake in Turn 1earned him a time penalty. He was last of all, bar the Manor of Roberto Merhi.

    Valtteri Bottas is another driver hovering on the outside of the rankings. The Finn got the better of team-mate Felipe Massa in Malaysia despite a poor start, but he didn't score many ranking points in Australia.

    Fernando Alonso drove well, too, but scored zero points in Melbourne.

10. Romain Grosjean

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    New Entry

    Romain Grosjean produced another good qualifying display in Malaysia and this time got past the first lap.

    He set the eighth-quickest lap in the wet Saturday session but was demoted to 10th after he was deemed to have jumped the queue to get out of the pits early in Q2.

    Grosjean made a decent start and rose to third by staying out behind the safety car. Sadly for him, that was as good as it got.

    The E23 simply didn't have the pace to compete with many of its rivals, and Grosjean, also struggling with a water bottle malfunction, slipped back. At one stage, he found himself behind Sergio Perezattempting to pass, he appeared to have pulled off a brave move around the outside of Turn 12.

    Perez, though, didn't want to give up the place and hit the Lotus, sending Grosjean into a spin. It ended whatever slim hopes the Frenchman had of a points finish, and he came home in 11th.

    Rating: 7

    Total: 14

9. Nico Rosberg

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    Up One

    Nico Rosberg will have been hoping to seize the title momentum coming out in Malaysia but instead saw the gap to the the championship leader grow.

    He qualified third, almost half a second slower than Lewis Hamilton. He was third on the grid here last season, too, with a similar gapand the same driver, Sebastian Vettel, separated him from his team-mate.

    A good start saw Rosberg challenge Vettel into the first corner, but his German rival robustly defended and the Mercedes man settled into third. Having to queue behind Hamilton when both pitted following the safety car cost him track position, and he was ninth when the race resumed.

    By the time he'd cleared the traffic, Rosberg was 18 seconds down on leader Vettel. Though he closed the gap a little (and slowly reeled in Hamilton a little), he'd lost too much time early on and was unable to challenge either of the men in front.

    He finished third and rises two spots after a decent displaybut needs to do more in China to put some pressure on Hamilton.

    Rating: 7

    Total: 14

8. Felipe Massa

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    Up One

    Felipe Massa already has more points than he managed in the opening seven grands prix of 2014.

    He qualified seventh, beating Valtteri Bottas by seven-tenths of a second in the rainy Q3. Per ESPN, he later complained about the car's poor wet weather performance.

    The Brazilian made a good start and ended the first lap in fifth, falling to eighth after pitting behind the safety car. When everyone had made at least one stop, he found himself in fourth; Bottas, having recovered well from an awful first lap, was right on his tail.

    Massa could do nothing to stop another recovering Finn, Kimi Raikkonen, taking one place from him, but it appeared he would come out on top against his team-mate. Bottas had other ideasafter a tense duel, he stole fifth from Massa on the penultimate lap.

    .@MassaFelipe19 on the #MalaysiaGP. #WeAreRacing

    — WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) March 29, 2015

    It's never fun to be beaten by a team-mate and even less fun to be cleanly passed on the track by him. Massa remains in ninth.

    Rating: 7

    Total: 15

7. Jenson Button

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    Down Three

    Jenson Button probably didn't expect to be in points contention in Malaysia, but had his McLaren held together, he might have had a shot at 10th.

    He started the weekend well by out-qualifying Fernando Alonso. Sadly, the MP4-30's forte is not (yet) its single-lap pace; Button was 17th, ahead of only his team-mate and the Manor of Roberto Merhi.

    Button didn't have the best of opening laps and was passed by Alonso, so was forced to queue when both pitted behind the safety car. He was further delayed by a problem getting the left-front on, and Merhi's sluggish pace meant Button didn't catch the pack before the restart.

    The 2009 world champion caught up eventually and ran at a similar pace to his team-mate as both challenged the cars ahead.

    After his final stop, Button was a net 12th and on the quicker medium tyres; the two Red Bulls, occupying the final points places a surprisingly short distance up the road, were on the hards.

    He probably wouldn't have caught them, but we never got to find out for surethe turbo on his McLaren failed on Lap 41.

    Both Button and McLaren made good progress in Malaysia and may be able to realistically aim for points at the next race.

    Rating: 7

    Total: 15

6. Felipe Nasr

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    Down Five

    Felipe Nasr was the standout driver in Australia, but things took a very different turn in Malaysia.

    The Brazilian was a second slower than team-mate Marcus Ericsson in Q1 and started a lowly 16th. Following a good start, he was again involved in a first-lap collisionbut unlike the Melbourne incident, the blame for this one must fall squarely on his own shoulders.

    Nasr clumsily tagged the rear of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari at the final turn, puncturing the Finn's tyre and damaging his own front wing. The resulting slow lap and long pit stop saw him fall to third-last.

    The safety car let him catch up with the rest of the field, but he never really got going. Struggling with the tyres and stopping a total of four times, Nasr ended up 12th.

    He falls five places to sixth.

    Rating: 5

    Total: 15

5. Carlos Sainz Jr.

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    No Change

    For now at least, Carlos Sainz Jr. holds the distinction of being the only driver on the grid with a 100 percent points-scoring record. It's only two races long, but it still counts.

    He got off to a bad start, qualifying 15th after an error on his one and only lap in Q2. Team-mate Max Verstappen showed what could have been, getting through to Q3 and starting sixth.

    Sainz got off the line well, and by the end of the opening lap, he was 11th. Staying out behind the safety car, the Spaniard opted for a two-stop strategy. His pure speed was never exceptional, but he managed the tyres very well as he worked his way up to seventh.

    However, even well looked-after old rubber is no match for the new stuff. Verstappen passed Sainz in the closing stages, leaving him to come home in eighth.

    Very happy with what we achieved today!4 more points that taste really well when starting from 15.Thanks @ToroRossoSpy for the great effort

    — Carlos Sainz (@carlosainz) March 29, 2015

    But this was still a good result, and a fine recovery from a poor grid slot. He stays fifth.

    Rating: 7

    Total: 15

4. Max Verstappen

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    Up Three

    Max Verstappen became the youngest points-scoring driver in F1 history in Malaysiaand his performance was more than worthy of the record.

    The 17-year-old qualified sixth in his first-ever wet qualifying session, just five-hundredths of a second slower than Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. In doing so, he equalled dad Jos' career-best grid slot.

    The father did it in his seventh race, the son in his second.

    Verstappen had a poor opening lap and was down in 10th when the safety car came out. He had good pace, however, and looked on course for a strong race.

    The highlight came on Lap 23. Coming up behind Ricciardo soon after both had stopped, the Dutchman drove around the outside of the Red Bull man at Turn 1. This gave him the inside line into Turn 2, where he completed a quite beautiful overtake.

    Late on, he found himself behind two-stopping team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr., but passed him, too, to finish seventh.

    The young man rises three spots to fourth.

    Rating: 9

    Total: 17

3. Kimi Raikkonen

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Up Three

    Kimi Raikkonen and first laps don't go together well at the moment.

    The Finn's Q2 lap was compromised by poor track positionMarcus Ericsson's Sauber, also on its hot lap, held him up, and Raikkonen started 11th.

    When the lights went out, a mediocre getaway saw him stuck in the pack for the first lap; coming into the final corner, he was challenging Carlos Sainz Jr.'s Toro Rosso. Raikkonen didn't make the pass stick, and as he tried to take the corner, he was hit from behind by Felipe Nasr.

    The Brazilian's front wing punctured Raikkonen's left-rear tyre. Despite dropping to last, the safety car helped the Ferrari man catch up to the pack, and he spent the rest of the afternoon trying to recover.

    A damaged floor hindered his progress, but he still had enough in the tank to drag himself back up to fourth.

    It'll be interesting to see what this new, competitive Raikkonen can do against Vettel if he ever gets a trouble-free weekend.

    He moves up three spots to third.

    Rating: 9

    Total: 17

2. Lewis Hamilton

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    No Change

    Lewis Hamilton had a difficult Friday, missing a lot of running with technical problems, and it could have impacted on the rest of his weekend.

    Despite the lack of running in practice, Hamilton took his second pole of the season in the wet qualifying session. He undoubtedly left some time on the table, but his best lap was still quick enough to see off Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari. Team-mate Nico Rosberg was almost half a second slower.

    A good start saw Hamilton lead into the first corner, but he dropped back after pitting behind the safety car. It took him several laps to work his way up to second, by which time Vettel was 10 seconds down the road.

    Unable to make his tyres last long enough to convert the Mercedes' superior raw pace into a challenge for the leadand airing his frustration to the world over team radiothe best Hamilton could do was hold off Rosberg to claim second.

    Could he have made the tyres last better and fought Vettel had he enjoyed a complete Friday? We'll never know...but probably not.

    Rating: 8

    Total: 18

1. Sebastian Vettel

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    Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Up Two

    Sebastian Vettel had a small spin during second practice, but from that point on, his driving was flawless.

    The German missed out on pole position in the wet qualifying by just 0.074 seconds, highlighting both his own skills on a slippery track and the driveability of the improved Ferrari engine.

    At the start, he muscled Nico Rosberg aside in Turn 1 and took the lead when Lewis Hamilton pitted behind the safety car. Vettel built up a lead as the two Mercedes fought back through the traffic but dropped to third when he made his own first stop.

    On a fresh set of the quicker medium tyres, he passed both W05s within seven laps and, though he briefly surrendered the lead at his second stop, he regained it soon after and was never troubled again.

    Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and @ScuderiaFerrari on a stunning win. P2 for Lewis, P3 for Nico. #MalaysiaGP

    — MERCEDES AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 29, 2015

    Vettel's first win for Ferrari moved him up to second in the championship, and he takes over the top spot here.

    Rating: 10

    Total: 19


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