Driver Rankings 23-19: Part 1/5

By Stephen Williams (@SWilliamsF1)

Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article.

This short series will see drivers who have competed in the 2016 Formula One Championship ranked and analysed.  The first part of the series analyses the bottom five drivers, who I believe have failed to deliver this season.     

23. Felipe Nasr

Qualifying head to head - 5-7

Best result - 12th (European Grand Prix)

Points - 0

It has been a year of struggle for Felipe Nasr in the under performing Sauber.  In 2015, he recorded the best finish by a Brazilian on his debut in Australia, but has failed to repeat that success since.  Without a point in 2016, and only a highest finish of 12th, there has been little for Nasr to get excited about, and more attention has been on his teammate Marcus Ericsson, who has been able to give Sauber some much needed financial stability going forward.

Sauber are the only team this season who have failed to score a point, so this is perhaps an indication of how poor the car is, that neither driver has finished in the top 10.  Nasr did however impress in qualifying in Hungary.  The damp conditions neutralised the performance of each car somewhat, allowing Nasr to show everyone what he was capable of.  At stages through Q1 he was fastest of all the drivers, although he would eventually finish last in Q2. Sky Sports journalists acknowledged the Brazilian's fine performance that weekend, praising him for finishing a lap ahead of teammate Ericsson, and noting the improved results he had achieved, since the change of chassis which Nasr complained was damaged early in the season.  Although there is speculation about his future in the sport, rumours of a return to Williams where he was the team's development driver in 2014 are also lingering.

Can his improved performances lead him to the points in the second half of the season?

Cornerstone Shaving

22. Marcus Ericsson

Qualifying head to head - 7-5

Best result - 12th (Bahrain, Spain)

Points - 0

At times this season, the Swede has looked to have the measure of his teammate, but has still failed to score any points.  The car is certainly not competitive and that is the prime reason why there has not been a standout drive.

Despite some poor performances this season, Ericsson looks set to stay following his backer's takeover of the Sauber team.  Not only has the buyout ensured the Swede will stay on the grid for the coming years, it also secures Sauber's place on the grid for the future.  The investment may enable the team to challenge for points and perhaps podiums too if there is some development on the car.

21. Felipe Massa

Qualifying head to head - 2-10

Best result - 5th (Australia, Russia)

Points - 38

Throughout 2015, Felipe looked a match for his teammate, but this year has seen the Brazilian struggle.  He has been comprehensively outqualified by Bottas on a Saturday, and Felipe is struggling to put in good performances on Sundays, despite briefly leading his teammate in the championship early on.

Williams will be optimistic that Massa is able to score more points between now and the end of the season, as the team look to secure fourth in the constructor's championship ahead of Force India.

Massa's seat in a Williams next season looks under threat. The team appear to be looking at Jenson Button for 2017, although Massa has insisted to Autosport that contract negotiations are on ongoing.  However, Felipe is also keeping his eye on other forms of motorsport if he is unable to keep his seat at Williams.

"I do see myself in other categories, maybe WEC, maybe DTM, maybe Formula E.  I don't know.  We'll see.

20. Esteban Gutiérrez

Qualifying head to head - 4-8

Best result - 11th (Spain, Monaco, Austria, Germany)

Points - 0

Gutiérrez's results have been disappointing compared to Romain Grosjean who has taken all the points and headlines in the new Haas team. In recent races though, he has looked more competitive and been able to outqualify his teammate and finish ahead in the races.  Despite his improved form, he is another driver who is yet to score a point this season.

On the Missed Apex Podcast, special guest Will Buxton explained the reason why Gutiérrez has not been able to score points this season. Haas see Grosjean as their number one driver, therefore he has the better mechanics on his car and the better strategies at races. During the Hungarian Grand Prix, when Gutiérrez was running ahead of Grosjean, the team attempted to get Grosjean ahead by giving him the undercut at the pit stops, despite this, Gutiérrez finished ahead.

Looking to the second half of the season, Haas are expected to struggle as they have in recent races. The lack of development is hurting the team in their debut season, so the chance Gutiérrez has of scoring points and securing a seat for 2017 are slimming quickly.

19. Rio Haryanto

Qualifying head to head - 5-7

Best result - 15th (Monaco)

Points - 0

Haryanto got his seat in F1 due to his funding from Indonesia, so when the money dried up Manor elected  to release him from his contract in favour of Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon.  Despite being seen as another pay driver in F1, Haryanto's performances were actually surprising against the other young Mercedes driver, Pascal Wehrlein, particular in qualifying. Unlike his teammate however, he failed to score points and it was his race pace that drew some question marks.

Haryanto's qualifying performance may be explained by his added single seater experience compared to Wehrlein, who became DTM's youngest ever champion last year. The German is also two years younger than Haryanto, perhaps this is what aided Haryanto over one lap in qualifying. 

Rio's absence does leave Manor with one of the most exciting driver lineups. Mercedes will be analysing how their young stars compare against each other, especially as the two drivers are tipped to replace the current Mercedes drivers in the future. If Wehrlein is as good as Mercedes say, surely Haryanto who performed well against him can find a way back into Formula One. 

Make sure you read the second part of the series in the coming days where the next five drivers will be ranked.  Who will be number one?

Cornerstone Shaving