Driver Rankings 18-14: Part 2/5

By Stephen Williams (@SWilliamsF1)

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

The second part of this series ranks the drivers from 18th - 14th.  Do you agree with the results?

18. Jolyon Palmer

Qualifying head to head - 4-8

Best result - 11th (Australia)

Points - 0

The season started so well for Palmer back in Australia, a very strong drive on his debut would turn out to be the Englishman's best result of the season so far. He showed great race craft in Melbourne, battling with the likes of Alonso, Bottas and the Toro Rossos, before eventually being overtaken by their superior cars.

Since then, results and performances have been hard to come by.  Palmer has only outqualified his teammate Kevin Magnussen four times this season, but let's not forget, this is his debut season and the Renault is not the best chassis or engine combination.  There was disappointment in Hungary when Palmer was running in tenth position late on in the race, but a spin dropped him out of the points, which would have been his first in Formula One.

Renault look to have their eyes on Frenchman Esteban Ocon for 2017.  Neither of their current drivers have been as strong as expected, perhaps due to their lack of experience, and both drivers missing out on racing in 2015.

17. Daniil Kvyat

Qualifying head to head - 2-10

Best result - 3rd (China)

Points - 23

Daniil Kvyat may have been fearing how the season would pan out when his Red Bull broke down on the formation lap in Australia. The only highlight came in China, although somewhat controversially according to Sebastian Vettel.  An audacious move down the inside of Vettel into turn one helped the Russian on his way to third.

The following race would turn out to be Kvyat's last for the Red Bull team.  Further contact with Vettel on the opening lap in Russia lost Kvyat his place at Red Bull when they chose to promote Max Verstappen, and demote Daniil back to Toro Rosso.  Since then, it has been a season to forget.  In his first race back at Toro Rosso he had to watch on as Max took the win in his car.

Toro Rosso team boss, Franz Tost has expressed his desire to keep Daniil for 2017 even though the Red Bull bosses are monitoring the progress of Pierre Gasly who currently leads the championship in GP2.

16. Kevin Magnussen

Qualifying head to head - 8-4

Best result - 7th (Russia)

Points - 6

More has been expected of Kevin Magnussen in 2016 but the car simply does not have the speed to be consistently challenging for points.  Magnussen has regularly outperformed his teammate, Palmer, but for a driver with a year's more Formula One experience, he has not convincingly beating Palmer, particularly as Jolyon is becoming more confident in the car, especially in recent races.

The highlight of Magnussen's season came in Russia where he finished a superb seventh.  The result was however masked by a series of leading drivers retiring which enabled the Dane to finish so high.

As stated with Palmer, Magnussen's seat next year is also under threat as Esteban Ocon looks to secure a drive with Renault.  There are rumours too that Sergio Perez may be on his way to Renault to partner Ocon for 2017.

Cornerstone Shaving

15. Jenson Button

Qualifying head to head - 3-9

Best result - 6th (Austria)

Points - 17

With the McLaren Honda only competitive at certain circuits due to its power unit deficit,  it has been another difficult year results wise for Button.  The Brit has scored less points than his teammate, and suffered the embarrassment of being outqualified and outraced when Stoffel Vandoorne deputised for the injured Fernando Alonso in Bahrain.

Qualifying third in the mixed conditions in Austria was the highlight of Button's season.  Jenson went on to finish sixth in the race after briefly running second to Hamilton in the opening laps.  With a number of power circuits to come, Singapore looks to be McLaren's best chance of fighting nearer the front.    

It seems to be a yearly occurrence that there are rumours of Button leaving Formula One, but it certainly looks as though Button will be leaving McLaren.  A move back to Williams where he made his debut in 2000 seems likely, as McLaren look to give Stoffel Vandoorne a race seat for 2017.  Williams want a marketable driver and Button certainly fits that criteria.  Button admitted to Autosport that he will use the summer break to evaluate if he still has the same hunger for Formula One:

"So wherever that is, I want to be giving it my all, and whether it's in F1 next year or it's somewhere else in the world doing another form of motorsport, I want to be out there for myself and for the team that I race for as well."

14. Valtteri Bottas

Qualifying head to head - 10-2

Best result - 3rd (Canada)

Points - 58

Valtteri Bottas may have been Formula One's rising star in 2014 and 2015, but he has failed to set the world alight in 2016.  Just the one podium finish which was scored in Canada is the Finn's best result so far, and it was on a track which heavily suited the car.  Qualifying has been superb as Valterri has only been outqualified twice by his teammate this season.  

Despite being part of the Williams set up since 2010, and racing for the team since 2013, he has yet to secure an extension to his contract for 2017.  It appears that having not convincingly beaten his veteran teammate in their three years together, there are question marks on how good he actually is, considering Alonso dominated Massa when they were paired at Ferrari.  Crashing into Lewis Hamilton at the start of the race in Bahrain certainly did not help his chances of securing a drive next year.  

At the start of the season, Sky Sports pundits also stated the importance of 2016 for Valtteri Bottas:

"This is the year Valtteri Bottas needs to step up, dominate his intra-team battle at Williams with Felipe Massa and prove he is a future F1 champion."

Make sure you check back on Friday when we break into the top 10.