Driver Rankings 13-9: Part 3/5

By Stephen Williams 

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

The third part of this series ranks the drivers from 13th - 9th.  Do you agree with the results?

13. Nico Hulkenberg

Qualifying head to head - 7-5

Best result -  6th (Monaco)

Points - 33

Nico Hulkenberg's superb sixth place in Monaco has been the German's highlight of the season when he was able to steal the position from Nico Rosberg on the line.  A few races later in Austria, Hulkenberg secured a front row start after other drivers received grid penalties.  This was his best performance in qualifying since taking pole in Brazil 2010, also in damp conditions.  The race however turned out to be a complete disaster, retiring the car late on as he dropped out of the points following a poor start.   

Despite Hulkenberg's quality as a driver, he has still failed to finish on the podium.  It is quite an astonishing stat, the driver who had been tipped with a move to Ferrari, seems to be Formula One's forgotten man, especially since the arrival of Sainz and Verstappen in the sport, and with his teammate's resurgence.  

Hulkenberg has secured himself another year at Force India, but it is still undecided who his teammate will be.  Nico insisted to Autosport that he hopes Sergio Perez will stay next season, which is surprising considering Perez has had the better results since their partnership began in 2014. 

Cornerstone Shaving

12. Stoffel Vandoorne

Qualifying head to head - 1-0

Best result - 10th (Bahrain)

Points - 1

Stoffel Vandoorne may have only competed in one race this season, but the reigning GP2 champion showed exactly why he is so highly regarded at McLaren.  When he replaced Fernando Alonso in Bahrain, following the Spaniards enormous crash in Melbourne, Vandoorne was drafted in to be his replacement.  As Vandoorne is competing in the Super Formula in Japan, he arrived late to Bahrain, with considerable jet lag, to compete for McLaren Honda.  He could have hardly made a bigger statement about his qualities when he outqualified world champion teammate, Jenson Button, and then scored the team's first points of the season, once again finishing ahead of Button.

Vandoorne continues to compete in the Super Formula while he also works with McLaren in his role as development driver at race weekends.  

Fernando Alonso admitted to Sky Sports that he does not mind if he has Jenson Button as his teammate for another season, or Stoffel Vandoorne for 2017.  The Spaniard must be slightly apprehensive though that if McLaren Honda do find their form with the new regulations next season, that it does not turn into a year like 2007. 

11. Pascal Wehrlein

Qualifying head to head - 7-5

Best result -  10th (Austria)

Points - 1

Pascal Wehrlein's debut season has been very impressive.  His excellent tenth in Austria was Manor's first points since Monaco 2014, and Wehrlein's first in Formula One.  The circuit suited the slippery Manor, which is aided by the Mercedes power unit the team are using this year.  

Despite being closely matched in qualifying to his teammate Rio Haryanto, Wehrlein's race pace has been considerably stronger.  There have been a number of mistakes by the rookie however, having to reverse his Manor back in to his correct grid spot after overshooting it moments before the start of the race before taking a point in Austria.  Furthermore, during the British Grand Prix, Wehrlein spun off in the wet at turn one, a move which his teammate would follow later in the race. 

Wehrlein is one of the young Mercedes drivers, and for the rest of the season he will be partnered by Esteban Ocon, also on Mercedes' young driver programme.  It should be a good challenge for both who are widely regarded as to two of the stars of the future.

10. Romain Grosjean

Qualifying head to head - 8-4

Best result - 5th (Bahrain)

Points - 28

Haas made a fantastic start to the season in Australia and Bahrain, scoring points so soon in their debut season.  Their no-stop strategy which they ran in Melbourne because of the red flag for Alonso's crash with Gutiérrez, allowed Romain Grosjean to take track position and he held off a train of faster cars.  

Another superb strategy call by the team helped Grosjean to his best result of the season with fifth in Bahrain.  Running multiple stints on the supersoft tyre saw him overtake Red Bulls and Williams at ease.

In recent races though, Grosjean has not repeated the success of the opening races of the season.  His teammate has begun to outperform him which could damage his chances of moving up to Ferrari in the future.   

9. Fernando Alonso

Qualifying head to head - 8-3

Best result - 5th (Monaco)

Points - 24

Alonso's season started in the worst possible way when his enormous crash in Melbourne ruled him out of the race in Bahrain, and he went on to race still injured in China.  Despite this disrupted start, he would go on to score the team's best result of the season with fifth in the changing conditions at Monaco.  

In races where the car has been competitive, Alonso has been dominant against his teammate Button.  Alonso has only scored points in three Grand Prix this year, compared to Button's five finishes in the top ten.  Alonso is still regarded as one of the best drivers on the grid despite not having won a race since 2013.  His performances in Russia,  Monaco and Hungary certainly show that despite being 35, he has still got it.   

McLaren team boss, Ron Dennis claimed this season that McLaren would be the next constructor to win the championship after Mercedes.  With the regulation changes for 2017, and the improving Honda power unit benefiting their drivers, Alonso may return to the top step of the podium before long. 

Return on Monday when we discuss the next five drivers to make the top 10.