The F1 season has delivered on the closer racing promised by the radical regulation changes despite the early difficulties presented by the return to ground force aerodynamics.
Red Bull and Ferrari mastered the new design template and have lit up the show as a result. Mercedes were hit hardest and have only just begun to recover.
As Formula One prepares for its summer break following the Hungarian Grand Prix here is Yo‘s report on the season so far.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 9.5
Leads the championship by 63 points, an insurmountable advantage barring unforeseen catastrophe. Though he has been aided by Ferrari’s reliability issues, poor decision-making and driver errors, Verstappen has controlled the environment like the world champion he is.
He didn’t panic when suffering double DNFs in the opening three races. A fully fit Ferrari is a fearsome opponent, particularly in qualifying, yet the Red Bull is marginally quicker in race trim and Verstappen has been clinical in maximizing his opportunities from him.
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 7.5
He has the hardest job in the paddock keeping up with Verstappen in a title winning car. He has shone episodically, filling the brief for which he was hired.
If Verstappen fails, he is good enough to pick up the slack, add constructor’s points and make trouble for the opposition. He is just not in Verstappen’s class.
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 8
Two while pushing mistakes at Imola and more significantly last week in France have left a stain, but that is not necessarily what has cost him most.
Engine failures while leading in Spain and Azerbaijan were more damaging and were it not for ruinous mistakes on the pit wall when leading in Monaco and Silverstone he would have cleaned up at both.
More than anything he needs a bit of luck to turn that qualifying supremacy into race victories and apply the necessary pressure on Verstappen.
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 7.5
He has slowly grown into the season, putting behind his struggles adjusting to the new aero design at the start of the season.
Leclerc has his measure over a single lap but in race trim Sainz is seriously quick, cool under pressure and growing into the job of being a Ferrari driver.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 7
The failure of Mercedes to master the new aero regulations reprised the experience of 2009 when McLaren fell foul of radical revisions giving Hamilton a dog of a car to drive.
Beset by a bouncing beast and bad luck, Hamilton struggled to make any impression on the season or his team-mate George Russell over the opening eight races.
However since Mercedes began to get a grip of its issues Hamilton has come alive, out qualifying Russell in three of the last four grands prix and leading him home in all four.
George Russell (Mercedes) 7.5
Mr Consistent. The only driver to finish in the top five of every race until his DNF at Silverstone, Russell has done a commendable job in making the best of a bad hand and holding Mercedes together.
Despite Hamilton’s revival, Russell has bettered his team-mate in seven of the 12 races and holds a 16-point advantage.
Fernando Alonso (Alpine) 7
Shown all his experience and talent in taking the midfield battle to McLaren. Expert in his management of tires and his control of the pack, backing up the cars behind to order.
Finished in the points eight times this year, reminding the paddock why Hamilton regards him as his toughest opponent, and nudging Alpine towards a contract extension next year despite turning 40 this term.
Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 7
Consistently outpaced by Alonso in qualifying. That said he has been the heavier scorer, finishing ahead of his illustrious team-mate in six of the nine races both have finished.
Alonso’s appalling mechanical luck has doubtless been a factor, but Ocon has been impressively robust, bringing his car home at the points eight times this term to edge Alpine ahead of McLaren after 12 races.
Lando Norris (McLaren) 7.5
Though McLaren trail Alpine in the constructors’ championship Norris sits seventh in the drivers’ standings 16 points clear of Ocon and 33 ahead of Alonso.
Scored points in all nine races he has finished, including his first podium of the year at Imola. He loves an overtake, and is driving with the kind of impressive maturity that persuaded McLaren to tie him down until 2025.
Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 5.5
No nearer providing McLaren with the authority for which he was bought. Can’t seem to get comfortable in the car metaphorically nor figuratively. Trails Norris 10-2 in qualifying and 7-3 in races in which they have both finished. A return of 19 points this season is the reason McLaren trail Alpine in the fight for fourth.
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) 7
Showing all his experience to keep Alfa Romeo comfortably in sixth place in the constructors’ championship.
Would love the points Mercedes guaranteed but is lapping up (no pun intended) the leadership role. Pointless in the last three races but sharp enough when the car is in the window.
Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) 4.5
Only two points finishes demonstrate the scale of the challenge facing China’s great hope. He did not have the best of luck and was fortunate to escape intact following his epic first lap crash at Silverstone.
Needs to improve in the second half of the season to convince he is worth his place on the grid.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 6.5
Surprised a few with his pace on his unexpected return to F1 this term, particularly in the early season when teams were still adjusting to the new design template.
After scoring in three of the opening four races lost momentum with three DNFs in the next four. He clocked a fourth DNF in France but can be pleased with his work.
Mick Schumacher (Haas) 6
Growing in confidence by the race. Leads his team-mate 4-2 in grands prix both have completed. He scored his first points in F1 with eighth place at Silverstone and followed that up a week later with sixth in Austria. Needs to maintain that trajectory after the break.
Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 5.5
Though Gasly leads his team-mate 8-4 in qualifying and 4-2 in races in which both have seen the checkered flag, a car that struggles through fast corners is giving him little opportunity to demonstrate his speed.
His biggest imprint on the season so far is the first corner collision that sent Zhou into the barriers at Silverstone.
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 5
The mistakes and the expletives are not what they were in his rookie season but an unresponsive car has made it a difficult sophomore year for a Japanese driver desperate to push his claims in Formula One.
Taking out his team-mate Gasly at Silverstone was a classic example of appetite at the expense of control.
Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) 6.5
The news of his retirement at the end of the season sparked an outpouring of affection and appreciation for the four-time world champion turned eco warrior.
Had Aston Martin made more of the regulation reset at the start of the year Vettel might have been persuaded to continue.
After missing the first two races to Covid outqualified his team-mate in eight of the next 10 races and outscored him by 15 points to four.
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) 4.5
There are no mugs in Formula One. However they were Stroll not the son of the owner it is unlikely he would be anywhere near the front end of the sport. We shall leave it there.
Alex Albon (Williams) 6
Making the best of a slow motor. A points scorer twice in the first four races, Albon has comprehensively out performed his team-mate, 10-2 in qualifying, 6-1 in grands prix both have finished.
Nicholas Latifi (Williams) 4
The only pointless driver on the grid. Like fellow Canadian Stroll he owes his rise through the ranks to the riches of wealthy parents. Yet to prove his value in an F1 seat.