F1 power rankings: The Independent’s 2024 driver standings after Australian Grand Prix

Three races down, 21 to go. The Australian Grand Prix on Sunday gave us something different after Max Verstappen cruised to comfortable wins in the first two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen was forced to retire after four laps due to a right-rear brake issue in Melbourne. Carlos Sainz, two weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery, was the beneficiary, leading Ferrari home for a memorable one-two finish.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Red Bull’s competitors though. Mercedes endured their first double DNF for five years with Lewis Hamilton retiring due to a power unit issue and George Russell crashing out on the penultimate lap.

So how did the action at Albert Park change The Independent’s 20-driver power rankings, with the position of drivers based on their most recent performances and their expectations at the start of the season.

20. Logan Sargeant (-2 spots)

Demoted to the bottom through no fault of his own. The American was ousted from his car as a result of Alex Albon’s irreparable chassis after a crash in practice – and Williams bizarrely not having a spare ‘tub’ available. Will be chomping at the bit in Japan next week.

19. Pierre Gasly (+1)

Still no appearance in the second stage of qualifying for Gasly, who was three-tenths off his team-mate’s best time in Q2. Avoids last spot by virtue of finishing the race in 13th.

18. Valtteri Bottas (+1)

The man Australians have taken to their heart could not squeeze into the points on raceday. Having qualified 13th on the grid and with three retirements forthcoming, a top-10 finish was feasible but Sauber could not keep the two Haas cars – who started further back – behind the Finn.

17. Daniel Ricciardo (-2)

Not the homecoming Ricciardo will have been striving for. It’s been a really poor opening three races for the Aussie, who lined up last on the grid at his home race having qualified 18th. Finished P12, while his team-mate was in the points, and there are already rumours swirling about his future at RB.

Daniel Ricciardo endured a home race to forget in Australia (Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo endured a home race to forget in Australia (Getty Images)

16. Esteban Ocon (+1)

Made Q2, which for Alpine at the moment seems an achievement. However, finished dead-last on raceday.

15. Zhou Guanyu (-1)

Started in the pit-lane in Melbourne as a result of a front-wing change, after coming last in qualifying, and was nowhere near the top-10 on Sunday. A weekend to forget for the Chinese driver.

14. Alex Albon (-3)

Albon will want to draw a line under this weekend quickly. Crashing in practice resulted in a damaged chassis and team boss James Vowles making the bold call to put the British-Thai driver into Sargeant’s car. The gamble did not pay off, though, with Albon finishing 11th on Sunday – just outside the points.

13. Lewis Hamilton (-3)

As the seven-time world champion said himself, his “worst ever start to the season.” Failed to make Q3 in his lowest Albert Park starting spot in 14 years, before a power unit failure resulted in retirement. May already be counting the days until he dons Ferrari red next year.

Lewis Hamilton has had his ‘worst ever start to a season’ in his last campaign for Mercedes (Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton has had his ‘worst ever start to a season’ in his last campaign for Mercedes (Getty Images)

12. Lance Stroll (+1)

A respectable sixth-place finish for the Canadian in an Aston Martin car which was conceivably fourth-quickest over the course of the weekend. Benefited from a few extra points as a result of his team-mate’s post-race penalty.

11. Kevin Magnussen (+1)

Haas continue to be the standout team in the bottom-half. Both their drivers finished in the points in Melbourne, with Magnussen earning his first point of the season following Russell’s late crash.

10. Yuki Tsunoda (+6)

A brilliant weekend for the Japanese driver ahead of his home race next week in Suzuka. Qualified impressively in the top-10 – knocking Hamilton out in the process – and earned six points with a seventh-place finish following Fernando Alonso’s penalty. Outperforming Ricciardo in all areas at the moment.

9. Nico Hulkenberg – (no change)

Another top-10 finish for the German, who shot up seven spots from qualifying 16th on the grid to finish ninth. New Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu will be delighted, with old boss Guenther Steiner watching on in Melbourne.

Haas have impressed in the first three races of the season (Getty Images)
Haas have impressed in the first three races of the season (Getty Images)

8. George Russell (-3)

Echoes of Singapore last year as Russell, chasing late on for more points, crashed into the wall on the penultimate lap. While Alonso was penalised for his part in the incident, the Mercedes driver acknowledged losing control of the car was down to him. Disappointing loss of points, on a dreadful day for the Silver Arrows.

7. Fernando Alonso (-1)

Dropped from sixth to eighth following the stewards inquiry into Russell’s crash, adjudged to have brake tested the Brit in a “potentially dangerous” manner despite his protestations.

6. Lando Norris (+2)

A first podium of the year for McLaren – but could it have been more? Norris qualified fourth on the grid but started third and was quicker than his team-mate Oscar Piastri throughout the race, which is why they swapped. Finished third, but second was on the cards with pace superior to Charles Leclerc – but McLaren got their pit stop strategy slightly wrong early in the race.

Lando Norris (right) finished on the podium for McLaren (Getty Images)
Lando Norris (right) finished on the podium for McLaren (Getty Images)

5. Oscar Piastri (-1)

A satisfactory home weekend for Piastri, who qualified sixth and finished fourth. Took the team order instruction to allow Norris to overtake with good grace and maturity.

4. Sergio Perez (-2)

With his team-mate in a shock retirement, it was an opportunity missed for Checo. A Q1 infringement saw him drop three places from third to sixth on the grid and an aerodynamic issue throughout the race hampered his attempts to storm through the pack. In the end, he finished fifth – 21 seconds behind Piastri in fourth.

3. Charles Leclerc – (no change)

A case of what could have been for the Monegasque. Looked the quickest in practice but made an error at a crucial time in Q3, which put him only on the second row for the race. From P4 to P2 is a decent result, but may well have been looking on with jealousy at the adulation for his Ferrari team-mate in what was the quickest car in Melbourne.

2. Carlos Sainz - (+5)

What a return for the Spaniard, just two weeks after getting his appendix out in Saudi Arabia and missing that race in Jeddah. Pushed Verstappen the closest in qualifying and capitalised when the Red Bull, unusually, broke down. The only driver to win a race other than Verstappen since last April, Sainz leaps up five spots in these rankings.

Carlos Sainz delivered at the Australian Grand Prix just 16 days after an appendectomy (AP)
Carlos Sainz delivered at the Australian Grand Prix just 16 days after an appendectomy (AP)

1. Max Verstappen – (no change)

A brilliant lap for pole was curtailed in double-quick time on Sunday after lights out. His rear-brake caliper stuck on the grid and rapidly overheated, resulting in his first retirement in two years. A sign of his dominance, though, is that he still leads the world championship.