State of play in F1 as Red Bull, Max Verstappen untouchable while Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes struggle

Max Verstappen has given Formula One a one-sided feel so far in 2024 but that is a theme which, on closer inspection, extends well beyond the dominance of the world champion. Verstappen has taken pole position at every race so far and was only denied a clean sweep of race wins by a freak brake fire at the Australian Grand Prix.

While the championship fight has been stacked heavily in one direction, a curious theme of the year so far has been how most of Red Bull’s fellow teams have experienced wildly contrasting performances from their two drivers. Those differences have been as clear as day at some teams, while some require looking a little closer under the surface to see properly. Each one also comes with a different narrative.

The old adage in F1, and one which sets it aside from any other team sport, is that a driver must beat their teammate before thinking of beating anyone else. With the season approaching its quarter-way point, we’ve taken a look at the state of play at each of the grid’s 10 teams.

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Red Bull

Max Verstappen: 110 points

Sergio Perez: 85 points

As cut and dry as it comes — Verstappen has been almost untouchable and has yet to be beaten by Perez in either qualifying or in a race where both Red Bull cars have made the finish. This situation is hardly surprising. Verstappen has become the ultimate teammate killer in F1 and Red Bull does not expect its second driver, whoever it is, to be on a par with the Dutchman. Crucially, Perez appears to have finally made peace with that fact and is doing exactly what is required of him to secure a contract extension for 2025.

Horner insists Verstappen not making Formula One ‘boring’

While Perez’s failure to compete with Verstappen has ruined any hope of a championship battle out in front, his form has been much improved from last year and every time team principal Christian Horner is quizzed on the matter, he says the team’s priority is to sign Perez for another season.


Charles Leclerc: 79 points

Carlos Sainz: 69 points

This is the closest teammate battle on the grid right now, although the current standings do not fairly reflect the fact that Sainz has been Ferrari’s star performer. The Spanish driver is the only person not named Max Verstappen to have won a grand prix this year (and since late April of last year) and until China had beaten Leclerc at every event of 2024. Sainz’s 10-point deficit to his teammate is down to the fact he missed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with appendicitis — Leclerc finished third in Jeddah, claiming 15 unanswered points in the process.

Sainz has always performed best when he has a chip on his shoulder and his current form has come at a time he is still without a contract for 2025. Leclerc, often considered F1’s best driver over one lap, has struggled primarily in qualifying — his head-to-head with Sainz on Saturdays is 2-2, while the Spaniard finished ahead in Shanghai’s sprint qualifying.

Leclerc, who has not won an F1 race since midway through 2022, comfortably won the qualifying head-to-head with Sainz 15-7 last year and getting his Saturday mojo back might be key to a turnaround in form – although China was a disappointing result for Ferrari on paper, Leclerc will be buoyed by the fact he out-qualified Sainz and then beat him to fourth position in the race itself.


George Russell: 33 points

Lewis Hamilton: 19 points

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, F1’s winningest driver, has had an underwhelming start to the season, to put it mildly. Teammate George Russell has been incredibly consistent in the other car, recording finishes of 5th, 6th, 7th and 6th, while Hamilton has only managed 7th, 9th, 9th and 9th. Both drivers failed to finish in Australia, where Russell crashed out on the penultimate lap when another sixth- or seventh-place finish was in the palm of his hands. In qualifying Russell is ahead of Hamilton, the man with more pole positions than any driver in history, 4-1.

Hamilton has struggled to get out of the blocks since his 2025 move to Ferrari was confirmed at the end of January and in the time since has seen Mercedes slip further down the competitive order, but team boss Toto Wolff has denied the suggestion he is lacking motivation as a result.

Speaking after the Chinese GP, Wolff said: “I think that Lewis is a pro and has behaved in that way until now, trying to keep his morale up the and the morale of the team, even when if the results don’t come, so I have no doubt this is going to last. He’s also been supportive of George when he’s been going better.”

With Wolff seemingly leaning towards promoting F2 wonderkid Andrea Kimi Antonelli next year to replace Hamilton, he will be encouraged that Russell is the current in-form driver. Questions about Hamilton’s motivation for the 2024 season will only intensify if the currently lopsided head-to-head continues into the upcoming North American and European leg of the season.


Lando Norris: 58 points

Oscar Piastri: 38 points

Lando Norris’ drive to second at the Chinese Grand Prix reinforced why he is considered one of F1’s brightest talents. He’s not ticked off the elusive maiden victory yet but he has claimed both of McLaren’s podiums this year and secured pole position for the sprint race in Shanghai. He’s 4-1 up on sophomore teammate Oscar Piastri in main qualifying sessions, too.

While Piastri remains highly rated and impressed massively as a rookie, especially with his sprint win in Qatar, Norris still comfortably feels like the McLaren lead driver. That will remain the case until Piastri is able to level up the playing field. With a contract through to 2027 he has plenty of time to do so.

Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso: 31 points

Lance Stroll: 9 points

Things are painfully one-sided at Aston Martin. Fernando Alonso seems to keep getting better with age and he is wiping the floor with teammate Lance Stroll. He’s 4-1 up in qualifying and 22 points ahead at this stage of the season. That’s not surprising given how last year went — Alonso ended 2023 19-3 up in qualifying and 17-4 up in races the pair both started.

The trend has continued into 2024 and has opened up a deeper talking point for Aston Martin. Team owner Lawrence Stroll, Lance’s father, wants to turn Aston Martin into a championship winning entity and has invested heavily in Alonso, big-name engineers from rival teams and the team’s new state-of-the-art facility at Silverstone in a bid to achieve that goal. Alonso’s incredible form made extending his contract until at least 2026 a no-brainer.

But here lies a deeper question for Aston Martin. Stroll appears to be on a perpetual contract to drive at the team, regardless of form. It’s fair to wonder if the team could have finished better than fifth in the constructors’ last year if the Canadian had not scored 132 points fewer than Alonso last season.

Fernando Alonso to stay at Aston Martin until 2026

The drawbacks of Stroll’s safe position at the team have also been glaringly apparent this year with a driver as talented as Sainz on the market — an Alonso-Sainz lineup would have quite quickly been a candidate for the most well-rounded on the current grid. With Stroll seemingly in the car until he decides to step away, it’s fair to wonder how seriously F1 fans and media should take his father’s lofty ambitions.

Stroll’s crash into Daniel Ricciardo at the Chinese Grand Prix, his failure to take responsibility afterwards and the angry response which followed from Ricciardo will make his current form one of the major talking points ahead of next week’s Miami Grand Prix.


Yuki Tsunoda: 7 points

Daniel Ricciardo: 0 points

Yuki Tsunoda has been one of the standout performers of the season and his form has given RB one of the most lopsided teammate battles on the grid currently. Tsunoda’s seventh place finish for RB at the Australian Grand Prix, teammate Ricciardo’s home race, could be crucial in a season where points for the grid’s smaller teams will be at a premium.

In the opening races of the year especially, Tsunoda was comfortably out-matching Ricciardo on pace. The contrasting form prompted speculation of whether Red Bull was about to bin Ricciardo for Liam Lawson, but ESPN sources have said reports of the company issuing Ricciardo an ultimatum to turn his form around the Miami Grand Prix were wide of the mark. The fact that narrative existed was a credit to Tsunoda’s form in the other car.

There have been signs of improvement on the Ricciardo side of the garage. He was 0.055s shy of Tsunoda’s time in qualifying at Suzuka, although that was enough to send him out of Q2 and Tsunoda into the top-ten shootout. A long-awaited new chassis, something RB felt would be the remedy to Ricciardo’s sluggish start, arrived in China. Ricciardo out-qualified Tsunoda on Saturday in Shanghai and looked on course to beat him until the incident with Stroll, although Tsunoda’s race was also ended by a clumsy Kevin Magnussen move on the same lap. RB will head to Miami quietly confident that a Ricciardo turnaround is just around the corner.


Nico Hulkenberg: 4 points

Kevin Magnussen: 1 point

This is where things are all relative. A three-point deficit would not mean much at the other end of the grid, but when Haas are fighting for scraps at the back end of the field it is a huge difference. Nico Hulkenberg has been in stellar form and, as was the case for much of 2023, has looked like the stronger of the two Haas drivers. Magnussen has actually kept things close in qualifying, where he trails the head-to-head 3-2, but when it comes to the main event on Sunday Hulkenberg has made a habit of seizing the big opportunities when they’ve presented themselves.

Worryingly for Haas, there is growing speculation in the paddock Hulkenberg will sign with Sauber next season. ESPN sources have suggested that would leave Haas with the long-serving Magnussen alongside Ferrari supersub Oliver Bearman, but the loss of a red-hot Hulkenberg would be a blow to the American team given how things have been recently. Magnussen has struggled to replicate some of his heroic drives of his 2022 comeback season and there is no guarantee the team retains him beyond this season.


Alex Albon: 0 points

Logan Sargeant: 0 points

Although both Williams drivers are on zero points, it would be hard to find anyone in the paddock who put Alex Albon or Logan Sargeant on equal footing at the moment. That extends to team boss James Vowles as well, who made the controversial call at the Australian Grand Prix to sideline Sargeant and give his chassis to Albon, who had destroyed his own in a crash during practice.

That decision spoke volumes about how both drivers are viewed within the team, but it is not difficult to see why. Albon is 4-0 up on Sargeant in qualifying this year and finished on the cusp of the points in both Saudi Arabia and Australia. Since they became teammates at the start of last year, Sargeant has never once out-qualified his teammate, while he only finished ahead of him at three of the 21 races in 2023.

Sargeant’s F1 career looks unlikely to extend beyond this season and a miraculous 180 degree turnaround seems unlikely given the Floridian’s performances to this point.


Esteban Ocon: 0 points

Pierre Gasly: 0 points

Alpine’s dismal car has not been in the mix for points much this year, leaving former race winners Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in a rather desperate situation at the lower end of the order at most races this year so far. The form of the fellow Frenchman is vastly different — Ocon has finished ahead of Gasly at three of the four races they’ve both finished, while he’s 5-0 up when it comes to qualifying, although Gasly did claw one back over Ocon in sprint qualifying in Shanghai.

Both drivers are in a contract year but appear to have limited options elsewhere, but the looming presence of Alpine junior driver Jack Doohan makes it a fascinating situation to monitor going forward.


Valtteri Bottas: 0 points

Zhou Guanyu: 0 points

Sauber has the bizarre situation where it has two drivers who seem unlikely to stay with the team next season. Valtteri Bottas is 5-0 up on Zhou Guanyu in qualifying, and finished ahead in sprint qualifying in Shanghai, and his results out of the points have him ahead of his teammate on tiebreaker rules. Zhou’s chances of staying with Sauber appear slim and his form so far will have done little to throw him a lifeline for 2025.

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