Ahead of each race in 2019, ESPN is ranking every driver on the grid in our Formula One Power Rankings.
In compiling these standings, we have taken out the car factor and focused solely on the drivers and how each has been performing. This is not a prediction for how the race will go this weekend. Nor is it a prediction for how things will look at the end of the season. Instead, read this as a gauge for who has the most influence over everything that lies ahead, who's hot and who's not ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Note: Teammate head-to-heads are compiled in qualifying sessions in which both drivers set a representative time and in races in which both drivers were classified as finishing.
If you don't think Verstappen deserves top billing, you're delusional. He may have dropped to fourth in the drivers' standings, but nobody is performing better than him right now. Not Lewis Hamilton. Not Valtteri Bottas. Not Sebastian Vettel. The Dutchman has scored 13 consecutive top-five finishes, and that's seriously impressive for someone who isn't driving a Mercedes or Ferrari each weekend. Don't forget, he won in Spain three years ago in his Red Bull debut, and given the form he's in, who knows, he might just do it again.
Did anybody have Bottas scoring two wins and leading Hamilton in the drivers' championship after the opening four rounds of the season? We certainly didn't. Bottas 2.0 seems to be a real thing and a significant upgrade on Bottas 1.0. So far he's proving he can challenge his five-time world championship winning teammate on a consistent basis and the last man to do that, Nico Rosberg, wound up winning the drivers' title. Watch this space...
Bottas may be much improved in 2019, but the smart money for this year's world championship is still with Hamilton. He's already won twice and finished runner-up twice and he probably hasn't even had to get out of third or fourth gear -- that should terrify Bottas and the other 18 drivers on the grid. A return to Europe generally brings out the best in Hamilton, who is looking for three straight wins in Spain -- something nobody has done since Michael Schumacher from 2001 to 2004.
Did Ferrari let the wrong driver go? Probably not, but the senior figures at Maranello must be looking at Raikkonen right now and wondering what could have been. Outside the top three teams, Raikkonen is the only driver to score points at every race this year. He continues to be ultra-consistent and, so far, is doing a fine job of ruining the career of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who has yet to open his points account in 2019. Not bad at all for a 39-year-old!
There's just something about a trip to Azerbaijan that seems to bring out the best in Perez and help launch his season. He heads to Barcelona as one of the real form drivers, having scored points in the last three races to climb to sixth in the drivers' standings. Interestingly, the last time he scored points three times in the first four races (2017), he went on to finish the season seventh and best of the rest.
Alright, so that qualifying crash in Baku proved Leclerc is human after all. His start to life as a Ferrari driver has been brilliant yet frustrating, with mechanical issues denying him a race win and team orders holding him back in his battle with Vettel. The question now is whether his confidence takes a beating from all the hard work and little reward he's taken from the first four races. But I don't think it will bother him too much and it's clear he's more of a threat to Mercedes than teammate Vettel right now. He just needs a chance to show it.
One of the best rookie qualifiers we've seen in a long, long time, and we don't say that lightly. Norris really hasn't put a foot wrong in his debut season and continues to impress for McLaren, doubling the points tally of teammate Sainz and running in the top 10 for twice as many laps. This weekend could be his best yet given the fact Barcelona is a circuit he's familiar with and one where he finished on the podium at both F2 races last year.
Unconvincing but somewhat effective is the best way to sum up Vettel's start to the year. The German would have certainly hoped for more than two third-place trophies after four races, but just one win could catapult him right back into championship contention. The real question is, does he have the measure of Leclerc and can he remind him that he's still Ferrari's No.1? Hmm, I'm still not entirely convinced.
Like with Norris, I've really been impressed with Albon's start to his rookie year and he can consider himself a tad unlucky to drop three spots in these rankings, but he only really falls as others rise. Albon still leads teammate Daniil Kvyat 3-1 in points scored this year and he will know that good things will come his way if he can continue to upstage the Russian.
He's the only man to rise every single week in these Power Rankings, and for very good reason. Russell continues to show why he deserves a competitive seat in Formula One by getting the absolute most out of a horribly uncompetitive Williams. In fact, he and Verstappen are the only drivers to out-qualify and out-race their teammates at each of the four races so far in 2019. If there's a crazy race that results in a heap of retirements, you just feel he might be able to snag a highly-deserved championship point.
Being a Renault or Ricciardo fan must be difficult in 2019. There have been glimpses that suggest he can easily be best of the rest, such as China, but long periods where he still appears to struggle with his new machinery. Performance-wise, relative to the highly competitive Nico Hulkenberg, it's not a bad start at all and he's only going to get stronger. A trip to Spain, where he's scored points every year since 2013, will be a welcome sight.
It's been a slow start -- in fact, only once in his career has he had a worse start to the season through four races -- but we're starting to see an improvement. In Baku he managed to get ahead of his teammate in the race thanks to McLaren splitting its strategies and the cards falling in his favour, but he also had some bad luck in qualifying when a Haas spun in front of him on his hot lap. He finished the weekend with a better end result, but it's hard for him to rank much higher given he still trails Norris 12-6 in the drivers' standings.
Alright, I know what you're thinking, how can Kvyat rise after back-to-back retirements? It might seem strange, but his most recent one was certainly not his fault. Like Sainz, Kvyat had a slow start to the season but is starting to show signs in qualifying to justify Toro Rosso bringing him back into the sport. Not only that, but I think there's a big part of Kvyat that wants to prove himself in Spain, given it was the place where he fronted the press three years ago as a dumped Red Bull driver.
After extending his run of Q1 exits to an eighth consecutive race in Baku, it looked like Stroll was going to be plummeting further down this list. But while his qualifying certainly needs some work, on the racing side he's shown greater potential and his two points in Azerbaijan came off the back of one of his trademark fast starts. In fact, aside from the three big teams, only teammate Perez and Raikkonen have scored points in more races this year. Now if he wants to rise higher, he needs to work on narrowing the gap to Perez.
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. It just continues to mount on Gasly. Verstappen has wiped the floor with him in the early rounds, out-qualifying and out-racing him in each grand prix, and Gasly will know that Red Bull's chief advisor Helmut Marko is not the patient type. Any hope of turning the tables on Verstappen in Baku went out the window when Gasly missed a call to the weigh bridge in practice and was penalised with a pit lane start. For now, the team is sticking by him and, arguably, its mechanical failure was responsible for putting an end to an impressive comeback drive in the race. Nevertheless, he remains under pressure heading to Spain.
The season started with so much promise for Hulkenberg but that has well and truly vanished with a string of issues. The German heads to Spain having not scored a championship point since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and with teammate Ricciardo now starting to get the better of him, in both qualifying and the race, 2019 could yet be a long, long season.
Seriously, what on earth has happened to Haas? They seem to be absolutely nowhere at the moment, which is making life difficult for Magnussen and teammate Romain Grosjean. Three straight 13th place finishes shows he is making it to the chequered flag, just not where he had hoped to be. He ranks higher than his teammate purely on the fact he finished sixth and best of the rest in Spain last year.
Still no points. Still no competition for Raikkonen. If Verstappen is crushing Gasly, Raikkonen is just about doing the same to Giovinazzi with the young Italian still yet to settle in Formula One. Twice this year he would have finished dead last if not for the Williams cars running around at the back of the field, although in Baku he was closer to Raikkonen's pace as they climbed through the field from starting positions impacted by grid penalties. Still, zero points from four races simply is not good enough in a car his teammate has scored points in at every race this year.
If Grosjean thought last year's start to the season was bad, then I would be curious to know what he has made of this one. A grand total of zero points and three retirements after four races is problematic, and until Haas can get on top of the tyre issues affecting its race pace, he will struggle to shine. Last year in Barcelona, Grosjean caused a Lap 1 collision with Hulkenberg. Surely it won't be another retirement, will it?
It's really difficult to rise off the bottom of the Power Rankings when you've finished every race last, have not out-qualified your teammate once and crashed hard in qualifying last time out in Baku. The Williams may be a glorified F2 car right now, but Kubica isn't exactly extracting the best out of it. Time to lift, Robert.