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Which F1 Team Has the Best Driver Pairing in 2023? 

We take a look at every driver's qualifying performance to determine which F1 team has the best driver pairing. ...

When asking which F1 teams have the best driver pairings, you can take a couple of different approaches. There’s the opinion-based approach where you just say what you feel based on what you’ve seen, or you can take an analytical and numbers-based approach. But then, what numbers do you focus on? Race results? Fastest laps? Qualifying times?

We chose the latter approach and focused on qualifying times for a couple of reasons:

  1. A large sample size with several lap times
  2. The stopwatch doesn’t lie

To determine which team had the best driver pairing, we compared each driver’s qualifying times and the deficit between those and their teammates to discover how close each pairings’ pace is. The larger the deficit, the worse the driver pairing. We also included appearances in Q2 and Q3 so as not to rely completely on deficits and provide a more accurate snapshot of each teams’ performance.

With that out of the way, here’s which F1 team has the best driver pairing from worst to best.

Note: At the time of writing only 14 races have been held. 

10. Red Bull (Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez) – 1.822s Deficit

Verstappen (left) and Perez (right)

Something that has been all over the news is Sergio Perez’s poor qualifying performance before the summer break. During that fiasco, it was easy to brush it off considering Perez would almost always recover in the race, such is the speed of the Red Bull. But it became immediately apparent in the research just how bad his performance was during qualifying and just how far off the pace he is when compared to Max Verstappen because being almost 2 seconds on average off the pace of your teammate is a big problem.

Positive times signify Verstappen ahead, negative Perez

Perez has only been faster than Verstappen in three sessions: Saudi Arabia Q2 (21.318s ahead of Max due to engine problem), Hungary Q1 (0.217s ahead), and Belgium Q2 (0.431s ahead). In every other session, Verstappen has come out ahead.

Perez has been in Q2 three times and Q3 eight times, although when compared to Verstappen’s one Q2 appearance and 13 Q3 appearances, it’s hard to argue that Perez is keeping up with his teammate in the same machinery, especially having only reached Q1 on three occasions.

Sergio Perez

Q2 Appearances – 3

Q3 Appearnaces – 8

Best Deficit to Verstappen – 0.431s ahead in Belgium Q2

 

Max Verstappen

Q2 – 1

Q3 – 13

Best Deficit to Perez – 1.464s ahead in Monaco Q1

9. Williams (Alex Albon & Logan Sargeant) – 0.625s Deficit

alex albon and Logan Sargeant
Albon (left) and Sargeant (right)

It gets harder and harder to defend Logan Sargeant because his average deficit to Alex Albon is a significant 0.625s. While not as bad as Perez’s deficit to Verstappen, it isn’t small either. Yes, he is a rookie, and yes, Albon is in brilliant form, but the gap should not be this large, especially when you compare him to his fellow rookie, Oscar Piastri.

Positive times signify Albon ahead, negative Sargeant

Sargeant has appeared in Q2 twice to Albon’s three times, although Sargeant has only reached Q3 once whereas Albon has been there six times.

What’s worse for Sargeant is that he hasn’t been faster than Albon in a single qualifying session. The closest he got was during Azerbaijan Q2 where he was only 0.071s behind.

Logan Sargeant

Q2 – 2

Q3 – 1

Best Deficit to Albon – 0.071s behind in Azerbaijan Q1

 

Alex Albon

Q2 – 3

Q3 – 6

Best Deficit to Sargeant – 1.596s ahead in Netherlands Q1

8. Aston Martin (Fernando Alonso & Lance Stroll) – 0.291s Deficit

Stroll (left) and Alonso (right)

For the amount of vitriol that Lance Stroll gets for his driving ability, he isn’t the absolute worst when he compares to Alonso, though he certainly isn’t the best.

Negative times signify Stroll leading

Stroll has been faster than Alonso on eight occasions for a total average deficit of 0.291s. Alonso has reached Q3 every single time (the only driver to do so this season) while Stroll has reached Q3 seven times and Q2 five times.

Similar to Perez, Stroll is lacklustre because of the known performance available in the car that Alonso is able to extract, and Stroll isn’t. It becomes markedly apparent that his seat is safe due to Lawrence Stroll owning the team.

Lance Stroll

Q2 – 5

Q3 – 7

Best Deficit to Alonso – 0.588s ahead in Belgium Q2

 

Fernando Alonso

Q3 – 14

Best Deficit to Stroll – 1.708s ahead in Canada Q2

7. Haas (Kevin Magnussen & Nico Hulkenberg) – 0.268s

Magnussen (left) and Hullkenberg (right)

Similar to Perez, Kevin Magnussen isn’t having a great season, but he isn’t as far behind his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, as Perez is to Verstappen. Hulkenberg is an absolute beast in qualifying having reached Q3 five times and Q2 six times while Magnussen has achieved Q3 once in Miami, but more often than not, he’s eliminated in Q1.

Negative times indicate Magnussen's lead

Magnussen has only been faster than Hulkenberg five times for a total average deficit of 0.268s.

Kevin Magnussen

Q2 – 4

Q3 – 1

Best Deficit to Hulkenberg – 3.146s ahead in Belgium Q2

 

Nico Hulkenberg

Q2 – 6

Q3 – 5

Best Deficit to Magnussen – 1.373s ahead in Canada Q2

6. AlphaTauri (Yuki Tsunoda & Nyck de Vries) – 0.159s Deficit

De Vries (left) and Tsunoda (right)

This is where things get weird. We didn’t focus on the pairing of Daniel Ricciardo (1.551s) and the recent Liam Lawson (0.688s) because they’ve only had two qualifying sessions each with Yuki Tsunoda. The driver we have the most data for is Nyck de Vries who lost his seat due to his deficit to Tsunoda, but when looking at the numbers, de Vries wasn’t that far behind.

Negative times indicate de Vries' lead | Purple = Daniel Ricciardo | Pink = Lawson

The deficit between them was only 0.159s, but de Vries only made it to Q2 twice to Yuki’s three and never made it to Q3 whereas Yuki did so twice. Ultimately, with the midfield so close together it’s the smallest advantages that can see a driver reach Q3.

Nyck de Vries

Q2 – 2

Best Deficit to Tsunoda – 0.394s ahead in Spain Q2

 

Yuki Tsunoda

Q2 – 3 (during de Vries stint, but 7 overall)

Q3 – 2

Best Deficit to de Vries – 0.721s ahead in Bahrain Q1

5. Alfa Romeo (Valtteri Bottas & Zhou Guanyu) – 0.129s Deficit

Guanyu (left) and Bottas (right)

Zhou Guanyu is closer to his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, than de Vries was to Tsunoda, but again because the midfield is so close, hundredths of a second can dictate whether a driver makes it Q2 or Q3 and this where Guanyu has struggled.

Negative times indicate Guanyu's lead

Guanyu has made it Q2 four times to Bottas’ eight and has only made it to Q3 once while Bottas has reached it twice. Guanyu’s appearances in Q2 and Q3 are literally half that of Bottas’ despite the deficit between them being so low. 

If we were to go completely by performance deficits, Alfa Romeo would have the fourth best pairing, but those qualifying appearances (or lack thereof) are holding the team back.

Zhou Guanyu

Q2 – 4

Q3 – 1

Best Deficit to Bottas – 0.632s ahead in Hungary Q1

 

Valtteri Bottas

Q2 – 8

Q3 – 2

Best Deficit to Guanyu – 1.348s ahead in Belgium Q1

4. McLaren (Oscar Piastri & Lando Norris) – 0.196s Deficit

Piastri (left) and Norris (right) | Photo: Dppi/DPPI/LiveMedia

It has been a stunning rookie debut for Oscar Piastri having been able to faster than Lando Norris on 10 occasions, notably in Belgium where he consistently outqualified Norris in all three qualifying sessions.

Negative times indicate Piastri's lead

The only reason Piastri isn’t closer to Norris is because of his performance during the early and middle parts of the season, but as it has gone on, Piastri has only gotten faster as his experience grows and the deficit tightens.

While the deficit sits at 0.196s Norris’ way, keep in mind that Piastri’s a rookie going up against one of the best drivers on the grid and matching him which is nothing to scoff at. In qualifying, he’s matched Norris’ appearances in Q2 (twice) and is just shy of Norris’ 10 Q3 appearances to his nine.

So while the deficit is larger than both AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo, Piastri is reaching Q3 almost as often as Norris which can’t be said of either Nyck de Vries or Zhou Guanyu.

Oscar Piastri

Q2 – 2

Q3 – 9

Best Deficit to Norris – 1.109s ahead in Belgium Q1

 

Lando Norris

Q2 – 2

Q3 – 10

Best Deficit to Piastri – 3.303s ahead in Canada Q3

3. Alpine (Esteban Ocon & Pierre Gasly) – 0.056s Deficit

Gasly (left) and Ocon (right)

While Alpine have struggled in 2023 it isn’t due to their drivers who are almost on par with each other. Much like the rest of the top three in this list, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon seem to alternate weekends for the top spot which is why their deficit is only 0.056s Ocon’s way.

Negative times indicate Gasly's lead

Their qualifying appearances are quite comparable though it seems that Ocon is the more consistent of the two with six Q2 appearances and six Q3 appearances to Gasly’s three Q2 appearances and seven Q3 appearances.

If the team can improve their car, the drivers are more than capable of extracting the best from it.

Pierre Gasly

Q2 – 3

Q3 – 7

Best Deficit to Ocon – 2.701s ahead during Belgium Q2

 

Esteban Ocon

Q2 – 6

Q3 – 6

Best Deficit to Gasly – 2.231s ahead during Azerbaijan Q1

2. Mercedes (Lewis Hamilton & George Russell) – 0.025s Deficit

Russell (left) and Hamilton (right) | Photo Julien Delfosse / DPPI Credit: DPPI Media/Alamy Live News

The gap between these two is miniscule at just 0.025s making them one of the strongest pairings on the grid. George Russell had a very solid start to the season having outqualified Lewis Hamilton from Bahrain to Australia, but Lewis came back strong after Australia to eventually eke out a marginal lead.

Negative times indicate Russell's lead

Hamilton has appeared in Q2 only once but in Q3 12 times to Russell’s 10 Q3 appearances and three Q2 appearances. Much like Alpine, once Mercedes improves their car’s performance these two drivers should be a major threat.

George Russell

Q2 – 3

Q3 – 10

Best Deficit to Hamilton – 0.574s ahead in Netherlands Q1

 

Lewis Hamilton

Q2 – 1

Q3 – 12

Best Deficit to Russell – 0.718s ahead in Belgium Q3

1. Ferrari (Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz) – 0.016s Deficit

Sainz (left) and Leclerc (right)

The best pairing in 2023 is Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz with just 0.016s in Leclerc’s favour separating them. This is due to a mixture of Leclerc struggling more than usual this year and Sainz picking up the pieces. But that’s exactly what makes a good driver pairing. It allows the team to have flexibility in their strategy based on which driver has the faster pace on a given weekend.

Negative times indicate Sainz's lead

Ferrari say they don’t have a number one driver and it’s clear to see why they make that claim given how close their drivers are this year.

Sainz has actually managed one more Q3 appearance (13) than Leclerc (12), though overall Leclerc still edges out a slight lead in terms of pace.

Carlos Sainz

Q2 – 1

Q3 – 13

Best Deficit to Leclerc – 0.911s ahead in Netherlands Q3

 

Charles Leclerc

Q2 – 1

Q3 – 12

Best Deficit to Sainz – 0.928s ahead in Azerbaijan Q1

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