Start, Baku City Circuit, 2017

Moving up: The top 10 charges through the field of 2017

2017 F1 season review

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No one managed to go from last place to first during a race in 2017 but one driver came close. Here are the ten best charges through the field we saw in 2017.

=9th: Daniel Ricciardo, Monza – 12 places gained

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monza, 2017
Monza was only Ricciardo’s third-best charge of 2017
The Red Bulls should have lined up second and third on the grid at Monza, the RB13s reaping the benefit of a rain-hit qualifying session. But having expected this would be one of their weakest venues the team had already decided to fit new power unit components to both cars, incurring grid penalties. Daniel Ricciardo therefore lined up 16th, three places behind his team mate.

Max Verstappen made up five places on the first lap alone but then tangled with Felipe Massa, incurring a puncture and dropping to the tail of the field. Meanwhile Ricciardo was making steady progress. Still only 15th at the end of lap one, he passed a car on average every lap until, by the seventh tour, he had demoted Kevin Magnussen for ninth place.

Ricciardo didn’t gain another place until Kimi Raikkonen made his pit stop. The Red Bull driver, who had started on the harder soft tyres, stayed out much longer than his Ferrari rival. By lap 40 the pair were disputing fourth place, Ricciardo with the advantage of fresher tyres.

Approaching the Rettifilio chicane, with a huge distance between the two cars, Ricciardo launched his Red Bull down the inside. Raikkonen saw him coming and allowed his rival just enough room to make the audacious pass stick. Ricciardo took the chequered flag in fourth place.

=9th: Max Verstappen, Circuit of the Americas – 12 places gained

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
Controversially, Verstappen lost third place
Verstappen took the chequered flag at the Circuit of the Americas 13 places higher than he started, but was stripped of the final place he had gained. His move on Raikkonen at turn 17 was bold and audacious, but also clearly completed out of bounds. A five-second penalty dropped him from fourth to third.

This meant a fine recovery drive ended in controversy. Verstappen had started 16th due to a power unit penalty, gained two places on the first lap and then scythed through the pack.

He was helped by an aggressive tyre strategy which moved him back onto a set of super-soft tyres for the final stint, allowing him to attack Valtteri Bottas and then Raikkonen.

8th: Max Verstappen, Shanghai – 13 places gained

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Shanghai International Circuit, 2017
Verstappen made the best start of the year in China
In China Verstappen also started 16th and finished third, but this time he was allowed to go on the rostrum. Again technical problems were to blame for his lowly qualifying position. But having started 11 places behind Ricciardo the pair were separated by just three cars at the end of a storming first lap by Verstappen.

This was the best start of the year: Verstappen ended lap one nine places higher than he had begun it. It was a stunning display of his driving prowess on a damp circuit.

He now had the leaders in sight. Next Verstappen swept around the outside of Raikkonen at turn seven, and shortly afterwards he demoted his team mate too. He was on course for second place until a lock-up at the hairpin allowed Sebastian Vettel by. Nonetheless Verstappen clinch a podium finish which had seemed very unlikely 24 hours earlier.

=6th: Sebastian Vettel, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – 14 places gained

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2017
A clash with Verstappen delayed Vettel in Canada
Twice during 2017 Vettel had his race compromised by a first-lap tangle with a rival. In Canada he tangled with Verstappen, losing part of his front wing and falling to last place.

The Ferrari had the grunt to pass the midfielders with ease. He also passed Raikkonen with little difficulty, his team mate struggling with a brake-by-wire problem having gone off earlier in the race.

But Vettel had to work harder as the big points positions came within reach. The hard-fighting Force Indias proved difficult to separate, but he split them with an audacious move on Esteban Ocon. Sergio Perez fell next, though Vettel ran out of time to catch Ricciardo for third.

=6th: Daniel Ricciardo, Silverstone – 14 places gained

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2017
Ricciardo bounced back from qualifying misfortune at Silverstone
Ricciardo looked in good shape as he was on the pace in a rain-hit qualifying session at Silverstone. Then he suffered yet another Renault power unit problem.

Nonetheless from 19th on the grid, and despite throwing five places away by going off on lap five, he climbed an impressive 14 places at a track where overtaking isn’t always straightforward.

The tyre problems which hit the Ferraris late in the race handed him one position, but he had to fight for the rest. This was one of four occasions during 2017 where Ricciardo finished at least 11 places higher than the lowest position he had run in during a race. No wonder he also made the most overtaking moves of any driver this year.

5th: Sebastian Vettel, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – 15 places gained

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2017
Vettel lost the title in Mexico
As in Canada, Vettel tangled with a rival at the start in Mexico which left him with a lot of work to do. This time it was title rival Lewis Hamilton he clashed with, and the pair ended lap two at the rear of the field.

Hamilton had suffered the greater setback and went on to finish ninth. Vettel pressed on in pursuit of an unlikely top two finish which could keep his title hopes alive.

By lap 25 he had passed most of the midfield. His next target was Fernando Alonso, who fought hard in his McLaren, but eventually the Ferrari found a way by.

A Virtual Safety Car period handed Vettel the chance to switch back to ultra-soft tyres, giving him a further edge in his pursuit of the podium. But once he’d cleared the Force Indias he was told just how far ahead his team mate was in third place.

“Oh mamma mia,” Vettel replied. “That’s a little bit too much.” It had been a great recovery drive but the championship was gone.

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=2nd: Sebastian Vettel, Sepang – 16 places gained

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sepang International Circuit, 2017
Vettel nearly reached the podium from last
If Vettel had been the architect of his own problems in Canada and Mexico, in Malaysia the blame rested with his team. Power unit failure on Saturday meant he lined up last at Sepang.

He made up one place before the race began when his team mate’s car was pushed off the grid. He had to do the rest himself, and got off to a great start by ending lap one in 13th place.

As in Mexico he took a few laps to find a way past Alonso. After that several drivers in front of him headed for the pits, so that by lap 13 he was up to sixth place. He demoted an unwell Sergio Perez for fifth and an off-form Bottas yielded fourth. That meant a race which started badly for Vettel ended with just one car between him and his title rival.

=2nd: Lewis Hamilton, Interlagos – 16 places gained

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2017
Hamilton made life hard for himself in Brazil
It was as if once Vettel had shown he could start last and finish fourth, the driver who beat him to the championship felt he had to prove he could do the same. To widespread astonishment, Hamilton binned his Mercedes in Q1 and had to start the Brazilian Grand Prix from the Interlagos pit lane.

Not being on the grid cost Hamilton an immediately opportunity to gain places on lap one. Fortunately for him a series of crashes eliminated three cars and brought out the Safety Car. When it came in he was already up to 14th and had lost little time to the leaders.

Inevitably the Mercedes W08 made light work of the cars ahead. He gained five places in four laps, then moved past Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez for seventh. The latter was the first driver to offer the Mercedes anything more than token resistance.

To claim a Vettel-matching fourth place, Hamilton had to pass Max Verstappen. The pair were the two drivers who were overtaken fewer times than anyone else on the grid during 2017. But on this occasion Hamilton was able to pass Verstappen, whose Red Bull wasn’t working well. He then put Raikkonen under pressure for third but ran out of time – and tyre life – before he could put a move on the Ferrari.

=2nd: Daniel Ricciardo, Baku – 16 places gained

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2017
Ricciardo emerged from the Baku chaos on top
It says everything about how chaotic the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was that the drivers who finished first and second had been as low as 17th and 20th at different points in the race. And once again Ricciardo was among the drivers who made the most progress.

A crash in qualifying left him tenth on the grid. His situation became more challenging soon after the start when rising brake temperatures forced him to make an early pit stop, dropping the Red Bull to 17th place.

A series of collisions and incidents ahead prompted a series of Safety Car periods and a red flag. Hamilton and Vettel had clashed behind the Safety Car, leading to the latter receiving a penalty while Hamilton was forced into the pits when his headrest failed.

Ricciardo appeared behind them on lap 24 with a brilliant pass on three cars at once at the end of Baku’s long run to turn one. Another dazzling display of late braking took him past Lance Stroll, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg. It ultimately won him the race.

1st: Valtteri Bottas, Baku – 18 places gained

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2017
A last-gasp pass gave Bottas second
Bottas started second and finished there in Azerbaijan. Not much to get excited about?

Hardly. Bottas snatched his second place by one-tenth of a second from Lance Stroll, who he passed as they crossed the finishing line. And 44 laps earlier he was still 20th and stone last.

Bottas ended up at the back of the field following a first-lap tangle with Raikkonen which left him with a puncture. In between the various Safety Car interruptions he found time to haul himself back into podium contention.

Of course it helped that he had the best car of the year and Baku is a track which suits the Mercedes particularly well. But while no one managed to go from last to first in 2017, Bottas was the driver who came closest.

Just outside the top 10

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, Shanghai International Circuit, 2017
Sainz made up 13 spots, then lost two
All the drivers in the top 10 enjoyed the advantage of driving the most competitive cars in the field. However a couple of drivers in the midfield almost did well enough to gain a place on this list.

Carlos Sainz Jnr twice made up 11 places during the course of a race. A brave gamble on slick tyres in China saw him climb from 18th to finish seventh. He held fifth at one point before inevitably being passed by a Ferrari and a Mercedes. Sainz also emerged from the Baku chaos with a good result, rising from a low of 19th to take eighth.

The only other driver not in a ‘big three’ car to make up 11 places during a race was Sergio Perez. The Force India driver took an excellent seventh in Bahrain from 18th on the grid, passing his team mate on the way.

Two other drivers also made up 11 places in a race: Ricciardo in Brazil (17th to sixth) and Hamilton in Mexico (20th to ninth).

Over to you

Which of these recovery drives impressed you the most? Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
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  • 35 comments on “Moving up: The top 10 charges through the field of 2017”

    1. Taking away nothing of above drivers, I think this list showed that there is a big gap of performance between top three teams and other teams.

      Note: I still remember Raikkonen charging through Suzuka 2005 fondly. That was peak of McLaren-Raikkonen era. Shame that both of them now no longer have the ability to do something as beautiful.

      1. I haven’t been following F1 for that long, but I remember one of the most impressive drives through the field was with Button in Canada 2011. I think the team said to him he had been in every position that race and yet still won.

        1. It helped that there were plenty of safety cars during that race and that he rammed off two of his direct rivals (Alonso and his teammate Hamilton).

          Also, it was amazing how Button managed to end up all the way on the back. Not by accident or technical issues, but because he kept getting the tyre choices utterly wrong. Like Prost once did. Forgot which race, but Prost kept stopping for tyres while Senna just kept going.

          1. @patrickl I think you mean Donington 1993?

            1. @f1infigures, in that race, most of the time it was actually the team that made the mistakes instead of Prost – I believe that Williams were responsible for calling in Prost, having had a spotter on the edge of the circuit who radioed in that there was heavier rain coming, but that turned out the be just a brief passing shower.

              It’s also curious that so many hype that race up, even though Senna himself always maintained that it wasn’t that great a victory because, with the exception of Williams’s car, he had one of the most advanced cars on the grid in terms of driver aids (particularly the traction control systems) and the race was more of a test of car technology than driver ability.

          2. Yes, I know he did have a bit of a messy race, but there were plenty of stints where he was by far the fastest. He was certainly the best driver that race at dealing with the changing conditions in my view.

            1. Prost crack under pressure in the rain, happened in brasil the same year and before in 1991 he crashed during the formation lap. He stopped seven times in Donington and as a 3 times WDC that was unacceptable. Senna stormed through the field from 5th to 1st during the 1st lap and was able to be 2 seconds faster than everyone else at a moment. He was “magic” that sunday, simply untouchable.

            2. people forget that up until a miscalled stop and the engine stalling which wasn’t surprising after so many stops Prost was actually leading. Hate to burst the bubble but it wasn’t as easy as people recall it.

              Also remember pitting at that track cut out a massive amount of the track so it was worth doing it as you didn’t lose a lot of time. Senna pitted many times that day also, once he came in and didn’t stop, is that unacceptable also Ambrogio?

        2. Most impressive to me was Verstappen at Interlagos last year.
          @thegianthogweed

          1. +1
            No doubt about that. And when you dit watch the whole race with all the delays and safety cars the outcome was so impressive that you will remember that one for the rest of your life.

          2. Yes, that indeed was a great drive. But I was mainly referring that Button won this race and had been in every position on the grid.

          3. Hamilton was the best at Brazil 2016 not Max. Max spun trying to keep pace with Hamilton.

            1. We are discussing overtakes Markp :p
              There is more happening in a race than just watching your hero race at the front.

    2. It,s a Pitty Bottas scored the first place as a result of Baku. Not really on his own merit there is it?

      1. Why? He put in a great drive to recover to second. Things went his way but to get a podium from the back of the field they have to. Things also went Hamilton’s way in Brazil when the safety car came out, should we say that wasn’t a result he earned on merit?

        1. @geemac
          I think that is a fair comment. Hamilton was completely responsible for his starting position in Brazil. But I still think he deserved to finish as high as he did and should get credit for managing that, despite the safety car helping out. Same with Bottas in Baku. That incident was deemed 50 – 50 incident so he wasn’t even fully to blame and yet he suffered worse out of the 2 relating to what happened in the incident. He was lucky with the safety car, but after that, he recovery was extremely solid and made the race very exciting. Especially towards the end.

    3. The best one for me is the driver who ended up at the end of the field (not due to his own error), was not helped by a SC, and finished above his natural finishing position.

      The only one remaining is probably Vettel in Sepang.

      1. Verstappen in China was the best recovery..Based on pure skill. Not by the performance on the car or by the help of a SC he reached the podium!

        1. Well, I think it is partially related to the performance of the car. I don’t think there is any doubt that the Red Bull has more grip in the wet than most teams (probably as good as Ferrari and Mercedes or better) and I think that will have helped him a bit at the start. But it certainly was to do with his skill how well he did the overtakes and the places he chose to do them.

          1. From this list obviously Verstappen in China was most impressive by means of driver performance.
            What took others a near complete reace Verstappen did in just 10-12 lap… ofcourse the RBR is the third best car on the grid, but the damp/wet track eliminated near al advantage…
            The fact that it took Verstappen no longer than 10 laps to overtake his team mate from P16 (versus P5) tells us it was purely a drivers efford.

            Monza, GB and Baku where good races by Ricciardo, but they did not stand apart, it was merele a faster car that helped him charging up the grid, checking the lap times Verstappen was much faster in Silverstone, equal in Monza and had much more potential in Baku when his car failed.
            Good performancesl, but merely a cars efford…. which could be said about the Ferrari’s and Mercedes gaining places as well, although very good driving…exciting here and there, but not like taking 3/4 of the grid in just 10 laps good.

            1. Well I’ve heard Horner say enough times that he believes Red Bull is on par with Ferrari and Mercedes when it is wet very often. This race was damp at the start and dry at the end. I think that partially explains why Ricciardo was much better at the end as he sometimes struggles in the damp conditions. I personally think the Red Bull was significantly better than all the cars Verstappen overtook at the start (other than Ricciardo and Bottas), but no doubt it took some skill to do it in the time he did. And I do think Ricciardo was being overly cautious in the first stage. But things switched around near the end and Ricciardo then started to look quicker. But I can only say Verstappen was better that race as he finished ahead and started well behind Ricciardo.

    4. Some of the races is was great fun to see a top car starting behind and charging trough the field. But other races they didn’t have to do much to gain 4, 5 or 6 places only because of the many DNF’s or penalties for the leading cars. Most of all Baku was much influenced by these circumstances. BOT and RIC didn’t have to do that much to gain 16 or even 18 places …..

    5. Hmm, bit disappointing that this is just a quantitative rather than qualitative ranking.

      1. Agree @philipgb.
        But even the ‘qualitative ranking’ at Formula1.com came up with a not so special overtake (SC restart on longest straight).

        1. @Egonovi The pass by Ricciardo on Hulkenberg and the Williams-drivers into turn 1 in Baku were special IMO. Unfortunately, not many drivers dare to hit the brake pedal as late as Ricciardo. He’s definitely the best at performing late-braking divebombs.

    6. Great memories for old-time Kimi fans such as me. But the 2005 Suzuka race (near my hometown) might probably have been won by Alonso (who started 16 just ahead of Kimi) were it not for the asinine decree of the stewards ordering him to give back the position to Christian Klein twice (once was fair enough but the 2nd ruined his race). Overtaking Schu on the outside of 130R was the highlight of a truly memorable race.

      Which brings me back to what could have been the greatest comeback race ever: Hungary 2016 which many remember as Jenson Button’s maiden victory (he began 4th). Both Schu and Alonso had a 2″ qualifying penalty for overtaking under yellow flag in free practice, Schu started 11th and Alonso 15th. Driving on the absolute limit in a wet track, Alonso made 11 overtakes in the first lap -best F1 lap ever IMNHO- then a superb pass on Schu on the outside of T5 for 3rd position after a furious, several laps long fight. Finally, Alonso made P1, the race seemed his… but all was squandered in a botched final pitstop with a misattached rear right wheel.

      1. And Jenson Button started 14th not 4th (engine change penalty) which made it a pretty good comeback race anyway.

        1. Was a good job by alonso, yes, but don’t forget the advantage he had with the michelin intermediate tyres in 2005, schumacher couldn’t hold him off cause bridgestones were like 3 seconds slower in that period.

          I think michelin improved during 2004, and became better than bridgestone on the wet, cause there was some wet race in 2004 where they were by far off the pace and indianapolis 2003 where montoya and raikkonen basically lost the title due to how bad michelin were compared to bridgestones, you just can’t compete with an equally skilled driver on the wet if his tyre is 2-3 seconds better than yours.

          1. Raikkonen had the same tyres as Alonso. While this gave both an advantage over the Ferrari drivers, it didn’t give them an advantage over the other people starting ahead of them (the other Bridgestone drivers started behind or pitted at the end of the formation lap).

    7. Hungary 2006, not 2016 of course (where is the EDIT button when you need it?)

    8. Someone here is old enough to remember Mansell at Budapest 1989 with the Ferrari?

      1. Yup terrific!! Specially the overtake for the lead. Which I enjoyed immensely because I absolutely loathed the overtaken guy. Yes, that one who destroyed F1 as a sport forever.

      2. @ambrogio Yes. Mansell came from 12th, so “only” 11 places that he made up, but that was during a dry race on the Hungaroring, long before DRS, and finished of with a nice move on Senna. Little me was excited.

        1. There was also monaco 2006 where schumacher went from last to 5th on a track which is probably the hardest for overtaking. Wonder if someone made even bigger gains at monaco, hungaroring or other close to impossible to overtake-races?

          1. If we’re revisiting the history books then Monza 1967 must be high up there. Jim Clark got a puncture and lost an entire lap to the leaders. He re-joined the race , driving away from the leaders to re-gain the lost lap and re-take the lead only to run out of fuel approaching Parabolica on the last lap and coast across the line in 3rd place.

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