Examined: Six eye-opening stats from F1 2023's average starting … – Planet F1

We have crunched the numbers on each driver’s average grid slot in the F1 2023 season.
The qualifying battles at each team are one of the important head-to-heads by which drivers are measured, and some battles were closer than others in the F1 2023 season.
But there was a huge level of disparity in some teams, while others had drivers more or less level pegging – and some drivers clearly out-performed the cars underneath them over one lap this season.
Some housekeeping before we get going, though, to let you in on how we’ve come to our numbers. We’ve taken an average of every driver’s final starting grid slot for each Grand Prix this season, with any penalties applied, and pit lane starts are removed as the cars did not start on the grid. Ready? Let’s go.
For the biggest disparities on average grid slot in F1 2023, you’ll find them at Aston Martin, Red Bull and Williams between team-mates.
Fernando Alonso out-qualified Lance Stroll by an average of 5.35 places, Max Verstappen started an average of 5.02 places ahead of Sergio Perez and Alex Albon was 4.72 slots ahead of Logan Sargeant throughout the year.
It comes as no surprise that Verstappen has the best average grid slot of the year at 3.18, and without the outliers of P15 and P11 in Saudi Arabia and Singapore, his average position could have been under 3 – though 3.18 is a quite remarkable achievement in itself.
Verstappen (20-2), Albon (22-0) and Alonso (19-3) also had the most dominant head-to-head records against their team-mates when it comes to out-qualifying them as the season progressed, but as we’ll see a little later, starting ahead more often doesn’t necessarily mean that the grid slot itself is always hugely improved.
For the lower-performing drivers in qualifying, their average grid slot belied their car performance, with Perez having an average grid slot of 8.2 for the year.
This ranks him lower than both Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris to put the man who finished P2 in the Drivers’ standings as the eighth highest average qualifier on the grid.
But for Stroll, his qualifying form left him firmly in the midfield. His average grid slot of 11.68 (though if he started in his planned slots before pit lane starts were taken, this would have decreased still to 12.45), puts him below the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg (11.21), and just above the Williams of Alex Albon (11.95).
While Hulkenberg can arguably call himself one of the qualifiers of the season in the lowest-performing car on the grid on a Sunday, Stroll will need to address his Saturday form next year, despite the highlight of a P3 start at Interlagos.
While Charles Leclerc shone over one lap, as ever, at Ferrari and took five pole positions along the way, Carlos Sainz took two poles of his own and a race victory to boot in Singapore – becoming the only non-Red Bull winner in F1 2023.
Leclerc’s head-to-head record in qualifying looked decidedly one-sided, too, beating Sainz 15-7 in that particular battle this season, but the average place in which the Ferrari pair started on the grid was very close all season.
They hold the second and third best average slot this year, Leclerc starting an average of 4.95 on the grid and Sainz an average of 5.77 – even with his 10-place penalty from Las Vegas which caused so much anger in there.
So even though Leclerc remains a formidable opponent for any driver over one lap, Sainz was rarely too far behind over the course of the year.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell posted the only 11-11 end-of-season draw in the qualifying battle when the year ended, and their average starting slot was barely separable either.
Hamilton was the one to take a pole position this year with a blistering lap in Hungary, and edged the average starting berth by 0.36 ahead of his young compatriot, with Fernando Alonso wedging himself in between them for good measure.
But despite how closely the two matched up at the Silver Arrows, they were only the second-closest for average starting slot on the grid this year…
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While Pierre Gasly beat Esteban Ocon 14-8 in this year’s qualifying battle, the gaps between them on the grid were rarely large apart from when it was in Ocon’s favour.
Gasly starting 11 places below Ocon in Bahrain and a nine-place deficit in Canada, along with generally lower gaps for Ocon when he was out-qualified by his team-mate, meant that Ocon bucked the trend and actually had a marginally better starting grid slot than his Alpine team-mate this year, even though he was roundly out-qualified on the whole.
Ocon had a 0.24-place advantage on average this season, though Gasly will no doubt prefer the outright head-to-head, with the fluctuation in performance from Alpine at different circuits doubtless playing a factor in how this came to be.
In summary, though, it showed that on the occasions Ocon out-qualified Gasly, they were by bigger margins than Gasly managed against his Alpine colleague.
Such has been the competitiveness in the field this year, the number of outright backmarkers in qualifying have been very few and far between.
Only Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries (albeit on a sample size of 10 races) average a grid spot of 16 or lower, which would mean a Q1 exit on average at every race.
Even then, Sargeant’s form began to pick up as the year progressed and though he received a whitewash from Albon on the other side of the garage, he will gain confidence from being given another year by Williams for next season.
First on his list of priorities, though, will be getting rid of that ‘0’ by his name on the qualifying head-to-head column…
1 Max Verstappen: 3.18
2 Charles Leclerc: 4.95
3 Carlos Sainz: 5.77
4 Lewis Hamilton: 6.09
5 Fernando Alonso: 6.33
6 George Russell: 6.45
7 Lando Norris: 7.95
8 Sergio Perez: 8.2
9 Oscar Piastri: 9.64
10 Esteban Ocon: 10.9
11 Pierre Gasly: 11.14
12 Nico Hulkenberg: 11.21
13 Lance Stroll: 11.68
14 Alex Albon: 11.95
15 Daniel Ricciardo: 13.71*
16 Liam Lawson: 13.8*
17 Yuki Tsunoda: 13.82
18 Valtteri Bottas: 13.86
19 Kevin Magnussen: 14.53
20 Zhou Guanyu: 15.48
21 Nyck de Vries: 16.33*
22 Logan Sargeant: 16.67
[*De Vries’ average came over 10 races, Ricciardo over seven races and Lawson over five races]
Read next: Where does Lewis Hamilton rank on the longest win droughts for a F1 World Champion?

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