A few weeks after revealing the ratings for its seven classic drivers, Codemasters has now posted F1 2021's current driver ratings for all of us to argue over. Once again, I think they’re worth sharing, because as a sports fan there’s nothing more weirdly satisfying than good-natured arguments with other fans about how over- or underrated a particular competitor is, based on selective evidence that supports existing biases. After years of doing it with Madden, NBA 2K and The Show, I’m excited to do it with F1. It’s like the bedrock of western civilization at this point.
Anyway, Codemasters says there’s a fairly complex system underpinning the ratings here. You have the overall score, of course, but contributing to that are four elements: experience, racecraft, awareness and pace. Here’s how they’re defined by the developers:
Experience equals time on the track – easy! This number comes from the real-life races the driver has entered, and the bar here is a high one, with Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen leading the charge with the maximum of 99. In F1 2021, the higher this number, the more resource points the driver will pick up for your team.
Determining the racecraft rating involves taking a deep look into a driver’s starting and finishing positions and running some complex calculations in between. How does this affect the drivers in F1 2021? The higher the racecraft, the more overtakes a driver will go for out on track when the opportunities arise.
Awareness is based on how clean a driver is and how many penalties they pick up in races. Clean races and fewer penalties equal an above-average awareness score, which in-game, translates to better control of the car in challenging circumstances.
Pace is pure speed. This one is calculated by compiling the fastest laps in a race and comparing them to not only the fastest lap overall, but also the lap times of their teammate too. Translating this ranking into F1 2021 means that those drivers with a higher pace are much more likely to grab those fastest laps and end up on the sharp end of the grid in qualifying.
Although it’s not mentioned here, the final overall score is calculated as a weighted average, with a bias applied to pace. The developers have also decided to more heavily factor recent results into the mix for this year’s installment — fitting, because these ratings will be dynamic in the game. Good performances will make the numbers go up, and bad ones will of course have the opposite effect.
With that explanation out of the way, we can chat about some of the ratings themselves. This year, the peak is 95 overall, shared by Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. I won’t argue with that — in fact, I’ll stand corrected, because I predicted Codies (or, more appropriately, F1) would never allow a current driver to rank higher than Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher, who are tied at 94.
From there, things get a little more questionable. Valtteri Bottas is third at 92, with Lando Norris behind him at 91 and Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly tied for 90. While Norris’ racecraft is rated much higher than Bottas’, Bottas has a sizable experience edge — as he should — and a small pace advantage. The latter I’m not so sure about, but here we are.
Speaking of questionable, how about Ricciardo and Gasly’s heavy favoring? Ricciardo had a respectable 2020 at Renault, with two finishes in third and three in fourth. But his 2021 has been decidedly less impressive, as the Australian has struggled to get acclimated to the same McLaren chassis his teammate is decimating the midfield with. As for Gasly, he’s definitely done well to consistently finish in the points this year, save for the first race. However, all but two of those results have been seventh or worse. Both should certainly land on the upper half of this list, but 90?
On the flip side, Charles Leclerc (88) and George Russell (84!) were done dirty. At the very least Leclerc’s had about the season that Gasly’s had, plus he wrestled last year’s Ferrari beyond what anyone ever thought it was capable of on multiple occasions. And George? He’s been driving out of his skin this season. If he was in Bottas’ seat, there’s no doubt in my mind he’d have the win that has eluded Mercedes’ number two driver so far in 2021.
In one sense, I suppose you can only take so much issue with these scores — they are at least rooted in data and math, and while the methodology could always be improved, the basis is objective. That said, when you factor finishing results and lap times so heavily into the determination of an F1 driver’s skill — when a massive gulf in performance exists between teams — you’re never going to get a representative picture of a driver’s actual talent/ability.
Then again, perhaps that’s the magic of an endeavor like this. It’s futile and everyone knows it. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have something to bicker over right now. Tell us what you think of F1 2021's ratings in the comments. The game comes out on Xbox, PlayStation and PC this coming Tuesday.