Formula 1 has a surprising second fastest driver of 2023

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /

Max Verstappen has been the top qualifier of the 2023 Formula 1 season, but it may surprise you who has the second best average qualifying result.

Unlike last year, when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the most pole positions, two-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has been the fastest on Saturdays in 2023, having been fastest in qualifying on eight occasions and taken seven official pole positions, thanks to his grid penalty at Spa.

Verstappen has missed Q3 on only one occasion, with that having happened in Jeddah due to a driveshaft issue. He started in season-worst 15th place and finished in a season-worst — yes, a season-worst — second.

His only other qualifying effort that netted him a non-front row starting position happened in Miami, when a mistake on his first Q3 lap resulted in him sitting P9 when the session was abruptly ended due to a Leclerc crash. The Red Bull driver still rebounded to secure the win, one of his 10 wins through 12 races this year.

All things considered, Verstappen’s average qualifying result throughout the first 12 races of the 2023 season is 3.0, which is by far the best in Formula 1.

The crazy part is who has been the second fastest qualifier in Formula 1 this year: Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

Sainz has qualified outside of the top five on only two occasions, and he has only missed Q3 on one. He has qualified in the top five in 10 of 12 races this year and posted an average qualifying result of 5.0.

Sainz is often overlooked when it comes to top Formula 1 drivers, and this has been the case throughout the better part of his career. Neither beating the highly touted Lando Norris in both of their seasons together at McLaren nor beating Leclerc in their first season together at Ferrari has generated him the respect he deserves.

Now in typical Sainz fashion, he has flown under the radar as the second fastest qualifier of the year during a season when Ferrari have definitely not been the second fastest team. Coming out of the summer break, they sit in fourth place in the constructor standings behind Red Bull, Mercedes, and Aston Martin.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso is the only driver who has not failed to make it to Q3 this year. His average qualifying result is 5.58, tying him with Leclerc for next best behind Verstappen and Sainz.

Next. All-time Formula 1 wins list. dark

The 2023 Formula 1 season is scheduled to resume on Sunday, August 27 with the Dutch Grand Prix at Circuit Zandvoort. ESPN is set to broadcast the race live beginning at 8:55 a.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!