The five most impressive F1 drivers of the 2022 season so far

Five races into the F1 season and Planet Sport have identified the five drivers who have impressed us the most with their performances and results.

Obviously Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have, quite frankly, been in a world of their own ever since the lights went out in Bahrain.

But you may spot a few notable absentees and perhaps some surprise inclusions in our list along the way. Don't be spitting your tea out in incredulity at our choices...tea shouldn't be wasted.

Max Verstappen

He is not in control of the World Championship, in fact trails by 19 points, but that is no fault of the title-holder whose record is perfectly simple - he has won every race he has finished in 2022 so far.

Red Bull RB18 breakdowns in Bahrain and Australia have cost the Dutchman 36 points and but for those, he would be comfortably ahead at the top of the standings.

There appears to be a greater maturity about the 24-year-old with that dramatic success of last season under his belt and certainly in the first five races of this campaign he has made no significant mistakes.

Favourite again to retain his crown after back-to-back triumphs at Imola and Miami, Verstappen will be confident of returning to top spot in the championship over the course of the next few races if Red Bull can marry reliability to the striking pace of their car and driver.

Charles Leclerc

Charles LeClerc finished ahead of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in FP1

One very obvious error in the form of a spin at Imola that cost him seven points marks a blemish on Leclerc's season, but apart from that it is impossible not to have been impressed with what he has produced.

Ferrari's major step up in competitiveness with the F1-75 car could only be maximised with a driver capable of driving it to best effect, and for the vast majority that is exactly what Leclerc has done.

Right from the get-go the 24-year-old Monegasque has been on the pace, taking pole position and victory in rounds one and three - and completed the coveted grand slam on the latter occasion. He had Verstappen behind him each time when the Red Bull driver exited.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all, however, is how Leclerc has reasserted his 'golden boy' status at the Scuderia - responding in the perfect fashion after being beaten by Carlos Sainz in last year's championship. This time around, it is Sainz making more of the mistakes.

George Russell

At a team like Mercedes, being thrown in at the deep end, a driver has to quickly swim or find himself sinking - and Russell is keeping his head above water brilliantly following his promotion for this term.

So much so that the 24-year-old has beaten his seven-time former World Champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton in all of the last four races, building a 23-point advantage over his fellow Briton.

Yes, Russell has enjoyed better luck with strategy and Safety Cars than Hamilton. But to an extent, he has made his own good fortune with some inspired tactical thinking of his own.

The Mercedes W13 is a difficult, 'porpoising' diva of a car about which both drivers have been vocal.

However, Russell is doing a better job than Hamilton of working around it - and being the only driver with five top-five finishes this season is a real feather in his cap.

Valtteri Bottas

If we are impressed with Russell, how can we not be also with the man he replaced at Mercedes? Bottas has certainly not gone away quietly towards the back of the pack.

Even though the big regulation changes were designed to potentially shake up the order, few experts thought Mercedes and Alfa Romeo would be regularly fighting for position - but that is what has unfolded.

The Alfa Romeo C42 is a much better car comparatively than they have had in the last few years but, like Leclerc at Ferrari, they needed a driver to get the most out of it. And Bottas has done exactly that, showing he remains a highly talented F1 racer after exiting the Mercedes cauldron.

It is no great surprise the Finn's rookie team-mate Zhou Guanyu has only one point so far, but Bottas has racked up an excellent total of 30 from four top-eight finishes - and arguably, it should even have been more.

Alex Albon

There were a couple of other candidates in the mix and it may be harsh to omit Kevin Magnussen in particular, but Albon just shades it by a few thousandths of a second for our last spot.

That is down to the Thai racer having grabbed a few points for Williams with a car that, frankly, barely looks capable of that achievement, and a huge part of the relative success is down to him.

Back on the grid after a year on the sidelines, Albon looks like he has never been away - apart from the red hair dye - and his outstanding tyre preservation has been especially key in making some steep climbs up the order from unpromising grid positions.

Team-mate Nicholas Latifi is looking something of a lost cause as he struggles badly with an FW44 that is probably the worst car on the grid, so carrying all hopes on his shoulders single-handedly - despite being so new to Williams compared with his colleague - only adds further kudos to what Albon is achieving.

Read more: Lewis Hamilton faces fines and potential race ban if he doesn't remove jewellery by end of May

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