Sergio Perez tops the Open Wheel Power Rankings, Alex Palou best in IndyCar

Open Wheel Power Rankings
Mark Thompson / Getty Images

During the past 60 days, Sergio Perez has been the most consistently strong open wheel driver and he tops the Open Wheel Power Rankings over fellow F1 racer Lando Norris and the top-ranked IndyCar driver, Alex Palou.

First, a little about the methodology used – and it is actually quite simple. Looking back at a 60-day period keeps the rankings from being skewed by early season success that might not be currently relevant.

For IndyCar, the period under consideration is from the Indy 500 through the most recent race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. For Formula 1, the relevant races are the Grand Prix of Monaco through the Austrian Grand Prix.

Every position matters and to percentage points allow for the comparison of various-sized fields.

In F1’s 20-car field, the winner of a race is awarded 100 points with decrements of five for each position below. IndyCar has variably fields and therefore the decrement changes slightly from race to race. The winner is still awarded 100 points for first place, but each position in a 24-car field is reduced by 4.2 points. In a 26-car field, the decrement is 3.8.

Driver must have run at least three races to achieve an average.

Using that formula, Perez earned an average of 87.5 points. Perez’s position atop the Power Rankings may seem a little surprising compared to the relative strength of other F1 drivers, most notably Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

But Verstappen and Hamilton both had unaccustomed bad results in the last 60 days. Verstappen cut a tire in the closing laps of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Looking to maximize on the points’ loss by his principal rival for the Drivers Championship, Hamilton made a rare mistake and missed the braking zone of Turn 1 on the final restart and finished at the tail-end of the lead lap.

Perez won that race and gained the advantage on not only those two, but the remainder of the field. In the last two months, he has a worst finish of sixth.

Like Verstappen and Hamilton, Palou also has one poor finish in the past 60 days, but with IndyCar running five events in that time span he had more opportunity to overcome and achieved 85 points. Dating back to his second-place finish in the Indy 500, Palou has stood on the podium in all but one event. His victory at Road America breaks his points’ tie with Norris.

Norris has quietly amassed a perfect record of top-five finishes in the last four F1 races with a pair of podiums in the Grand Prix of Monaco and Austrian Grand Prix. Almost as importantly, he achieved two of those strong runs after starting on Row 4 or further back – no easy feat in a series where passing comes at a premium.

Patricio O’Ward lands fourth on the chart with 84.8 points and would be much higher if not for his last two races. He finished fourth in the Indy 500 and swept the top five at Belle Isle. But he lost some of his rhythm at Road America with a ninth-place finish and was eight at Mid-Ohio.

Marcus Ericsson is fifth at 82.8. Where Norris used consistency to achieve his ranking, Ericsson needed raw power in two races to adjust his average. He won his first IndyCar race at Belle Isle in the first event of the double header and finished second to Josef Newgarden at Mid-Ohio.

And as for the two drivers who have dominated F1 when the entire season is considered? Their trouble in Azerbaijan relegates Verstappen to sixth in the standings. Hamilton is 11th because he also struggled at Monte Carlo and finished seventh.

Driver, Series, Points (races)

  1. Sergio Perez, F1, 87.50 (4)
  2. Alex Palou, IndyCar, 85.00 (5)
  3. Lando Norris, F1, 85.00 (4)
  4. Patricio O’Ward, IndyCar, 84.80 (5)
  5. Marcus Ericsson, IndyCar, 82.80 (5)
  6. Max Verstappen, F1, 78.75 (4)
  7. Scott Dixon, IndyCar, 75.20 (5)
  8. Santino Ferrucci, IndyCar, 74.50 (4)
  9. Pierre Gasly, F1, 73.75 (4)
  10. Carlos Sainz, Jr., F1, 72.50 (4)
  11. Lewis Hamilton, F1, 70.00 (4)
  12. Josef Newgarden, IndyCar, 69.40 (5)
  13. Takuma Sato, IndyCar, 68.40 (5)
  14. Colton Herta, IndyCar, 68.20 (5)
  15. Sebastian Vettel, F1, 63.75 (4)
  16. Graham Rahal, IndyCar, 63.00 (5)
  17. Daniel Ricciardo, F1, 62.50 (4)
  18. Rinus VeeKay, IndyCar, 63.25 (4)
  19. Alexander Rossi, IndyCar, 60.75 (5)
  20. Simon Pagenaud, IndyCar, 60.75 (5)
  21. Fernando Alonso, F1, 58.75 (4)
  22. Valtteri Bottas, F1, 58.75 (4)
  23. Conor Daly, IndyCar, 46.00 (5)
  24. Romain Grosjean, IndyCar, 45.25 (5)
  25. Sebastien Bourdais, IndyCar, 45.20 (5)

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”