F1 Power Rankings: Maiden GP win sees Leclerc surge

Ahead of each race in 2019, ESPN is ranking every driver on the grid in our Formula One Power Rankings.

In compiling these standings, we have taken out the car factor and focused solely on the drivers and how each has been performing. This is not a prediction for how the race will go this weekend. Nor is it a prediction for how things will look at the end of the season. Instead, read this as a gauge for who has the most influence over everything that lies ahead, who's hot and who's not ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

Previous rankings: Australian GP | Bahrain GP | Chinese GP | Azerbaijan GP | Spanish GP | Monaco GP | Canadian GP | French GP | Austrian GP | British GP | German GP | Hungarian GP | Belgian GP

Note: Teammate head-to-heads are compiled in qualifying sessions in which both drivers set a representative time and in races in which both drivers were classified as finishing.

1. Charles Leclerc

We asked the question during the summer break who would return stronger out of Leclerc and Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel. I think we now have our answer. A maiden win, on a difficult weekend for motorsport, and especially for Leclerc, was hugely impressive. It will also be a weight off Leclerc's shoulders, who probably feels he should have three or four victories to his name by now. If it does make him feel more assured and relaxed, that spells danger for Vettel, who could slip behind him -- both in the standings and in the battle to be the Scuderia's No.1.

- Is it time for Charles Leclerc to become the No. 1 driver at Ferrari?

2. Lewis Hamilton

It's funny, some of us (myself included) actually thought the 2019 title race would go down to the wire. But here we are, still with eight races to go, and Hamilton's name already is being etched onto the trophy. The Mercedes driver has tallied what surely is an insurmountable 65-point championship lead and might actually be driving as well as we've ever seen. Not bad for a guy who already has won five world titles.

3. Max Verstappen

All right, his impressive top-five finish streak was bound to end eventually, but what a year it has been for Verstappen. He continues to extract every little bit of performance out of the Red Bull, and although this weekend's trip to Monza will be challenging (he already has an engine penalty, meaning he will start from the back of the grid), if anyone can find a way to snatch a result, it's him. Be aware of the bounce-back factor; you just know he will be eager to make amends for his uncharacteristic error in Spa.

4. Alexander Albon

If Albon was offered a career-best fifth place in his Red Bull debut before the Belgian Grand Prix, I reckon he would have gladly accepted it -- especially after qualifying 17th due to an engine penalty. One of the reasons Pierre Gasly was dropped was his inability to pass slower cars, but Albon immediately impressed with breathtaking overtakes on Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez. We've already seen in his short Formula One career that Albon is a quick learner, and I'm backing him to show even more pace this weekend at Monza when it will be Verstappen's turn to take the hit with an engine penalty.

5. Carlos Sainz

Just like Verstappen, Sainz's Belgian Grand Prix race was over before the end of Lap 1. But if you think he is plummeting in these rankings, think again! The Spaniard is absolutely dominating the midfield battle and sits 25 points ahead of Daniil Kvyat in the race to be crowned best of the rest in season 2019. The back-to-back race weekends is perfect for Sainz, as it gives him a chance to put things right and once again show his class.

6. Lando Norris

Sainz might be the main man at McLaren, but his young rookie teammate certainly isn't far behind. Norris drove a sterling race in Belgium to go from 11th on the grid to fifth, and although he suffered a heartbreaking engine failure on the penultimate lap, he will have lost no admirers. The 19-year-old has only 13 races of experience under his belt, so just imagine how good he's going to be this time next year -- or even three years down the line.

7. Daniil Kvyat

How do you show the Red Bull bosses they made another mistake by promoting Albon? Beat Gasly and claim a great P7 in Belgium. To Kvyat's credit, he has handled the whole Red Bull-Toro Rosso driver musical chairs well, and he continues to show he is a much more of a composed figure than he was a few years ago. Red Bull hasn't confirmed who'll be joining Versatppen at the senior team in 2020, so Kvyat has to be thinking he is in with a shot of landing the drive. If he continues what he has been doing all year, you'd think he would have to be in with a chance.

8. Sebastian Vettel

Watching his teammate claim Ferrari's first win of the season had to be tough for Vettel, who didn't return from the summer break as many had hoped and expected. I've mentioned in past editions of these Power Rankings that Vettel's season hasn't been horrific, but it certainly hasn't been great. This weekend at Monza is a huge opportunity for Vettel to remind the whole team that he didn't luck his way into four world championships. But if he can't get the job done and Leclerc can, then all of a sudden the season is a huge disappointment.

- Rosberg: Vettel looked like Barrichello at Belgian GP

9. Valtteri Bottas

He hasn't won a race since Azerbaijan, hasn't beaten Hamilton since Austria and trails him by 65 points in the championship, but Bottas has to be feeling pretty happy after signing a contract extension with Mercedes that will see him driving for the team in 2020. He can now relax knowing his future is secure and try to rediscover the edge that saw him burst out of the blocks at the beginning of the season to take an early championship lead. The past two trips to Italy have resulted in podiums, and that should be the aim once again.

- Why Mercedes kept faith in Bottas (and deferred on Ocon)

10. Kimi Raikkonen

There are a few drivers who will be eager to hit the track and make amends for a disappointing weekend in Belgium, and the Iceman is certainly one of them. He is the kind of driver who does respond too. The past two occasions he finished outside of the points, he rectified it at the next race with a top-seven finish. Raikkonen has been a picture of consistency in 2019, and he dominated the Alfa Romeo battle against Antonio Giovinazzi, outscoring him 31 points to one. It would be unfair for him to fall out of the top 10 after one failure, especially as it wasn't his fault.

11. Sergio Perez

We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for Perez to show something in 2019, and he finally delivered at Spa to end a horrid eight-race streak of finishes outside the points. If history tells us anything about Perez, it's that he always performs at a higher level after the summer break. The news gets even better if you're a fan of the Mexican, because he has scored top-10 finishes at Monza every year since 2014.

12. Daniel Ricciardo

A series of unfortunate events might have led to a disappointing weekend in Belgium, but there were plenty of promising signs to suggest Renault will be competitive in the second half of the season. Ricciardo also should be better for the run, now having over half a season of team experience under his belt. Oh and after all, Ricciardo is not the Renault driver who has just been shown the exit. With a guaranteed racing future comes power.

13. Nico Hulkenberg

The Hulk has to be feeling a little nervous about his future after Renault announced Esteban Ocon was taking his seat in 2020. Hulkenberg has been a staple of the Formula One grid for a decade, but one poor season could lead to him being dumped completely. But for those thinking he is finished, reconsider. He has only scored one point fewer than teammate Ricciardo, and if Hulkenberg's form in Belgium is anything to go by, he could be set to charge ahead of the Australian and keep his racing career alive.

14. George Russell

It's a real pity the Williams has been a horrible race car in 2019, because it has robbed us the opportunity of seeing what Russell can really do in his rookie year. Unless something dramatic happens late in the season, Russell will finish the season plum last in the standings, but he actually has been one of the more impressive performers. He consistently has had the upper hand over experienced teammate Robert Kubica and is one of just six drivers to take the chequered flag in every race.

15. Kevin Magnussen

The Italian Grand Prix has never been kind to Magnussen, and when you factor in that Haas still hasn't found a way to resolve its tyre issues, it's difficult for him to move up the Power Rankings. Over one lap he is still performing well -- qualifying his Haas 10th in Spa -- but in the race, it was painful to watch him drop like a stone through no fault of his own. Just think about this: In 2019, he has had more races in which he has finished 17th or worse than in the points.

16. Lance Stroll

What's this? Stroll is starting to (finally) find a way to progress from Q1 -- and what do you know, it has helped him score championship points. We all know he is a crafty racer, but it's his work on Saturday which has left a lot to be desired. If he can just become a regular in Q2, I'd back him to score a point or two more often than not. Speaking of points, every time Stroll has raced in Italy, he has managed a top-10 finish.

17. Romain Grosjean

You know you're having a disappointing season when you've only managed to outscore the Williams drivers and Antonio Giovinazzi in the standings. What's more, the pressure is building on Grosjean now that Hulkenberg looks like a prime candidate to take his drive at Haas next year. With the state of the American team's car at the moment, it's going to be hard for Grosjean to prove his worth; and if he loses his seat to Hulkenberg, then it's very likely his F1 career is over.

18. Pierre Gasly

What a tough week it's been for Gasly. If being demoted from Red Bull wasn't hard enough, the Frenchman then had to go racing for Toro Rosso just hours after the death of close friend Anthoine Hubert. Given the circumstances, it's difficult to read too much into his first weekend back at the junior team. However, if he wants another shot at Red Bull, he can't be beaten by Kvyat, something which happened at Spa. He had better bounce back in Monza before it's too late.

19. Robert Kubica

He might have taken the chequered flag at every race this year, but it's becoming pretty clear Kubica won't be in the sport come 2020. The 34-year-old has been total outclassed by his rookie teammate, and other than a 10th place finish in Germany -- where seven drivers failed to finish and two were disqualified -- it has been a horror season.

20. Antonio Giovinazzi

I'm sorry to say, but I think Giovnazzi's time in Formula One is up. To have just one top-10 finish this season is simply not good enough, particularly when you consider his teammate Raikkonen has scored points eight times. The Italian seems to be way out of his depth and simply hasn't shown any signs that suggest he could be someone worth persisting with.