Sorry, haters. These people know what they're talking about.
Every year, F1's 10 team bosses anonymously vote for who they think was the best driver of the year, and the two-time world champion, Max Verstappen, walked away with the top honors for the second time in a row.
Despite the controversy surrounding Red Bull during the 2022 season, the various team bosses placed Verstappen well ahead of Charles Leclerc, who came in second. This matches the 2022 driver standings, with Verstappen having been crowned the world champion at the Japanese Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc finished in second place after a stunning race in Abu Dhabi, pushing Sergio Perez down to a career-best finish in third.
George Russell finished fourth, Sainz fifth, Lando Norris seventh, Esteban Ocon eighth, Fernando Alonso ninth, and Valtteri Bottas tenth. Lewis Hamilton ended up in sixth following his first-ever season without a victory.
From third to tenth place, the F1 bosses' rankings look nothing like the actual rankings based on points scored during the season. The scoring worked more or less the same, however. The bosses were asked to give the top driver 25 points, while the tenth place received one point, and so on.
The bosses who took place anonymously were Ferrari's recently ousted principal Mattia Binotto, Jost Capito (formerly of Williams), Red Bull's Christian Horner, Aston Martin's Mike Krack, Andreas Seidl (who recently left McLaren for Sauber), Guenther Steiner of Haas, Alpine's Otmar Szafnauer, Scuderia Alpha Tauri's Franz Tost, Fred Vasseur (who left Sauber Alfa Romeo to replace Binotto), and Toto Wolff, from Mercedes-AMG.
Oddly, not all bosses agree that Verstappen was the year's best driver. The full 25 points from all 10 bosses would have netted him 250 points, but he finished on 207. You don't need Sherlock Holmes to figure out who didn't give him 25 points.
Not that it matters because the Flying Dutchman scored 207 points, a total of 63 points ahead of Leclerc on 144.
Then it gets really interesting. Even though Checo finished third, he was only ranked fifth by the team bosses. Collectively, they put George Russell in third place with 127 points. Lewis Hamilton's jump from an actual sixth to fourth place on 100 points is even more interesting. You have to give it to Sir Hamilton, however. He drove well beyond what his crappy car was capable of this year, and the same goes for Russell, who managed to stay consistent and even win his first Grand Prix.
The bosses put Sergio Perez fifth, with a well-deserved sixth for Lando Norris. Norris finished seventh in the championships, making him the best of the rest. He was also the only driver in a non-top-tier car to break through the 100-point barrier in the actual drivers' championship. We would have placed him higher.
Carlos Sainz being placed seventh feels a bit like a slap in the face. The Spaniard struggled during the first half of the season but put in some great drives in the second half of the season.
According to the bosses, Alonso deserved to finish eighth, and Bottas got upgraded from tenth to ninth.
Sebastian Vettel finished outside of the top ten in the actual championship but scored tenth place in the bosses' eyes. That means one driver got kicked out of the top ten that matters, and it's Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman scored more points than his teammate Alonso and finished just behind Lando Norris. We suspect some kind of sympathy voting was involved, but then again, Vettel also drove his car well beyond what it looked capable of.
So, what does the winner get for this prestigious award? Absolutely nothing, but Verstappen recently got an Acura NSX Type S for free at the Honda Racing Thanks Day, so he's certainly not crying in a corner somewhere.
Do these results matter? Well, more than our opinion or that of any casual or hardcore fan. These guys are in charge of the teams and make tough decisions. They also plan years in advance and know the sport's history better than anyone.
To us, the real winner is Lando Norris. He outscored one person in a top-tier car and three veterans. His talent is apparent to us and to those in charge of making the moves that matter.
Let's hope McLaren gives him a better car next year, or he may be stuck in sixth place until his multi-year contract expires.