Always an interesting topic of speculation. I'll post them in tiers, because I find it very difficult to discriminate one to one, and I'll use some aggregation of recent seasons - not necessarily how they perform this season (after all, the question is driver ability, not performance. and ability is better reflected over some timespan)
Tier 1: top of the line
Not much explanation needed, I suppose.
Tier 2: Those that many times were, or almost certainly will be
Seb Vettel: Scoring on this season alone, he would be lower, of course. But he still is a 4x world champion. However, the longer he stays driving cars he's not really good at driving, the more likely he'll drop to tier 3.
Charles Leclerc: May not be around long enough to judge whether he belongs in 1, 2 or 3, but definitely has been consistent, including in beating a 4x WDC in a good (although unjustly so) as well as (justly) poor car, and rising rather meteorically.
In case we also include recent or upcoming drivers, this tier is where I would categorize Alonso. Although I'm not happy he's coming back - i'd rather see some fresh blood than regurgitated ancients.
Tier 3: Very happy to have (or had) them around
Daniel Ricciardo: Certainly a very good driver, did not always have luck on his side. In tier 3 rather than 2 because his early days were good, but not spectacular. Still has all opportunity to climb there, though.
Kimi Raikonnen:. Eccentric, but has had really good times. He's been around for too long now, though, and is - occasional surprises aside - eroding his legacy.
I'd probably also put Nico Rosberg here.
Tier 4: Wingmans, safe bets, and consistent podium thieves - but unlikely champions
Carlos Sainz: good driver, held his own against Max. Unlucky being at TR right there and then, but sure we will enjoy his drives in years to come.
Sergio Perez: I know there is some hate for him here and there, and think that's unjust. He's there to pick up the podiums when there is an opportunity to. Did not service himself well by going to McLaren when he did, but was a valuable asset for FI in many years that followed. Not so great this year, but then again, RP has not treated him that well, either.
Valtteri Bottas:. Not Rosberg material, he would never beat Hamilton on merit, and will be WDC only if Hamilton bails. Nevertheless, he is a consistent value for Mercedes. Scores points, complains little.
Lando Norris: Still has to prove himself, he may very well climb upwards in years to come - or stay safely in the middle class. We'll see.
George Russell:I've seen too little of him to really judge. Going on F2, he has potential to climb. But for now, I can do nothing else than put him in the middle. You do need to grab points in races like last weekend to rise, though.
In case Nico Hulkenberg comes back, he'll be here. Not as podium-savvy as Perez, but a rather strong baseline.
Tier 5: Field filling material
Esteban Ocon: He was hailed as a top talent by some. IMO, he's not. Too quirky, too provocative in a negative way. But most of all, not fast enough, yet. He has time to change all that, of course, as long as he's around
Lance Stroll: A few years back, I would not have put him here, despite a very occasional decent performance in his first years. Too slow, too messy. But now at RP, he at least shows to be able to drive a car decently, and weird quirks become the exception rather than the rule. So far, doing well against Perez, too. Keep it up, and he may climb to tier 4.
Pierre Gasly: His Monza drive was fine, and this season generally good. But overall, so far, he's no more than field filling. As for nearly all in this tier, if he sticks around and does well, I might very well rank him in  later. But not yet.
Alex Albon: Replace race win with a podium, and all that was written for Gasly, applies for Albon. He seems a nice guy, that's not bad to have around, but is unlikely to make the cut in the long run.
Kevin Magnussen: Around for a substantial time, but in contrast to his teammate, does not seem to become progressively worse. I'm quite indifferent to whether he stays or goes, but I doubt he will go back to tier 4, where once he might have been - before yet another misguided McLaren adventure.
Tier 6: It's time to go, guys
Daniil Kvyat: He could have made it, but lost it all. From torpedoes to subpar performances against rookie teammates, his is an unfulfilled promise, that will not become a phoenix.
Romain Grosjean: Fast initially, but also furious. Perhaps some similarity to Kvyat there, although his decline after was slower. Slower, but going on for a few years too many now. It's time to stop driving and start cooking.
Tier 7: What were you doing here in the first place? People that have money, or the country of Italy, on their side
Nicholas Latifi: He is where Stroll was a few years ago. But Stroll, sometimes, surprised. Managed to hold on to a podium, or set a stellar lap in Monza. Latifi... not so much. Okay, this Williams is even worse than Lance's, but I just don't see Latifi climb up. (then again, neither did I see Stroll when he started. Miracles do happen.)
Antonio Giovinazzi: I defended him when he totaled some cars in his China-debut, but 2 years down the road, not much has improved, with Tuscany perhaps as a low point. Some drivers simply don't need more than 2 seasons - or perhaps one - to show they'd better find other hobbies.
Last edited by DChemTech on Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.