F1 Power Rankings: Why Max is the man to end Mercedes' winning run

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 Monaco Grand Prix.

Previous rankings: Australian GP | Bahrain GP | Chinese GP | Azerbaijan GP | Spanish GP

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

This time last year, Verstappen hit his lowest point with a heavy crash in final practice effectively ruling him out of contention for a Monaco Grand Prix win. But this year, he heads to Monte Carlo as the grid's hottest driver and with a genuine chance of winning for Red Bull. There are so many reasons that justify Verstappen holding top spot, but the most significant has to be the fact he's outscored both Ferrari drivers through five races. Be honest, did anyone actually see that coming after winter testing? Red Bull team boss Christian Horner could not have asked for more from the Dutchman who has finished in the top five in each of the past 14 races.

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

Three wins from five races and the world championship lead once again. Hamilton has never tallied so many points (112) through five rounds and is on track for title number six. After a seesawing battle with teammate Valtteri Bottas in the early rounds, a return to Europe, where he has excelled in the past, could be exactly what he needs to finally distance himself from the Finn. Winning in Monaco, a place Red Bull and possibly Ferrari will be strong (who really knows with Ferrari, right?), is likely to be his greatest test to date in 2019.

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

Only winning once from a hat trick of pole positions must have dented Bottas' confidence. While he has had the better of it on Saturdays, it's been his teammate who has had the edge on race day when the points are handed out. The difference between the two drivers is that when Bottas is ahead, Hamilton is applying plenty of pressure, but when Hamilton is ahead, Bottas seems unable to do the same and starts to slip back. That has to change sooner rather than later if he wants to challenge for the title.

4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

For all the hype and talk surrounding Leclerc, which admittedly is mostly justified, he has only qualified and only finished a race ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel once. Still, of the two Ferrari drivers, he just seems more likely to end Mercedes' dominant run of wins -- mainly because he's not making as many mistakes as the four-time world champion. If Leclerc can put Baku out of his mind and string a solid qualifying session together in Monaco, we're sure to see him on the podium, maybe even on the top step.

5. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

His points scoring streak might be over, but that doesn't mean Raikkonen should plummet in the Power Rankings. After all, he's returning to Monaco, a track where he's had a fair share of success over the years -- winning in 2005 and more recently taking pole position in 2017. After five races this year, Raikkonen is yet to be out-qualified or outraced by teammate Antonio Giovinazzi and is still the only driver outside of the top three teams to finish in the top 10 on four occasions this season. The in-season test came at the right time for Alfa Romeo, so expect improvement this weekend.

6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

Like Alfa Romeo, Racing Point struggled last time out in Spain, but Perez continues to extract the most out of the car. He's out-qualified teammate Lance Stroll at every race so far this season and leads him 13-4 in the championship standings. His last two trips to Monte Carlo haven't been outstanding, but don't forget he finished third there back in 2016. If he puts in another strong qualifying performance, then who knows, maybe he'll be in contention once again.

7. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)

Still not convinced with Vettel? Nope, neither am I. The German is yet to have a 100 percent error-free weekend in 2019 and already trails Hamilton by 48 points in the drivers' championship. Not only that but he's fallen behind Verstappen as well! Vettel is running out of races to prove to Ferrari, and the fans, that he still has what it takes to lead the team, be a race winner and ultimately fight for the title. Monaco is not the sort of place you want to be making mistakes, Seb, so let's hope you've sorted out those issues.

8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

Success in Monaco stems from confidence and Magnussen seems to have confidence in spades at the minute. His wheel-to-wheel and hard-nosed battle with teammate Romain Grosjean was him asserting his dominance and if he carries that into this weekend he could be set for another strong result. On paper, Magnussen's season appears ultra-inconsistent, but that says more about this year's Haas than it does his driving. His P6 in Melbourne and P7 in Barcelona are good enough to have him best of the rest in the drivers' standings with 14 championship points. If the car is working, you know K-Mag will do his job.

9. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)

After a very, very slow start, Sainz is starting to find some form and beginning to show the bosses at McLaren that he's their main man, not rookie Lando Norris. Sainz heads into the Monaco Grand Prix weekend with back-to-back top eight finishes and is one of the grid's real form drivers. He appears likely to keep his points scoring streak going, too, given he's managed a top-10 finish in Monte Carlo in every year he's been in Formula One. Class always rises when racing returns to Europe.

10. George Russell (Williams)

Russell well and truly deserves to hold his place in the top 10. He and Power Rankings leader Verstappen are the only two drivers to have swept their teammates in the opening five races (5-0 in qualifying, 5-0 in the races) and he continues to show that he deserves much more than what Williams is currently serving up. If there's ever a race for a talented backmarker to capitalize at, it's Monaco. Just look at what Jules Bianchi did for Marussia in 2014...

11. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)

I really like what I see from Kvyat in recent times. He was challenged by rookie teammate Alex Albon and has responded very nicely, proving he deserves a seat in Formula One. The pair of Toro Rosso drivers have now scored three championship points each, but Kvyat seems to have a little more upside given he's now starting to settle into the season and the pressure valve has been released ever so slightly. The first few races back for someone who was dumped from the sport surely had to be difficult.

12. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso)

You couldn't have asked for much more from Albon after five races and it's clear he's got a bright future ahead of him, but it will be interesting to see how he performs, relative to his teammate, now that Kvyat is starting to find some confidence. Still, Albon has finished each race this year and four of them inside the top 11, which is something that can't be said for either of the grid's two other rookies.

13. Lando Norris (McLaren)

It's always interesting to see how a crash affects a rookie and we're about to find out with Norris. The Brit got tangled up with Lance Stroll in Barcelona, which resulted in his second retirement of 2019. We've already seen how talented he is in extracting everything out of the car in qualifying, and with so much value on Saturday in Monaco, this could be his best weekend yet if he turns in another impressive Saturday. Watch this space.

14. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)

Do you think Ricciardo is starting to regret his move from Red Bull to Renault? Who knows, but he can't be enjoying his time in Formula One at the moment, even if he's returning to Monaco where he brilliantly won last year. He has to know Red Bull has a far better chance this weekend than he does in his Renault. One seventh-place finish is all Ricciardo has to show from the first five races and to be quite honest, even without the top three teams, I'm not convinced he'd be winning in Monaco as he still hasn't found confidence in his Renault.

15. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull)

The last time we were in Monaco, Verstappen was shown up by his teammate with Ricciardo claiming a remarkable win. Does Gasly dare dream of a repeat in 2019? The Frenchman has been thrown into an enormously challenging situation, coming into a new team and having to go up against an absolute machine in Verstappen. We shouldn't expect too much so early from Gasly, but at the end of the day this is Formula One and not a charity. If, as expected, Red Bull is quick in Monaco, Gasly must capitalize. He desperately needs a race where he's not last of the top six because that's simply not good enough.

16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)

It's a little bit of 'what could have been' for Grosjean. He's had some bad luck, made some mistakes and has just one point from the first five rounds. Meanwhile, teammate Magnussen has already tallied 14 points and, perhaps most importantly, got the better of him in a hard-fought battle in Spain. Like Magnussen, Grosjean can be best of the rest on any given day, but he just seems to make a few more unforced errors. Don't expect a huge result this weekend, either. Grosjean's best finish in Monaco is P8 and on five of seven occasions he's failed to crack the top 10.

17. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)

What a horror run of form for Hulkenberg, who in four races hasn't been able to back up his best of the rest finish in Australia. Sure, there's been some rotten luck in there (Exhibit A: Renault's engine), but you have to wonder whether he's starting to feel the pressure of working alongside a proven A-grade driver in Ricciardo -- who is still yet to hit his stride at Renault. This is a huge season for the Hulk, because if he can best Ricciardo, teams are sure to sit up and take notice.

18. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)

Stroll might be the worst qualifier in Formula One. Scratch that; Stroll is the worst qualifier in Formula One. Sure, the Racing Point is no Mercedes, but it certainly is better than the five consecutive Q1 exits Stroll has turned in. We know he performs stronger in the races than on Saturday, but you can't help but wonder where he'd be if not for father Lawrence Stroll bailing out the Force India operation and gifting him a drive. A poor qualifying in Monaco always makes for a long race.

19. Robert Kubica (Williams)

There's a chance, albeit very slight, that we might see some Kubica magic in Monaco this weekend. He's only raced there four times in Formula One, but on two of those occasions he finished on the podium. That's a pretty solid strike rate! Perhaps this is the race he needs in order to close the gap to his rookie teammate and remind the world he's still an A-grade racer. However, if it's another disappointing race, it could be a very long season for Kubica.

20. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

Of every driver under 30, the one underperforming the most right now has to be Giovinazzi. The Italian is being outclassed by a 39-year-old and hasn't really shown much in the first quarter of 2019. In fact, on three occasions he has finished dead last, if not for the Williams cars languishing at the rear of the field. These are really worrying signs, particularly given he is driving a car that is capable of points finishes more often than not.