2009 F1 Review: Top 5 drivers of the year
27 December, 2009
Dec. 27 (YF1) Daniel Chalmers makes some big calls in choosing his top five Formula 1 drivers of the 2009 season, a year with some fine performances from the veterans of the sport and the young guns of the future. Not everyone will agree with Daniel’s top 5, even some of us at YallaF1.com have raised our eyebrows, but he does make valid arguments for his top five selection.
1. Jenson Button
In the end the new world champion had to be made number 1 but it wasn’t by much. It wasn’t a perfect season but overall Jenson Button was the best driver over the whole year. What he achieved in winning six out of the first seven races was staggering, and could be compared with the greats of the sport. Yes, he did have the best car, but it still takes a world class driver to extract the most from a great car. Jenson was exceptionally fast during this period.
Most of the car advantage had evaporated in after just three races contrary to popular belief. His superb race pace was largely down to his silky smooth driving style, which was easy on this year’s slick tyres, and gave him an advantage over drivers whose styles are more aggressive.
The season thereafter may not have been pretty at times but Jenson didn’t make a major error to speak of. He was consistently scoring points in every race except Spa, where he got tangled in a first lap collison. Even when he was struggling he finished the races, and took critical championship deciding points, rather than binning it in the gravel.
When he needed a big performance in Brazil to win the championship he managed to dig deep, and find something extra, in the same way that F1’s all time greats have done in the past.
He won the most races, was the most consistent, and made the least errors of anybody. Furthermore his brilliant race craft throughout 2009 earned him a lot of his points.
2. Lewis Hamilton
This was the first season where Lewis Hamilton had a car he couldn’t win the championship with. However despite this he drove like a champion, and extracted the most he could out of his equipment and more. In Silverstone, which was one of places which brought out the worse of this year’s Mclaren, he still fought for the lower places with Fernando Alonso as if it was to decide the championship.
In the second half of the season when the car’s performance was radically improved Hamilton was particularly strong. If you ignored the first seven races of the season Hamilton would have been 2nd in the title race just five points off the championship lead.
His wins in Hungary and Singapore were very well taken, and on days when his car certainly wasn’t quickest. Perhaps even better was his performance in Suzuka. Like Silverstone, Suzuka exposed Mclaren’s lack of downforce, but Hamilton managed to finish third, and if his KERs system had worked for the full distance he could have been 2nd. He really outdrove the car there.
2009 was a season that started badly for Hamilton, but throughout the season he matured, and became a better driver for it. Arguably you could say that he performed better in 2009 than he did in his championship year.
3. Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen manages to enter the top three on this list mainly for his superhuman performances in the second half of the season, after Felipe Massa suffered his horrific injury.
By this time Ferrari had opted to give up the fight on their 2009 challenger, and focus on 2010. Therefore the F2009 slipped well down the pecking order. It was a midfield car at best.
Despite this Kimi managed to put the car in places where it had no right being. From Hungary to Italy he strung together four podiums. This included his win in Spa on a day where his Ferrari was only the fifth or sixth quickest car in the pack.
His fourth place at Suzuka was equally magnificent at a track where Ferrari were really expecting to be well down the order. Raikkonen showed his ability on the real driver circuits.
Raikkonen also had a few strong performances in the first half of the season in Bahrain and Monaco.
In the end Kimi only finished one point behind Hamilton in the championship, which was very impressive considering Mclaren was comfortably quicker than Ferrari in the second half of 2009.
4. Sebastian Vettel
In 2009 Sebastian Vettel propelled himself into F1’s elite, and proved that all the hype surrounding him in 2008 wasn’t for nothing. However there were ups and downs in his campaign.
In the wet in China he proved once again that he is F1’s new rain expert with a masterful performance. In Silverstone he was absolutely flawless with a dominant pole, race and fastest lap. He was untouchable. Japan was a weekend where plenty of drivers were making mistakes, but Vettel put together a breaktaking pole lap which included a few slides but unlike others he kept it together, and took a dominant pole position. His race performance was then faultless.
However Vettel did at times demonstrate his inexperience. He got himself in a needless incident with Robert Kubica in Melbourne when it may have been wiser to accept six points. He spun off in Malaysia. He destroyed the super-soft tyre in Monte-Carlo and whacked the barriers. In Istanbul he made a mistake on the opening lap whilst under pressure from Button.
If Vettel can deliver performances like he did in China, Silverstone and Suzuka every weekend, he will the driver everyone has to beat in future. However at the moment he is inconsistent, error prone and suffers under pressure. He also appears to only be at his best when he starts at the front. He is less effective in the middle of the pack.
He is an exceptional talent, but not the finished article yet.
5. Mark Webber
This was a crunch season for Mark Webber. If he was thrashed by his young team mate then his chances of being in a top car in the future would surely be over.
However despite being beaten by Vettel over the season he certainly held his own, and was quicker at some races. In Germany he completely had the upper hand on Vettel all weekend long, and finally got that long awaited victory.
In Turkey, Britain, Germany and Hungary he scored 32 points out of 40 and was F1’s in form driver. He demonstrated the best form of his F1 career and overtook Vettel in the championship standings. Sadly after Hungary his consistency began to drop as well as some of his bad luck returning.
Webber also suffered in the opening races of the season because he was still recovering from his broken leg. If you had told Mark last November (when he had his accident) that he would win two races in 2009 he probably wouldn’t have believed it. Considering his injury it’s been a decent season for Mark. When he was at his best pace he showed he was potentially up there with F1’s elite.
* Please note that these are Daniel Chalmer’s opinions and not necessarily the views of YallaF1.com
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