Our mid-season top ten F1 drivers rating
5 July, 2010
Jul.05 (Daniel Chalmers) Looking back on the first nine races, the first half of the 2010 season, Daniel Chalmers ranks the top ten performers in the Formula 1 World Championship.
1. Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton demonstrated last season just how special he is with his race victories in a poor McLaren. So far this season the current championship leader has taken his performances to another level.
It didn’t quite fall for him in the first few races due to a mix of wrong strategy choices and bad luck. However his fights through the field in Malaysia, Australia and China were mesmerising and stood out like a sore thumb with some stunning overtaking moves.
In Spain where the Red Bulls were totally dominant Hamilton was the only driver able to keep them honest. A late puncture denied him a brilliant second place.
In Canada it all came together with a faultless performance all weekend. He delivered a superb qualifying lap to beat the Red Bulls, who had a 100% qualifying record up to that point.
In the race he demonstrated great maturity in the way that he looked after the tyres, and won a hard fought, race long, battle with Fernando Alonso.
If McLaren keep giving Lewis a competitive car it won’t be easy to prevent him from winning this championship. The other worry for his rivals is that he is making far less of the silly mistakes that we got accustomed to from him in 2008.
The main reason for this is that he has now starting to learn when to push, and when to ease off a little, which has always been his biggest weakness. He is becoming the complete driver
2. Robert Kubica
Kubica and his Renault team have been the most pleasant surprise of the season. So far Robert has been the most consistent driver in 2010. Apart from Bahrain he has scored points in every single race, and hasn’t made any errors to speak of.
Kubica has also galvanised the team after a torrid 2009 season. He has regularly out-driven the car, and put it where it has no right being. Monaco was the best example where he put the R30 on the front row, and converted it into third place.
His drive in Australia was also heroic making use of the mixed conditions. He looked after his tyres well and out-raced the quicker Ferraris, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.
Whenever one of the front runners have hit trouble Kubica has always been there ready to pounce. This was particularly evident in Malaysia and China when some of the frontrunners made bad tactical decisions due to the wet weather.
Despite at least three teams having a quicker car, Kubica is still in touch with the championship leaders. For that he deserves enormous credit.
You have to wonder how well he would be doing if he possessed the RB6?
3. Mark Webber
This was meant to be the season where Webber got thrashed by Sebastien Vettel and his career at the front of the grid ended.
However Webber has risen to another level and given his young team mate a torrid time in some races.
His victories in Spain and Monaco were as good as anything we have seen in F1. He was controlling both those races setting fastest lap after fastest lap in a world of his own. He set laps half a second quicker than his team mate which is especially impressive.
He was looking good to win three on the bounce in Turkey until Vettel intervened. Had he not misjudged where Vettel was at the start in Malaysia he would very likely have dominated that race too.
The main improvement from Mark this year is his consistency which is what separates the brilliant from the merely good.
Last year he showed flashes of brilliance but never put a long run together. The only race weekend in 2010 where Webber hasn’t been competitive was the season opener in Bahrain.
Webber has now established himself as one of F1’s best drivers. This could be his best ever chance of becoming champion.
4. Jenson Button
Button faced criticism from everyone over his move to McLaren, and nobody gave him a hope against Lewis Hamilton.
However halfway into the season he has not only validated his decision, but he has gained an enormous amount of respect from his doubters.
His two wins in Australia and China were both brilliantly excecuted. Button has proved that his feel for the conditions in mixed weather is better than anybody else on the grid.
His gamble to put on dries so early in Australia won him the race. Some might say it was lucky but anyone else in that race could have made that choice, and won the race for themselves but they opted not to.
Button has been one of the most consistent front runners scoring five podiums (only matched by team mate Lewis).
In the last few races he has been close to Lewis’s pace despite losing to him. In Istanbul he matched Hamilton throughout the race, and in Montreal he finished in a close second despite starting four positions behind him on the grid.
At the moment he is only six points behind Lewis at the top of the championship. If it wasn’t for his mechanic’s mistake in Monaco he may well be ahead.
The only downside for Jenson is he still struggles when the car isn’t to his liking, as poor performances in Bahrain and Spain demonstrated.
5. Nico Rosberg
2010 has been a huge challenge for Rosberg but there is no doubt about how well he has been rising up to it. He has had a Mercedes car which on the whole has been uncompetitive, and a seven times world champion as a team mate.
Rosberg has achieved what no team mate has ever done to Michael, and that is completely annihilate him. So far Rosberg has beaten Schumacher 7-2 in qualifying, and points wise comfortably beaten him by 75 points to 34.
He has consistently been scoring solid points, not making any errors, and has been on the podium in China and Malaysia. In Malaysia he did extremely to qualify on the front row in atrocious conditions.
So far in 2010 it would be fair to say that Rosberg has done the maximum that his car has allowed him.
Although admittedly we still don’t know the true extent of Nico’s talents due to Michael’s lack of form, and the fact that Mercedes are currently not front runners.
6. Sebastien Vettel
Vettel has continued to drive well this season, but he may need to up his game further if he wants to win his first championship.
Vettel has delivered some great qualifying laps. In Bahrain Vettel only did one qualifying lap and managed to snatch pole from Alonso.
When Vettel leads from the first corner he is absolutely unstoppable. His victories in Malaysia and Valencia were both faultess. Bahrain and Australia would very likely have ended with the same conclusion had it not been for unreliability.
Despite these strong performances he hasn’t quite stepped up to the next level as many predicted he would do.
He has really struggled to shake off Webber at times. In Spain and Monte-Carlo he just had no answer to him. This would suggest that Vettel has remained at the same level as last year whilst Webber has moved up.
His race craft has also come under great scrutiny. In China he was out-raced by Alonso and Hamilton when they were fighting through the field after making a bad choice on tyres at the start of the race. He has never won a close fist to fist battle for a race victory.
In Turkey Vettel made a hash of his move on Webber. Webber gave him enough space but Vettel veered right into him.
Whilst it’s still clear Vettel has great promise he is still a long way from being the complete F1 driver. Vettel’s weaknesses are still there, clear for everyone to see, and he needs to get rid of them to win this title.
You get the feeling that at some point he is going to have to overtake one of title rivals cleanly to win this title, but can he do that?
He still appears to crack under the pressure too, and thats something he has to solve, particularly when it comes to a title deciding race.
7. Fernando Alonso
Many would have expected Alonso to be at the sharp end of this list but it hasn’t been the easiest of seasons so far for Alonso. His biggest issue is his pure desperation to win the championship after his difficult spell at McLaren, followed by little reward from his second spell at Renault.
This desperation is forcing him to make silly costly mistakes. In Melbourne he gave Button no space at the start and got clipped. In China he was too eager to get ahead and jumped the start. In Monte-Carlo he hit the wall in practise. In Istanbul he made an error in Q2 and didn’t even make the top 10.
The problem for Alonso is that three of those four races were winnable but he threw them away.
He also let emotions get to him in Valencia after the safety car period where he lost focus when there were points up for grabs.
However there are the signs which show why he is considered the best driver in F1. In Montreal McLaren were the dominant force but Alonso was up there with them competing for the victory.
In Bahrain Alonso’s sequence of laps after overtaking Vettel was staggering and completely left Felipe Massa for dead. His comeback drives through the field in Australia and Monaco were also admirable.
Despite a mixed season Alonso is still in this title race. If he can cut out the errors, just chill a little bit, and keep all the positives he could be the 2010 world champion. In the first half of the season though he has fallen short at times.
8. Adrian Sutil
Sutil has always had the potential to be quick but very often he has ended up giving his Force India team regular repair bills. Races like Monaco in 2008 and China in 2009 are the first that spring to mind.
In 2010 it looks like Sutil is finally turning the corner, and delivering his quick pace on a consistent basis.
He has managed to qualify in the top 10 five times so far this season. He continued to prove his wet weather skills by qualifying fourth in the stormy conditions in Malaysia.
More impressively he has scored points in six out of the nine races so far. In 2009 he only scored in one race.
Although that tendency to get involved in mishaps hasn’t gone away. Sutil got involved in a tangle at the first corner in Bahrain. He also had a tangle with Kubica in Canada which denied Sutil a possible top 5 finish.
Overall Sutil is driving well at the moment, and is now finally throwing his hat in the ring for a more competitive drive in the future. He is definitely a strong contender to replace Vitaly Petrov at Renault next season.
9. Heikki Kovalainen
Going from McLaren to Lotus over the winter was a huge relegation for Heikki, but he has taken on his new challenge with great spirit and has impressed alot of people. He has been easily the best of the drivers in the new teams.
His record in qualifying against one lap specialist Jarno Trulli has been very close. There haven’t been many of Jarno’s team mates who have been able to say that. It was 4-4 before Valencia when Jarno took the lead but he had a new chassis at that race.
He has been very close to beating the established teams in qualifying. In Montreal he was only two tenths of a second slower than than Kamui Kobayashi. In the race he managed to beat Vitaly Petrov in a fantastic battle in the last few laps of the race.
His other highlight was getting through to Q2 in Malaysia in the wet conditions whilst some of the big guns got it completely wrong. His race pace has been very respectable considering the deficiencies of his car. Kovalainen could well find himself moving back up the grid in 2011.
10. Rubens Barrichello
Barrichello has driven as well he could do so far in a Williams car which has proven a disappointment so far.
His biggest achievement has been putting his young team mate Nico Hulkenberg right in the shade. Hulkenberg has had as much success pre-F1 as Hamilton had. However Barrichello has exposed his weaknesses and experience and beaten him 6-3 in qualifying, and been even more dominant in the races by 7-2.
Considering Williams are only about the sixth or seventh quickest car at best Rubens has gone well to reach the top 10 shootout three times, and score points four times.
Even though Rubens has now competed in over 300 Formula 1 races, he has still shown the same amount of enthuasism, and impressed everyone at the Williams team.