F1 07 review: Driver rankings (1/3)

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With the wrangling over the championship finishing positions finally over, it’s time to take a look at the drivers of 2007 and rate who were the best racers.

These verdicts are entirely my own opinions, so feel free to state a case for any driver you think is ranked too low, and argue against anyone you think appears too high.

The rest of the drivers will be ranked on Thursday and Friday, so be sure to come back.

26. Christijan Albers

In a year that saw several experienced drivers overshadowed by junior team mates Albers was the only one to be kicked out halfway through the season.

Adrian Sutil out-qualified him 7-2 during their time together, and when Albers headed out of the Magny-Cours pit lane with the refuelling hose still attached, that was the final straw.

25. Sakon Yamamoto

Hardly worth replacing Albers for. Frequently off the road, but not hopelessly slow.

24. Kazuki Nakajima

It’s hard to judge on a single outing, and although Nakajima committed the horrible blunder of parking on his pit crew during one pit stop, he did make a couple of tidy passes.

It is perhaps a little concerning that he’s been judged worthy of a full-time seat next year given some of his ill-judged passing attempts in GP2 this year, but he was the top rookie in that category this year.

23. Markus Winkelhock

The one-race wunderkind who put a Spyker in the lead for six laps – more than BMW achieved all year! He was aided by fortune and a gutsy pit wall decision by Mike Gascoyne, but Winkelhock is to be applauded for not binning it or taking off one of the leaders.

He deserves better than to languish in the DTM.

22. Scott Speed

It didn’t look good for Speed from the length of the time the team took to confirm him as their driver for this year. Plainly neither party saw eye to eye and things came to a head at the Nurburgring, where he was dismissed following a furious row with Franz Tost.

Up until that point Speed had three finishes (including an excellent ninth at Monaco), four crashes (at least one of which was not his fault) and three car failures. In fairness he was probably letting the team down about as badly as they were letting him down.

21. Ralf Schumacher

One of the few occasions I actually noticed Ralf Schumacher was at Monte Carlo, where he came round at the end of lap in last place, having qualified 20th.

Having achieved parity with Jarno Trulli in qualifying last year, Trulli exerted a crushing advantage in 2007 – Ralf’s average starting position of 12.35 is over three places more than his team mate’s.

There were occasional highs including three top-six qualifying performances, and his battling drive at Shanghai looked good until he tripped over Vitantonio Liuzzi. But the year as a whole was not a performance worthy of a driver of his experience, and his split with Toyota was announced well before the end of the racing season.

20. Rubens Barrichello

Having modestly out-performed Jenson Button in the early part of the season, when the hopeless RA107 was at its worst, Barrichello was seen off by Button in the latter part of the year.

He ended the year on zero points for the first time in his F1 career. Perhaps it was out of guilt over the poor car it gave him in 2007 that Honda re-signed him for 2008.

19. Takuma Sato

At Super Aguri, too, one driver scored all the points. That was perhaps to be expected of Sato, for whom 2007 was his fifth season, rather than Anthony Davidson, who had three starts to his name before the year began.

Sato’s opportunistic pass on a wounded Fernando Alonso at Montreal was a moment of sheer elation for the team. But at Indianapolis one week later we saw the bad Sato of old – picking up a penalty before spinning off.

18. Adrian Sutil

Not a lot was expected from Sutil before his F1 debut. He’d been trounced by Lewis Hamilton in F3 in 2005, then won the Japanese series (against questionable opposition) the following year, before vaulting up into F1.

But he did a very good job and was clearly too much trouble for Christijan Albers. Sutil was fastest in the wet practice session at Monte-Carlo on Saturday, when simply getting away with not crashing the car would have been impressive enough.

He raced well when the opportunity arose (for example, at Spa) and grabbed a vital point for the team in more rain at Fuji. It was not all plain sailing – there were some unnecessary crashes – but otherwise this was a good showing by the rookie.

17. Alexander Wurz

A disappointing end to a Grand Prix career in which Wurz might charitably have been said to be just too good at testing to be wasted on races.

Plainly put, Nico Rosberg annihilated Wurz this year, but the Austrian certainly seized his moments. He escaped the Canadian carnage to seize an excellent third – the only podium for Williams this year – and likewise was fourth at the Nurburgring.

But his motivation had gone, and he quit before the season finale.

16. Anthony Davidson

While Sato won the glory at Montreal by finishing sixth, Davidson was left to rue what might have been. But for the hapless animal he flattened on lap 38, he might have finished on the podium.

Te went into the rest of the season charged with renewed confidence, out-qualifying Sato 9-2 over the remaining races.

The highlight was a brilliant 11th on the grid at Istanbul, on a day when it looked like no man could have driven the Super Aguri any faster. There were no points, however, for the midfield had overtaken Super Aguri by around the halfway point of the season.

15. Vitantonio Liuzzi

It would be a shame to see Vitantonio Liuzzi left without a seat for 2008, because he looked at least as good as the much-lauded Sebastian Vettel during their brief time as team mates at Red Bull.

Given the hard time Vettel got over his collision with Mark Webber at Fuji perhaps someone should have rapped David Coulthard’s knuckles for the contact with Liuzzi at Monaco that led to the Italian’s retirement. A points finish was in the offing that day.

He would have been eighth at Fuji had he not failed to see a yellow flag in near-blinding rain. He eventually scored at Shanghai, but that was rather overshadowed by??

14. Sebastian Vettel

Vettel was happily leading the World Series by Renault when he was plucked by BMW to stand in for Robert Kubica following the Pole’s Montreal smash. Vettel did a decent job at short notice, fluffing the start but nevertheless scoring a point (on a track he hadn’t seen), and becoming the youngest driver ever to do so in the process.

He dropped the WSR for good when Toro Rosso came looking for a replacement for Speed. But those who expected him to blow Liuzzi into the weeds were mistaken.

Then came the horror show collision with Webber at Fuji while the pair were running second and third. Red Bull did an excellent job of getting him out of the penalty for that one, considering he’d admitted he was looking at Hamilton instead of Webber when the crash happened. Happily, redemption came swiftly at Shanghai with a quite brilliant drive to fourth.

13. Giancarlo Fisichella

Fisichella seems an excellent driver of poor cars and a poor driver of excellent cars. And so as Renault got to grips with the troublesome R27 over the course of the year, so the improving and maturing Heikki Kovalainen gained the upper hand.

Fisichella had his days though, not least at Monaco where he was an excellent fourth.

12. Jarno Trulli

Trulli was back on 2005 form in comparison to Ralf Schumacher, easily out-qualifying him and regularly getting into the final phase of qualifying.

But these instances were too rarely turned into points. Nine top-eight starts and four points scores tells you all you need to know about Trulli’s race pace.

11. David Coulthard

David Coulthard quietly racked up more points than his team mate, but Webber did suffer some awful luck.

Coulthard was a fine fifth at Barcelona despite gearbox problems. It later emerged that his rear wing was flexing more than it should, but consider it a karmic realignment for the points he lost when his fabulous race at Bahrain was thwarted by car failure.

Coulthard popped up in the points whenever conditions were tricky – Nurburgring, Fuji and Shanghai – and is clearly not ready to hang up his crash helmet just yet.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “F1 07 review: Driver rankings (1/3)”

  1. Fisichella seems an excellent driver of poor cars and a poor driver of excellent cars. – this is a good one :-)

  2. Being American, I disagree with Speed’s place in this ranking. Until his severance with the team, he was on the same pace as Liuzzi. People seem to miss the fact that he qualified as Liuzzi, and had better finishes (if you don’t take break downs and blown tires- of which he had two into account).
    People also seem to get on him for crashing in Germany which also happened to the prodigy child Hamilton. Some times
    I wonder, had Scott been British, would fans be so harsh on him or would they too feel that he got a raw deal.

  3. i agree with Dan M. scott speed is perhaps the most underrated driver of the year. he was at least just as good as liuzzi this year at torro rosso i think.

  4. Maybe if he had a name like Scott Stationary we would all be shocked at his ‘speed’ while driving….

    Wow that was lame and I haven’t even finished typing it…

  5. I reckon Liuzzi was a lot quicker than Speed and would have been quicker than Vettel – maybe he was shocked when the Toro Rosso improved at the end of the season and Vettel capitalized on it. If that’s true, it is a pretty poor excuse, but hopefully he will get a drive for next year, or maybe a test seat – I heard Williams were sniffing around him. I think he needs to get out of the Red Bull group and make a name for himself by driving fast instead of being such a poser.

  6. Sorry, I’ve just read what I posted and it was absolute rubbish and I managed to contradict myself a few times. Just ignore me.

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