2008 F1 driver rankings part 2

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Who was the star of the midfield in 2008?

Part two of the 2008 F1 driver rankings looks at numbers ten to five, plus more of your verdicts on the drivers of 2008.

Don’t miss the final four tomorrow!

10. Mark Webber

Mid-season ranking: 8

In the first half of the year Webber was a regular fixture in Q3, and consistently made it into the lower reaches of the points. But as the season progressed and Renault and Toro Rosso found their feet, Red Bull seemed unable to match their progress.

Unfortunately for Webber he spoiled his best qualifying result – second at Silverstone – by spinning on the first lap of the wet race. Aside from that he usually got out of the RB4 everything it had to offer.

Read Andrew Tsvyk’s comprehensive analysis of Webber’s season: Mark Webber’s 2008 season: an analysis

9. Jarno Trulli

Mid-season ranking: 7

His best season since Briatore fired him.
– Filipe

In 2008 Trulli returned to the kind of exceptional qualifying form we expect of him, and backed it up with some excellent points-grabbing drives. The best of which was his podium finish at Magny-Cours which brought some cheer to the team at the first Grand Prix following the death of team founder Ove Andersson.

Toyota faded late in the year but Trulli interrupted the championship battle in Interlagos by taking second on the grid. But his junior team mate Timo Glock out-raced him to the flag, suggesting Trulli might have a tougher time in 2009.

8. Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld out-qualified Kubica on merit for the first time in 2008 at Spa

Mid-season ranking: 10

Robert Kubica scored BMW’s maiden win at Montreal with Heidfeld second. On the podium the German seemed conflicted between delight for his team and disappointment for himself, as he had led Kubica earlier in the race.

Both BMW drivers were models of consistency in a year when the title contenders threw points away at every other race. But Heidfeld was the most dependable of all: he finished every race, surpassing Michael Schumacher’s record for consistency in the process. Lack of qualifying speed was his Achilles Heel this year, with his elimination in Q1 at the Hungaroring a low point. By the end of the season he had the problem sorted, and matched Kubica more closely on race performance.

7. Heikki Kovalainen

Mid-season ranking: 6

Biggest disappointment has to be Kovalainen
– Sam

Early in the season it seemed misfortune was the only thing holding Kovalainen back from taking on Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. The safety car ruined his race at Melbourne, he suffered a puncture at Istanbul, and then came his bruising shunt at the Circuit de Catalunya. That bad luck was sustained over the course of the year – he suffered three race-ending car failures, Hamilton none.

But he usually struggled to match Hamilton’s race pace, and often failed to take up the challenge when Hamilton was out of the picture, as at Fuji. Hungary was the exception, where he snatched a win which, though fortunate, was just recompense for his earlier misfortune.

6. Kimi Raikkonen

Mid-season ranking: 2

When was the last time we saw a driver win the championship one year and then, at the same team and with the same team mate, fail to uphold his position as the team’s leading driver the following season? Even the Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo joked that we did not see the real Raikkonen in 2008.

It’s hard to draw a line between how far Raikkonen’s problems were his own doing, and how much of it was the car’s fault. Failures that robbed him of points at Melbourne and Valencia, and the broken exhaust that hindered him at Magny-Cours were clearly not his fault.

But the driving errors at Melbourne, Monte-Carlo, Silverstone, Spa and Singapore, these all were. Compounding those problems was an often mystifying lack of pace in qualifying, especially in the middle part of the season at the Hungaroring and Hockenheimring.

He fared better in the final rounds, comfortably out-pacing Felipe Massa at Shanghai, for example. But scoring only two wins to Massa’s six it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion Raikkonen simply didn’t get enough out of his car this year.

5. Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel showed Toro Rosso's pace by lapping fastest in Q2 at Valencia

Mid-season ranking: 9

Great win at Monza. Nice performance at Interlagos too. A bit of a bad start to the season, but form halfway through he really started to show his potential
– Patrickl

The opening races were disastrous for Vettel. He was eliminated on the first lap at Melbourne, Bahrain and Catalunya, and at Sepang his Ferrari engine blew.

At the sixth race, Monaco, the new STR3 chassis arrived and his season was transformed. Vettel finished an excellent fifth on his first appearance at the Monte-Carlo track – in the rain. When a more potent version of the Ferrari engine was added later in the year, Vettel stretched his wings. He frequently appeared in the final part of qualifying and began scoring points regularly.

The Italian Grand Prix was one of those races where the conditions were so unusual that almost every driver on the grid had a realistic shot at winning the race. It’s significant, then, that the man who did was Vettel. Yes, getting the strategy right was down to luck as much as judgement, but you can’t argue against how fine his driving was all weekend.

He was in excellent form at Interlagos as well, snatching fifth from Lewis Hamilton in the dying stages, which became fourth. Faced with performances like these it’s easy to forget Vettel hasn’t been in the sport very long. And it’s tempting to make comparisons with the last German driver to score his maiden win in his first full season: Michael Schumacher.

Don’t miss the final instalment of the 2008 F1 driver rankings. Get the latest articles from F1 Fanatic for free via RSS or our email subscription service. Click here for more information.

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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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23 comments on “2008 F1 driver rankings part 2”

  1. Heikki better than Nick Heidfeld? Surely not.

    Agreed Heikki was left high and dry by Mclaren at the end of the season; but he was still fairly bad.

  2. [Heikki Kovalainen] often failed to take up the challenge when Hamilton was out of the picture, as at Fuji.

    His Mercedes blew up at Fuji didn’t it?

  3. When was the last time we saw a driver win the championship one year and then, at the same team and with the same team mate, fail to uphold his position as the team’s leading driver the following season?


    At Ferrari, Jody Scheckter beat Gilles Villeneuve to the title in 1979, but Villeneuve scored more points than Scheckter in 1980.

    Or, you could argue for 1989. At McLaren, Senna beat Prost to the title in 88, but the positions switched the following year.

  4. In order from worse to best of the mid-field and with my overall rating behind their name: 1. H Kovalainen(10) 2. M Webber(9) 3. J Trulli(8) 4. K Raikkonen(7) 5. N Heidfeld(6)

  5. Keith – better not put your top 4 in exactly the same order as Autosport have this week, or we’ll accuse you of copying….

  6. Great review of the drivers so far.

    My ranking of the remaining four drivers:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Massa
    3. Alonso
    4. Kubica

  7. Remaining drivers:

    1. Alonso
    2. Kubika
    3. Hamilton
    4. Massa

  8. I’d put Heidfeld in front of Kova, and maybe even Vettel in front of Kubica.

  9. Remaining drivers ( 2008 season ):


    My Preference


  10. Remaining drivers:


    hamilton may have won the wdc but he made many mistakes under pressure in japan and even brazil.
    alonso did a fantastic end of season laping with the ferraris and mclarens.
    massa did a gr8 job in brazil though a few mistakes cost him the WDC.
    Kub gr8 start of the season but since belgium he was strugling with the car.

  11. + Heikki b4 Heidfield????? suerly not he was outpaced in every single race by drivers with worse cars and only because Heidfield was strugling with his car did Heikki come b4 him in the races.

    give Heidfield a good car and i think he would come 5th or 6th lol

  12. Remaining four drivers – that is tough. Over the first half of the season, Kubica was the best, but by year end he was being outpaced by his own teammate; in the second half, Alonso was the best – having cut out the rashness characteristic of the earlier races.

    So neither of the two main contenders were the class of the field in either half of the season. Overall it’s probably fair to say Hamilton followed by Massa, though.

  13. I’m going to come off as a vapid Raikkonen fanboy, but I’d like to point out that some of the driver errors later in the season were kind of desperate “all or nothing” bets in his bid to stay in the WDC fight.

    I’m thinking of Spa in particular, were he could have settled for second instead of racing at the razors edge against a (conditions being as they were) superior adversary.

    I’d put Kubica and Vettel on a shared sixth with Raikkonen in fifth place. Unless we’re judging them purely on expectations, that is, in which case I’d put Kimi lower, obviously.

    (point in case being Raikkonen could have easily outscored Kubica had he giving up on his WDC bid earlier)

  14. Terry Fabulous
    20th November 2008, 21:06

    I too am stunned at where Heikki is. He was an ineffectual teammate in the Dumfries and Andretti Michael mould.

    Other then that I can’t find fault with this list.

    As for the top 4.
    4. Bob
    3. Phil
    2. Fred
    1. Lou

    You have to give Hamilton the number 1. Much as i dislike him he won the title singlehandedly despite no help from his teammate and an unfavourable governing body. Although his pit crew do know how to release a drivr though….

  15. I have to agree with most of the group,I would have Heikki much lower on the list than Heidfeld.I know he had a lot of bad luck this past season but,I was expecting much more from him…..he didn’t even pull his own weight.

  16. I too am stunned at where Heikki is. He was an ineffectual teammate in the Dumfries and Andretti Michael mould.

    Interesting drivers to pick to make your point, both team mates of Ayrton Senna in their one year of F1.

    Johnny Dumfries had the additional misfortune to be a number two driver at Lotus. Jackie Stewart once turned down an offer to join Lotus, partnering Jim Clark. Stewart, never anyone’s fool, knew that the second driver at Lotus never really did anything – and it wasn’t because of Clark’s supreme talent. Basically, Lotus weren’t capable of fielding two competitive cars and that remained the case for the rest of the team’s time in F1.

    Dumfries was never likely to set the world alight as Senna’s rookie team mate – I can only think of two drivers who got anywhere near – but he deserved a better stab at F1 than he got.

    Michael Andretti was different. A genuinely talented driver who was often astonishing in his pre-F1 days in IndyCars. Andretti’s problem was three fold – 1) personal problems that prevented him from giving the team his full attention (by not moving to the UK), 2) the new for 1993 restrictions on testing, practice and qualifying and 3) joining McLaren just after it had begun a serious competitive decline caused by putting its cash into paying Senna rather than developing its technology.

    Andretti was a good driver and he should have done considerably better in F1 than he did. He bears part of the blame for his awful season, but so did McLaren, Senna’s salary demands and the rule changes that had the biggest impact on rookies.

  17. I say –
    10. Kovalainen
    9. Glock
    8. Webber
    7. Massa
    6. Raikonnen
    5. Vettel

    And my top 4

    4. Heidfeld
    3. Kubica
    2. Hamilton
    1. Alonso

    No surprises there !

  18. My top 4: 1. Kub; 2. Mas; 3. Ham; 4. Alo
    Kubica was 2nd at Fuji. and earlier in Singapore would be on podium or close to it; only his last two races werent that good because of quali problems but even in China he managed to score in spite of starting 11th.
    Massa is my second cause he was making less stupid mistakes than Hamilton.Still its shame that two title contenders were that bad – in their case it was a car who was winning – not drivers. On the other hand- both showed some brilliant racing: Ham at Silverstone and Mas at Hungary.
    Alonso – i like him, great he scored two victories at the end of the season, but we need to take his entire year and not judge because he was better last 3 races or was world champ 2 times in the past.

  19. Terry Fabulous
    21st November 2008, 3:18

    @ Tim

    I didn’t even realise when I wrote that that I was referring to two Senna teammates.

    Aargh! I hate comparing Lou to Senna and I have done it inadvertently.

    And I’ve forgotten how to spell!

  20. While Kovalainen scored 54% of Hamilton’s points total, it was not a particularly low total. Fisichella (P4) could only muster 53.7% in 2006 to Alonso’s monster haul of 134 points. 2005 was worse – 43.6% to Alonso. I’m sure Barrichello has similar number in a few of Schumacher’s campaigns of the 2000s.

    However, Heikki’s final position of P7 in the Championship is the lowest for the teammate of the WDC since 1985 with Niki Lauda ending his career in P10 to Prost’s first Championship.

    Heikki really doesn’t deserve a place in the upper half of any ranking for 2008.

  21. In fairness to Heikki , though , he seemed to have got the worse of everything this year – including all the bad luck that McLaren had. That’s how F1 works. I would say that’s probably also why Nico Rosberg , if he indeed was offered a position at McLaren , declined. His father (and advisor) , Keke , would be acutely aware that Nico would have no chance to win WDC with Hamilton in the team. Heikki would be better off moving to a team like Toyota , Honda , Red Bull or even STR , if he could. If that team became competitive , he could win WDC , but will never do it at McLaren. Rubens was in the same boat with Ferrari , while I preferred Schu. and recognise he was the more talented , even if Rubens had a year where the car suited him better and could have won , would not have happened. And in fact as we know never did . That’s why I think Renault have made a good decision keeping Piquet alongside Alonso. While he is good enough to support , he will be content to play that role at least for next season and maybe even beyond.

  22. Jean – I don’t think Heikki’s in quite as bad a situation as Barrichello at Ferrari, but his future with McLaren is now at a critical point.

    Rubens was contractually the second driver, whereas Heikki appears to be on equal terms with Lewis and he won’t be ordered to back off if he’s genuinely faster. But Lewis was already firmly entrenched within the team well before Heikki joined and that confers a more subtle advantage. Heikki is probably at risk of being the new David Coulthard, rather than the new Rubens Barrichello.

    Another issue was that the 2008 McLaren was often better suited to Lewis. Development usually focuses around the faster driver. So, despite some good showings in qualifying early in the year, Heikki had to drive a car that was more and more developed around Lewis. If the rules weren’t changing for 2009 then presumably McLaren would continue to develop what has been a successful concept. But the rules are changing and the dynamics of 2009-spec cars could be significantly different.

    If this change means that the 2009 McLaren is more to Heikki’s taste he has the chance to recapture some of the ground he lost to Lewis this year. If he can re-establish himself as Lewis’ equal (or better) in terms of pace and results then he may be able to reverse at least some of the damage done this year.

    If, however, the 2009 changes make no difference to the relative performance of the two McLaren drivers then Heikki may well do better to look at alternative employment. I’m sure Adrian Sutil is keeping his fingers crossed…

  23. pedro corrales
    30th November 2008, 4:55

    this are the top drivers considering their cars for 2008,the rest were either outclased by teamates or had an off year.

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