Who’s been the best driver over the first half of 2010?
It’s time to reveal the final top five in the 2010 half-term driver rankings. Find out where I ranked Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Robert Kubica below – and share your thoughts in the comments.
5. Jenson Button
Some expected the reigning world champion to suffer at the hands of Lewis Hamilton in 2010. Button hasn’t been quite on his team mate’s pace, but the gap is quite small and he helped himself to a pair of opportunistic wins at the start of the season.
At Melbourne he was helped by Sebastian Vettel’s wheel failure, but not before he gained a load of places with a well-timed switch to slick tyres.
At Shanghai he (and a few other drivers) avoided the trap changing to intermediate tyres too early, and managed heavy wear on the tyres late in the race to claim win number two.
Shanghai was the last time Button out-qualified Hamilton. But the pair remain the most closely-matched team mates on the grid – Button just 0.031s slower than Hamilton in qualifying on average.
He’s been very consistent, with points finishes in all the races except Monaco, where a cover left on one of his radiators cooked his engine. And he’s raced well, passing Michael Schumacher on the first lap at Istanbul and nabbing second off Fernando Alonso in Montreal.
Against expectations Button’s had a strong start to his McLaren career, one which would look even better if the guy in the other car wasn’t Lewis Hamilton.
I must admit I never thought he’d win another race again in his career, never mind two in his first four races at McLaren. OK, so Hamilton has the edge on him in raw pace, but there’s no shame in that.
4. Mark Webber
Webber’s domination of the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix – and a good portion of the Turkish Grand Prix, too – demonstrated what he’s capable of and made Red Bull’s decision to extend his contract a no-brainer.
Vettel had little response in those races, and it was clear from their notorious collision at Istanbul the frustration Vettel felt as he strived to stop Webber extending his championship lead even further.
Webber’s pole position lap at Sepang – gambling on intermediates while everyone else sought the security of full wets – was exceptional. And he looked good in the rain in Shanghai too before being bumped off the track during a restart.
Unfortunately Webber’s also hit some duff notes. He was scrappy at home in Melbourne, with several wild moments and an unnecessary collision with Hamilton. And he made a truly horrendous start at Valencia.
But when he’s been on top form this year Webber has proved too simply much for Vettel. Hopefully there will be no after-effects from his shocking Valencia crash to prevent him doing more of the same.
A hell of a improvement over 2009, when he only out-qualified Vettel twice. I wonder how much was down to his leg injury. He was flawless from Spain to Turkey and had some bad luck at Canada. But his mistakes at Bahrain, Sepang, Australia and Valencia were costly to him, as Vettel now has a somewhat good advantage over him. He is not as good over his team mate as everyone says – if he was, he wouldn’t be 12 points behind Vettel.
3. Sebastian Vettel
In the aftermath of Istanbul Vettel was rightly blamed by most of the portion of the world’s population not employed by Red Bull. His unnecessary move into the path of Webber ruined both their races.
But putting the incident – which will surely prove the nadir of his season – to one side, he’s otherwise driven quickly, consistently and is unlucky not to be leading the world championship.
Exhaust failure in Bahrain. Wheel failures in Melbourne and Barcelona. His anti-roll bar in Istanbul and his gearbox in Montreal. One could conservatively estimate the points Vettel’s lost to car trouble this year running as at least 40, enough to put him comfortably in the lead of the championship.
Vettel has continued to prove this year that he can scorch the opposition in qualifying and romp away to victory from the front row of the grid.
What we’ve not seen enough of from him yet is his ability to fight his way past rivals. Too much dithering behind Adrian Sutil in Shanghai allowed Hamilton to mug the pair of them.
That may ultimately prove the difference between whether he win the world championship this year or not.
Started off the season looking like he was going to get pole and win every race… if his car would actually finish. Since Webber started to beat him he looks worried and seems that it’s gone to his head a bit.
2. Robert Kubica
After an uninspiring 2009 the real Robert Kubica is back.
At the start of the season the Renault was the fifth-best car on the grid. Now, with Mercedes’ difficulties, it’s usually fourth. And Kubica has often exceeded the R30’s capabilities.
He’s done it partly by avoiding some of mistakes made by the front runners – like the McLarens and Ferraris that failed to progress beyond Q1 at Sepang, or the many drivers who blinked and pitted too soon for intermediates at Shanghai.
He’s done it with a breathtaking turn of speed, putting him second on the grid in Monaco and beating the Ferraris in Turkey. The gap between him and rookie team mate Vitaly Petrov in qualifying makes painful reading – 9-0 to Kubica, 0.957s faster on average (compare that to Rubens Barrichello’s 0.222s margin over Nico Hulkenberg).
And he’s done it with remarkable consistency, finishing every race in the points, except at Bahrain where he was delayed by a first-lap collision with Sutil.
Canada was his least impressive race, going off while battling with Schumacher and being fortunate to escape without a penalty for impatiently swerving around and hitting Sutil on his way to the pits.
Not being in one of the absolute front-running cars, he doesn’t face the kind of pressure to bring home maximum points without risk that the championship contenders do.
But if he was driving for one of the top teams, on this form there’s reason to believe he’d do better than several of their drivers.
Massively impressive, though the cars a definite contender – by which I mean when it’s not in Q3, someone’s doing it wrong. Still, he is driving out of his skin, and outperforming the car. Would certainly put him in the top three drivers.
1. Lewis Hamilton
In his first three seasons you could take it for granted that Hamilton would be on or very near the pace of his car, and he would fight hard for any advantage on the track.
The difference this year is how he’s tempered his speed and aggression with a little more caution than before. It’s made him a more complete racing driver.
His battles through the field in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai were not only some of the most entertaining moments of the year so far, they were among the most impressive performances of any driver.
At Barcelona he was on course to split the Red Bulls – something that looked unthinkable when they’d out-qualified the field by nearly a second – before a wheel failure caused by an inadequately secured nut.
His first win of the season was just reward for his dogged pursuit of the Red Bulls, spending lap after lap within a few tenths of Webber or Vettel at Istanbul. In years past perhaps a careless move for position or one too many locked wheels would have scuppered his run. But he kept it clean and capitalised when they self-destructed.
Montreal was a tour de force – an excellent pole position (the only non-Red Bull driver to claim one so far) and a pair of careful passes in high-pressure situations gave him his best dry-weather win to date.
Aside from his mystifying qualifying performance in Melbourne, and occasionally sailing close to the wind with the stewards, Hamilton is in first-class form this year. He’s not always had the faster car underneath him, but he’s leading the world championship.
He had a slow start, but it seems he now has the measure of Jenson. His recent consistency has also helped him take the championship lead. He might want to avoid courting controversy, though.
Full 2010 half-term driver rankings
See below for links to the first two parts.
24. Karun Chandhok
23. Lucas di Grassi
22. Bruno Senna
21. Vitantonio Liuzzi
20. Vitaly Petrov
19. Nico Hulkenberg
18. Pedro de la Rosa
17. Jarno Trulli
16. Kamui Kobayashi
15. Jaime Alguersuari
14. Timo Glock
13. Michael Schumacher
12. Heikki Kovalainen
11. Rubens Barrichello
10. Sebastien Buemi
9. Felipe Massa
8. Adrian Sutil
7. Nico Rosberg
6. Fernando Alonso
5. Jenson Button
4. Mark Webber
3. Sebastian Vettel
2. Robert Kubica
1. Lewis Hamilton
F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings
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