Drivers deserving a top team

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    I’d like to start a discussion of the drivers on the grid that deserve a car with a top team. This is made harder by the fact that the definition of a top team has been a bit skewed the past few years. I would characterize the following teams as top teams:

    1. Mercedes
    2. Ferrari
    3. Williams (2014/2015)
    4. Red Bull (except 2015)
    5. Renault (2012/2013)

    Going by this list, we’ve seen the following drivers have a spot at a top team (ranked mostly by points):

    • Lewis Hamilton
    • Nico Rosberg
    • Sebastian Vettel
    • Kimi Raikonnen
    • Felipe Massa
    • Valtteri Bottas
    • Fernando Alonso
    • Jenson Button
    • Daniel Ricciardo
    • Romain Grosjean

    IMO, the last 2 drivers are the only ones that have not really had a top team for long enough but Romain Grosjean had 2 seasons at Renault and Kimi got the better of him until the last half of 2013. He’s definitely improved and I would like to see in a top team some day. Daniel Ricciardo showed some impressive pace and racecraft last year but this year has been hit-and-miss – his ability to perform is marred by his stint at Toro Rosso.

    The only driver that hasn’t had a top drive is Nico Hulkenberg and he’s pretty much swept every category he has entered. He’s a LeMans winner now and he’s still at Force India which has improved its position but is still not in the front.

    He’s 28 years old now and it doesn’t seem any more likely that he’ll have a spot with a top team any time soon. I would love to see what he could do in a good car.


    Grosjean at Lotus between 2012-2013 had a better car than Bottas ever had imo. Also Ricciardo his Red Bull last year was probably better than that years Williams.

    To be really cruel here Hulkenberg his time is gone. He will never get in a top car. He will linger in the mid-field till even Force India does no longer need his services.

    With recent signings of Button and Alonso and FIA their 18+ age limit maybe they should create a similar rule for age. You can’t stay in F1 past 33 or so.


    Bottas has a tendency to be beaten by Massa at the exact GP when he should be putting in some very clinical performances. In a way he’s in a team towards the top and he hasn’t been able to capitalize on it. Maybe he’s just unlucky.

    Unfortunately, that might be the case for Nico Hulkenberg and it really, really pains me to see him not get the opportunity to show the world if he can meet those expectations – many in the past have failed.

    I’ve never felt that a driver deserved a top ride as much as he does – certainly more than JEV, Kamui, Checo, Sutil, Magnussen.

    IMO even more so that Ricciardo and Valtteri. F1 is a very cruel sport.


    My definition of a top team would be a team with a car that can win races on pace. So that would include the Lotus cars of 2012 and 2013. I would therefore omit Bottas from that list. That Williams is not a race winning car unless things go wrong for others. It was Mercedes and Red Bull last year, Mercedes and Ferrari, in Vettel’s hands at least, this year.

    Honestly? My answer would be Alonso. He deserves more than two titles. Other that that, Hulkenberg. I have always been underwhelmed by Bottas.

    Iestyn Davies

    Definitely Hulkenberg and Vergne. F1Metrics considers them the best two drivers in the history of F1 not to have stood on the podium! Hulk pretty much won a wet race, and Vergne you just know would probably win a wet race if he was in a Red Bull.

    Age limits.. maybe 38? So a possible 20 year period in F1. Kimi will retire after next year which would meet this limit. Button will want to match it as well by driving until 2017 at least and going out as the most experienced F1 racer ever.

    But if Vandoorne then never gets into F1, we might have to consider him as a driver who should have had a chance (and maybe deserved a top team McLaren) but never got the chance to show it! Frijns currently leads that standing.. imagine if he signed up with Red Bull, he could’ve easily been where Kvyat is now.


    I still maintain that Hulkenberg is the best driver to have never been given the opportunity in the modern era of F1.

    Vergne is someone that probably hasn’t shown enough in my view.

    It would be interesting to see Perez in a top team, although some have written him off by his failed McLaren stint, I on the other hand think he’s learned from that experience and would be wiser if given the opportunity.

    Verstappen while only young I also think would be great in a top team, but I wonder if he too at this early stage of his career would succumb to big team pressure like Perez did at McLaren. However, on merit this kid has the hall marks of a future champion.


    I think everyone in the top teams currently deserve to be there with the exception of raikonnen this year unless he shows an improvement.

    I would like to see, hulkenburg,grosjean, alonso and button move up and there’s a few drivers in lower formulas and formula e who deserve a place in a team with the possibility of a top team later.

    Both verstappen and sainz are also looking good for the future.

    I don’t think anyone should leave because of age, f1 should be about ability and it wouldn’t bother me to see any of the current top drivers racing into their 40s.


    I agree that Hulkenberg’s record in junior formulae suggested an exceptional talented, but as someone who has kept an eye on him since he graduated to F1 I am beginning to think his chance has gone. He needed to have an impressive season this year, and I thought it would be a strong one for him as he was staying at the same team for the first time in his career, but it just hasn’t been quite enough apart from the odd very strong race (Austria is a standout). His two-year contract with Force India leaves him out of sync with the top drives – there will probably be seats available at Ferrari and McLaren (admittedly they’ve a lot of work to do to recover their status as a top team) in 2017, possibly at Mercedes as well and elsewhere if there are substantial team switches, which I think there might be, and by the time it expires he will be 30. He is now fighting to keep his F1 going, unless he has a stroke of luck, a la Mark Webber getting into a front running Red Bull in 2009 after the regulation changes. If anything, of the Force India I think Sergio Perez has a better chance of getting another top drive – I don’t think he was ready for the McLaren drive in 2013 but he is still only 25 and with some strong performances since the summer break I think if he has a good season in 2016 he may come into contention for one of the better seats.

    Vergne in my opinion is worth another shot at F1, but I don’t view him as a potential world champion. Stoffel Vandoorne to me is another matter, although I was pleased to hear that Button would continue to drive for McLaren next year I think it’s important that Stoffel gets his chance sooner rather than later, assuming his campaign doesn’t implode and he goes on to win the GP2 title it will be one of the more impressive title wins in the history of that championship (I would say certainly more so than Jolyon Palmer).


    Of course Hulkenberg is mentioned a million times in a thread like this, but come on, there’s a reason he doesn’t have a top drive – he’s never been the best driver available.

    I like the guy and I know he has been doing really well for most of his career, but it’s not completely random who the best teams pick for their lineup. For the most part, they know what they’re doing.

    But to answer the question, I hope to see Verstappen and Magnussen in great cars within a few years, even though it seems very unlikely with Kevin.

    R.J. O’Connell

    Outside of F1: Nick Tandy, Sebastien Buemi, and Andre Lotterer.


    @rjoconnell Very much agree on Lotterer and Tandy – Sam Bird just tweeted yesterday that after this year’s LM and PLM wins he should have a good night at the Autosport Awards in December… Let’s hope so.

    Buemi I’m not completely sure about, he’s quick, but I always feel a mistake in the making when he’s driving.

    If staying with the sportscar drivers, I’d suggest Jani – he’s been the best Porsche LMP driver in these two years, he scored 6 out of the 13 possible pole positison during that time (and I think he was the fastest in his car nearly every time).

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