Top 10 Drivers of the 21st Century – 2012 Edition

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    @joey-zyla Not to mention Hakkinen is 7th. :) JV is nowhere, though – only 17th.


    1. Alonso
    2. Hamilton
    3. Raikkonen
    4. Schumacher
    4. Vettel
    6. Webber
    7. Hekkinen
    8. Button
    9. Massa
    10. Barrichello


    Even if Vettel wins 8 world championships.I wont put him in top 4 until he shows what he is capable of ina bad car.


    And yet he put Hamilton in second :P


    Ok my thoughts for what its worth
    1) Michael Schumacher
    2) Alonso
    3) Raikkonen
    4) Vettel
    5) Hamilton
    6) Button
    7) JPM
    8) Barrichello
    9) Massa
    10) Hakkinen

    I give Raikkonen a lot of credit for what he did at Mclaren, which is why he’s above Vettel. Some combination of the top 5 should really be everybody’s pick in my view, and then you have Button as best of the rest.

    Also I see some people have rated Hakkinen quite highly but Mika only had one decent season in the 21st century. In 2001 his heart wasn’t in it any more and he got beat by Coulthard so I can’t put him any higher going by that criteria.


    I think when some people say they want to see Vettel in a bad car so he can prove himself, they mean that they want to see him in a bad car with the added pressure of being a world champion. When Vettel was at Toro Rosso, no one expected too much of him. Even when he was on pole at Monza 2008, not many people expected him to win, most people expected Heikki Kovalainen to win.

    Let’s say that Red Bull’s 2013 challenger is only good enough for regular points finishes, but not podiums. Vettel would now be expected to have many strong points finishes, and he would be expected to get a podium or two should such an oppotunity arise.

    We’ve seen Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton have bad cars in the past after winning championships, and generally speaking they all drove very well. But they also all made uncharacteristic mistakes seemingly out of frustration, and they all had the occasional bad race.

    Vettel has occasionally shown signs of cracking under pressure, when everyone expects nothing less than victory. I think would be interesting to see how he’d cope with a less competitive car, now that he has won world championships.


    @slr I agree with your point there, which is why I still think Vettel is off to Ferrari in 2014. Then again, Senna took all 3 of his titles for McLaren, but people didn’t against him the fact that he didn’t really drive in a bad car. This was true even before 1993 (where you could argue such a point). He was criticized for being ruthless and aggressive, but not for always having good cars.

    If Red Bull has a mediocre 2013 car (which, given the minimal rule changes, is unlikely), any poor form would more likely be blamed on Vettel than Red Bull. I wouldn’t agree with that opinion, but that is the consensus I’d more likely hear from F1 forums and sites. Either that or, just like Schumacher in 2005, he becomes an afterthought behind the title contenders.

    All that said, having won 3 titles on the trot now, I think Vettel will be more relaxed next year. There is less of a need to prove himself – his titles speak for themselves. And that more relaxed mindset may allow him to better deal with possible pressures.


    Good morning, everyone! The votes keep coming in, but you can still vote if you haven’t done so. :)

    Here’s the tally after 43 votes:
    1. M Schumacher 980 (33 1st’s)
    2. Alonso 764 (7 1st’s)
    3. Vettel 652 (2 1st’s)
    4. Raikkonen 515
    5. Hamilton 499 (1 1st)
    6. Button 272
    7. Hakkinen 166
    8. Massa 141
    9. Montoya 133
    10. Barrichello 73
    11. Kubica 56
    12. Webber 43
    13. Coulthard 24
    14. Heidfeld 10
    15. Fisichella 9
    16. Rosberg 2
    17. Villeneuve 1
    18. Trulli 1
    19. Kovalainen 1
    20. R Schumacher 1

    Sorry, just couldn’t take the Karthikeyan vote seriously. So I replaced him with Ralf (multiple grand prix winner) on the list.


    As promised, I’ll be posting the net gain and loss of each driver in the 2012 list. This will be based on gain/loss on their points average compared to 2011. Points are scored from 1st to 10th using the current F1 points system.

    I’ll start with the new entries (briefly), then go to the biggest losers and end up with the biggest winners.

    NEW drivers:
    Heikki Kovalainen (1 point, replacing Timo Glock): It’s his first appearance on this list, and goes some way to recognize his 1 GP win with McLaren in 2008 and his heroics with the Caterham.

    RETURNING driver:
    Jarno Trulli (1 point): He scored 2 points in 2010, then vanished last year (just like his F1 career, really). But the 1-time GP winner does get a point to return to this year’s list.

    2011-RANKED drivers:
    18. Ralf Schumacher
    2011 Rank and Average: 14th, 0.32 (12 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 20th, 0.02 (1 point)
    Net: -92.83%
    Poor Ralf. If there’s anything we’ve learned this year, it’s that his GP wins this century have been all but forgotten now. Not to mention that his great run here in 2011 seems to be nothing more than a fluke.

    17. Nico Rosberg
    2011 Rank and Average: 15th, 0.30 (11 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 16th, 0.05 (2 points)
    Net: -84.36%
    Truth be told, Nico didn’t have such a bad year. It wasn’t the most consistent year, but hey, he won a GP, joining a pretty exclusive club. But beyond that and his Monaco podium, he didn’t really distinguish himself much this year. And his standing here this year reflects that.

    16. David Coulthard
    2011 Rank and Average: 12th, 1.08 (40 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 13th, 0.56 (24 points)
    Net: -48.37%
    DC hasn’t raced in F1 for a while, and he may be suffering from what I call the “retirement effect”. The longer ago a driver last raced, the less likely people will remember what he achieved. Another possible reason is that drivers currently racing have had a better chance to prove themselves and win on the track, improving their reputation and legacy. Quite simply, DC had an impressive 21st century F1 CV at the end of 2001, but it hasn’t changed much and others have now passed him by.

    15. Robert Kubica
    2011 Rank and Average: 9th, 2.43 (90 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 11th, 1.30 (56 points)
    Net: -46.46%
    Arguably the greatest what-if on this list. He had a 2.86 average in 2010, and it’s all been downhill since with his injury. Had he still been around, he’d be a Top 10 shoo-in, and possibly even a World Champion…

    14. Mika Hakkinen
    2011 Rank and Average: 7th, 4.78 (177 points, 1 1st)
    2012 Rank and Average: 7th, 3.86 (166 points)
    Net: -19.30%
    This actually looked a lot worse for Mika earlier on – he was down as much as 30% on his 2011 standing, but recent votes have helped him make up some of that deficit. As infernojim said in his vote, Mika was past his peak by 2000, but still put up a very credible challenge to Schumi that year (remember THAT PASS). But like Kubica, he’s been on a downward slope since 2010 (where he had a 5.75 average). I doubt he will fall out of the Top 10 in the immediate future, but after 5 years, who knows?

    13. Jacques Villeneuve
    2011 Rank and Average: 18th, 0.03 (1 point)
    2012 Rank and Average: 17th, 0.02 (1 point)
    Net: -13.95%
    It didn’t look good for a while, but Jacques is finally on this year’s list. He’s actually scored exactly 1 point a year for the past 3 years. A more dubious distinction is that Jacques is the only World Champion not in the Top 10.

    12. Jenson Button
    2011 Rank and Average: 6th, 7.19 (266 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 6th, 6.33 (272 points)
    Net: -12.01%
    Jenson’s 2012 wasn’t quite as stellar as his 2011, but he still kept Lewis very honest. His 2012 average is still significantly higher than his 2010 average. But he’s in some very lonely company on this table – he’s too far behind Lewis to challenge him, but is not in any danger from Mika Hakkinen either.

    11. Michael Schumacher
    2011 Rank and Average: 1st, 23.54 (871 points, 31 1st’s)
    2012 Rank and Average: 1st, 22.79 (980 points, 33 1st’s)
    Net: -3.19%
    There’s one significant observation I found here: for all of Schumacher’s woes in his comeback, it hasn’t really affected his standing all that much (relative to this century anyway). His 2012 average is actually slightly higher than his 2010 average. And his gap to 2nd-placed Alonso has gone up too: from 3.29 in 2010, it’s gone up to 5.32 in 2011 and only gone down a bit to 5.02 this year. The big question is: once he retires, will his standing improve or go down? That will depend on what the others do.

    10. Fernando Alonso
    2011 Rank and Average: 2nd, 18.22 (674 points, 5 1st’s)
    2012 Rank and Average: 2nd, 17.77 (764 points, 7 1st’s)
    Net: -2.46%
    Here’s an oddity: a lot of fans said Alonso just had his best season yet, but he still lost ground compared to last year. He’s actually been on a bit of a downward slope since 2010 (he had an 18.54 average that year), but it’s most visible in the gap from 2nd to 3rd. Alonso was ahead by 5.25 in 2010, then 4.65 in 2011, and now he’s just 2.61 ahead this year. I’m sure a 3rd title will bump this gap back up, but until then, this is not a trend Fernando wants to maintain.

    9. Juan Pablo Montoya
    2011 Rank and Average: 8th, 3.08 (114 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 9th, 3.09 (133 points)
    Net: +0.39%
    This is as good as a hold for JPM, who saw a significant drop in the rankings last year. But he’s still gone down from 7th (2010) to 8th (2011) to 9th (2012). He’s safe for now, but once the next generation of stars start winning (Perez, Hulk), JPM may well drop out of the Top 10.

    8. Kimi Raikkonen
    2011 Rank and Average: 4th, 11.51 (426 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 4th, 11.98 (515 points)
    Net: +4.02%
    Kimi’s improvement is interesting – he’s grown by a similar percentage this year as last year. But with the Top 3 further solidifying, 3rd place looks further and further out of reach even with his comeback – unless he wins another title, of course.

    7. Nick Heidfeld
    2011 Rank and Average: 16th, 0.22 (8 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 14th, 0.23 (10 points)
    Net: +7.56%
    It’s the first full season where we haven’t seen quick Nick, but his score has actually held relatively steady (even going up a fair bit on the average). And he’s the only non-Grand Prix winner to be in the Top 20 in all 3 years of its existence.

    6. Sebastian Vettel
    2011 Rank and Average: 3rd, 13.57 (502 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 3rd, 15.16 (652 points, 2 1st’s)
    Net: +11.76%
    One of the biggest discussions I’ve seen this year (even more so after Brazil) is whether or not Sebastian Vettel is now one of the all-time greats. After all, he’s now won 3 titles, being the youngest man to do so AND only the 3rd all-time to win thrice in three years. Based on the votes, people’s ratings of him have moved up somewhat. Alonso is still ahead of him in the rankings for a 3rd successive year, but Vettel is closing in – fast. Seb’s average has more than doubled from 2010, which is hard to do when you’re already in the Top 5. Next year will be very interesting, as Alonso and Vettel are (again) the likely title contenders. If (and this is a significant if) Vettel wins again next year, does he finally move past Alonso and begin to challenge Michael Schumacher as the top driver of the 21st century?

    5. Mark Webber
    2011 Rank and Average: 13th, 0.89 (33 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 12th, 1.00 (43 points)
    Net: +12.12%
    A surprise bump for Mark, which probably reflects his great wins at Monaco and Silverstone. But he’ll need more of that instead of what we saw in Abu Dhabi and Brazil if he wants to enter the Top 10.

    4. Lewis Hamilton
    2011 Rank and Average: 5th, 10.24 (379 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 5th, 11.60 (499 points, 1 1st)
    Net: +13.29%
    One can’t argue that the last 2 seasons (and maybe even the 2 before that too) have been disappointing for Lewis Hamilton. But where last year, more blamed the driver (standing went down 22.9%), this year, it seems that people have blamed… someone other than him (standing back up). But he is still behind Kimi, who’s more or less just held steady throughout the conducting of this survey. The big question for Lewis now is, what will he do at Mercedes in 2013? I think it’s fair to say how he fares next year will form a big part of his legacy – easily as big as 2008.

    3. Felipe Massa
    2011 Rank and Average: 10th, 2.38 (88 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 8th, 3.28 (141 points)
    Net: +37.87%
    Perhaps of all the driver movement this year, this one surprised me the most. While Felipe did have a great second half of the season, his first half was very much below-average, and calls for sacking him were not uncommon. But somehow, he made significant gains this year, and moved past Robert Kubica and Juan Pablo Montoya, two pretty big names. Will be interesting to see if this holds up next year.

    2. Rubens Barrichello
    2011 Rank and Average: 11th, 1.16 (43 points)
    2012 Rank and Average: 10th, 1.70 (73 points)
    Net: +46.08%
    Rubens was the bridesmaid of this list the last two years – always in 11th, never in the Top 10. But it’s strange that he finally makes it into the Top 10 on his first full year out of F1. Is it the fact that there is no current season to judge on that allows people to see the full picture of Rubens’ 21st century? Perhaps, but he has some solid stats to speak of. Not just the wins, but the runner-up slot finishes too – he finished in the Top 3 in 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2009. Only the Top 5 in our list (Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton) have matched or bettered that feat in this century.

    1. Giancarlo Fisichella
    2011 Rank and Average: 17th, 0.03 (1 point)
    2012 Rank and Average: 15th, 0.21 (9 points)
    Net: +674.42%
    Just like Ralf Schumacher last year, Fisi zooms up and gathers a whole bunch of points out of nowhere. To put things in context, Fisi has now bettered his score in 2010 and 2011 combined. Let’s hope that, unlike Ralf Schumacher, this isn’t just a fluke and he keeps his good score next year.


    People who say Vettel can’t do anything in a car that isn’t easily the best, were you guys asleep during the 2008 F1 season?


    I find it wrong that people say SV should prove himself in a poor car, and that 2008 shouldn’t count because he wasn’t champion back then. So what if he wasn’t champion back then? He still produced the level of performance you’d only get from a top level driver, and since becoming champion, he followed it up with one of the best campaigns of all time, then he did win with a non-dominant car. If anything, it’s the rest of the field that have to prove themselves against Vettel.


    If you apply the Vettel excuses to other drivers, you realise just how ridiculous they are.

    Vettel has never won a race from far down on the grid – Neither did Senna.
    Vettel won his three titles in the best car – So did Senna.
    Vettel wins a lot from pole – So did Senna.


    @TommyB89 In Senna’s defense, he has done a comeback win. He was on pole in Japan 88, but had an awful start and dropped to 14th or 15th place by Turn 1. He won that race and the title by passing Prost for the lead.


    And Prost in turn had a faulty gearbox.
    Senna won that race because he was a great driver in a great car, not because he did something humanly impossible. He’s shown why he is a great, not why no one can ever be as great ;-)

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