So, here we are then. The final instalment in my attempt to compare drivers from various categories and different rungs of the racing career ladder – no easy task. If you haven’t already, go take a peek at who occupies numbers ten through to five in my opinion this year.
Without further ado, time to see who I think deserves to be crowned top driver this year.
5. Mark Webber – 3rd F1 World Championship
Expected to fulfil the role of number two at Red Bull, Webber went head-to-head with team-mate Vettel throughout the season and led him in the championship for most of it.
Started off the year with a couple of below-par races, but turned things around when the European leg got underway with some magnificent victories in Spain, Monaco, Britain and Hungary.
The qualifying balance still tipped in Vettel’s favour for most of the season, which in part was due to Webber’s 10kg weight disadvantage over his team-mate. With nothing in the way of ballast with which to alter the car’s weight distribution, the few hundredths by which he would sometimes be outqualified by were not through lack of skill or ability.
With peaks come troughs though, and after the series of epic drives mid-season he seemed to lose his competitive edge towards the end of the year. A broken shoulder and an internal struggle, along with that costly crash in Korea, certainly cost him a much deserved world title.
4. Fernando Alonso – 2nd F1 World Championship
It looked like normal service had been resumed at the season opener in Bahrain, with the new Prancing Horseman Fernando Alonso taking first blood, as a spark plug hobbled Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
Then came a host of errors which were born of trying too hard in a car that was not quite on the pace. Howlers included jumping the start in China and hitting the Monaco barriers in Saturday practice.
By mid-season Alonso sat 47 points adrift of first place Webber. Surely it would take a minor miracle for the Spaniard to clinch his third title?
Reverting to being the brilliant driver he is, Alonso went on a late charge and managed to overhaul the pacesetting Red Bulls, recovering the large margin by driving with a consistent, relentless brilliance that nobody else on the grid was able to match.
Two fantastic victories at Monza and Singapore were of the Webber at Monaco or Hamilton at Spa quality, and it was only due to an iffy strategy call that he didn’t win his third title this year.
3. Sebastian Vettel – 1st F1 World Championship
The youngest champion in the history of F1 not at the top of the list? Some mistake, surely?
There is no doubting that the German wunderkind is impressively quick on his day and in a league of his own when out in front, helped of course by the potent Red Bull RB6 which enjoyed a significant performance advantage over the rest of the field.
It’s true that mechanical unreliability cost him wins in Bahrain, Australia and Korea, but moments of brain fade and frustration in Turkey, Hungary and Belgium also significantly hampered his progress towards becoming world champion.
Untouchable when it came to qualifying, scoring ten pole positions, Vettel returned to his high competitive standard as the season entered its twilight phase with a trio of wins in Japan, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Fully deserving of this year’s title, but imagine how much better he’ll be once he controls his hot-headedness. Scary prospect indeed.
2. Robert Kubica – 8th F1 World Championship
Did Robert Kubica make any mistakes at all this season? Did anyone else extract what appeared to be the maximum from his machinery?
This year’s Renault was just an ordinary car, perhaps fifth quickest at best, so to see Kubica regularly mixing it with the title contenders at the likes of Monte Carlo, Spa and Suzuka – F1’s three great drivers’ circuits – speaks volumes about Kubica’s ability behind the wheel.
A real champion-in-waiting, I long to see the day that Kubica finds himself in a car that’s able to fight for regular wins.
1. Lewis Hamilton – 4th F1 World Championship
Stevenage’s finest tops my list once again this year, and rightly so.
Up until the Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton had not made a single mistake and sat pretty at the top of the drivers’ standings in what was the third fastest car on the grid. A car he flattered and had no business leading the championship as late as September this year.
Towards the end of the season there were a couple of mistakes worthy of mention: a silly one at Monza and a costly love-tap with Webber in Singapore where the only real blots on his copybook. But that’s what happens with a racer who drives at the very edge.
Hamilton did what he does best this year, and that is to showcase amazing speed and do the impossible – a modern day Gilles Villeneuve.
A second title beckons, just as soon as the boys and girls at Woking give Hamilton a car that’s worthy of his talent.