So, here we are. The final instalment in my attempt to compare drivers from various categories and different rungs of the racing career ladder – no easy task, let me tell you.
If you haven’t already, go take a look at who occupies numbers ten through to four here.
Without further ado, it’s time to see who I think deserves to be crowned this year’s top driver.
3. Fernando Alonso – 4th in Formula 1
A combination of factors allowed Fernando Alonso to become the only non-Red Bull or McLaren driver to win a race this year. The temporary ban in off-throttle blowing of the diffuser for the British Grand Prix certainly worked in Ferrari’s favour, and Alonso grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
That aside, the Italia 150° was easily Ferrari’s least competitive vehicle for many a year, despite some remarkable performances from Alonso, who did an excellent job of masking its shortcomings by putting it in places where it didn’t belong.
Its gentle tyre usage hindered the Spaniard in qualifying all season long, but a combination of exceptional race starts and faultless driving allowed him to regularly put pressure on McLaren, and more often than not Red Bull.
Ten podiums may not seem like a stellar season on paper, but if there was an award for determination, then Alonso would surely win it this year.
2. Jenson Button – 2nd in Formula 1
I think it is fair to suggest that Jenson Button enjoyed his best F1 season to date this year.
He was outstanding in what was the second quickest car on the grid, and seemed well-attuned to the sensitive nature of the new Pirelli tyres.
His last-to-first race victory in the Canadian Grand Prix has already been consigned to the annals as one of the greatest, but lest we forget his fantastic wins at Red Bull-friendly circuits such as Budapest and Suzuka, the latter being his first dry-race win for McLaren.
Like a fine wine, Button seems to get better with age. Consistent, methodical, and he became the first team-mate in Lewis Hamilton’s career to beat him over the course of a season. The lad from Frome was pure class in 2011.
1. Sebastian Vettel – 1st in Formula 1
Could it have been anyone else?
There’s been nothing to stop Sebastian Vettel from defending his title this year, and he dominated the sport in a way not seen since Michael Schumacher in the early part of this century.
And yet strangely, he still attracts plenty of criticism from many an armchair critic who are quick to point out his supposed weakness in the overtaking department.
Of course, it is rather difficult to pass people when you start the majority of your races from the front of the grid, but when he’s needed to make a decisive manoeuvre to win this year, that’s exactly what he’s done.
There was his KERS-less overtake of Button at Melbourne, the two quick fire moves on Button and Felipe Massa during the Spanish Grand Prix, and of course, that tremendous overtake on Alonso which produced his finest win of the season in the Italian Grand Prix.
His ability to lead from the front while managing the new Pirelli tyres has been fantastic to watch this year, and there’s nothing to suggest that the lethal Vettel-Red Bull combination won’t crush the field once again in 2012.
Images © Photo AF/ McLaren/ Red Bull/ GEPA