2010 final driver rankings: 5 – 1

This is the final post in a 3-part series, ranking the Formula 1 drivers of 2010 according to their seasonal performance. Here are the final 5 drivers:

5: Lewis Hamilton

Several retirements shot down Lewis' title hopes

Several retirements shot down Lewis' title hopes

4 months ago:

“In 2010 (he) has matured incredibly, with a hint of caution to his speed and aggression, which has turned him into a more complete racing driver, and one of the favourites for the title.”

Now:

Despite the dominance of the Red Bulls, and the resurgence of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton was still able to push for the title in the last race, a considerable achievement when you notice how much their car has struggled at times this year.

A shaky few races, where he didn’t look at all like winning, was not the best start, and not helped by his erratic driving in Malaysia. On the other hand though, he was ready to capitalise in Turkey when the Red Bulls failed, and was the outright best driver in Canada. Two second places in Valencia and Britain, and Hamilton looked to be back in the hunt.

However, his over-exuberant driving got in the way of him again. Needless retirements occured in Italy and Singapore, when Hamilton was too close to the other car when fighting for position. One mechanical DNF in Hungary didn’t help matters either.

Two more second places in Korea and Abu Dhabi pushed him closer to the top, but in neither of these races did he look like winning. While Lewis showed good pace this year, he let himself down when he needed results most.

4: Robert Kubica

Once again, Kubica excelled in an unimpressive car

Once again, Kubica excelled in an unimpressive car

4 months ago:

“Has proven multiple times that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, just without the best car.

Now:

With Renault struggling in the midfield for most of the season, an average driver would similarly stay in the middle of the pack, occasionally getting points. But as we all know, Robert Kubica is no ordinary driver.

His talent is difficult to see when his car lags behind others, but in a situation like Monaco, where car performance is equalled to an extent, Robert is easily spotted as one of the best drivers around. He nearly took pole position, then tried to cling onto the Red Bulls in the race, finishing 3rd.

Spa-Francorchamps, a real driver’s track, will also provide evidence to this. Throughout the race, Kubica was dicing it with the McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls, and was rewarded with another podium. These 2 races were the best of the year for him, but in other situations he could not reach to the top, mostly down to the car.

On the positive side, though, is the fact that he was also bulletproof in reliability. All three of his retirements were out of his control, and only one of these was related to car reliability.

In fact, the only bad thing I can find about Kubica is his questionable move on Adrian Sutil in Canada, where he swerved around the Force India entering the pits. This is only a small matter though, and 2010 was still another impressive year for Kubica.

3: Fernando Alonso

Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared

Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared

4 months ago:

“The controversies just seem to follow him around.”

“Fernando is well on course to challenge for the championship, but needs to do so without using Massa.”

Now:

Even his biggest detractors will still admit that Fernando Alonso is a force to be reckoned with. It takes a daring and brilliant driver to claim they will win the world title, at a point where they are nearly 50 points behind the leader.

But of course, that is not all there is to Alonso. His ascension to the top in 2010 was not without huge controversy in Germany, where Felipe Massa was shoved aside to allow Fernando win. In my opinion, without that order by Ferrari (and the subsequent win), Alonso wouldn’t have gotten the psychological motivation to challenge for the championship. If Massa had held his ground, then Fernando would have struggled much more in the second half of the season.

3 out of his 5 victories came in situations where his rivals missed their opportunities to win, be that reliability or team orders, once again awakening the argument of the lack of overtaking executed by Alonso. He could well have passed Massa, easily so if he was “much faster”, but played it safe and used the team instead.

Don’t take all of this the wrong way though. Fernando is still unbeatable on his day. Just look at Singapore, where he became the first driver out of all the championship contenders to take a Grand Slam (led every lap of the race from pole position, then take the win with fastest lap) result. Michael Schumacher is the only F1 driver still racing who has done this achievement.

At the end of the day though, his lack of overtaking was is downfall, spending 40 laps stuck behind a rookie in Abu Dhabi. Instead of making a move, he waited for a mistake from Petrov, which never happened, and then proceeded to complain aggressively to Vitaly after the race. Was he supposed to just jump out of the way? Not every driver is Felipe Massa, and this ultimately caused Alonso’s title loss this year.

2: Mark Webber

Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign

Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign

4 months ago:

“While he deservedly leads the championship at the moment, improvements must be made to secure the title.”

Now:

Recent revelations have shown us that Mark was racing with a fractured shoulder over the last 4 races of the season. The improvements that I spoke of could well have happened, but unfortunately bad luck never seems to leave Mark Webber.

The first 4 races were not very impressive for the Red Bull driver. With Sebastian Vettel taking (then sometimes losing) the lead at almost every race, Webber was being outperformed massively, and only a few races in, and I was wondering would he be replaced for 2011.

How he proved me wrong. Spain and Monaco were two of the best drives I’ve seen in recent times, completely dominant without a hint of over-aggression. Watching his post-race celebrations in Monaco, a new world champion was becoming apparent in many people’s views. Then, he was suddenly brought crashing back down to earth, as a badly-orchestrated move by his team-mate ruined a 1-2 finish in Turkey, and the team rounded around Sebastian, leaving Webber in the cold.

Silverstone saw Webber’s fightback, and “Not bad for a number 2 driver” was his way at getting back for Turkey, and the front wing controversy which overshadowed his British GP win to an extent. While Vettel was more heavily supported by the team, Webber seemed to have the overall strength to pull through.

Hungary demonstrated this well. While Vettel fell asleep at the race restart, and suffered a drive-through penalty, losing him the race win, Webber carved himself a 25 second lead to Alonso, and even with another pit stop, took a magnificent win.

Then came the shoulder injury, which surely hampered his performances from Japan onwards. While he was 2nd in Suzuka, Vettel was 1st, and this only got worse. He crashed out on his own in Korea, handing 43 points effectively to Sebastian, who subsequently lost those advantage points to Alonso. It seemed as if the Red Bulls were about to have the title ripped out of their hands, if Brazil hadn’t saved them all.

Another 1-2 finish was excellent, but there were hints that the team were going to get Vettel to allow Webber through, seeing as Sebastian was so far behind in the title race. This never came to fruition, and a possible lifeline to Mark was cut. Despite that though, he made his own fate in Abu Dhabi, being horribly off the pace all weekend. This disastrous race handed the title on a plate to Vettel, and Webber had nobody but himself to blame.

Maybe it’s over-analysis, but I think that Webber had plenty of opportunities to take the title, and the shoulder injury can only account for so many of these.

1: Sebastian Vettel

Despite slip-ups, Vettel is deservedly the world champion

Despite slip-ups, Vettel is deservedly the world champion

4 months ago:

“4 races were lost because of driver failure, and that is unacceptable from a potential world champion.”

Now:

What an incredibly topsy-turvy season it has been for Sebastian Vettel. From being public enemy no. 1 in Turkey and Belgium, to the stunning race wins which sealed him the title. Despite everything that has happened, there is no denying that Vettel was invincible at his best.

The amount of obstacles in Sebastian’s way was certainly a huge challenge, reliability being one of them. Bahrain, Australia, Spain and Korea all saw him lose the lead (or 2nd in Barcelona’s case) thanks to problems with the car. And yet, he fought his way back countless times from these.

In fact, the main obstacle was himself. A badly-placed move on Webber in Turkey showed he needed to mature, and the same story is clear in Spa, where he managed to T-bone Button in a straight line. He then followed this up with a poor move on Vitantonio Liuzzi, giving him a puncture, and killing all chances of points that day.

From that, I count 6 races ruined by either of those problems. And yet, he managed 5 victories in the other 13 races, every single one of those being the same, as when Sebastian is on form, he is an unstoppable force. If car troubles hadn’t got in the way, he could have taken 8 wins this year.

But that wouldn’t have made the championship very fun, would it? These troubles were simply challenges to be overcome, and so he did in spectacular fashion. As he did in 2009, he finished the 2010 season in stunning form, taking 3 out of 4 wins, and so very nearly 4 out of 5, if Alonso hasn’t held him off in Singapore.

With such dominant driving at his disposal, the world championship was the least he deserved. True, he  nearly bottled it on so many occasions, if he can fight back to clinch the title like that, then I believe he truly is the best driver of 2010.

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