My top 5 drives of the season

After looking at the finest races and overtakes of 2011, it’s time to move on to the best race performances by any driver. This is judged by looking at raw pace, clever use of strategy and sheer brilliant driving.

5th – Sebastian Vettel – Monaco Grand Prix

After a scintillating drive in qualifying, a clean getaway would normally have sealed the race for Sebastian.

But, a mistake at his first pit stop put Vettel at a disadvantage – and on the wrong tyres. He emerged on the soft compound instead of the super-softs.

To make matters worse, the Red Bull was later reeled in by both Alonso and Button. His Pirelli tyres were nearly shredded to pieces, but Sebastian hung on lap after lap, keeping the Ferrari and McLaren at bay.

A red flag with 6 laps to go calmed the battle, and ensured the Red Bull would cruise to the chequered flag on new tyres, but it was by no means easy for Vettel.

4th – Mark Webber – Chinese Grand Prix

A torrid performance in qualifying left the Aussie in 18th place on the grid. Clearly a fightback was the order of the day.

Slicing through the field, Mark made it up to 4th place, then overtook Jenson Button on the final lap to take a brilliant podium position. Unfortunately much of his racing action was missed by the cameras.

It was a sweet ending to a poor weekend, marred by electrical and KERS problems.

3rd – Fernando Alonso – Spanish Grand Prix

By the Spanish GP, it was well known that the 2011 Ferrari challenger was hopeless against the Red Bulls – it’s a good thing nobody told Fernando Alonso.

A trademark demon start put Fernando in the lead of his home Grand Prix, to the delight of the fans. He held the position until the first pit stop, where his race began to unravel.

After being pipped by Vettel in the first set of stops, Alonso eventually had to put on the prime tyres, which killed his charge completely. He slipped to 5th, and was a lap down by the chequered flag.

So why is this drive on the list? Because nobody else on the grid would have been able to do what Fernando did in the opening stages. He thrashed the car to the absolute limit, and was beating a significantly faster car. A ferocious drive from the Spaniard.

2nd – Jenson Button – Japanese Grand Prix

In a year of Sebastian Vettel domination, it was quite a considerable achievement to beat the double world champion on a trademark Red Bull track.

By missing pole position by less than 0.01 seconds, it was clear he had the pace. After Button undercut Vettel at the first set of stops, there was no stopping him.

Fernando Alonso chased the McLaren to the flag, so much so that Jenson nearly burned out the minimum fuel sample required after the race. He pulled over after the final lap, finishing just a second ahead of Alonso.

Still, it was a fantastic drive to out-perform the Red Bulls at one of their strongest circuits…

1st – Jenson Button – Canadian Grand Prix

But not as good a drive as in Canada. Disaster after disaster couldn’t stop the Briton’s charge through the field – twice.

A puncture after clashing with his teammate, a drive-through penalty for speeding, followed up by another accident – this time with Fernando Alonso – and another puncture.

Most drivers’ races would end here. But for Jenson, he took it on himself to make another final dash from last to first, and took the lead on the final lap for icing on the cake.

On a difficult damp track, to lap over 2 seconds a lap faster than anyone else is simply incredible, and that’s why Button has earned the drive of the year.

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