Over the last two days I have looked at 20 of the grid’s drivers, so here are the final top 5 drivers of 2010 so far:
5: Sebastian Vettel
A review of Vettel’s season will always begin with the same question: Why isn’t he leading the championship? True, he lost 38 points in the first two races thanks to mechanical failures, but the truth is that Sebastian has bottled nearly every chance he has had of taking the lead of the drivers’ championship.
It has been starting from 1st position that has been his weak point, as after 7 pole positions this year, he has only won one of those races. His other win was back in Malaysia, when he took Mark Webber on the first corner. By my calculations, Vettel has had 8 chances to win races this year. 2 of those were hampered by reliability, 2 of them were actually won, while the other 4 races were lost because of driver failure, and that is unacceptable from a potential world champion.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of Sebastian’s season so far has been the fact that, when the team is split, the bosses always backed Vettel. Take the crash between in Turkey for example. While the crash was completely Sebastian’s fault, the team still instantly sided with him, and blamed Webber for the crash, with no evidence to do so. After huge pressure from the fans (I was going to point out an article on Red Bull’s site after Turkey where thousands of fans blasted the team for favouritism, but they removed the comments section recently), the team eventually said that both drivers were at fault, then moved on.
It wasn’t over though. When the team opted to take Mark Webber’s front wing and give it to Sebastian in Britain, it set off the same argument again. To summarise, while Sebastian would technically have been in the lead without reliability gremlins, he needs to win the championship through consistency and equality in the team something which is lacking at the moment.
4: Jenson Button
Many claimed that the 2009 champion would be slaughtered by Lewis Hamilton by moving to McLaren. This move, they claimed, would prove that his championship success was purely because of the Brawn car, and not the driver. After only half a year at McLaren, Jenson Button has proved his critics completely wrong, and has made the best possible move to defend his title.
While it surely takes time for drivers to adapt to a new team, Button has settled in remarkably well in McLaren, being only 10 points off Lewis Hamilton after 12 races. He was beating him earlier in the year, after victories in Australia and China, both through excellent strategy and tyre managment. However, a recent slump in form is damaging his championship hopes. His raw pace is simply not good enough, and in dry-weather races with low tyre degradation, Button has stood no chance. His consistency has helped him though, in the fact that, except Monaco, he has finished every single race in the top 8.
But again, there is no point in being consistent when your team-mate keeps out-performing you. Jenson hasn’t qualified ahead of Lewis since China, a gap of 8 races. This has given Lewis a massive advantage in races, as Jenson generally can’t keep up. While there aren’t many drivers faster than Hamilton when he is on the pace, Button still needs to counter this and get his way back up the field.
3: Mark Webber
In the top 5 drivers of the championship, 4 of these have scored 2 wins each, a respectable amount considering the topsy-turvy form this season. However, Mark Webber has scored 4 wins so far, every single one of them convincingly. When Webber is in top form, he has been simply unstoppable, and is a deserving 1st place in the championship.
So why, you may ask, is he only 3rd in the rankings? Well, when he is on form he is brilliant, but when he is off form, it is dire to watch. His scrappy form in Australia was awful, and he ended up crashing into Lewis Hamilton for no explainable reason. A horrible start in Valencia ruined his race there, before it was sealed with a collision with Heikki Kovalainen, which in my view was more Mark’s fault.
But, he is still leading the championship, and with good reason. His dominant performances in Monaco and Spain were fantastic, and he overcame team bias to win in Britain. In Hungary, a massive stint on the super-softs paid off, although he was helped by Vettel’s penalty. Another excellent drive was qualifying in Malaysia, where a gamble on the intermidiate tyres paid off, to take pole position.
So, while he deservedly leads the championship (just) at the moment, improvements must be made to secure the title for Mark Webber.
2: Robert Kubica
The Polish driver is in a situation very similar to 2008. He is in a car that is unable to challenge for wins, yet he is smashing his way up to the top of the grid when he can, and has proven multiple times that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, just without the best car.
His results, on paper, don’t look to impressive to the average F1 fan, with only two podium positions. But, when you consider the fact that he is in only the 5th or 6th best car, Robert Kubica is driving the R30 out of its skin. He does so by avoiding the mistakes the frontrunners have made, such as qualifying in Malaysia, tyre choice in Australia and China, and when that doesn’t suffice, he can outperform some of the best drivers in terms of sheer pace.
He got 2nd place in Australia, by simply combining good strategy with a fast pace, something most of the championship contenders couldn’t do. He beat the Ferraris in Turkey, simply through raw pace. All of this has been done with remarkable consistency, as Robert Kubica has never spun or crashed this year. All of his retirements or his one race outside the points were caused by mechanical failures or Adrian Sutil.
After another season mixing it with the top drivers, you would wonder why the main teams haven’t tried to get him on board. his best shot is at Ferrari, where there might be an opening as Felipe Massa struggles for pace.
1: Lewis Hamilton
I’ve never really liked Lewis Hamilton, to be honest. The massive media attention from the second he entered the sport, to the stuck-up attitude he showed all through 2007. However, since then, Lewis has been improving and improving, and in 2010 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.
When he has found himself down the field in Australia, Malaysia or China, he has fought his way back up the grid, and does so in breathtaking fashion. In Spain, he was on course to split the Red Bulls, after they had out-qualified the grid by an entire second, before a broken wheel nut forced him out at the very end. His first win of 201o was obtained by sticking behind the Red Bulls, and when they crashed out, the win was Lewis’ for the taking. Then, in Canada, he got an excellent pole position, the only non-Red Bull one so far, and stayed calm throughout a chaotic race to take one of the best wins of his career.
A slightly sluggish start was odd for him, and brushed a little to close to the stewards in Malaysia, but these are very small instances when you compare them to the troubles of the other top drivers. There is no blatant favouritism at McLaren, so if Lewis wins the title, it is because of his work. His car will need to improve in the next few races though.