2007 drivers’ half-term report – part two

Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, Melbourne, 2007So which drivers made my top ten of the year so far? And have I put the obvious choice in the number one spot?

Find out below – and use the comments box to tell me how wrong I am…

10. Giancarlo Fisichella

2006 ranking: 8

Given that many expected his career to have been finished off by Heikki Kovalainen at this point in the season, Fisichella has actually done rather well.

But in recent events Kovalainen has been much closer to him and the vultures (or, rather, vulture: Nelson Piquet Jnr) could soon be circling again.

9. Jarno Trulli

2006 ranking: 20

Trulli has put the dark days of 2006 behind him and become a semi-regular points scorer once again. He has also dominated team mate Ralf Schumacher to the extent that many have questioned the German’s future at Toyota.

But the disparity between Trulli’s reliably excellent qualifying and often flaky race performances continues.

David Coulthard, Red Bull-Renault, Bahrain, 20078. David Coulthard

2006 ranking: 9

Perhaps a controversial choice – after all, it’s hard to say how much his excellent points finish at the Circuit de Catalunya was on merit and how much of it was down to Red Bull’s dubious rear wing.

But his attacking drive in Bahrain was one of the highlights of the season so far. And he has shown up very well against a tough team mate that many expected to chew up and spit out the Scotsman.

7. Robert Kubica

2006 ranking: 12

Kubica didn’t get off to the flying start that many expected, with Nick Heidfeld scoring the big points for BMW. He was already showing signs of having cracked the conundrum of the tricky ’07 tyres when he had his gigantic crash at Montreal.

Happily unscathed he was back at the first available opportunity and has been ahead of Heidfeld ever since. Mirroring the situation at Renault, it will be fascinating to see how the rivalry between the old hand and young charge plays out over the second of the season.

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, Melbourne, 20076. Nico Rosberg

2006 ranking: 7

In the early part of the season when the midfield was especially close and unpredictable, Rosberg regularly picked up vital points for Williams and it’s not a fair reflection on his efforts that he has fewer points than team mate Wurz. After all, Wurz scored a fortunate podium at a race where Rosberg was screwed by the new safety car rules just as Fernando Alonso was.

But Rosberg faces an even tougher challenge to score points in the second half of the season, with Renault and Honda getting closer to the front. It’s no surprise that he’s now being linked to a big-name move.

5. Nick Heidfeld

2006 ranking: 11

Heidfeld hit the ground running at the start of the season – holding second in Australia before slipping back and nailing Fernando Alonso with a peach of a pass at Bahrain.

Only since team mate Robert Kubica’s return has he looked under pressure and surprisingly his place at BMW could be under threat with the promising Sebastian Vettel angling for a drive. But his mature, consistent performances so far should guarantee him a top seat – possibly at Toyota.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Magny-Cours, 20074. Kimi Raikkonen

2006 ranking: 3

He’s got more wins than anyone else, so does he really deserve to be fourth on this list? Yes – because his performances between his first and second wins were uniformly disappointing.

At Bahrain he looked like he didn’t care but the Monte-Carlo weekend was the nadir. The prang in qualifying looked like the work of 2002-era Felipe Massa, and his progress in the race was underwhelming.

Having got a handle on the car he’s now putting in the kind of form everyone expected him to at the start of the season. But he’s given his rivals a priceless glimpse of his weakness when the car isn’t perfect.

3. Felipe Massa

2006 ranking: 5

Massa has continued to build on the step forward he took in 2006. He bounced back from his embarrassing dismissal at the hands of Lewis Hamilton in Sepang to score consecutive wins in Bahrain and Spain.

His difficulties passing Giancarlo Fisichella at Melbourne and Robert Kubica in Silverstone left you wondering whether there’s more to come from his racecraft just yet – and now he has a fully competitive team mate to contend with. But in recent years he’s made a habit of surprising those who’ve criticised him – so don’t write him off for the title yet.

2. Fernando Alonso

2006 ranking: 1

He’s beaten Kimi Raikkonen and he’s beaten Michael Schumacher. Surely Alonso can’t have imagined just how hard a time Lewis Hamilton would give him this year – even accepting that Alonso, like Raikkonen, would struggle at first to cope with the spec Bridgestone rubber?

Around the flowing corners of Sepang we saw the serene, effortlessly quick Alonso of 2005 & 2006 reeling off the laps towards another win and, surely, another championship. But the onslaught from Ferrari and, above all, his own team mate has put the double champion on the back foot.

He made a rookie’s mistake at the first turn at Barcelona – and a fistful more at Montreal. Alonso is digging deeper than ever as his gutsy passes at Magny-Cours proved and finally, at Silverstone, it paid off and he thoroughly trounced Hamilton. He now has to repeat that in eight more races to stand a chance of keeping his crown.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Indianapolis, 2007, 21. Lewis Hamilton

No 2006 ranking

Even if you listen to what all the cynics are saying, Hamilton’s start to 2007 has been staggering.

Yes, the cars have too much grip compared to power – and traction control makes them even easier for rookies to drive. Yes, he’s had the most thorough preparation for an F1 career that any driver ever had. Yes, he has one of the two best cars on the grid.

At his debut in Melbourne he dropped a wheel into the dirt once or twice. He released the clutch too soon at his pit stop in Silverstone and lost two seconds in the pit stop. But compared to that, look at the mistakes his vastly more experienced rivals have made.

You don’t need me to reel off his records as they stand – he’ll surely have added more by Sunday evening anyway. He still has a long way to go to become the sport’s first rookie champion, but that he’s leading the pack at the halfway stage is irrefutable proof that we are witnessing the arrival of the sport’s next great.

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5 comments on 2007 drivers’ half-term report – part two

  1. Wesley said on 17th July 2007, 21:25

    I sure am happy to see my BMW guys high on the list,the team is young,hungry and focused.I think we will be seeing them on podium many times next season.

  2. It would be hard to disagree with Hamilton’s ranking. The 2nd, 3rd,4th however could be in any order. I would place Nico Rosberg right behind them at 5th

  3. About Kimi Raikkonen, Keith, you’re probably spot on except for the Monaco race. Yes he made a ridiculous error (he put it down to the tyres) but in the race did you see his start? He was on fire, like he usually is mid-field. He passed 4 cars within 200 metres on a track that everyone was complaining no overtaking on. Well, Kimi took four down up to Ste Devote, in what was probably one of his best starts I’ve seen, especially at a track like Monaco. Granted that he had a faster car in the back-field section, but his reaction start was brilliant. Kovalainen, Trulli, Coulthard and Liuzzi didn’t know what hit ‘em!

    And what weakness when the car isn’t perfect!? Doesn’t every driver have a weakness of having a difficult car to drive, compared to those who are comfortable with theirs? I don’t understand what you mean. Kimi is probably the best driver who can get the results with an inferior car. And don’t forget his talent at driving a heavily fuelled car. Kimi’s only bad result with a difficult car was at Monaco, but that’s because his race was effectively over from 16th position on the grid. Are people forgetting Alonso’s awful performance at Canada!? He started on the front row for heavens sake.

    :P

  4. Some people are better at handling dodgy cars than others. For example, Alonso is the sort of driver who can take half a car to a points-paying position (Monza 2003), while Trulli’s performance falls off if there’s a speck of paint out of place. I don’t know how come Alonso has forgotten the technique, but I hope for the sake of his championship hopes that he remembers again soon…

    Kimi Raikkonen’s situation is more complicated. I think if there are certain types of things wrong with the car, particularly handling issues, he barely notices and neither do we. If, on the other hand, the problem is more fundamental – particularly if the car is not very strong – Kimi’s performance seems to suffer a bit.

    I don’t mean to be horrible about your favourite driver, Evenstar – Kimi is in the top half for adaptability due to his attitude – but sometimes Kimi’s adaptability hits limits, and this year’s Ferrari has demonstrated this.

  5. You’re not being horrible at all Alianora! You’re right that his head does sink a bit down when the car’s a handful, but what I meant to point out is that his motivation never falters.

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