2008 half-term driver rankings part 1

Drivers, Melbourne, 2008, Red Bull, 470150

The half-way point in the season has passed and it’s time to pass judgement on the performances of each of the drivers so far.

Who have been the best and worst drivers so far this year?

Here’s my verdict – as ever do share yours as we go along.

22 Nelson Piquet Jnr

2007 ranking: n/a

Apart from his points score at Magny-Cours it’s been painful watching Nelson Piquet Jnr’s Grand Prix debut. He’s been repeatedly off the road and a long way off Fernando Alonso’s pace – even taking into account the fact his team-mate is a twice champion.

21 Takuma Sato

2007 ranking: 19

The decline and death of Super Aguri was a sad sight. The drivers were usually under instructions to simply bring the cars home undamaged as the team couldn’t afford to repair them. But Sato couldn’t manage even that, somehow managing to hit a barrier on a Hermann Tilke circuit, of all places.

20 Adrian Sutil

2007 ranking: 18

It was a terrible shame to see his gutsy drive at Monte-Carlo cut short by Kimi Raikkonen’s error. But for most of the race of the season Sutil has been down on Fisichella’s pace. Given Heikki Kovalainen comfortably beat Fisichella over most of last year, Sutil needs to be doing the same to justify his place in F1. Very handy in the wet though.

19 Giancarlo Fisichella

2007 ranking: 13

Giancarlo Fisichella, Vijay Mallya, Force India F1 Team, Montreal, 2008, 470150

Consistent but unspectacular now he’s back at Force India (formerly Jordan), Fisichella made a howler of a mistake at the start of the Turkish Grand prix and otherwise little has been seen of him. His technical input has won praise from the team, however.

18 Anthony Davidson

2007 ranking: 16

Quicker and more consistent than Sato over four races, but that limited frame of reference isn’t enough to reasonably place him any higher than this. Definitely deserves a proper F1 shot with a bona fide outfit.

17 Sebastien Bourdais

2007 ranking: n/a

Yet to show much speed and, ominously, is already talking about how much better he might do next year with slick tyres. Highly rated team mate Sebastian Vettel has largely led the way this year but Bourdais is making discernible improvements and is doing a better job of bringing the car home.

16 Timo Glock

2007 ranking: n/a

The 2007 GP2 champion has had little opportunity to show off his wheel-to-wheel racing skills and has largely been in his team mate’s wheel tracks. His run to fourth at Canada was mature and opportunistic, however, and he’s finished every race since Malaysia.

15 Jenson Button

2007 ranking: 10

Team mate Rubens Barrichello has thoroughly usurped Button in his role as the safe pair of hands guiding Honda’s latest shed into those useful points-paying positions. Button could have had an excellent result in the wet at Monaco but he hit Nick Heidfeld. With Honda apparently on the hunt for a big-name star to join the team, Button needs the kind of results Barrichello is getting – and fast.

14 Kazuki Nakajima

2007 ranking: 24

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, Silverstone, 2008, 470150

One of the pleasant surprises of the year. The omens for Nakajima did not look good early in the year. Seen as a political appointment for Williams atToyota’s behest, he parked on top of his pit crew at Interlagos last year and then rammed Robert Kubica out of the Melbourne race during a safety car period.

Happily things have imprved quickly. He’s been in the points four times – once more than team mate Nico Rosberg – and has begun to get on terms with his team mate’s qualifying pace.

13 Nico Rosberg

2007 ranking: 5

Since that excellent podium at Melbourne Rosberg has suffered from the see-sawing performance of Williams’ FW30. The team admit they have been neglecting the current car at the expense of developing the FW31. But Rosberg has made quite a few mistakes as well, notably at Monte-Carlo and Montreal.

12 David Coulthard

2007 ranking: 11

It will be a shame to see David Coulthard go at the end of the season but when you compare his results with his team mates it’s hard to make a case for Red Bull keeping him. Webber’s been in the points six times, Coulthard once, though if his Montreal podium was fortunate it also spoke volumes about his maturity and composure as a driver. Otherwise it’s the same Coulthard story – not quite quick enough in qualifying, and too many avoidable incidents.

11 Rubens Barrichello

2007 ranking: 20

Barrichello had a poor 2007, and 2008 started badly as well with disqualification in Melbourne for leaving the pit lane while the red light was on. But his new status as F1’s most experienced driver ever and reunion with ex-Ferrari mastermind Ross Brawn seems to have brought out the best in Barrichello. He took advantage of streaming wet weather at Silverstone to score points for the third time this year and get back on the podium. Wasn’t that supposed to be Button’s job?

Join us tomorrow for part two. To make sure you don’t miss it subscribe to F1 Fanatic by RSS or email.

(I originally wanted to do this post using some of the excellent contributions made to the discussion of top drivers on the forum. However due to a technical glitch with the forum I have been unable to, for which I apologise.)

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19 comments on 2008 half-term driver rankings part 1

  1. Rohan said on 9th July 2008, 15:17

    I wouldn’t blame Nico much for his incidents in Monaco or Canada – at Monaco he was brake-tested twice by other drivers, and at Canada he was caught up in an accident caused by someone else.

  2. Oliver said on 9th July 2008, 15:30

    Rohan to say Nico was caught up in an accident caused by someone else is way of the point. Nico admitted he did not look at the lights. If Hamilton had even applied the brakes earlier, Nico would have rammed into him for sure, because Hamilon who even admitted he saw the lights but couldn’t brake on time managed to hit Kimi, and had already left the line Rosberg was on.

    But back to the main issue. That accident at Montreal shoudlnt really reflect on Nico’s racing till date, because drivers had no reference point for braking at the pit exit.

  3. Oliver said on 9th July 2008, 15:37

    Keith lets be honest on Coulthard, He is a fast driver no doubt and often excels in the races itself, but his qualifying pace is usually a few paces behind his team mates. This has consistently been his problem. While he was team mates with Klien, it was a chance podium, that gave him the points advantage which resulted in Klien being dropped at the end of that season. Like wise this currently season, a chance opportunity to be on the podium has somewhat skewed the drivers points table.

    More often than not, Coulthard had found it difficult making it out of Q1, no serious team can consider that worthy of further investment.

  4. Oliver said on 9th July 2008, 15:42

    IT still amazes me u put Coulthard ahead of Rosberg.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th July 2008, 15:46

    A fair point. I think the gap between expectation and achievemnt for Rosberg has been very wide this yeat though. Rosberg’s team mate’s achievements diminsh his own (not that Coulthard’s doesn’t).

  6. Loki said on 9th July 2008, 16:20

    Rosberg has had an uninspiring couple of races of recent, even with a poorer car, I had expectations of him trouncing Nakajima overall.

    I don’t think anyone can argue with the last spot though, it wouldn’t surprise anyone (despite whatever rumours) if he were to be replaced before the end of the season the way things are going – won’t really be missed by many. But still, there’s the 2nd half to go and hopefully things he’ll get it together.

    I feel sorry for Button, being one of the top paid drivers in the sport, I’d feel slightly guilty about commanding that amount of money, even as just for a retainer.

    Although I don’t disagree with any of the ratings (everyone’s within +-1 spot of what I’d say), I think Kovalainen’s race performances haven’t quite been up to expectations to date in the McLaren…not sure if his race performances and points tally are within the top 10 drivers when taking machinery out of the equation.

  7. I’d rate Nakajima better than Rosberg this year, and I also think that Glock is starting to look good to, definitely better than DC. It’s starting to look bad for Bourdais, and he needs to find some pace, particularly in qualifying, although he seems good at keeping it on track (most of the time).

  8. Rosberg is higher profile driver than Nakajima, but sometime i feel that Nakajima does better job on track than Rosberg…

  9. Too many people are giving Rosberg the benefit of the doubt. What has he ever done? All I can remember him doing this year is losing umpteen front wings.

  10. Robert Mckay said on 9th July 2008, 17:29

    Rosberg’s a funny one actually. I had high hopes at the start of the year, and he initially delivered. But increasingly he’s went AWOL. To be fair he’s not been helped by starting a fair few races from the back for one reason or another, and Williams slump is painful (I still have the preseason Autosport with the cover proclaiming “New Williams Will Rock F1″, oops!), but 9 races in he’s tied with Nakajima for points. I think that’s disappointing, considering we were talking about him getting the drive Kovalainen is in at the moment. There’s flashes of brilliance from him, but not as many as expected.

    No doubt though that Piquet, Rosberg, Button and Sutil are all big disappointments so far.

  11. Drivers do not wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll be crap this season, wipe off a few wings and generally not try.” Every single one of them is doing his best to get the most out of the car at each race and it is silly to think they lose interest or ability overnight. It is luck that makes the difference between performance one season and the next and Rosberg just happens to have hit a rich vein of misfortune, ably assisted by the dwindling competitiveness of the Williams this year. He is still the same driver who impressed us so mightily last year.

    Part of his problem may be that he is trying too hard, aware of the expectations heaped on his shoulders – in that, he is doing the same thing as Hamilton, gaining experience in handling adversity. At some point, his luck will turn and then he’ll be flavour of the month again.

    I do not argue with Keith’s assessment here, since it is concerned with the drivers’ results so far this season, but we should remember that we are not ranking them according to our estimation of their ability and talent. Rosberg would have to remain near the top of any such list, regardless of how he does this year; he has proved that he has the speed necessary to succeed and experience will add the resilience to bounce back from hard times.

    As for Nakajima, I tipped him before the season began as being one to watch and so I enjoy seeing everyone appreciate his talent. But let’s not go overboard – he has a lot to learn yet and it will be a while before we can say he is as good as or better than Rosberg.

  12. F1Fan said on 9th July 2008, 19:44

    Button should be # 20. He is completely useless this year.

  13. This gives me an idea Keith. I can’t quite think how to summarise it for skribit but I’ll come up with something.

    I know you do a half way report, and an end of season report. But I wonder if perhaps you should publish an expectations report at the begining of the season.

    One of the things that happened last year which was interesting was that a lot of people quickly forgot how much they expected Alonso to decimate Lewis. Some people even predicted that Kimi and Massa were the more explosive pairing because both would be fighting for Ferrari love.

    I totally get how you are rating the drivers based on how well they have performed versus your personal pre-season yardstick. But I would very much like to see your yardstick (ooh er matron etc).

    So can we have, next year, a pre-season expectations led list. Not what you think they’ll do in the championship, but how you think they’ll be as drivers in F1.

    I’m not sure if you’ll want me to park that in Skribit for a year, but I happily will if you like.

  14. Internet said on 9th July 2008, 19:56

    @Rohan: How can you say Rosberg crashing out in Monaco wasn’t his fault?

  15. Daniel said on 9th July 2008, 23:45

    About Glock, perhaps because I’m a Massa fan and pay special attention to where he is running (what, incidentally, made me very sad in Silverstone – hope he spent his mistakes for the rest of the season there, but that’s another subject), I’ll never forget that Felipe only scored his fifth place in Montreal because Glock ran wide in turn 2 (I think), Trulli slowed down to avoid coliding with him, and Felipe made an oportunistic move on the italian.

    So, even Timo’s best result so far was stained by a mistake that costed his team mate a valuable point, and that would cost himself one, had he been directly in front of Massa.

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