Continuing the driver rankings for the first part of 2008 here is the first part of the top ten.
Don’t miss the top three tomorrow – and share your thoughts on the drivers’ performances below.
10 Nick Hedifeld
Last year Heidfeld surprised many by leading his team mate Robert Kubica home home more often than not. But over the winter the banning of traction control and associated loss of engine braking, plus the transition from the F1.07 to F1.08, all seems to have played into Kubica’s hands.
Heidfeld has mainly struggled with getting his tyres up to temperature on qualifying runs. After taking time at a test to address this he believes he has now conquered the problem, and his Q2 time at Silverstone within hundredths of Kubica supports his claim, but the damage to his season has already been done.
Most disappointing driver so far this year. He is in his eighth year in F1, I think he may be a steady Eddie – in F1 for ages with little big success. Sad about this though because he seems like a cool guy and he blew everyone away in F3000.
9 Sebastian Vettel
Vettel struggled to get to the end of races in the first part of the season, but that was largely down to problems not of his own making.
But he has flourished since the STR3 arrived and took it to fifth on its first appearance in Monaco, from 19th in the grid. Vettel clearly revelled in the wet conditions and it was a pit not to see what he might hae achieved from eighth on the grid in the rain at Silverstone before David Coulthard took him out. Vettel is likely to take Coulthard’s place at Red Bull next year.
8 Mark Webber
At last Webber has a car that is both quick and consistent. And he is making excellent use of it, finishing in the points with greater regularity than at any other time in his career to date.
He is one of the best qualifiers in Formula 1 – as his fine second place on the grid last weekend showed. His disastrous performance on the Sunday has been the only blip in his otherwise very solid form.
Webber has really impressed me this season. Having the same amount of points as Kovalinen show how good a season he is having. 4th was on the cards at Canada if Red Bull had moved him to a one-stopper. Madness there.
7 Jarno Trulli
Suddenly Toyota is fourth in the constructors’ championship. How did that happen? Most of it is down to Trulli, who has regularly beaten his junior team mate into the top ten.
He even seems to have consigned the ‘Trulli train’ to history – after qualifying fourth at Magny-Cours he raced to the podium against the expectations of many. I’m going to have to stop making jokes about it in the Live Blog.
6 Heikki Kovalainen
Nine races in and Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren career has yielded a single podium. But he has been plagued by misfortune in a way his illustrious team mate has not: an ill-timed safety car appearance at Melbourne, electrical failure on the grid at Monaco, and of course that disastrous wheel failure at Barcelona.
He has shown enough pace to worry Lewis Hamilton on occasions – out-qualifying him with more fuel on board at Istanbul for example. There have been fewer mistakes from Kovalainen too although he just couldn’t live with his team mate’s speed in the wet at Silverstone.
5 Fernando Alonso
He may be back at Renault but, as last year, there are some tensions between driver team, albeit far less destructive ones. Alonso seems to be preoccupied with getting the best results at individual races rather than consistently gathering points in the lower half of the top eight. He is a twice champion after all. But a more conservative approach might have him and Renault higher in their respective championships.
The gambles haven’t always worked and have brought him into conflict with the team. He criticised the strategy used at Montreal and repeatedly asked for extreme wet weather tyres at Monaco before the car got away from him while he was on full wets. Spinning on the formation lap at his home race was another lowlight. But the season opener at Melbourne showed Alonso in his best light – combative and opportunistic, stealing a fourth place that shouldn’t have been there by piling pressure on Kovalainen.
4 Felipe Massa
Massa has had a down-up-down kind of season. His first two races were terrible, all the fears about him struggling to cope with a traction control-free F1 car apparently realised. He binned his F2008 at the first corner at Melbourne, and threw away second place at Sepang with a spin.
After that it was if some clicked and suddenly Massa could win as he pleased. Was this just because of tracks like Istanbul and Bahrain where he seems to shine? The jury’s still out on that one. Confusing the situation further, after a composed drive to third at a wet Monaco he looked all sea in the rain at Silverstone and finished a disastrous 13th after five spins. Nonetheless, he is still a joint leader of the championship.
I’m also impressed by Felipe Massa , since the first two races he’s much more consistent with his pace across the calendar – not just winning in his traditional haunts.
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