2008 half-term driver rankings part 2

Felipe Massa,  Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

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 ?ǣ and share your thoughts on the drivers? performances below.

10 Nick Hedifeld

2007 ranking: 4

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.

Ben in the forum said:

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

2007 ranking: 14

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

2007 ranking: 9

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 ?ǣ 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.

M Smith on the forum said:

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

2007 ranking: 12

Jarno Trulli, Toyota, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

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 ?ǣ 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

2007 ranking: 7

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 ?ǣ 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

2007 ranking: 3

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Magny-Cours, 2008, 470150

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 ?ǣ combative and opportunistic, stealing a fourth place that shouldn?t have been there by piling pressure on Kovalainen.

4 Felipe Massa

2007 ranking: 6

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.

Francis in the forum said:

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.

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

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40 comments on 2008 half-term driver rankings part 2

  1. Oliver said on 10th July 2008, 18:34

    Fastest laps are often a useless statistiic unless it is backed up by a win or good placing. Its possible for a driver to drive a second off the pace for 65 laps, then set the fastest lap on the 66th, and still finish 1 minute behind and almost lapped.

    Not saying Kimi has often lapped so far back behind the pace, but if u observe closely his fastest laps have been set after many mediocre performance during the races, Silverstone inclusive. where he was consistenly behind in pace all through the races but for 3 or four laps when the tract was drying up.
    He is not very organized is my summation.

  2. Dorian G said on 10th July 2008, 19:32

    @Oliver: Yes, you are correct with your metaphor in your first paragraph which is why I said that it can be used as a guide but is certainly not definitive. Really, my point was that having set so many fastest laps throughout this season, is hardly a co-incidence. Alone it’s not enough to say ‘well Kimi is the fastest’ but there is plenty evidence to back up that statement. It’s just what I happened to throw out there at the time. Perhaps though, it wasn’t the best tool I could’ve used to state my case ;-P

  3. Robert McKay said on 10th July 2008, 21:53

    Trulli is indeed the big surprise this year. Given DC and Glock’s relative struggles in comparison to their teammates, the battle for 4th in the WCC is basically becoming Trulli versus Webber.

  4. Melanie said on 10th July 2008, 22:25

    I would have placed Trulli and Webber above Alonso.

    The problem is how do you evaluate Alonso? Next to Piquet he is genius, but compare him to Webber who also uses a Renault engine then Alonso suddenly doesn’t look so good.

    He did well in Australia yes, but he has also had a few misses in Monaco and Canada.

    I will rather wait for the top 3 before commenting on them.

  5. Daniel said on 11th July 2008, 0:06

    Great ranking. I’ll agree with most of the comments above that Kubica was, so far, the best driver… Made much less mistakes than his opponents and, far from having the best car, is only two points behind the leader.
    Otherwise, I would pick Hamilton instead of Massa as fourth best, because Lewis’ mistakes were more ridiculous than Felipe’s… But, If I had to respect your choice of Massa as 4th best, my top 3 would be:

    1) Kubica
    2) Raikkonen
    3) Hamilton

    Apart from your ranking, my top 4 would be:

    1) Kubica
    2) Massa
    3) Raikkonen
    4) Hamilton

  6. F1Fan said on 11th July 2008, 1:31

    Internet,

    (a) Alonso is trying very hard to compensate for having a mediocre car by being ultra-aggressive. That’s why he has lost some points and had some crashes. When he was in a top car he hardly ever made a mistake.

    (b) Kimi’s speed was not a McLaren product. Dennis hired Kimi because he was phenomenaly quick when he was w/ Sauber-Petronas. When I ran into Nico Rosberg at the airport after the ’06 Montreal GP, I asked him who he thought the fastest driver was and without hesitating he said “Kimi is usually monstrously quick”. And that was a year when Michael was still racing.

  7. F1Fan said on 11th July 2008, 2:01

    Internet,

    one more thing, since you claim Hamilton is fastest:

    In 26 races that Kimi and Lewis have raced in since last year:

    – Kimi fastest laps: 12
    – Lewis fastest laps: 2

    A 6-to-1 ratio in Kimi’s favor pretty devastatingly proves that he is indeed the fastest driver in race trim. And that is with usually a higher fuel load than the other drivers.

  8. I’m not sure Trulli is as good as some are starting to say, I think he just looks that much better than Glock and hasn’t been caught blocking yet.

    Not to revive the Massa debate, but I think he needs to move lower on the list. It’s not that I don’t like him, it’s that I think on any team in F1 he’d be the second driver, and that our impression of his performance is more about the red machine he drives.

  9. Wen said on 11th July 2008, 2:40

    Heidfeld has a real knack for overtaking two drivers at once doesn’t he? In Malaysia, Canada, and twice in Silverstone

  10. the limit said on 11th July 2008, 4:16

    Robert Kubica is on the top of my list this season so far, in that he has made the least mistakes. Raikkonen, Massa, and Hamilton have all made gaffes, and on more than one occasion.
    Kubica’s victory in Canada was not unexpected, infact it had been coming all season long. To be brutally honest, the top drivers have not really hit their stride so far, not one of them.
    When Raikkonen won in France and Britain last year on the bounce, you had the sense that Kimi had come alive, finally, following a mixed first half of the season.
    The pressure that he provided ensured that he prevailed, when his rivals made critical errors.
    This season has yet to witness a driver make a serious charge, but there is still time.
    This season is so enjoyable for the simple reason that there is so little to choose from between the leading contenders. They are all pretty much even.
    Fernando Alonso reminds me a little of Raikkonen back in 2006, when he knew that the car wasn’t good enough to win the championship. How frustrating it must be to be in that position, that some would say, and with some
    justification, self inflicted.
    The performance at times has been there. The result in Melbourne, the pole position in Barcelona, the performance in Canada up until the spin of course.
    No, Kubica has the least weight on his shoulders. Raikkonen has a championship to defend, Hamilton the expectation of McLaren and the English masses, Massa
    with the prospect that his seat is in possible risk from Fernando.
    BMW Sauber have made it quite plain that they want Kubica back next year, not so concerning Nick Heidfeld.
    Kubica is this season’s dark horse.

  11. Jian said on 11th July 2008, 5:19

    Alonso should be ranked lower, sure he is pushing it real hard and therefore making mistakes since he’s got nothing to loose being a double world champion compared to Webber and Trulli who has everything to win. Nevertheless the ranking is based on this season and not excuses from the past and his driving has been erractic to say the least.

    Top group(3+2): Kubica, Hamilton, Kimi
    Runner-ups: Massa, Heidfeld (3 2nds, taking valuable points, should definitely be higher up the list)

    2nd group(3+2): Trulli, Webber, Alonso
    Runner-ups: Barrichello (overachieving), Heikki (underwhelming, no fighting spirit, embarassing moments in Canada and Silverstone being overtaken while overtaking, maybe due to problems with tyrewear but he needs to sort it out fast)

    Greatest suprise out of top 10: Nakajima

    I mean come-on Keith how do you justify Heidfeld in a BMW 36p being 10th (3 podiums 2nd) and Heikki in a McLaren 24p at 6th (1podium 3rd) if you base the rankings on this season? Great interesting article otherwise, maybe you could compile a half-season review of the races as well? We’ve had a great many memorable ones this year already I believe, half of the races have been on the good-great scale which is more than the normal ratio of 1 in 4 if you ask me.
    Maybe due to global warming and freak weather but still;)

  12. Rohan said on 11th July 2008, 10:22

    Vettel in the top 10, but Nico and Kaz aren’t? Seriously? While Vettel has been quick he has only had one decent result whereas both Nico and Kaz have had a number of good results. Ofc, this might just be my Williams bias, but I still reckon our drivers should be ranked higher.

  13. Nirupam said on 11th July 2008, 10:41

    @Jian
    Let me tell you first I am an Alonso fan. And I strongly agree with Keith with Alonso ranking as 5. Ok he did make some mistakes but at the same time he made the otherwise very much uncompetitive R28 look like a potential podium finisher in at least 3/4 occassions this year. The two out of nine races he crashed are Spanish GP and in Montreal. In Montreal podium looked certain for him untill that spin which is caused by poor Renault strategy. Same strategic blunder from Renault lost Alonso (as well as Renault’s) some points which would have been enough to get past Webber and Trulli..

  14. Internet said on 11th July 2008, 10:55

    @F1Fan & Nirupam:

    A driver can only go as fast as the car can go. The R28 is not as uncompetitive as it looks. The main reason Alonso looks like he’s “placing the car where it shouldn’t be” is because Piquet had been seriously underperforming.

    and I still disagree with F1Fan about the fastest laps. It seems Kimi is the only one who is bothered about this particular statistic. Usually he sets it in the dying laps pushing really car when he has the least fuel and the track is in the best condition while the leader is cruising to a finish. If we look at pole positions (where the fastest lap actually matters) while both of them raced there isn’t much difference.

  15. Michael K said on 11th July 2008, 11:47

    Oliver…
    “Not saying Kimi has often lapped so far back behind the pace, but if u observe closely his fastest laps have been set after many mediocre performance during the races, Silverstone inclusive. where he was consistenly behind in pace all through the races but for 3 or four laps when the tract was drying up.
    He is not very organized is my summation.”

    What an utter load of rubbish.

    Now here are his latest fastest laps:

    1. Spain, Kimi won, no discussion
    2. Turkey, Kimi came third, not a great performance, but not really bad
    3. Monaco, a little mistake, out
    4. Kanada, drove very well, got taken out by Lewis
    5. Magny Cours, blew everyone away, exhaust broke and still rescued 2nd
    6. Silverstone, drove well, would’ve been challenging Hamilton if Ferrari wouldn’t have cocked up the strategy

    So, out of the last six fastest laps, there were two outstanding races, two very good races, one ok and one mediocre. Now I can look into more of his fastest laps, Oliver, but if you look closely, you wouldn’t want to do that.

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