Part two of the 2008 F1 driver rankings looks at numbers ten to five, plus more of your verdicts on the drivers of 2008.
Don’t miss the final four tomorrow!
10. Mark Webber
Mid-season ranking: 8
In the first half of the year Webber was a regular fixture in Q3, and consistently made it into the lower reaches of the points. But as the season progressed and Renault and Toro Rosso found their feet, Red Bull seemed unable to match their progress.
Unfortunately for Webber he spoiled his best qualifying result – second at Silverstone – by spinning on the first lap of the wet race. Aside from that he usually got out of the RB4 everything it had to offer.
Read Andrew Tsvyk’s comprehensive analysis of Webber’s season: Mark Webber’s 2008 season: an analysis
9. Jarno Trulli
Mid-season ranking: 7
His best season since Briatore fired him.
In 2008 Trulli returned to the kind of exceptional qualifying form we expect of him, and backed it up with some excellent points-grabbing drives. The best of which was his podium finish at Magny-Cours which brought some cheer to the team at the first Grand Prix following the death of team founder Ove Andersson.
Toyota faded late in the year but Trulli interrupted the championship battle in Interlagos by taking second on the grid. But his junior team mate Timo Glock out-raced him to the flag, suggesting Trulli might have a tougher time in 2009.
8. Nick Heidfeld
Mid-season ranking: 10
Robert Kubica scored BMW’s maiden win at Montreal with Heidfeld second. On the podium the German seemed conflicted between delight for his team and disappointment for himself, as he had led Kubica earlier in the race.
Both BMW drivers were models of consistency in a year when the title contenders threw points away at every other race. But Heidfeld was the most dependable of all: he finished every race, surpassing Michael Schumacher’s record for consistency in the process. Lack of qualifying speed was his Achilles Heel this year, with his elimination in Q1 at the Hungaroring a low point. By the end of the season he had the problem sorted, and matched Kubica more closely on race performance.
7. Heikki Kovalainen
Mid-season ranking: 6
Biggest disappointment has to be Kovalainen
Early in the season it seemed misfortune was the only thing holding Kovalainen back from taking on Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. The safety car ruined his race at Melbourne, he suffered a puncture at Istanbul, and then came his bruising shunt at the Circuit de Catalunya. That bad luck was sustained over the course of the year – he suffered three race-ending car failures, Hamilton none.
But he usually struggled to match Hamilton’s race pace, and often failed to take up the challenge when Hamilton was out of the picture, as at Fuji. Hungary was the exception, where he snatched a win which, though fortunate, was just recompense for his earlier misfortune.
6. Kimi Raikkonen
Mid-season ranking: 2
When was the last time we saw a driver win the championship one year and then, at the same team and with the same team mate, fail to uphold his position as the team’s leading driver the following season? Even the Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo joked that we did not see the real Raikkonen in 2008.
It’s hard to draw a line between how far Raikkonen’s problems were his own doing, and how much of it was the car’s fault. Failures that robbed him of points at Melbourne and Valencia, and the broken exhaust that hindered him at Magny-Cours were clearly not his fault.
But the driving errors at Melbourne, Monte-Carlo, Silverstone, Spa and Singapore, these all were. Compounding those problems was an often mystifying lack of pace in qualifying, especially in the middle part of the season at the Hungaroring and Hockenheimring.
He fared better in the final rounds, comfortably out-pacing Felipe Massa at Shanghai, for example. But scoring only two wins to Massa’s six it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion Raikkonen simply didn’t get enough out of his car this year.
5. Sebastian Vettel
Mid-season ranking: 9
Great win at Monza. Nice performance at Interlagos too. A bit of a bad start to the season, but form halfway through he really started to show his potential
The opening races were disastrous for Vettel. He was eliminated on the first lap at Melbourne, Bahrain and Catalunya, and at Sepang his Ferrari engine blew.
At the sixth race, Monaco, the new STR3 chassis arrived and his season was transformed. Vettel finished an excellent fifth on his first appearance at the Monte-Carlo track – in the rain. When a more potent version of the Ferrari engine was added later in the year, Vettel stretched his wings. He frequently appeared in the final part of qualifying and began scoring points regularly.
The Italian Grand Prix was one of those races where the conditions were so unusual that almost every driver on the grid had a realistic shot at winning the race. It’s significant, then, that the man who did was Vettel. Yes, getting the strategy right was down to luck as much as judgement, but you can’t argue against how fine his driving was all weekend.
He was in excellent form at Interlagos as well, snatching fifth from Lewis Hamilton in the dying stages, which became fourth. Faced with performances like these it’s easy to forget Vettel hasn’t been in the sport very long. And it’s tempting to make comparisons with the last German driver to score his maiden win in his first full season: Michael Schumacher.
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