The summer break is the traditional mid-point of the season, and a good time to take stock of who’s doing well and who’s struggling so far this year.
Here’s part one of my rankings of the F1 drivers so far this year including some of your observations from the forum:
21. Nelson Piquet Jnr
Two of last year’s rookies failed to make it through their second season. Piquet complained with some justification that he never had the equipment or support to compete with Alonso. But there has to be more to explain to consistent gulf between them than Alonso getting first choice for new parts. However low Renault’s expectations were of Piquet, he failed to even meet those.
20. Sebastien Bourdais
Shown the door by Toro Rosso halfway into the season, Bourdais had been struggling to beat his rookie team mate Sebastien Buemi. Given that he only narrowly kept Takuma Sato from pinching his seat over the winter, it was no great surprise to see Bourdais elbowed out of F1. A return looks unlikely.
19. Jaime Alguersuari
The least-experienced driver to appear in F1 for many years did an entirely respectable job first time out in Hungary. Otherwise it’s too early to assess how good he is.
18. Adrian Sutil
More occasional promise and sad stories of what might have been. But while Sutil was unlucky to be eliminated by Kimi Raikkonen at Monaco last year, his crashes out of the points at Shanghai and the Nurburgring this year were mainly his own doing.
Sutil would never be near a point scoring opportunity under normal conditions, but his seventh place and race tempo in Germany was something special. He might outperform Fisichella in qualifying, but he is absolutely error prone during race and crashes too many times.
17. Kazuki Nakajima
Has had a couple of good races and seems to have improved since last year – until you consider how much better Nico Rosberg is doing with the same car. It’s fashionable to knock drivers who get their F1 seats thanks to benefactors like, in Nakajima’s case, Toyota. But you have to ask whether he’d still be in F1 without them.
Rosberg is getting great results and he is not even getting points.
16. Sebastien Buemi
Made short work of team mate Bourdais and scored points twice in the first three races. Has had a couple of rookie indiscretions and would probably have benefited from having a more experienced team mate. Ten races into his F1 career he finds himself cast in the role of team leader, which is a huge ask.
A reasonable debut season; as much as can be expected from a rookie in a poor car, and he was better than Bourdais.
15. Giancarlo Fisichella
Fisichella has been back on form this year and has come closest to breaking Force India’s points drought with a fine drive at Monaco. Before McLaren’s recent breakthrough he looked on the cusp of winning that first point.
Fisichella impresses me too. I find it bizarre that people say that Fisichella should leave and that Sutil should go to a team like McLaren. The only thing that Sutil has is the odd strategy gamble now and then where he shows himself in the spotlight just before he crashes out. Fisichella drives solid races in that back marker car without resorting to lame stunts.
14. Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen must’ve been hoping for rather more from 2009 so far than nine points. The lack of results is, of course, largely down to the problems with the MP4/24 at the beginning of the season.
Team mate Lewis Hamilton has tended to get the latest parts as they became available, but the Hungarian Grand Prix demonstrated why. Despite being given the same specification as Hamilton, who won, Kovalainen was over half a minute behind in fifth.
13. Robert Kubica
Stung by BMW’s disastrous loss of form, Kubica has often struggled to get the better of team mate Nick Heidfeld. This after coming within a few laps of taking second – or perhaps even better – at Melbourne. Seems to lack the motivation or ability to wring the best out of a poor car.
12. Timo Glock
There was clear improvement from Glock throughout 2008, and more of the same was expected this year. But his season has stalled as Toyota has found it increasingly difficult to replicate their early-season form with the TF109.
Third place at Malaysia was far less than he deserved after an astute tyre choice in wet conditions (which is becoming something of a trademark). But since then he’s struggled to keep up with team mate Trulli.
11. Nick Heidfeld
Has been more consistent than his team mate in the truculent F1.09. Heidfeld rode his luck to take half a second place at Malaysia. That aside it’s been slim pickings.
Heidfeld has proved that he still has talent by beating Kubica, but BMW are performing so badly it’s hard to choose between them. Heidfeld’s podium in Malaysia was a stroke of genius on his part, gaining about 10 positions by being more aware than everyone else on the track and in the pits.
10. Rubens Barrichello
Infamously railed against his Brawn team for a strategic miscue at the Nurburgring – but arguably the weakest link in the team is Barrichello himself. Has led Jenson Button home only once and trails him 0-6 on wins.
Awful starts, bad tyre management. And has been spewing vitriol against his team all season. But he minimised the damage caused to Brawn GP’s constructors’ championship challenge on the only weekend when Red Bull reigned supreme and Button was off-pace (Silverstone).
9. Kimi Raikkonen
Looks less and less like the stealthy fighter that snatched the 2007 championship – on a race track at least. On the rough stuff in Finland he fared better and it would be no surprise to see him switch codes sooner rather than later.
That said, he rose to the occasion at Hungary, bringing Ferrari some cheer with a fine second place. What a pity we won’t get to see him take on Michael Schumacher in the same car.
Do you agree with the rankings so far? Have your say below and check back tomorrow for the top ten.
The rankings at the end of last year