2009 F1 driver rankings part 1: 25-16

So who was the worst F1 driver of 2009?

So who was the worst F1 driver of 2009?

Working out who was the best F1 driver is never easy – a driver typically only has one rival who has the same equipment, and even within teams two cars are not necessarily always the same.

And it’s been even harder this year with the sudden emergence of Brawn and Red Bull as front runners, and the complication of drivers missing races and switching teams.

So thanks to everyone who offered their suggestions for how to rank the best drivers of 2009. I’ve looked at your lists, weighed up the stats and re-watched the races to produce my verdict on the top races of the year. Starting in reverse order here are the bottom ten drivers of 2009 with my thoughts on their performances and a selection of your comments.

No rank: Nelson Piquet Jnr

It would be wrong to rate Nelson Piquet Jnr as if he were just another driver.

He has damaged Formula 1 with calculated cynicism, agreeing to crash a car on purpose and then confessing to it a year later in an attempt to damage his former team.

Regardless of the self-serving nature of his actions, the FIA granted him immunity. He escaped the ban faced by co-conspirators Flavio Braitore and Pat Symonds – but any team manager would be mad to hire him after this.

Spin in Melbourne (blaming the brakes), three spins in China (destroying multiple nose cones), calling Buemi inexperienced after their crash in Monaco, crying to the press before being fired, crying some more after being fired, then almost causing an entire team to drop out of Formula 1 (maybe still time for that to happen) in one of the biggest scandals in a scandal-ridden sport, while pretending to be a victim in a crash he caused, in a situation he should’ve been man enough to just say no.

Four words: Reject of the Year.
Pedro Andrade

24. Luca Badoer

He was rushed in at Ferrari after it became clear Michael Schumacher would not be able to race.

At first Badoer’s struggles at Valencia were explained away by him being unfamiliar with the track. But at Spa it became clear the problem was driver-related.

Giancarlo Fisichella’s subsequent struggles with the F60 gave some insight into the difficulty Badoer faced. But not enough to excuse him being whole seconds off the pace of the next-slowest car.

Yes Luca, it was the media’s fault you were dropped. Specifically the medium of television, through which we could all see how bad you were.

23. Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais made his last F1 start at the Nurburgring

Sebastien Bourdais made his last F1 start at the Nurburgring

No noticeable improvement over last year, he usually failed to beat his rookie team mate. It’s fair to ask why Toro Rosso get through so many drivers but even so it wasn’t a surprise to see Bourdais get dropped.

His second year could have gone either way, sadly it went bad.

22. Kazuki Nakajima

The only driver to start every race and not score a point. Given that his team mate racked up 34.5 and finished seventh in the championship, Nakajima’s dismal performance is hard to excuse.

Very close qualifying was Nakajima?s downfall. Rosberg got into Q3 14 times. Nakajima managed it four times. That margin left him with zero points.

21. Romain Grosjean

Grosjean got a laot of criticism for his lacklustre showings for Renault, especially at Brazil where he seemed to go backwards.

A realistic appraisal has to take into account he was driving a dog of a car for a team that was reeling from the Singapore revelations, and up against one of the very best in the business.

In that context, lapping within a third of a second of Alonso at Yas Island is not something we should criticise him too harshly for, especially when he had little opportunity to test the car before his debut.

After some decent performances in GP2 I did expect a bit from Grosjean, but he was thrown into the deep end against Alonso no less. He properly deserves another decent shot at least, like Alguersuari.

20. Jaime Alguersuari

Became the youngest driver to start a Grand Prix despite lurid predictions he would crash into rivals, run over his mechanics and usher in the apocalypse.

In fact he beat Sebastien Buemi home in their first race together as team mates. It didn’t happen again, largely because of Alguerusari’s poor finishing rate (five retirements from eight starts) though that was largely down to the car.

Alguersuari qualified at the back and stayed there. I wish that Bourdais had been kept on.

19. Kamui Kobayashi

Kamui Kobayashi impressed in Abu Dhabi

Kamui Kobayashi impressed in Abu Dhabi

A difficult driver to place: Kobayashi only raced twice and gave two very different performances. In Brazil he qualified well behind Jarno Trulli and was criticised for some questionable defensive driving.

But his Abu Dhabi drive was a revelation. He kept Kimi Raikkonen at bay at the start to become the best of the ‘one stop’ runners, put a vital pass on Jenson Button after the new world champion had pitted, and jumped up to sixth ahead of team mate Jarno Trulli by the chequered flag.

Some may feel 19th is too low but given he only started twice putting him any higher would be a bit presumptuous. As many of you mentioned, hopefully the loss of backers Toyota from the grid next year won’t keep him from finding a drive for 2010.

Little time but already a solid performance from him.
Pedal to the Vettel

18. Adrian Sutil

Sutil should have been the driver to score Force India’s first points. But a crash in the rain Shanghai and an utterly unnecessary run-in with Kimi Raikkonen at the Nurburgring put paid to that.

Even after becoming de facto team leader following Fisichella’s Ferrari move, Sutil continued to squander good qualifying performances with avoidable clashes – with Nick Heidfeld at Singapore, and at Brazil where he paid the price of giving a rival no ‘racing room’.

Showed plenty of promise but still several mistakes and crashes.
David A

17. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Vitantonio Liuzzi was on course for a strong finish at Monza before retiring

Vitantonio Liuzzi was on course for a strong finish at Monza before retiring

Parachuted in at Force India for the last few rounds, he ran well at Monza before his car failed. He finished more times than Sutil in their five races together, was right behind his team mate at Suzuka and beat him at Yas Island.

There are many people who think Toro Rosso gave up on Liuzzi too soon, and his brief appearance in F1 this year suggests he deserves a spot on the grid in 2010.

Liuzzi gets my understated performance of the year award. His first race at Monza back in an F1 car was fantastic, he definitely would have picked up points and possibly a podium if his engine hadn’t blown up.

16. Sebastien Buemi

All told, a decent maiden season for the young Swiss driver. Especially given how the STR4 struggled to emulate the success of its predecessor, and was noted for its unreliability.

He got off to a strong start by scoring on his debut and adding an eighth in the rain at China. A long point-less spell followed but towards the end of the year the car came good and suddenly Buemi’s name was getting noticed in practice sessions.

At Suzuka he impressed by reaching the top ten – despite several very wayward moments and a crash late in the session. But he was back in the points in the final two races and qualified a fine sixth at Interlagos.

Good first season in F1.

Join us for part two covering positions 15 to six tomorrow. The top five will be published on Friday – along with your chance to vote for the driver of the year.

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74 comments on 2009 F1 driver rankings part 1: 25-16

  1. S Hughes said on 25th November 2009, 16:44

    Totally disagree with you about Piquet Jr. He wasn’t the power in that situation. Flavio was much more to blame and Symonds. I hope he gets another drive.

    Badoer was no worse than Fisichella.

    I think your rankings are just based on what points the drivers have got not what they did with the cars and what circumstances they were driving under i.e. no testing, being complete rookies with no testing. At this rate, you will have, predictably, Button as no. 1, Vettel as no. 2, etcetera etcetera. How can you have all the rookies at the bottom – I think this is a bad ranking example.

  2. Tod Fod said on 25th November 2009, 16:54

    I really dont think this is a good ranking system. For example, I cannot believe that Kovalainen isnt in the bottom few performers, and instead, you have Buemi and Sutil, who have been really impressive whenever their car was competitive. It is hard to rank drivers without taking their cars into context, so I honestly think your ranking is highly flawed

  3. Simon Hull said on 25th November 2009, 17:05

    For Sutil to be ranked behind Liuzzi is slightly unfair. Sutil seems to be very underrated. People say he crashes too much, but that shows signs of aggression. Also, most of the crashes he was in weren’t his fault. Even Hamilton was struggling in Shanghai, Raikkonen rammed him at the Nurburgring and Trulli speared into him in Interlagos. Get off his back people and recognise what a great job he has done this year in getting a Force India into the points. More of the same next year please.

    • Patrickl said on 25th November 2009, 20:38

      Sutil by his own accoutn said that he was pushing in Shanghai. That’s just plain dumb and asking exactly for the accident that he ultimately had (pushing on worn wet weather tyres = crash).

      Sutil rammed Raikkonen at the Nurburgring. On purpose. Again, he admitted this himself. Well, he admitted that he “blocked” Raikkonen, but he tried to “block” him right off the track.

      I guess Brazil was a driver error, but still. Sutil wasn’t paying attention, he messed up an overtake on Raikkonen, then missed a gear shift and lost even more time. Of course a car is going to show up right beside you after all that.

  4. Keith, Sutil and Heidfeld collided at Singapore not Shanghai, unless I have a bad memory.

  5. No rank: Nelson Piquet Jnr

    Bravo!!!! Thanks Keith, I could say that loudly but not clearly.

  6. NP jr. was the worst cause he’s a cheat. Luca Badoer was probably the worst driver. He’s getting older and been away from it too long. The best? Over the course of the entire season it had to be Lewis Hamilton. He made the best of a bad car in the beginning of the season. (Judge him against his team mate in equal equipment. Kovi wasn’t in the same zip code.) In the later part of the year, when the car got really developed Hamilton really put the hammer down. If the car would have ben good from the outset, he would have won a 2nd WC. Lets wait till tomorrow to see what Keith thinks!

  7. Sush Meerkat said on 25th November 2009, 20:09

    A bit more exposure for Bernt Maylander would be nice, no one ever rights about him, the guy is a brilliant driver.

    Remember him getting out of Speeds out of control STR at the Nurbumring.

  8. John H said on 25th November 2009, 20:13

    Nakajima was worse than Bourdais. Otherwise, spot on I think.

  9. Terry Fabulous said on 25th November 2009, 21:12

    I’m amazed that Heikki Kovaleinen (Love isn’t always on time!) isn’t ranked down here.

    He had a seat in one the main teams on the gird and was just terrible. I would rank Sutil, Liuzzi, Buemi and Kobayashi all above him.

  10. The Ram said on 25th November 2009, 21:54

    Sutil should be rated much higher! He was one of the best to watch and he had a very noticeable presence.

  11. Pedel to the Vettel said on 25th November 2009, 22:52

    Good list keith i would have it slightly different but its you choice not mine. cant wait for your next picks tommorow.

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th November 2009, 23:02

    Hmm quite a bit of positive feedback here but I suspect it’s all going to go pear-shaped once we get to the business end of the list!

  13. wasiF1 said on 26th November 2009, 1:32

    So far so good.I expected Kobayashi a bit further forward than where he is.& Nelson don’t even deserve to be on that list,why you put him there?

  14. chuck norris could kick kobayashis ass and so could I

  15. Damon said on 26th November 2009, 8:53

    Why did you put Nakajima before Bourdais?!
    Nakajima didn’t score a point during the whole year, whilst Bourdais scored points twice in only half of the season – in argubly the worst car in the field, whereas Nakajima drove the Williams, on which Rosberg was able to score 34.5pts this year.

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