2009 F1 driver rankings part 2: 15-6

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

How should we rate Massa, who only raced half the season?
How should we rate Massa, who only raced half the season?

We began the countdown of the top drivers of 2009 yesterday looking at the least impressive racers of the year.

Today we cover the other drivers who failed to make it into the top five – with more of your comments and ratings of the class of 2009.

15. Giancarlo Fisichella

Fisichella’s pole position for Force India at Spa was surely the great upset of the season. And he came oh-so-close to opening the team’s points account with a win. He had threatened to get the job done earlier in the season, finishing a ninth at Monaco with eighth-placed Sebastien Bourdais in his sights.

More would surely have followed had he stayed at Force India but the lure of Ferrari proved too great. However Fisichella struggled with the F60, particularly under braking as we saw when he crashed in practice at Monza. He failed to score a single point for the Scuderia.

So remember his season for that wonderful weekend in Spa, and not for the damp squib which was his switch to Ferrari.

He had the race of his life, then moved to Ferrari and reminded us all why he had ended up at Force India in the first place.
Ned Flanders

14. Timo Glock

As was widely expected, Glock was usually behind super-qualifier Trulli on Saturday. But on race day he often moved up the field – indeed he gained an average of almost four places per race.

He deserved much better at Malaysia where – just like at Brazil last year – he benefitted by going a different way to his rivals when the rain fell. He passed Nick Heidfeld for second on lap 32 when the red flags came out, but was dropped to third place by the count-back rule.

Glock did get a second place at Singapore by avoiding the kind of mistakes made by Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso.

If it wasn’t for Japan, he may have scored a few more points. Passed Trulli at Bahrain at the start. Should have won but the team put on the wrong tyre compound on his second stint and ruined his race.

13. Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen had a disappointing final year with McLaren
Heikki Kovalainen had a disappointing final year with McLaren

Rating Kovalainen is a tricky job because we know new parts at McLaren usually went to Hamilton. But how much was this a refection on Kovalainen’s driving, and how far was it the cause of he gulf between him and his team mate?

In truth, probably more the former than the latter. He rarely looked on a par with Hamilton with a notable exception at Shanghai where Kovalainen kept the car on the drenched track while his team mate had several spins.

He scored points steadily in the second half of the season when the MP4-24 came good, and it’s fair to say he wasn’t quite as cavalier about finishing races as his team mate could be. He never made it as far as the podium, though – something Hamilton managed five times.

He did have a few good races when the car was really at its worse in particular at China. But when the car improved Kovalainen really didn’t put in the performances. Perhaps the cars doesn’t really suit him, but he could have at least gotten it to the podium at particularly Valencia and Monza but he lost out to Raikkonen in a much slower Ferrari. He also did well in qualifying a few times during the year. It cant really be easy to be pared up with perhaps currently, the best driver in the field.

12. Jarno Trulli

Started the season brightly with top-four finishes in three of the first four races. With a better strategy at Bahrain and without a qualifying penalty at Melbourne it could have been even better.

Despite suffering more than team mate Glock did from the wild swings in performance of the TF109 from track to track, Trulli still amassed more points. Getting beaten by rookie Kamui Kobayashi in the final race was a blow, however.

Best wine-producing F1 driver again. A couple of very strong drives, and a couple of occasions when he had a winning car. Shame they didn’t coincide. Appears to have gone mad, I hope we haven’t seen the last of Jarno’s Photo Casebook.

Don’t you mean “whine?”
Penelope Pitstop

11. Nick Heidfeld

As ever, you get the fiercest arguments over whether a driver was better than his team mate when the two are very closely matched (think of Alonso and Hamilton in 2007, for example). It’s been pointed out by a lot of people on this site that although Kubica generally gets more column inches, Heidfeld out-scored him this year.

But if this list were a simple ranking of the drivers in order of how many points they’d scored it would be a rather lazy and simplistic one. Heidfeld might have scored more but for me Kubica showed more potential, and benefitted from a little less good fortune.

Heidfeld rode his luck to take a (half-points) second place at Sepang. Unlike Kubica he was able to use BMW’s KERS at the beginning of the season, but this was soon dropped entirely.

It was slim pickings from then on with the troublesome F1.09. His strong suit was his impressively consistent finishing – and a record run of 41 classified finishes on the trot which only ended when Sutil crashed into him.

Another season where he drove great while almost not being noticed at all.

10. Robert Kubica

Yes, Heidfeld scored two more points than he did. But Kubica had one more mechanical failure and was eliminated from a likely second place at Melbourne.

While it’s true Kubica often didn’t get as much out of the F1.09 as Heidfeld did when the car was at its worst, he could be relied upon to do better when the car was closer to the front.

He was especially impressive at Interlagos, where he got his BMW ahead of Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn on pure pace. It was one of the few occasions when he looked like the driver who topped this chart last year.

There were days when he couldn’t beat Heidfeld – and vice-versa. But on balance for me Kubica edges it as the better of the two BMW drivers this year.

Terrible car and terrible luck. Could have done a lot better.
Pedal to the Vettel

9. Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen hit a purple patch after Massa was injured
Kimi Raikkonen hit a purple patch after Massa was injured

The curious thing about Raikkonen’s season was how he came to life after Massa was injured in qualifying at Hungary. Suddenly Raikkonen was getting regular podiums – plus his customary victory at Spa.

Did Raikkonen up his game during Massa’s absence? Or was he flattered by comparison with less talented team mates – or, to put it another way, would an uninjured Massa have had the beating of him?

After Ferrari halted development on the F60 Raikkonen’s form dipped again at the end of the season, with a particularly disappointing final race at Yas Island.

The middle part of the season shows he still has the potential to be one of F1’s most formidable drivers, if someone can coax it out of him more regularly. Having him sat on the sidelines when there are plenty of F1 cars he could race is a waste of talent.

Was poor to begin with but had an incredible second half of the season in what was a very difficult and underdeveloped car, as demonstrated by Fisi and Badoer.

8. Felipe Massa

It was a tough start to the season for last year’s championship runner-up with no points in the first four races, partly thanks to a pair of car failures. But from then Massa’s results reflected the consistent progress he and Ferrari were making: sixth, fourth, sixth, fourth and then third at the Nurburgring.

Then came that sickening crash at the Hungaroring which brought his season to an abrupt end.

Early in his recovery he was told team mate Raikkonen had finished second at Hungary. Massa replied that meant he would have won if he’d raced. We are left to wonder what might have happened, and whether his injureis and enforced absence from the cockpit will have blunted his edge.

Was on course to finish fifth in the title race after out-performing his team mate.
David A

7. Nico Rosberg

In his fourth season of F1, Rosberg reached new heights of speed and consistency – for which he has already been rewarded with a promotion to the championship-winners for 2010.

Though he got some stick for frequently topping practice sessions yet never translating it into pole position or a win, Rosberg brought his car home in the points for eight races in a row and single-handedly scored enough points to put Williams seventh in the constructors’ championship.

Yet he managed to go the whole season without reaching the podium. His mistake coming out of the pits at Singapore cost him his best chance of a top-three finish, but that was one of few significant errors from Rosberg this year.

Pushed to the limits, outclassed his team mate.

6. Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello withstood pressure from Button to win at Monza
Rubens Barrichello withstood pressure from Button to win at Monza

Barrichello came on strong in the second part of the season but he’d already lost a lot of ground to Jenson Button.

He was fortunate to salvage second at Australia after a poor start and a collision with Mark Webber.

Further slow getaways at Istanbul (losing nine places) and Spa (ten) meant he squandered the hard work he did on Saturdays. He was usually stronger than Button in qualifying – managing an average starting position of 4.5 to Button’s 5.7.

But despite staying in contention for the championship until the penulimate race he only beat Button four times in the 15 occasions both drivers finished. Two of those were his victories in Valencia and Monza, both of which were impressive – particularly the latter where he withstood race-winning pressure from his team mate.

I can’t believe he is still so hungry after so many years. Let down by his race pace a few too many times.

Read the first part of the list here: 2009 F1 driver rankings part 1: 25-16

161 comments on “2009 F1 driver rankings part 2: 15-6”

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  1. Kimi was top-5, at least, in 09. 2nd only to Lewis in a car that saw zero development for the last 6 races at least. Of the other drivers you rate higher than Kimi (places up to 6) show me one who actually won a race, let alone in a very mediocre car.

    1. Just one word about the ranking of Kimi’s year. Distressing.

    2. Terry Fabulous
      26th November 2009, 8:51

      Gday F1Fan.

      Cmon!!!! He was being beaten by Massa and only got his act together later in the season to beat two guys totally out of their depth.

      A top 5 effort?

      Also, Vettel, Button, Webber and Hamilton all won races and Alonso completely smashed his teammates and drove the wheels off his car, neither of which Kimi managed.

      1. Alonso smashed Piquet.Jr and Grosjean. Outstanding!

        Kimi has got 4 car failures in the 9 opening GP. Scored the first point for Ferrari, scored the first podium, drove with full wet tyres on a bone dry race track, drove with a dry set-up on a wet track in China


        Cmon Kimi!!! Stop sleeping!!!

        1. Very interesting difference in speed trap data between Filipe and Kimi there. Looks like Ferrari hedged their bets between the two cars.

          Thank you for that, I hope you will comment here more often.

          1. The problem is that my english is very poor.

            But I’ve got an other one :


            Remember how Kimi struggled in the rain and how fast he was in the dry on sunday.

      2. Kimi’s teammates were “guys totally out of their depths” and Alonso “smashed his teammates”!!
        Please remind me who were Alonso’s teammates? Oh, a crasher and a rookie…

        Alonso did no better than Kimi this year and anyone should be able to see that.

        1. Terry Fabulous
          26th November 2009, 20:08

          Hi NomadIndian

          I have to disagree completely.
          Alonso’s teammates were both very highly ranked before they arrived in F1, only to get blown aside.

          If Kimi was doing such a great job he wouldn’t have lost his job. The guys who see the telemetry and actually have to WORK with him day to day, are paying NOT to drive for them rather then have him drive for them.

          He has gone from World Champion to driveless in two years and has no-one to blame but himself.

      3. Soumya Banerjee
        17th May 2010, 14:44

        Hey TerryFab, atleast Massa saw development.And he was ahead of Raikkonen mostly bcoz of reliability failures of raikkonen. What can kimi do abt it? frankly if we listen 2 people like you, we can just abolish the championship and just see how teammates fare relative to each other

  2. Agreed….
    I was surprised to see Kimi ranked 9th!
    I was anyday faster than Massa and the victory at spa shows it

  3. i mean He(Kimi)

    1. Don’t need to apologise. Your comment itself means ‘ignore this idiotic post’. Did you even watch the first part of the season, where Felipe constantly outperformed Kimi and managed Ferrari’s best finish (3rd) before the accident?

      By the way, Felipe’s comment that he would have won in Hungaroring is not far fetched. Ferrari showed excellent pace there, and if 2008 is anything to go by Felipe showed a thing or two about racing that Sunday. Had he finished that race (three more laps, hell!) people would have remembered Felipe very well for that awesome overtaking manouvre on Lewis and possibly the title itself.

  4. So your final Top Five are (in no particular order) :-)


    I will miss Kimi in that list.

    Did Raikkonen up his game during Massa’s absence? Or was he flattered by comparison with less talented team mates – or, to put it another way, would an uninjured Massa have had the beating of him?

    I think Raikkonen up his game just because the team focused their efforts in set up the car according to Kimi needs, not Massa’s ones.

    1. Was Lewis flattered by comparison with less talented team mate or what?

    2. Oh yeah – that is what Ferrari did: They sabotaged Kimi’s setup, hid his vodka, broke his right toe with a hammer… whatever it took to make Massa come on top…gee

  5. Perhaps if Kimi hadn’t spent half the season not giving a ****, then he would be higher. That kind of lack of motivation doesn’t deserve respect.

  6. The curious thing about Raikkonen’s season was how he came to life after Massa was injured in qualifying at Hungary.

    It’s simple. From the start of the season Ferrari wanted Kimi out and the Santander money in. But then Massa’s accident happened and for a while it was even uncertain if Massa would ever race again.

    1. Terry Fabulous
      26th November 2009, 8:52


      That is a good conspiracy theory! I like it!

  7. Keith, you have this under Ruben’s photograph and section as well:

    Heikki Kovalainen had a disappointing final year with McLaren

    1. Thanks Hakka have fixed it.

  8. I agree Kimi is under-ranked.

    1. Kimi’s story is a man vs. machine battle for supremacy. Remember 2005, when he was at the best of his ability but the unreliable McLaren-Mercedes machine let the man down. Though I’m a big Alonso fan, I have to say that Alonso would never have won the 2005 title had not the fast but unreliable McLaren-Mercedes package not let Kimi Raikkonen down. The Renault R25 was nowhere near in pace.

      Once Kimi joined Ferrari (after his first title there), it was as if the man became unreliable while the machine was willing.

  9. Terry Fabulous
    26th November 2009, 8:54

    My Pic for the final Rankings

    5 Alonso
    4 Webber
    3 Vettel
    2 Button
    1 Hamilton

    1. Yep, can’t say any fairer than that. But I would put Vettel above Button.

      I very much doubt this will be the final ranking though.

      1. I’m going with
        5 Alonso
        4 Webber
        3 Hamilton
        2 Vettel
        1 Button

        Hamilton and Vettel may be the other way round.

        1. Close, but..
          5 Alonso
          4 Webber
          3 Vettel
          2 Hamilton
          1 Button

  10. IMO Kimi hit his purple patch after Massa’s unfortunate accident because the car was then setup more to his liking. Who/What was to blame for it not to be setup to his needs from the start is something we cannot know. In any case, he dragged that car to heights it was never going to reach.

    Sad to see Kimi just get 9th place for his efforts.

  11. Judging by the comments about Raikkonen in recent articles, I think a lot will say Raikkonen should be higher on the list than ninth. I would initially have put him higher than that as well but then I think of all the over drivers and Raikkonen’s performance before Massa was injured, I wouldn’t be so sure I would put him that much higher, so its one of those decisions I would have most trouble with.

  12. Its Hammer Time
    26th November 2009, 9:07

    Im sorry what? How are kimi and rubens lower than fernando. Both lifted their game from the start of the year and took commanding race wins/ pole positions. What did the Spaniard do?

    1. Well, neither Kimi nor Rubens were driving a semi around the track like Nando was. IMO, just shows how bad the Renault was this year, when even Nando couldn’t do much with it.

      You have made a rookie mistake of mixing up results vs. actual driving & talent. This article is not about who got the best results – otherwise Jense would be a shoo in – but about who gave the best drives over the course of the season. And if you missed Nando in the midfield wrestling with his car like he was Crocodile Dundee, then I suggest you pay a bit more attention in future. Hard work & talent doesn’t always equal results.

      As for my thoughts on Keith’s assessment, I’d swap Trulli & Fisi around – too many Trulli trains & tantrums over the season for me to rank Trulli any higher than 15th. At least Fisi came close to winning & gave us something to cheer about as the underdog did good. I’d also swap Jense & Rubens around, I still think that Jense is overrated and I’d only have him in my top ten for the fact that he made hay while the sun shone.

      1. You are begging the question.

  13. kimi 9º????
    alonso, massa, rosberg and webber, what they did better than kimi????
    a shame, a little objective analysis!!!
    the fear you have of him conditionable your mind!
    alonso = 1 pole / half fuel than the others – fantastic season????
    massa = 2 podiuns / benefit the kimi dnf’s to passe him
    rosberg = with the fastest cars on the begin, no wins!!!
    webber = with the best car, after few races, 2 wins was bad!!
    kimi loose the 5 place on wdc by one point to hamilton…with a museum piece, hadn’t developments since July!!!

    1. I don’t understand AT ALL the people saying RBR had the best car. Brawn were the best for probably 6 of the first 7 races. Just because Vettel got a pole doesn’t mean he had the better car. Also, don’t forget Barichello drove the Brawn fast enough for 2 wins and a pole in the latter half of the season when Button was crawling around in the midfield.

      1. In Silverstone RBR was the fastest car. Also in Germany. They were the fastest in Hungary, lost due to choosing wrong tyres the wrong time. Only in Valencia and Monza they were slower than Brawn. They were the fastest in Spa on race day, but failed in qualifying. RBR was the fastest car in Suzuka, Brazil as well. In Singapore and Abu Dhabi they were neck and neck with Mclaren.

        So yes, overall RBR was the fastest car in the second half.

      2. Button was in P2 for one of those wins and in Valencia he was pushed off by Vettel. Otherwise he would have been right behind Barrichello there too.

        In fact, Button finished in FRONT of Barrichello more often in the latter half of the season.

        The RBR perhaps wasn’t fastest in the first 7 races, but they sure were the last 10 races.

        They (Vettel) lost because they failed to keep up with Button during the first 7 races (crashed into Kubica, spun off in Malaysia, hit barrier in Monaco, flew off in Turkey, unable to overtake in Bahrain and Spain) not because their car was bad.

    2. Kimi fan much?

  14. Kimi should be in the top 6. He drove better than Alonso, who did nothing special. He carried the team after Massa was injured.

  15. Nice list, I largely agree. The only one that should be much higher is Timo Glock. In my opinion he was much more impressive than people like Kovalainen and Kubica.

  16. And for the final 5, I think Vettel/Hamitlon should be at the front. Then Button or Webber, Webber was more consistent than Button and suffered far more bad luck. Alonso should be well off the top 6.

  17. I agree with most of the 15 – 6 placings, but I’m jumping on the “Nick Heidfeld is very underrated” bandwagon and suggesting he should have been placed above Kubica. He had a solid season in a dog of a car. Had Kubica lived up to his reputation he would have pulled a few more drives out of the bag like the one he managed in Brazil.

    Thinking about it Kubuca and Alonso were in similar positions this year. Both are undeniably quick drivers in useless cars. But, while Alonso managed to squeeze his way into Keith’s top 5 (and win a bit of my respect which isn’t worth much in the grand scheme of things ;-)), Kubica’s star waned a wee bit. We often went through race weekends without even mentioning him!

  18. I think, the top 5 are
    1. Vettel
    2. Hamilton
    3. Button
    4. Webber
    5. Alonso (I am surprised how he made into the top 5)

    1. I don’t like Alonso, but I have to accept that he’s one of the best drivers in the circuit and this year he was driving a truck… so, I would put him in the top 5 too

  19. I couldn’t explain it clearly, but for sheer entertainment value, I’d put Hamilton first. I loved it when he had to push it to get somewhere!

    As far as “best driver of the year” goes, it would be a close tie for me between the two brits. I believe Button has actually done less errors and…. Well… He IS the world champion isn’t he?

    Afterwards, I’ll put Vettel/Webber, and kick Fernando out of top 5. Come on! OK the car was bad, but he didn’t do ANYTHING about it either. Had Hamilton been at Renault he would have been bashed for not being able to develop the car!

    1. One of the most unfair things about F1 and its armchair “experts” is how they give credit to people like Alonso for being a great team leader and helping to develop the car, and yet when a team like McLaren go from being 2.5 seconds off the pace to GP winners in the course of one season, the credit never touches Lewis, but goes to Whitmarsh or the rest of the team. I agree wholeheartedly that the whole McLaren team were exceptional at getting that car developed and Whitmarsh was brilliant at turning a nightmare season into an inspirational one, but why are the criteria for judging a driver and his input so different when it comes to Hamilton as opposed to someone like Alonso? Well, I do know but it gets so boring.

      1. Alonso is definitely not top 5 this season.

        Kimi is much higher than 9th, too.

      2. Whingey whinger…

        You haven’t even seen the top-5 list, I’m pretty confident Keith won’t put Alonso ahead of Hamilton.

        As for Button x Hamilton… is that even an issue? Button drove a fantastic season, winning at the beginning and then driving extremely sensibly to retain points (aggressive just at the right times!). It’s a no-brainer, Button is a more than deserving champion.

  20. Alonso ABOVE Raikkonen? This a joke man, or you took a pill too many today? Even BARRICHELO? You mean the guy that did almost nothing with a field-trouncing car for half the season?

    Get serious!

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