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.
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.
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
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?”
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
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.
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
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
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