2009 F1 driver rankings part 2: 15-6

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

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

  1. 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.

  2. GeeMac said on 26th November 2009, 9:39

    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!

  3. 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)

    • luigismen said on 26th November 2009, 16:41

      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

  4. Tarzan said on 26th November 2009, 10:13

    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!

    • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 10:31

      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.

      • David A said on 26th November 2009, 16:10

        Alonso is definitely not top 5 this season.

        Kimi is much higher than 9th, too.

      • Senor Paz said on 27th November 2009, 6:40

        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.

  5. rikhart said on 26th November 2009, 10:22

    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!

  6. Alonso really doesnt deserve to be in the top 5. Great racer, yes and got great performances out of what was almost definitely the worst car on the grid BUT the fact is, he didnt get many results.

    Raikkonen at very most should be fifth, or even Barrichello, but not Alonso

  7. sumedh said on 26th November 2009, 10:38

    I disagree completely!!!!

    Kimi as 9th is WRONG!!! He was better than the 7th rank Rosberg at the very least. He was better than Massa (but that is because Massa missed half the season.

    And please, Kubika better than Heidfeld, no way, no way.

    Heidfeld was way way better than Kubika in that crap BMW. At some races, the gap between the two seemed as much as the gap between Rosberg and Nakajima.

    And I fail to fathom how you don’t count the non-finish at Australia against Kubika!! It is after all his mistake. Okay, he went all out for the 2nd place. But his motives were ambitious, but could he achieve them? NO!!

    Heidfeld was much better than Kubika!! Period!

    • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 10:39

      I agree.

      • TommyB said on 26th November 2009, 12:08

        Heidfeld could win the world championship and still go unnoticed.

        Again with Alonso, Kubica has the reputation of being a top driver and even if they have a poor season in a poor car people will still think they have done amazingly well

    • I like Kimi but he shouldn’t be placed above Massa because he simply couldn’t beat him when he was there. Kimi was astonishing but when the two were together for whatever reason he couldn’t beat his teammate.
      Agree than quick Nick should be ranked higher than Robert in my view but generally I think it is spot on.

      • sumedh said on 26th November 2009, 12:34

        I might give my acquiescence to Kimi below Massa.

        But Heidfeld below Kubika is just not done. I am actually tired of people under-rating Heidfeld all his life. He is a really good driver. And if Jenson Button could come good after 9 whole seasons in Formula One, so can Heifeld.

        @Keith: You made the mistake of under-rating Massa at the start of 2008 (I read in the Planet-F1 predictions ;-) ), don’t make that same mistake with Heidfeld. He is due for a solid result soon. If the Mercedez move happens, be sure that he will give us a true assessment of not just himself, but also of Rosberg.

      • monaco?

  8. Hotbottoms said on 26th November 2009, 11:08

    Rankings look right so far, but I would have ranked Barrichello to be better than Hamilton and Alonso. Both had OK results but with teams full support and they both had poor team mate(s) to make them look better.

    • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 11:20

      Maybe Hamilton’s teammate wasn’t that bad but Lewis’ brilliance made Heikki look bad. As for Alonso, don’t think he deserves to be in the top 5. There seems to be a lot of mythological rubbish written about him, and you can hardly judge his teammates as you had either a rookie who was not given any support or equal equipment, or Piquet Jr who was bullied, not given any support and not given equal treatment. Any driver would be flattered by those circumstances.

  9. Random Chimp said on 26th November 2009, 11:25

    Keith, you’ve made my day by quoting me for Raikkonen :)

  10. Icthyes said on 26th November 2009, 11:42

    I wouldn’t have put Kimi 9th at first, but the more I think about it the more I agree with Keith. At most I’d put him 7th, ahead of Massa and Rosberg, but that’s it. I personally would not have put Alonso in the Top 5 instead of Barrichello, but Nando did do a good job with a pile of junk.

    I would have put Heidfeld ahead of Kubica too. Bit surprised at how high Trulli’s ranking is as well.

  11. Your top five is a little different to mine, Keith. I actually found it quite hard to rank the drivers this year because I value consistency quite highly. As a result I could think of several drivers who didn’t deserve a top-five spot, but finding those who did was more difficult!

    In the end my top five is 1) Button, 2) Barrichello, 3) Vettel, 4) Glock, 5) Heidfeld. Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen were all too inconsistent in my view.

    • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 11:56

      Red Andy

      When Hamilton’s car was back at the front, he scored more points than any other driver. That to me makes him no. 1. Shame you cannot see that.

      • TommyB said on 26th November 2009, 12:07

        I agree. A highlight was Bahrain. In probably the worst car on the grid he fought for a podium

      • Hamilton did well when the car was at its best, but he was very inconsistent towards the beginning of the season. I prefer to look at the year as a whole rather than picking and choosing the bits that make my preferred drivers look good.

        • TommyB said on 26th November 2009, 12:50

          Well you put Button first and he was the most inconsistent driver on the grid lol

          • He scored points in all races but one, despite the competitiveness of the car varying from race to race. That’s pretty much as consistent as you can get.

          • I think Hamilton should be top 5 but perhaps the lower part of top 5. He did some stunning races but at times made errors too.

        • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 19:51

          Wrong, he outdrove a poor car and never stopped pushing. Your view must be clouded.

          • There’s pushing, and there’s spinning multiple times (China), binning it in qualifying (Monaco) or on the last lap of a GP (Italy). Those are mistakes that should not be handwaved away.

          • Patrickl said on 26th November 2009, 23:24

            And yet you DO put Vettel rather high in your silly list.

            4 crashes/spins and many more driving errors and a persevering lack of overtaking when it matters. All while driving a car that SHOULD have won the championship.

        • S Hughes said on 26th November 2009, 19:52

          Yeah, and Button only won because of a monster of a car in the first half of the season. Your reasoning is inconsistent.

          • David A said on 26th November 2009, 19:57

            One that Barrichello wasn’t much use in, but otherwise you are right, that guy’s reasoning that Hamilton and Raikkonen were “too inconsistent” simply doesn’t hold up. Nor does his belief that Webber was inconsistent when compared to the other three Brawn/Bull drivers.

      • I agree with you, when Hamilton had his car sorted he outpreformed everyone on the grid. Also I think jenson should only just be in the top 2. because to be honest from the start he had the best car and eventually fell over the winning line.
        5.Alonso(how he got in Ill never know)

        • I think Alonso deserves top 5 as the car was basically a dog and he beat his teammates and fought just for the odd point.
          I have felt very sorry for him it’s not good for the sport when the driver widely regarded as the best is stuck in a rubbish car for the best part of 2 seasons.

  12. Tod Fod said on 26th November 2009, 11:46

    Its hard to beleive Alonso isnt in this list. Im a die-hard Alonso fan, and I have to admit this was his worse season ever. Just because he outpaced two terrible drivers throughout the year doesnt mean he did a great job this year.

    Raikkonen should be ranked higher than ninth? How is Trulli ranked higher than Glock? This ranking system of yours is terrible.

    • Random Chimp said on 26th November 2009, 11:53

      That there’s fightin’ talk

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th November 2009, 19:28

      Raikkonen should be ranked higher than ninth? How is Trulli ranked higher than Glock?

      I can’t really respond to your comment if you don’t tell me why you think I should have rated them differently.

      • Soumya Banerjee said on 17th May 2010, 14:57

        So Keith,it was kimi’s fault that he suffered all those mechanical problems at Sepang,Catalunya and China? With an engine whose only 90% he could use? All these teammate comparisions are crap. If they count for so much then we could just abolish the rankings system and base the championship on the difference of points between teammates.

  13. TommyB said on 26th November 2009, 12:05

    What was Heikki’s best results? I don’t remember him even getting a podium… and in a car that won 2 races with Lewis.

    Fissi and Glock got a 2nd place with Force India and Toyota. I’d put Heikki behind these guys.

    I don’t think Alonso has been that good this year, I’m a huge fan but I think he’s given up a bit as he knows he is off to Ferrari. I guess he just has that reputation of being the best on the grid at the moment.

  14. Bullfrog said on 26th November 2009, 12:17

    I put Kimi lower than 9th, his results were better than drivers above him but I expected much more from a Ferrari-driving world champion.
    Everyone has their own ranking system.

    …if someone can coax it out of him more regularly.

    That’s why I’m still hoping he signs up to drive for Ross Brawn. Mercedes may change the culture but all the same guys will still be there who got the best out of Rubens and JB.

    • David A said on 26th November 2009, 19:59

      I put Kimi lower than 9th, his results were better than drivers above him but I expected much more from a Ferrari-driving world champion.

      But the Ferrari wasn’t that fast?

  15. Surely the only one that we cannot push aside as we rewrite the season to praise our favourite driver is Jenson Button. He is the World Champion, No 1.
    He is also the only driver who has decided to pit himself against the toughest competition that he can find for next year – though I wonder what did go on at Brawn to send Rubens to Williams and cause Jenson to leave without a backward glance.

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