Which driver has performed the best in 2010 so far? We’re past the halfway point in the season so it’s time for the F1 Fanatic half-term rankings.
The first in this three-part series covers the drivers in the bottom 12 positions. As usual, your thoughts and observations from the forum have been considered and included.
Read on to see who I’ve ranked where and share your verdict in the comments.
24. Karun Chandhok
Life is far from easy as a driver for one of the new teams. These drivers who appear at the very bottom of the list do so as much because of their limited opportunities to show their potential as any shortcomings on their part.
In Chandhok’s case, it meant not starting his F1 season until qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix – by which time some drivers had logged over 800 laps in their 2010 F1 cars.
Chandhok has been the slowest driver this year but he’s also in the slowest car, so that doesn’t show us a great deal. His team mate Bruno Senna has been quicker on the whole, but Chandhok has beaten him on occasions in qualifying and races, including in the last round at Valencia.
Perhaps he deserves to be higher. But so far his circumstances have given him little to no chance to prove it.
So far he is doing pretty good, when taking in account he got into an F1 car first time in qualifying at Bahrain. When the car does not break or hit by a flying Trulli, he has a knack for getting the car pretty far in the races, so he might be the first of the new team guys getting a (very) lucky point, and he seems a really nice guy. But nothing special so far.
23. Lucas di Grassi
Di Grassi had to use the original version of the VR-01 – with the too-small fuel tank – for longer than team mate Timo Glock.
Now with three races in the new car under his belt he is showing signs of progress, out-qualifying Glock for the first time at Valencia.
Driving for Virgin has certainly proved a test of his adaptability. At Montreal he had to drag his car around the final laps while stuck in gear.
Hard to quantify due to the poor reliability and poor car, allied to the fact that he had to wait a while for the Limo. Again, proved to be a battler and if Virgin get things sorted has the potential to have a strong finish to the season.
22. Bruno Senna
There have been some conspicuous low-points for the rookie with the very conspicuous surname. Crashing out on the first lap at Barcelona was one, failing to pit with a broken front wing at Valencia another.
But he’s been quicker than his team mate, much as he was when the two were at iSport together in GP2 two years ago. As HRT have got within striking distance of Virgin, Senna has been the one leading the attack.
Retired five times in seven races and finished 16th in two races. If he wants to have success like his uncle he will have to leave HRT fast.
21. Vitantonio Liuzzi
F1 returnee Liuzzi had a poor string of qualifying results in the first half of the year: 0.5s off Adrian Sutil in China, 0.8s in Spain and a full second in Turkey.
His race performances were some way off Sutil’s too, notably in Istanbul, where Liuzzi fell back from Jaime Alguersuari very quickly. This fuelled rumours that the team would replace him for test driver Paul di Resta.
But a change of chassis in time for the Canadian Grand Prix seems to have bolstered his confidence and put him back on terms with his team mate. He bounced back from a first-lap tangle with Felipe Massa to finish ninth, passing Sutil off-camera and barging past Michael Schumacher on the final lap.
What exactly has Liuzzi done in his 14 races for Force India to deserve a place in F1? Or, for that matter, in his entire F1 career? Admittedly, his qualifying performance at Montreal was impressive, but ultimately it will be useless if he cannot sustain that form over the second half of the season.
20. Vitaly Petrov
It was clear from pre-season testing that Renault were looking more to Robert Kubica to drive the development of the R30, giving him priority on dry-weather testing days.
Although that policy has been vindicated by the car’s performance it’s made Vitaly Petrov’s job as a rookie even harder, as testing time is limited to begin with.
He’s shown some verve in his wheel-to-wheel racing, for example with Hamilton in Sepang and Alonso in Istanbul. And he’s gradually getting closer to Kubica in qualifying, though he remains the only driver who has not yet out-qualified his team mate this year.
Montreal was a disaster, with a jump start and collision with Pedro de la Rosa leading to a pair of penalties, after which he spent the final stages of the race unable to pass Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.
Hasn’t shown anything special, but he keeps improving and learning and he’s getting experienced – just like Sebastien Buemi last year.
19. Nico Hülkenberg
Hülkenberg has often shown up well against Rubens Barrichello in qualifying, beating him in the rain in Malaysia, qualifying within 0.004s of his team mate in Montreal, and matching him in Valencia despite not running the team’s F-duct.
He scored his first point at Sepang despite having to change steering wheels during the race and was on course for more points in Valencia before his car let him down.
But there have been some unnecessary first-lap tangles – notably at Istanbul and Monaco – and at Shanghai he seemed completely flummoxed by the changing weather conditions.
Still, it’s not hard to imagine him ranking much higher come the end of the season.
I expected a lot from him, probably too much really considering he’s a rookie. Hopefully once he gets used to the car and being in F1 he might improve.
18. Pedro de la Rosa
It’s been a somewhat anonymous return to F1 so far for de la Rosa, mainly due to his C29′s lamentable unreliability.
He read the conditions well at Shanghai was well-placed in the early stages before retiring with another bout of car trouble.
But his qualifying pace hasn’t been a match for the inexperienced Kamui Kobayashi.
Not too far off Kobayashi considering the three year break. Exactly what Sauber and Kamui need.
17. Jarno Trulli
Now one of F1′s most experienced drivers, you have to wonder if Trulli has much patience for a stint with a new team in a slow car at this late stage in his career.
Running true to form Trulli has done well in qualifying, usually taking the ‘new team pole position’, but his race pace hasn’t been as strong.
He was out-qualified for the first time by a team mate at Monaco this year, then made an ill-advised lunge at Chandhok late in the race, taking them both out.
I love Jarno, but I think the time for retirement is fast approaching. He’s not driving terribly (most of the time) but his team mate is outperforming him and it just doesn’t seem like his heart is really in it any more.
16. Kamui Kobayashi
Kobayashi’s run to seventh at Valencia was eye-catching even if it was aided by a strategic gamble that paid off big-time. Yes, he had the benefit of very fresh and very fast tyres when he went past Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi but these were still well-judged passes made from a long way back without any contact.
He’d already scored a point in Istanbul despite wearing his tyres down to the canvas in the closing stages.
But crashes in Melbourne and Montreal were not helpful for a team that is struggling to finish races anyway. As a result, Kobayashi has completed the fewest racing laps of any driver so far this year.
Disappointing start to the season with many failures and crashes have him down in 13, but his race in Valencia has me impressed. At first I thought that he would be a disappointment, but his race in Valencia is just what we want in F1.
15. Jaime Alguersuari
Has struggled to match his team mate’s pace in qualifying – he’s 8-1 down – but has had some good races.
His spirited defence from Michael Schumacher at Melbourne almost held out until the end of the race.
He passed Hülkenberg at Sepang and went on to finish ninth, and claimed another point at Barcelona, albeit after an unnecessary collision with Chandhok.
He had another run-in with the HRT driver at Shanghai, forcing him to make one of his half-dozen pit stops that day.
Went from invisible, to impressive, to over-aggressive in record quick time. I’m still not convinced he’s actually got the speed to be a true contender, his race pace is better but the form guide shows you quite how big a deficit he’s got to his team mate in qualifying. It is coming down though.
14. Timo Glock
At the beginning of the season Virgin and Lotus were closely matched on pace and Glock would usually race the green cars until his VR-01 expired. Even at Spain, where the T127 received a major upgrade, Glock finished just 1.5 seconds behind Trulli.
Like his team mate, he’s had to drag the car to the end of a race while stuck in gear – at Istanbul, where he still came home ahead of di Grassi. At Sepang he reached Q2 thanks to the mistake of the McLaren and Ferrari drivers in failing to go on track early enough.
Hate to see him in such a dog of a car, move to Renault!
13. Michael Schumacher
Schumacher was my pre-season tip for the title – my guess being that the reigning constructors’ champions would build the best car and Schumacher would have the beating of Nico Rosberg. Clearly I was wrong on both counts.
His form has not been as dramatically bad as some have painted it as. Particularly his drive at Montreal, where his defensive tactics were entirely legitimate and his poor finishing position owed more to a puncture and bad strategy.
The comeback started poorly, with a particularly uninspired performance at a damp Shanghai while his team mate finished on the podium. After that it briefly it looked as though he’d rediscovered his pace. He ran well at Barcelona and Istanbul – finishing highest of the non-McLarens/Red Bulls in the latter.
But Schumacher seems increasingly perplexed by a car that is falling further off the pace, while his team mate continues to bring it home in the points.
Well. This is a bit… embarrassing. The only driver from the Big Four teams not to have made it yet to the podium, he’s had more bad than good moments. He’s not faring too badly considering he hadn’t been racing for three years prior. But considering everything he’s achieved, his goal this year must surely have been to at least contest for the championship. He can’t even beat his team mate right now. Will things improve? Perhaps. But sometimes, I wonder what on earth he was thinking by coming back. It’s almost like a… well, a mid-life crisis.
F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #1: Fernando Alonso
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #3: Sebastian Vettel
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #4: Kimi Raikkonen
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #5: Nico Hulkenberg
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings part two: 14-6
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings part one: 24-15
- 2012 half-term driver rankings #1: Fernando Alonso
- 2012 half-term driver rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton
- 2012 half-term driver rankings part three: 5-3