Start, Valencia, 2011

2011 half season driver rankings part 3: 5-1

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Here are the top five drivers of the year so far.

Agree? Disagree? Share your verdict in the comments.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Valencia, 2011
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Valencia, 2011

5. Nico Rosberg

Beat team mate in qualifying 8/9
Beat team mate in race 4/7
Races finished 8/9
Laps spent ahead of team mate 292/463

Rosberg continues to impress at Mercedes. He’s the only driver outside of the top three teams to have made it into Q3 at every race this year.

His biggest weakness this year has been starts, which has left him dropping behind his team mate on more than one occasion.

Despite that regular points finishes have put him seventh in the championship, just 12 points behind Felipe Massa. Two races away from his 100th Grand Prix, and still without a win to his name, he must be wondering what he could do with a better car underneath him.

A shame to see him in an uncompetitive car, and has had some impressive pace (e.g. China) and tried some brave laps (Qualifying 3, Britain). I’d like to see him in a more competitive car, be that a Mercedes or not.

Nico Rosberg 2011 form guide

Jenson Button, McLaren, Montreal, 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren, Montreal, 2011

4. Jenson Button

Beat team mate in qualifying 3/9
Beat team mate in race 2/7
Races finished 8/9
Laps spent ahead of team mate 176/475

Now in his second year at McLaren, Button has been closer to Hamilton on raw pace this year but is still typically a couple of tenths behind in qualifying.

He demonstrated his sensitive touch for slick tyres on a damp track in brilliant style in Montreal, where he chased down Vettel to snatch a sensational last-lap victory.

Button has often been able to make his tyres last longer than his rivals, allowing him to make fewer pit stops, which paid off handsomely in Malaysia where he took second place.

Holding second place in the championship until his Silverstone retirement, his aim at the start of the year was to improve his qualification performances. He has done, slightly, but his racecraft is good as ever. Has kept his head down, brought in the points and the best win a lot of us have seen in a very long time.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

3. Lewis Hamilton

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/9
Beat team mate in race 5/7
Races finished 8/9
Laps spent ahead of team mate 299/475

Hamilton’s driving this year leaves you in little doubt that he is a driver who operates so close to the limit he is prone to exceeding it.

In Monaco and Canada he was aggressive to the point of wild. In the latter, a mis-judged passing move on his own team mate ended his participation in a race he might have won.

Properly restrained, his take-no-prisoners approach to racing combined with his raw speed make him one of the most formidable drivers in F1. He was simply unstoppable in China, rising above an early strategic setback in a manner that seemed to be beyond him in Monte-Carlo.

At Silverstone his early-stint performance in the wet part of the race – first on intermediates, then on slicks – showcased Hamilton’s driving at its very best.

Still quite fast, but needs to learn when to be aggressive and when to bide his time. I think the hype’s gone to his head.

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2011
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2011

2. Fernando Alonso

Beat team mate in qualifying 9/9
Beat team mate in race 4/6
Races finished 8/9
Laps spent ahead of team mate 347/463

At Valencia Alonso said he’d driven the best seven races of his career up to that point. His two since then have been pretty impressive as well – splitting the Red Bulls for second at Valencia, and beating the pair of them at Silverstone.

Choosing between him and Vettel for driver of the year so far is not easy. Alonso’s made a couple of errors here and there, including brushes with the McLaren drivers in Malaysia and Canada. Aside from that, and a lacklustre performance at Shanghai, he’s been in excellent form.

These may not have been his greatest nine drives ever – there are plenty more great Alonso performances in his back catalogue. But he has begun 2011 as he ended 2010, back at the peak of his powers as he was when he won his world championships.

Amazing as always and he’s really having an awesome season, taking everything out of the car. The championship seems to be more or less decided, but if anything goes wrong for Vettel it’s probably Alonso who would take advantage of it.

Fernando Alonso 2011 form guide

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monaco, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monaco, 2011

1. Sebastian Vettel

Beat team mate in qualifying 7/9
Beat team mate in race 9/9
Races finished 9/9
Laps spent ahead of team mate 545/551

It’s easy to write off Vettel’s achievements this year as being simply the product of having the best car. But no-one can doubt he has made the best use of it.

His margin over his team mate has been simply crushing – a fact which makes Red Bull’s attempt to impose team orders at Silverstone all the more unnecessary.

Such has been the scale of Vettel’s dominance that he hasn’t had to do much in the way of battling for position, other than occasionally passing drivers who pitted after him. While he’s led an incredible 78.9% of laps so far this year, his team mate is yet to hit the front, and it’s not as if Webber’s doing a particularly bad job.

Perhaps this flatters him – after all we saw two disastrous attempts at overtaking by Vettel last year. But it’s not as if he’s going to pull over and give the others a chance to lead, is it?

At Spain and Monaco he withstood a barrage of pressure from quicker cars without flinching. His only significant mistake of the year came in Canada, as he strove to keep Button far enough behind that he couldn’t zap past him with DRS.

And even then he was able to maintain his record of starting and finishing every race in the top two places.

Almost totally flawless. his Prost-like cruise to victory in Valencia was for me his most impressive win. Utter domination and control from start to finish, a truly perfect race. Has the car, knows the tyres, confident and if that wasn’t annoying enough for everyone else, he’s so damn likeable. Making hay whilst the sun shines is a prerequisite of a champion and it’s been a long summer for Vettel, but still he works hard.

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

2011 F1 season

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Images ?? Mercedes, McLaren, McLaren, Ferrari spa, Red Bull/Getty images

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