2011 F1 driver rankings part one: 28-16

2011 F1 season review

Who were the best drivers of 2011?

The full F1 Fanatic driver rankings will be published throughout the rest of the week and at the end of it you will have your chance to vote for Driver of the Year.

Here’s the first half of the list including some of your thoughts on the drivers of 2011.

28. Karun Chandhok

Karun Chandhok, Lotus, Nurburgring, 2011

Karun Chandhok, Lotus, Nurburgring, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/1
Beat team mate in race 0/1
Races finished 1/1
Laps spent ahead of team mate 0/56

Chandhok’s season didn’t get off to a great start: driving in first practice for Lotus in Melbourne, he made it as far as turn three before hitting the barrier.

He made a few more appearances for Lotus in practice sessions but more often than not was frustrated by the weather or car problems.

When he finally got into the car for a one-off race at the Nurburgring, it didn’t go well. A series of spins left him last, two laps behind his team mate.

That Lotus opted not to put him in the car for his home race, the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, spoke volumes.

One race, awful performance. He wasn?t even in the car in India, which says something.

Karun Chandhok 2011 form guide

27. Narain Karthikeyan

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/8
Beat team mate in race 2/6
Races finished 7/8
Laps spent ahead of team mate 151/403

It was a surprise to see Karthikeyan return to F1 five years after he first drove for Jordan.

It was less surprising to see him moved aside halfway through the season, and entirely predictable to see him parachuted back in for the Indian Grand Prix weekend to please HRT’s local sponsors.

Karthikeyan made less of an impression against Vitantonio Liuzzi than the vastly less experienced Daniel Ricciardo did. Nor was he able to beat HRT’s key rivals Virgin, and in eight starts he was beaten by his team mate every time.

No chance against Liuzzi, who, as it turned out, wasn?t doing that well himself.
Marcio Goncalves

Narain Karthikeyan 2011 form guide

26. Jerome d’Ambrosio

Jerome D'Ambrosio, Virgin, Suzuka, 2011

Jerome D'Ambrosio, Virgin, Suzuka, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 5/19
Beat team mate in race 3/10
Races finished 16/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 197/731

In an uncompetitive car and with an experienced team mate, d’Ambrosio was always going to struggle to impress in his first season. Even so, his ousting from the team mere moments after the final race seems harsh, particularly as his place is being taken by yet another rookie.

There were some notable high points for d’Ambrosio in his first season of F1, particularly in Suzuka and Interlagos.

But along with those strong showings were weekends where he never really got on terms with his team mate and ended up being beaten by an HRT. The nadir of his season was undoubtedly Hungary, where he spun in front of his crew in a damp pit lane.

Almost invisible for the entire season. He did well against his accomplished teammate for the 1st half of the season, but then just trailed off into obscurity. Not a great rookie season.

Jerome d’Ambrosio 2011 form guide

25. Jarno Trulli

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Monaco, 2011

Jarno Trulli, Lotus, Monaco, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 2/18
Beat team mate in race 3/11
Races finished 14/18
Laps spent ahead of team mate 244/811

Aside from a flash of performance at Monaco, Trulli endured a forgettable season.

Though unlucky at times, on many occasions he was simply too far off his team mate’s pace, usualy blaming the power steering for his troubles.

Despite having extended his contract to next year, there are rumours he could still be replaced.

I just cannot see a reason for him to stay in Formula One. Trounced by Kovalainen for the second season running.

Jarno Trulli 2011 form guide

24. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT, Montreal, 2011

Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT, Montreal, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 12/15
Beat team mate in race 5/10
Races finished 12/17
Laps spent ahead of team mate 437/778

Liuzzi’s F1 future hung in the balance over the winter as he was forced out at Force India in favour of Paul di Resta.

He landed a seat at HRT on the eve of the new season and found himself at the wheel of the least competitive car on the grid.

In one of the few occasions where he had a chance to show his worth he collected a vital 13th for the team in Canada, allowing them to end the season in front of Virgin.

He wasn?t as much in front of his rookie team mate as he should have been. In fact, he was beaten by him quite often. He seems content only to be in F1. And let?s not forget Monza, where he made the biggest mistake I have seen in Formula 1! It seems unlikely we?ll see him again next year.

Vitantonio Liuzzi 2011 form guide

23. Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, HRT, Interlagos, 2011

Daniel Ricciardo, HRT, Interlagos, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 4/9
Beat team mate in race 4/6
Races finished 8/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 247/489

After making a few appearances in practice for Toro Rosso early in the season, Ricciardo was given a race seat at HRT, which he continued to dovetail with his Formula Renault 3.5 commitments.

He quickly got on terms with Liuzzi and fared well against his team mate over the second half of the year, even mixing it with the Virgins on occasion.

The early signs are Red Bull’s faith in Ricciardo is not misplaced.

An impressive first half season, he didn?t seem to make any major mistakes in races and managed to settle into the team and match/beat Liuzzi very early on. I was impressed by Ricciardo although it is difficult to make a conclusive judgement given the amount of technical issues his team are prone to.

Daniel Ricciardo 2011 form guide

22. Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 8/18
Beat team mate in race 5/12
Races finished 13/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 367/848

Maldonado regularly kept Barrichello honest in qualifying. Unlike his team mate, he made it into Q3 on three occasions.

Barrichello tended to out-perform him in the races and there were a few costly mistakes, not least his five race penalties.

He should have scored his first career points at Monaco, a circuit he excelled at in junior categories, only to go out in a collision with Lewis Hamilton.

The pair had another run-in at Spa-Franchorchamps where Maldonado was fortunately to only receive a five-place grid penalty after confronting Hamilton on-track, the pair colliding. He will remain at Williams next year.

Although impressive in qualifying, he was distinctly unimpressive in races. Too often he fell back or made silly mistakes which would be acceptable for a rookie if it weren?t for his attitude and actions at Spa

Pastor Maldonado 2011 form guide

21. Pedro de la Rosa

Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber, Montreal, 2011

Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber, Montreal, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/1
Beat team mate in race 0/1
Races finished 1/1
Laps spent ahead of team mate 0/70

A one-off appearance in Canada is too little to develop a complete picture of de la Rosa’s form in 2011. He did a competent job in difficult circumstances.

Hard to judge off of one race. Did what was expected of him.

Pedro de la Rosa 2011 form guide

20. Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Bruno Senna, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 4/8
Beat team mate in race 1/6
Races finished 8/8
Laps spent ahead of team mate 91/354

Senna’s half-season with Renault was a mixed bag, particularly as the R31 was becoming ever more uncompetitive and unreliable.

To his credit he qualified well – he was fractionally faster than Vitaly Petrov on average – and brought the car home in every race despite various KERS failures and other glitches.

He had just two points to show for his efforts, though that was only three fewer than Petrov scored in the same period. There were clear signs of progress, though, and his last drive for the team in his home race would have been his best, had he not spoiled it by colliding with Michael Schumacher.

A fine qualifying performance in his first appearance for the team at Spa was also squandered when he crashed into Jaime Alguersuari at the first corner.

Did an excellent job in qualifying, but too many blunders in the race. Still impressed he got a couple of points though.

Bruno Senna 2011 form guide

19. Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Interlagos, 2011

Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Interlagos, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 10/18
Beat team mate in race 7/12
Races finished 16/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 481/848

Barrichello’s 19th season in Formula 1 added little to his achievements beyond stretching his records for career longevity even further.

He was clearly frustrated by Williams’ disastrous slump in form over the winter, and the prospect of taking them to better things was largely out of his hands.

That said, a veteran of 300 races should have defeated a rookie team mate more comprehensively than Barrichello did. His final appearance at home – where he qualified an excellent 12th – may have been his last start.

A so-so year for Rubens. He?s had the odd moment of magic but often struggled against his team mate and made a few silly errors. He?s still got the fire, but whether that?s enough for him to have a 20th year in the sport I don?t know. I?ve got a feeling we?ve seen his last race.
Dan Thorn

Rubens Barrichello 2011 form guide

18. Vitaly Petrov

Vitaly Petrov, Renault, Melbourne, 2011

Vitaly Petrov, Renault, Melbourne, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 12/19
Beat team mate in race 7/13
Races finished 16/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 576/904

Viewed from the end of the season, it seems difficult to believe Petrov stood on the podium at the first race in Melbourne. Such was the deterioration in performance of the Renault with its unorthodox front exit exhausts.

Petrov was a fixture in Q3 in the opening races but gradually slipped back. He found new team mate Senna a tougher prospect than Nick Heidfeld on Saturdays.

In the races there wasn’t much evidence of progress from last year. He had several run-ins with Schumacher in which he was usually blameless – with the conspicuous exception of Korea, where he was distracted by his battle with Fernando Alonso and harpooned the Mercedes, receiving a penalty.

Despite having a year left on his two-year contract with Renault, Petrov has been dropped for next year and replaced by Romain Grosjean.

The car tailed off badly in the second half but he was outpaced by Senna, which isn?t a good sign.

Vitaly Petrov 2011 form guide

17. Kamui Kobayashi

Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg, Istanbul, 2011

Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg, Istanbul, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 8/19
Beat team mate in race 8/12
Races finished 15/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 519/872

Kobayashi made the most of Sauber’s early-season form to score the bulk of his points, enjoying seven consecutive top ten finishes (although he lost the first due to a technical infringement).

However he matched this with a seven-race points drought later in the season, while his rookie team mate Sergio Perez increasingly enjoyed the upper hand. Indeed, over the course of the season, Kobayashi started behind Perez more often than not.

We saw less of Kobayashi’s famed overtaking verve as the C30 leant itself to more conservative strategies with fewer pit stops. A notable exception was Turkey, where he started from the back row due to a fuel pump problem in qualifying, but recovered to finish in tenth.

After a strong start to the season and the usual Kobayashi entertainment on Sundays, we were disappointed to see his poor qualifying performances and mediocre Sundays as well. Although Kamui did have his highlights this year, he also had some very bland performances.

Kamui Kobayashi 2011 form guide

16. Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Sepang, 2011

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Sepang, 2011

Beat team mate in qualifying 3/11
Beat team mate in race 5/7
Races finished 8/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 237/550

Following Robert Kubica’s crash in February, Heidfeld was given a test with the R31 then confirmed as Kubica’s replacement. But he was replaced by Senna halfway through the year.

Heidfeld did his usual safe-pair-of-hands job at Renault, bringing the car home when it didn’t catch fire or get hit by another driver. The major exception was Canada, where he crashed out after contact with Kobayashi, losing what could have been a very good result.

But it was in qualifying that he was really found wanting, usually starting far behind Petrov. He tended to overhaul his team mate on race day, but it can only have left the team wondering what might have been achieved with a driver who could marry qualifying and race performance.

Even so, by the end of the season Petrov had only amassed three more points than Heidfeld had.

I was keen to see Heidfeld do well, but he failed to lead the team and made too many errors. While he was unlucky in Hungary and had some good races like Malaysia, he was out-qualified by Petrov too frequently for a driver of his experience.

Nick Heidfeld 2011 form guide

2011 F1 season review

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143 comments on 2011 F1 driver rankings part one: 28-16

  1. Enigma (@enigma) said on 11th December 2011, 15:11

    This is about opinion as well. For all we know Rosberg, Kovalainen and Alguersuari might have done a better job than Vettel this year. It’s very difficult to compare drivers in different cars and whatever order Keith came up with, there’d be people disagreeing.

    I think it’s more or less okay, obviously I disagree with a few parts but that’s how it is. I don’t think there’s anyone in the 28-16 that deserves to be in the top 10.

    Though I’m pretty certain who’s going to be in the top 3 and in what order. From 4th to 10th I have no idea.

  2. I’m very surprised Kobayashi’s so far down the list and not Felipe Massa, for example, or even Buemi or Glock who were frankly even more anonymous. He was brilliant in the first 7 races, scoring points (bar Australia) in every race.

    He was a little unlucky during his 7-race point-scoring drought to be honest. Usually was down to Sauber being stubborn in continuing with their long run strategies. And besides you can’t ignore he came back to have 2 consecutive points scoring finishes at the end which was crucial to Sauber finishing 7th in the Constructors’.

    OK qualifying wasn’t brilliant (he managed to get into Q3 4 times compared with Perez’s 2), but neither was Alguesuari? All the plaudits Alguesuari and Sutil are getting stem from the fact they’ve had good 2nd half of the season, which seem to be all that matters when ranking these drivers.

    At the end of the day he had scored the bulk of Sauber’s points for the second year running, and finishing 12th again ahead of PDR and ALG, which was probably the best that could be done in a car that had stopped developing their diffusers post-Silverstone.

  3. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 11th December 2011, 16:00

    Some surprises there for me – such as Kobayashi, and perhaps Senna/Petrov. I can see why the list has rattled a few cages, and a few decisions are quite brave, but that’s F1F and I love that.

  4. Beyond (@lello4ever) said on 11th December 2011, 16:09

    This list is a bit weird. Koba was not perfect this year, but he did good considering he had several unlucky situations in the second part of the year. So why so low and worse than the invisible heidi? And glock, we didn’t see him much more than his teammate but he’s so high? And Massa, he was patetic! Petrov who did better than last year overall, isn’t he a bit too low?

  5. What the Ferrari was maximally capable of was pretty much what Alonso achieved, the same goes for Vettel in the Red Bull. This idea of drivers ‘outperforming’ the car is lazy in my opinion.

    Webber and Massa drove below the car’s capabilities all season, I mean come on Alonso got 10 podiums including a win and Massa couldn’t finish higher than 5th all season. Webber gets one win and Vettel 11.

    Hamilton had a poor season compared to previous years but he still won three races the same as Button and was the quicker driver in qualifying all year.

    Top three will be Vettel, Alonso, Button in that order if I were choosing. Hamilton 4th and Massa definitely in the group posted now by Keith. Webber somewhere around 8 or 9 probably.

    • fullthrottle said on 12th December 2011, 7:45

      I don’t think it’s lazy, but a different point of view. You choose to sit Senna, Fangio, Clark in the car to state that 100%. Other people choose an average driver. None is correct really, but they might be enough to allow some geek chat.

  6. Kobayashi should also be higher in my opinion, above Massa, Buemi, Glock, Perez and Trulli should be bottom with the exception of Chandhok. I ‘m not sure people like Chandhok and Pedro de la Rosa should be rated

    I know Heikki’s driving well but to beat him just twice in qualifying all season is embarrassing. I would even put Karthikeyan ahead of him.

  7. Get in, mentioned twice!

  8. tflb1 (@) said on 11th December 2011, 16:41

    Maldonado, D’Ambrosio and Kobayashi should probably be higher. Webber, Massa and Glock should be in this section.

  9. Alonso_McLaren said on 11th December 2011, 16:53

    Too harsh on Kobayashi and Petrov. At least one of Massa and Glock should be belong to this category.

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 12th December 2011, 8:19

      I would agree with Kobayashi being ranked too low. I guess because his 2nd half of the season wasn’t as strong as the 1st, the memory of just recent races lingers while ranking them.

      Petrov on the other hand is rated a little higher than I thought. I would place Bruno higher than him.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th December 2011, 10:13


        I’m rather insulted by that comment. I took all the races into account, not just the last few.

        Even early on in the season there were clear signs Perez had the measure of him.

        • magon4 (@magon4) said on 12th December 2011, 11:25

          I agree that India was a low point for KOB. Singapore, Suzuka and Monza were also pretty poor, and so was Valencia, by the way. But his performances in Malaysia, China, Turkey, Spain, Monaco, Britain, Germany and finally Brazil were all well above average. I have rated drivers for every single race, also after reading your race reviews. And only the obvious top 3 have had more 7,5s or more than Koba.
          It is also true that only three drivers in my ranking had more poor performances (4,5s or less), MAS, MAL and DAM. This means that Koba has been very inconsistent, but I to think his highlights outshine his poor performances enough for him not to bve Top 10, but at least in the top half.
          At the end, he averaged 6,39 with me, which is 0,14 above the total average of grades I have given over the full season (6,25).
          Yes, it is an opinion issue. These are just a few points I noticed. By the way, I think the list looks very good, just didn’t quite get either why Massa is Top 15 – looking forward to your arguments!

        • I think, it’s fair to say that Kamui will have to work very hard to get the better of Perez next year.

          However… I kinda feel that Kamui still was on the whole… ahead of Perez this year. True, Perez didn’t have the greatest luck, far from it. And his qualifying was marginally better. But I think Kamui performed well in the races. Well enough for grab some good points and generally lead his team mate.

          Having said that. For every pro-Kamui argument there is a pro-Perez one and vice versa. Which is why you (Kieth) can’t possibly please everyone.

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 12th December 2011, 11:42

          Didn’t mean any offense Keith.

          But KOB didn’t finish the season strongly, and a lot of people, including myself, have a tendency to rate drivers with a slight bias towards finishing form than starting.

          I agree Perez was better than him, but I would not think he was weaker than Buemi and Alguersuari, atc.

  10. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 11th December 2011, 17:45

    I don’t see the logic of putting d’Ambrosio so far behind his team mate, even though we don’t know where he ended up yet. Compared to other drivers with more experience in better machinery (Massa, Trulli, Hamilton) his season was fairly good. He did what he was expected to do and Timo Glock didn’t have it all his own way this season. Having him 26th is far too low.

  11. Marco_ferrari said on 11th December 2011, 17:54

    This was the order of “best” 2011 drivers after 40 votes in f1fanatic forum section:

    01 Vettel
    02 Button
    03 Alonso
    04 Hamilton
    05 Sutil
    06 Rosberg
    07 Kovalainen
    08 Di Resta
    09 Schumacher
    10 Alguersuari

    This is mine top 10:

    01 Vettel
    02 Alonso
    03 Button
    04 Kovalainen
    05 Sutil
    06 Alguersuari
    07 Pérez
    08 Rosberg
    09 Schumacher
    10 Di Resta

  12. alain (@) said on 11th December 2011, 18:21

    If D’Ambrosio is really that bad, where is Glock ?

  13. brxtr (@broxter) said on 11th December 2011, 18:45

    Why isn’t Massa here? Independent of the car performance, he has been awful this year.

  14. Very nice list here Keith! Although, my list is quite a bit different I think you more or less nailed it. Only thing bothering me on this list is Massa’s absence but overall very well done.

  15. I think Massa should be on this bottom-of-the-bunch list. Yes, he did score points, but any of the bottom eight drivers would have with a Ferrari (even a mediocre one). He fell behind his team-mate with alarming frequency in nearly every single race and was never in the picture with qualifying.

    Ferrari would do well to move on and get Perez in that seat.

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