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.
Cristian

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.
Todfod

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.
daykind

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.
Cristian

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.
adzz36

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
Silverkeg

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.
Silverkeg

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.
Daykind

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.
Tflb1

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.
Todfod

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.
Adzz36

Nick Heidfeld 2011 form guide

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

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 11th December 2011, 21:48

    If Massa should be in the bottom tier, then Lewis Hamilton certainly should be here. Massa might have under-performed, but that was really his only sin. I don’t think anyone has ever had as bad a season as Hamilton has – between his frequent clashes with other drivers (Button, Kobayashi, Massa and Maldonado to name a few), inconsistent form, being beaten by his team-mate and a season rife with attitude problems, it has been a season to forget. He might have made up for it a little with the odd win and breaking Vettel’s stranglehold on pole position, but it doesn’t exonerate him from an embarrassing year.

    • Yeah right Massa gets less than half the points of Alonso, 0 podiums compared to 10 for Alonso and 0 top 4 finishes compared to 14 for Alonso.

      Hamilton had a very disappointing season compared to previous years, but even so won three races which was the same as Button, was consistently quicker in qualifying than Jenson, and finished what 40 odd points behind him in this season he will want to forget, with Button by all accounts driving even better than he did when he won the world championship.

      Hamilton’s racecraft was very poor at times in 2011, he got involved in far too many unnecessary incidents but he showed on more than one occasion he can produce breathtaking performances that few others can achieve. That alone lifts him far above Massa into the top 8 at least.

      Massa on the other hand was consistent over the season, consistently mediocre.

      • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 12th December 2011, 1:08

        Agreed, but Hamiltons racecraft looked desperate rather than just poor. I’d knock a win off both Hamilton and Button because Of Vettles unforced errors in Abu and Canada, Vettle would (on the odds) have won both of those. Webber keeps his one win because of the “hold station” but only as a maybe. Alonso deserves everything he got, maybe more.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 12th December 2011, 2:42

        Hamilton’s victories and pole position only serve to show just how poor the rest of his season was. In a year dominated by Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton showed that he had the nous to take Vettel on – but failed simply because he had such a horror year: mistakes, a bad attitude and constant clashes with other drivers.

        • So are you rating Hamilton lowly on the basis he didn’t achieve the maximum potential he could have done, given the speed he displayed at times and the performance of the car?

          Even if Hamilton had a perfect year in terms of maximising what result he could have achieved at each weekend he still would not have beaten Vettel, I disagree with your opinion because despite all his mistakes Hamilton’s speed was always apparent. He was the quicker Mclaren driver at most tracks (although no denying it Button was much stronger over the season) and as fast as Vettel at more than a few.

          This in my opinion should be rewarded much more highly than Massa. Massa did not look like getting anywhere near Alonso all season on pace, let alone beating a driver in a faster car i.e. the Mclarens and the Red Bulls.

      • F1-777 (@f1-777) said on 12th December 2011, 3:16

        Completely agree on Hamilton. His attitude this year was horrible, despite his wins. His racecraft was poor because of his desperation, which shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sure, Massa was completely out of form, but his attitude was okay (unless Hamilton was involved)

        As for Webber, he had a good attitude, and consistently finished in the top 5, regardless of his problems with the car or with his own driving ability. Hamilton should have done what Webber did this season, as Button was beating him – he should’ve knuckled down like Webber and done his best, even if it was mostly not good enough- but he failed to do that, which led to pointless incidents and a bad attitude.

        So for me Massa and Hamilton were equally bad, purely due to Hamilton’s wins, where he showed what could’ve been.

        • John H (@john-h) said on 12th December 2011, 9:34

          Hamilton should have been more like Webber this year?

          Hmmmm.

          • F1-777 (@f1-777) said on 12th December 2011, 11:07

            Only in that he didn’t lose his head when he was being beaten. If Hamilton had accepted that he wasn’t as fast as Button this year, he wouldn’t have made stupid mistakes and the results would have eventually come to him (which is what Webber did, regardless of what results he got).

            The wins for Hamilton were good, I give him that- but his inconsistency and mistakes soured his season. Webber made only one mistake, and I’d rather consistency over Hamilton’s “results” any day.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 12th December 2011, 9:33

      You’re believing the media hype PM to think that Hamilton had as bad a season as Massa. I mean, please come on.

      Hamilton had a bad season by his standards (built up over the previous years), but he still won 3 races and had some stand out drives.

      • magon4 (@magon4) said on 12th December 2011, 11:31

        @PM-777 and everyone else out there smashing HAM – take another look at the season!!! The brit only had two really bad races, in the rest he was a little reckless, but still almost always clearly faster than BUT. BUT was wiser this year, but by no means faster than HAM. Stick to he numbers!

  2. HRT Fan said on 11th December 2011, 22:17

    Bit harsh on Liuzzi, granted he is no super star but he did outqualify his team mates more often than not this season and got the team their best result of the season.

    I don’t really know what more he could have achieved.

  3. Thomas (@infi24r) said on 12th December 2011, 1:37

    I don’t understand how drivers like Heidfeld and Maldonado can be ranked above Ricciardo.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th December 2011, 22:09

      @infi24r It’s difficult to judge anyone by anything other than results. Ricciardo showed promise but he didn’t actually deliver that much. I don’t believe it’s his fault, but you can’t form an opinion on what could have been, only what was.

  4. geminict said on 12th December 2011, 13:48

    I have also not understood why Senna is considered by so many to have done better (like the 91/354 laps ahead of team mate). At least Keith’s ranking had Petrov ahead but considering both Petrov and Heidfeld were ahead of Schumacher half way into the season it is obvious that Keith’s assessment only reflects the last few races. Not sure how Timo got so far ahead either of these guys. Too many people think qualifying is important (which Senna was better than Petrov), rather have a car better set-up for the race and sacrifice qualifying speed.

    @Keith you statistics should also show how many places a driver made up or lost from their starting position – this would give a better idea of race pace which is actually one of the more important parameters you should be including in your analysis.

  5. Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 12th December 2011, 14:33

    I guess the biggest surprise so far is Massa being on top15. I assume the reasoning for this is that his team mate made him look worse than he actually was, but on same grounds we could move Trulli to top20 or so. I’m just saying Alonso isn’t that good. He couldn’t even beat Hamilton on his rookie season.

    I don’t think a driver should be in top15 or even in top20 if he can’t gather even 50% of his team mate’s points. Heidfeld got almost as many points as Petrov even though he attended only half of the races and he won Petrov in 5 out of 7 races they both finished on. And he’s still 16th. Sure, Petrov and Alonso aren’t comparable but still Heidfeld beat his team mate while Massa was humiliated by his.

    The obvious rank 1 is Vettel, there’s no question about it.

  6. themagicofspeed (@) said on 12th December 2011, 15:59

    Massa ought to be in this category i feel. His performance this year has been pathetic.

    He just doesnt have what it takes to be a top-four driver anymore. After 2008, it broke him. He will never be the same. He will quite rightly always be angry about it, but unfortunately it’s killed off the edge he once had, along with his accident in ’09.

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th December 2011, 22:20

    A good synopsis. Fairly balanced, concise and humorous (well, the bit about Heidfeld doing well when his car wasn’t on fire!). Made me chuckle.

    This sort of list is difficult to put together and while I agree with it on the whole, if I did one, no doubt mine would look a bit different.

    There is a certain romance associated with scoring a backmarker with a relatively high position, but I don’t think it can be justified too easily. D’Ambrosio, in my opinion, had a better season than say, Kobayashi or Massa. However, he was never really in a position, because of the car, to be able to challenge. You can only really go on results at the end of the day. ‘What if’ and ‘maybes’ gets you so far, but then it just gets silly.

    To be honest, I was hoping I would disagree with more, so I could have some debate, but there is really little to disagree with for myself!

    The biggest thing that sticks out is Kobayashi’s position. I think it’s hard to gauge his position due to the exhaust issues at Silverstone. They became really quiet really quickly and much like the Renault guys, I think his performance was diluted with the car.

  8. I understand this is all subjective, and I also admit I’m a bit of a Kobayashi fan myself, but having read the second part (and especially the verdict on Massa), I find KK’s placement absolutely illogical.

    With Massa, a “steely resistance” in the first race is a redeeming factor, but with Kamui, even a great first half of the season is not, just because then his performance dropped alongside the performance of the car. (And that’s before he delivered 7th place in the constructor championship for the team in the last two races…)

    Of the six midfield-team drivers (those of Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso) he finished ahead of four, yet he got ranked behind all of them.

    Not often can you see such a bad case of *** on this site; that’s something more Planet-F1-ish.

    To me it seems a (probably not conscious) overcompensation for the Kobayashi-hype rather than an accurate reflection of his season.

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