So, Part II is here. Part III will be here tomorrow!
16th – 6th
16th – Nico Hülkenberg
Probably there were too many expectations on him, being the reigning GP2 champion. Yes, his pole position was legendaty but, other than that, what has he done? You can hardly remember any stellar performance by him before qualifying in Interlagos. However he kept himself honest against Barrichello – he has potential, and it will be a shame if he fails to get a seat for next year.
15th – Nick Heidfeld
Have shown why he should never have quit the sport in the first place, being immediately on the pace of Kobayashi in a car he had never driven, and showing de la Rosa how he should have done. There is still unfinished business for him in F1, however, with so few competitive seats available, his future is looking bleak…
14th – Timo Glock
“Impressive” is not enough to describe Glock’s work this year. He has always been on the gearboxes of the Lotuses, and sometimes even coming home in front of them, in a car that was arguably not capable of such feat. Worthy of note was his defence from Sutil at Singapore – pure class, he didn’t even need to put a wheel off the racing line!
13th – Heikki Kovalainen
The best of the trailing pack. Heikki found peace of mind at Lotus, after his confidence and motivation were thrashed at McLaren. In some occasions he was just a few tenths off the Toro Rossos, and secured Lotus its 10th place. I guess everyone watched a new Kovalainen this year – you can see the fire in his eyes.
12th – Adrian Sutil
The season began on a high for him, but the last races couldn’t have gone worse. At the beginning he seemed to have shaken away the crashes and silly mistakes that prevented him of scoring earlier in 2009, and was a solid point scorer and Q3 contender. However he seemed to have stagnated after the summer break, but I give him the benefit of the doubt, as it looked like the performance of the VJM03 slumped after Force India lost Mark Smith and James Key.
11th – Felipe Massa
Underperformed in the third best car of the grid. Much was discussed about the (bad) relationship between his driving style and the Bridgestone tyres, but unlike Schumacher, it seemed like he hasn’t improved on that front. He was utterly beaten by Alonso this year, so hardly that he could barely help his team mate to take the title, however, it was always going be hard to keep up with him, with his motivation dragging through the mud after Hockenheim.
10th – Michael Schumacher
One of the biggest disappointments of the season, although everyone must admit that the expectations on him were never realistic. It looked like he would improve after the European season began, but he couldn’t best his own results from Barcelona and Turkey. He improved a lot on the last races though, with a pretty solid race in Suzuka, a delightful performance in Korea and another solid race in Brazil (despite the strategical mistake from Mercedes). Is that the sign that there is much more to come from the living legend of this sport in 2011?
9th – Kamui Kobayashi
Give him fresh option tyres and you are guaranteed to love the race. Kamui has done a stellar job this season. After being pestered by reliability problems and the odd rookie mistake here and there, Kamui started to score solid points for Sauber, with 8 points finish from the last 13 races. His performance ended up showing the back door to de la Rosa, and he fared rather well against his highly-rated team mate Nick Heidfeld, finishing behind him only once. By far the best rookie of the season.
8th – Rubens Barrichelllo
Not quite what he’d wish for after his season with Brawn GP, but Rubens did a great job this year. When he arrived at Williams, the car was the seventh faster at best, but once his technical input was translated into new parts for the car, the performance improved a lot, taking the fight to Mercedes and Renault quite often. His pass over Schumacher at Hungaroring was the stuff of legends, and at some points in the season he was only slower than the Top 3 teams. Now heading to his 19th season, his longevity in such voracious spot is the proof of his worth.
7th – Jenson Button
To me Button simply lacked the pace to keep up with the other contenders this year. As always, his ability to make crucial calls still gives him valuable points, but only if he could sort out his qualifying seaons, he wouldn’t need to make up places via strategy calls. He was the only contender who failed to score a pole position this year, and his failure to win a race under normal conditions summarizes the season for him.
6th – Nico Rosberg
Impressive. I never rated him highly, but now it is hard to be indifferent about him. When everyone though that he had just landed on the worst seat possible, he just proves everyone wrong by beating soundly his seven-times world champion team mate. His podiums were pretty impressive too, especially at Silverstone, where he clrealy outperformed his mediocre car.