Twenty eight drivers were involved in 2011, and here are my top ten for the season just gone.
The latest installment in my season review is looking at the driver's, and who was the best. All twenty-eight who took part had one goal: to be World Champion. Now I reveal who I thought the top ten were, and why.
10: HEIKKI KOVALAINEN
I have always being a fan of Heikki Kovalainen, he has a great personality and is a very talented driver. This year he dragged his Lotus into strong positions, and once again defeated his team mate very comfortably. Kovalainen had a great qualifying session in Spain, where he was fifteenth. I would really like to see Kovalainen in a top team again, I'm sure he would do well this time around after two lacklustre years at McLaren. However, Lotus should be wise and do their best to keep hold of him - he's a great little driver. This season he was almost always the best of the three new teams, and had a very very good season. Notice that he is ahead of drivers who are almost all in better cars, Felipe Massa and all three Renaults being the main people there. Keep it up Heikki, if Lotus make a good car in 2012, you'll be the one to perform in it.
9: JAIME ALGUERSUARI
Alguersuari's first six races were a total disaster, scoring no points. At this point, he was rumoured to be getting the sack sooner or later, particularly when he qualified eighteenth at Canada. However, he rose to eighth place in that race, scoring his first points. Even more impressive was his drive at Valencia, one of his best of 2011, starting eighteenth but finishing eighth again. Alguersuari seemed more comfortable from there on, and dominated his team mate, with great drives at Italy and Korea the highlights. His season was impressive in the second half, and he scored twenty six points, taking advantage of the upturn in speed for Toro Rosso. Despite his strong year, it was announced that Alguersuari would not be driving in 2012 as the team went for an all new line up. Hopefully he can find another drive, but with only one Williams seat and one HRT seat available, it may be difficult.
8: MARK WEBBER
By no means will Mark Webber be happy with how the season went, winning just one race as his team mate took eleven victories. However, he produced six good drives this year, in China, Canada, Europe, Germany, Belgium and Brazil. His best though has to be China, after qualifying a woeful eighteenth, he battled back fantastically, and on the last lap passed Jenson Button to finish third and on the podium. He was third in Canada, Europe and Germany after strong races, while his only win came in the season finale at Brazil. Inheriting the lead when Vettel's gearbox played up, Webber controlled the race well and took a deserved victory. His overtaking was as strong as ever, with three moves on Fernando Alonso, at Turkey, Singapore and most impressively, Belgium, featuring on the top overtakes of the season. His move on Alonso at Belgium, wonderfully passing up Eau Rouge, came in 2nd. However, it was still a poor season for Webber, and he will look to improve in 2012. One thing he needs to start getting right is the race start. In nearly every race this year, he lost position(s) on the opening lap.
7: NICO ROSBERG
Nico Rosberg once again beat Michael Schumacher over the course of the season. His best races were surely China and Belgium, where in both races he led. Rosberg may have been "invisible" at times this season, but it can't be denied he had an impressive year. China was such a strong race, brilliantly leading after a very well timed pit stop from his team. It was another good drive by Rosberg in Turkey, where he qualified third. Belgium was a great race though for Rosberg. He started fifth, and got away very well, moving up to second by the end of Turn One. Then came the big shock though, as he passed Vettel later on in that lap, taking advantage of the Mercedes' impeccable straight line speed to lead the race. Unfortunately it didn't last, and he finished sixth, but it was a good drive. Japan was another great race. After starting 23rd, he brilliantly battled to tenth, and the final point. Another good season for the young German, who will now be looking to beat Schumacher for the third year in a row.
6: MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
After being well and truly thrashed in 2010 by Rosberg, some may have expected the same in 2011. And the season started just like that, but Schumacher had some great drives, and was very close to Rosberg in the Championship come the end of the year. Schumacher fared much better on the "classic" tracks like Monaco, Montreal, Belgium, Italy and Suzuka. He does still have some of the old Schumacher in him, as he proved in Canada, driving marvellously in the incredibly wet conditions to finish fourth, despite running second for a while. Schumacher also drove well at Spa, on the weekend of the 20th anniversary since his arrival in Formula One, battling back from 24th to 5th. He kept Lewis Hamilton at bay for nearly 30 laps in Monza, with some very firm defending. He may not quite have beaten Rosberg, but if Mercedes improve on their car in 2012, and Schumacher's qualifying improves, he could make a return to the podium, and maybe start winning again.
5: ADRIAN SUTIL
I've always admired Sutil: I think he's a great driver, and he drove as well as ever this season, taking ninth place in the Drivers Championship after a great drive in the season finale at Brazil. He was outqualified by his rookie team mate Paul di Resta in the first two races, and his first half of the season could be described as disappointing. However, he got it back, with his brilliant drives at Germany and Brazil being the highlights. His home race was fabulous, finishing sixth after a battle with McLaren's Jenson Button. However, Brazil was possibly Sutil's best ever drive, finishing sixth, and beating Nico Rosberg after a battle into Turn One. These two drives alone are part of the reason why he made my Top Five, but also because despite all the pressure on him, and everyone saying he should be sacked, he kept going and had a great season. Sadly for Sutil, it wasn't enough for him to keep his seat, when Force India confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg would replace Sutil in 2012.
4: LEWIS HAMILTON
Well then, what an unusual season for Lewis Hamilton. He won three races, and in these three races, he drove his heart out and was at his very very best. However, it was an incident prone year, which meant he ended up fifth in the Drivers' Championship. His win in China was just flawless, one of the best drives of the season, and included a marvellous pass on Jenson Button to take victory. In Germany, he produced the best qualifying lap of his life to take 2nd on the grid, beating Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton then beat Webber off of the line, and drove brilliantly, with some great overtakes on Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber to win his second race of the season. He totally controlled the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, never looking back as he fended off Fernando Alonso to win. However, the mistakes and collisions were endless, with Hamilton coming together with Massa in Monaco, Britain, Singapore, Japan and India, with further disagreements between the two in Monaco and Singapore qualifying. There were times when he had a good chance to win a race, but threw it away. Hungary was probably the best example of this. Despite all these incidents, there were still times when Hamilton was on fire. He was the first man to break the Red Bull grip on pole position, with a gorgeous lap in Korea. Hopefully Hamilton can improve in 2012, and mount a serious title challenge.
3: JENSON BUTTON
Jenson Button became the first driver to beat Lewis Hamilton in the same car in 2011. Button may have won the same amount of races as Hamilton, but he drove much better, earning him the runner up spot in the championship. He made very few mistakes, if any, and who can forget his epic victory in Canada? After five pit stops, a drive-thru' penalty, and incidents with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, it looked like he would never get anywhere close to winning. However, he drove the weheels off his car, thrashing it around the Montreal circuit, taking advantage of a rare Sebastian Vettel error on the last lap to win. Aside from Canada, he was also brilliant in his other two race wins, Hungary and Japan. Managing the changeable conditions, as he did in Canada, was the key to his win in Hungary. Japan was all about a stunning in lap, to take the lead in the pit stops from Sebastian Vettel, beating Alonso and Vettel to victory. Button was superb this year, got everything out of the car, and had it not being for horrendous luck at Silverstone and the Nurburgring, he'd have been 2nd by an even greater distance.
2: FERNANDO ALONSO
Alonso's season in 2011 really was a case study of how to extract absolutely everything from a mediocre car. He took ten podiums while his team mate never got above fifth, and was battling for second place in the championship right up until the last race. His drive in Silverstone to win by sixteen seconds was up there with the best of the season, it really was. He constantly pushed until the end, and his starts were excellent, twice taking the lead from fourth on the grid, at both Barcelona and Monza. But that wasn't all that was impressive about Alonso in 2011 - he thrashed his team mate, and took ten podiums in a car which really had no right to be there the majority of the time. Japan and Spain were also excellent drives, but the highlight was definitely Silverstone. As soon as he took the lead in the pits, he was away, driving brilliant laps to win by sixteen seconds. For Alonso's sake, lets hope Ferrari can make a car in 2012 which matches his talent.
1: SEBASTIAN VETTEL
This season, the young German was simply in a class of his own. No-one ever came close to him, as he flew to fifteen pole positions and eleven race wins, easing to the championship. He secured the championship in Japan with four races left, incredibly early when the grid is so competitive right now. He also quashed the theory that he can't race wheel-to-wheel, with four overtakes in particular being most impressive. Passing Jenson Button at Melbourne, Nico Rosberg at Spa and Lewis Hamilton at Korea were all brilliant, but Vettel finest exhibit of overtaking came at Monza. He went around the outside of Fernando Alonso, at 200mph into the Curva Grande for the lead of the race. This was, in my opinion, the best overtake of the season, and proved his talent. Vettel was on it all season long, with his strongest drives coming in Australia, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Korea and India. His driving was impeccable, and barring the messy weekend at his home race (described as a nightmare as he finished fourth), he was perfect. A magnificent season for Vettel, he well and truly blew away the competition. And that's what I think is so impressive about all this: He did it with Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso on the grid.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
These just missed out...
- Timo Glock
- Paul di Resta
- Sergio Perez
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