The British Grand Prix marked the mid-point of the season. It is the perfect opportunity, therefore, to look back on the season so far. Which drivers have impressed and which have disappointed? This post outlines the drivers that I have ranked from 22nd to 12th.
22. Giancarlo Fisichella
I am starting to think that Giancarlo Fisichella didn’t deserve the lifeline that Force India threw him. On the track he has not shone. He has shown an amazing level of hypocrisy too. After criticising Nakajima for his “kamikaze” driving in Australia, just a few races later Fisichella literally drove straight over the top Japanese driver’s car in Turkey. A less experienced driver would undoubtedly have faced a ban for such appalling driving. Yuji Ide had his Super License revoked for less.
It can’t be easy to look good driving the slowest car on the grid. But his team mate Adrian Sutil, while far from impressing in general, was running up in 4th in Monaco. Fisichella has not even looked close to replicating such a performance. Martin Brundle summed it up in his commentary for qualifying when Fisichella ran wide: “He’s run out of track, and just about run out of talent.”
21. Sébastien Bourdais
It was widely predicted that Bourdais would struggle to make a smooth transition from ChampCar to Formula 1. But he surprised us all with a strong performance in the Australian Grand Prix where he had to retire with engine trouble while running in 4th place. His retirement was late enough to secure him 2 points. And although there was a huge amount of attrition in that race, it was not bad going for a début Grand Prix. He was running ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Renault and Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren in what was effectively a year-old Toro Rosso.
So his subsequent descent into complete anonymity is all the more puzzling. He has not looked close to repeating his Australian feat, with results including a dreadful 17th place in his home GP in France. Bourdais says he hopes his form will improve with the re-introduction of slick tyres to F1. But at this rate he won’t get the chance to try them out.
20. Anthony Davidson
Driving what was undoubtedly the worst car of the season, effectively an uneasy amalgam of the 2007 and 2008 Honda chassis, Davidson was never going to shine. I have to confess that I’ve never really got the fuss surrounding Anthony Davidson. Certainly, I don’t see what makes him so much better than the oft-derided Takuma Sato. If Davidson was that handy, he should surely be beating Sato easily. But the results are inconclusive.
If he is not so hot as a racer, he is certainly well-regarded as a good test driver. Perhaps more ominous for Anthony Davidson is the fact that his performances in the commentary box have been widely praised, and rightly so. Next year he is more likely to be working for the BBC than for a motor racing team.
19. Takuma Sato
Takuma Sato had the same uphill struggle as Anthony Davidson this year and he never really fouled it up. Originally the Super Aguri team was set up literally as somewhere to dump Sato, Honda having decided that they didn’t need him for their F1 team. He came out of the Super Aguri experience being linked to a drive with Renault to replace Nelsinho Piquet. The rumour may have been a load of rubbish (I don’t know), but the fact that it was even considered by anyone as a possibility shows how far Sato has come.
18. Nelsinho Piquet
Nelsinho “Junior” Piquet Jr has had a very difficult start to his F1 career. His desire to have the ‘Junior’ dropped from his name led to widespread ridicule, as fans pointed out that if he didn’t want to be called junior he had to stop driving like a junior.
In fairness, there are signs that his performances are picking up. He outwitted his team-mate, double World Champion Fernando Alonso, at the French Grand Prix. He repeated the feat by overtaking him again in Britain. Piquet was in big danger of losing his race seat mid-season. Luckily for him, it looks as though he has upped his game at just the right moment. Whether it will last is another matter.
17. Adrian Sutil
No less a man than Lewis Hamilton has tipped Adrian Sutil as a decent driver. But why is he tipped? Most of us are left scratching our heads. Okay, so he is driving a Force India, so it was always going to be an uphill struggle for him. But have we seen any flashes of talent?
Okay, so his performance at Monaco had a lot going for it. He was impressively running up in 4th until he got knocked out by an errant Kimi Räikkönen. You have to applaud Sutil for managing to wring that performance out of the Force India. But why has he never come even close to looking like repeating it?
16. Timo Glock
At the start of the season Timo Glock was at the centre of a tug-of-war between BMW and Toyota. Toyota won of course, but at the stage of the season I wonder if they think it was really worth all that hoo-ha. It’s all the more strange when you consider the fact that Mario Theissen of BMW generally finds some excellent drivers, having introduced the likes of Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel to F1.
Glock has generally looked out of sorts. He has been outqualified 7–2 by Jarno Trulli. He lies a distant 14th in the championship while Trulli is bringing home regular points hauls up in 7th. Hats off, though, for Glock’s performance in Canada, where he outperformed his vastly more experienced team-mate to bring the car home in 4th.
15. Jenson Button
Last year I was very impressed with Jenson Button as he managed to wring some results from the Honda “shitbox” Earth Car while Barrichello was beginning to look jaded and past it. Now the roles seem to have reversed.
In fact, I can scarcely remember anything that Button has done this season. A solitary 6th place in Spain is all he has to his name. He has been getting into some needless crashes — with Coulthard in Bahrain, Heidfeld in Monaco and Bourdais in France.
14. David Coulthard
David Coulthard has probably had his worst F1 season for a very long time. At the start of the season he seemingly couldn’t stop getting involved in silly little crashes. The Scot was beginning to look like a liability.
However, a very strong driver in Canada gave him a well-deserved podium finish. It remains his only points score of the season in a year where he has been thoroughly outclassed by Mark Webber.
13. Nico Rosberg
All I can say is: not impressed. If Rosberg is so good, why does he never get any good results? Why is it that whenever the camera pans round to him his front wing is missing? Why is it that his team-mate who is only there because he provides cheap engines is equal on points with him?
While the first two questions can easily be put down to the poor performance of his Williams car, the last question cannot be answered. Rosberg is being disgraced by a team mate who has precious little experience and did nothing special in GP2.
All right, so Nico Rosberg can get a good score in Williams’s oh-so-precious written exam? That means eff-all if he can’t get round a racetrack without losing his front wing.
12. Kazuki Nakajima
Speaking of Kazuki Nakajima, I have to say I am quite impressed with what he has managed to achieve. Few people tipped him to do very well, and although I regarded him as a dark horse before the season started, I did not expect him to be equal on points with Rosberg halfway through the season.
Nakajima has had a few needless little crashes, such as in Australia with Kubica and in Canada with Button. But you expect these things from time to time from a rookie.
Okay, so he has had few truly stand-out performances. But his is often there to pick up a couple of points when things go his way. And that is exactly what Williams need right now.
My top 11 drivers will be revealed tomorrow