25. Nelsinho Piquet
I don’t think there is much need to justify why I have placed Piquet at the bottom of the list. Suffice it to say that I hope he never races competitively again.
24. Sébastien Bourdais
Sébastien Bourdais spent the 2008 season explaining that we should wait to judge him until the return of slicks in 2009. Slicks came in 2009. He has been duly judged.
23. Romain Grosjean
I feel a little bit sorry for Romain Grosjean. He was thrown into as difficult a situation as it is possible to imagine. Having done no testing whatsoever, he became Renault’s second driver just in time for a massive scandal involving Renault’s previous second driver to envelop the team. He didn’t perform very well, but they were exceptionally difficult circumstances in my view.
22. Kazuki Nakajima
I thought Nakajima did a good job in 2008, but 2009 was a huge disappointment. His main achievement of the season was to qualify an admittedly impressive 5th place for the British Grand Prix. However, his race was poor and he finished 11th. Way to hoof it over the bar.
21. Jaime Alguersuari
As with the other drivers who were expected to hit the ground running mid-season, Alguersuari was disadvantaged by the fact that he had done no testing. It may also be said that he was brought into F1 too quickly by the impatient Red Bull driver development juggernaut. While he was British F3 Champion of 2008, he was having a moderate season in World Series by Renault and may have befitted from some extra time to develop his skills away from the intense spotlight of F1. As a result, Alguersuari spent a lot of his time crashing or being rather unspectacular.
20. Adrian Sutil
I do wish Adrian Sutil could show us something — anything — that would once and for all conclude that he fully deserves a place in F1. He does show flashes of potential, but contrives to throw his chances away. He could have had a decent points finish in China if he had been more careful in the worsening weather conditions. And he has gained a reputation for being involved in a lot of needless crashes. His crash with Nick Heidfeld in Singapore following a needless spin was particularly unnecessary. This was made all the worse by the fact that he pulled off a frighteningly similar manoeuvre in Japan at the following race. His performance in Belgium looked poor in comparison with his team mate who battled for the win all race long. The main saving grace was a fourth place in Italy.
19. Luca Badoer
Yes, Luca Badoer was massively disappointing as the substitute for Felipe Massa at Ferrari. However, as I have written before, he had a harder job than anyone else on the grid, being expected to become instantly competitive after 10 years away from racing. Given the circumstances, I think Luca Badoer performed quite admirably. It is not as though Fisichella could do much more in that Ferrari — and he didn’t have the excuse of being out of practice for a decade.
18. Sébastien Buemi
I think Buemi did a decent job overall in 2009, although it’s difficult to remember any real stand-out moments. He should have another year in F1, but ought to show more in 2010 in order to justify his continued presence on the grid.
17. Heikki Kovalainen
2009 was another disappointing year for Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn was totally outclassed by his team mate all season long, and never looked like a driver who deserves to be driving for a team as good as McLaren. He seems competent enough, but clearly lacks the hunger and seems incapable of putting in a truly great performance.
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi
Liuzzi made his long-overdue return to the cockpit in a Force India this year. He did a great job at his first race back in Monza, but was slightly disappointing for the remainder of the season. 2010 will be a very important year for his career — it’s make or break time for Liuzzi.
15. Kamui Kobayashi
Kamui Kobayashi was notable for being the one rookie who grabbed your attention. He had only two races, but he made a huge impression on the F1 world. He was ballsy and aggressive, and provided some hugely entertaining racing, particularly against Jenson Button! The downside to this was that he overstepped the line once or twice, particularly when he caused a crash with Nakajima in Brazil. I also doubt whether the driver that races for Sauber in 2010 will show the same hunger. In these two races, Kobayashi had nothing to lose and so took the necessary risks. In 2010 it might all be very different.
14. Giancarlo Fisichella
At the beginning of the season, Giancarlo Fisichella continued in the trajectory his career has generally taken — downwards. The season began ignominiously when he missed his pit box in Australia. There were even rumours that Force India were less than impressed, and were looking to replace him. Then came the rumours that Ferrari were looking to Fisichella as the replacement for the struggling Luca Badoer. Bang on cue, Fisichella put in one of the drives of his life. With his Force India car on song at Spa, he really should have won the race were it not for the kers of the Ferrari car he was about to step into. Once he’d secured his dream drive for Ferrari, it was back to business as usual as he lurched from disappointment to deeper disappointment.
13. Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica was unable to shine this year in the difficult BMW car. Matters were not helped by his height, which was a major disadvantage when BMW tried to run with kers. He took a while to score his first points of the season, and was behind his team mate in the Drivers’ Championship all year. The main consolation was a superb second place finish in Brazil. I hope that Renault can produce a good car for him next year — he deserves a better chance than this.
12. Nick Heidfeld
It was a difficult year for Nick Heidfeld. The BMW car was a massive disappointment and it must have been quite a demoralising season for Nick Heidfeld. Nevertheless, he managed to grab a handful of points, including a second place in the curtailed Malaysian race. He also did a better job at scoring points than Robert Kubica. I deeply hope Heidfeld gets a drive for next season.
11. Jarno Trulli
For a long time, I have disliked Jarno Trulli. However, grudgingly, I have to admit that he did a fairly good job in 2009, despite the Toyota team’s best efforts to throw it all away. Two third place finishes near the start of the season reflected the performance of the car. But his second place in Japan was truly impressive.
Come back tomorrow to read my top ten.