10. Timo Glock
Timo Glock has started to show real signs of improvement this year. While the Toyota team may have bizarrely liked to have criticised Glock for the car’s poor performance, the fact is that Glock put in some great performances in 2009. Particularly notable was his heroic performance in Singapore, where he finished in second position, climbing his way up from sixth on the grid. Despite still making the odd mistake, he generally impressed me more than Jarno Trulli.
9. Kimi Räikkönen
By now it is no secret that the Ferrari F60 was a difficult car to drive. Nor was is particularly fast. In this light, Räikkönen’s achievements seem rather better than the results may suggest. Strangely, he seemed to become better after Felipe Massa was sidelined. He scored four podium finishes in a row from Hungary onwards. This included a magnificent win in Belgium. It is always a joy to watch Räikkönen at Spa.
However, the same question marks surrounding his commitment and motivation continued to float around him. Sometimes his behaviour did little to dispel this notion. It is a shame that he won’t be racing in F1 in 2010, but you can’t help but wonder if he could have done a little more to make his mark this year.
8. Fernando Alonso
I am a great admirer of Fernando Alonso, but it was a difficult year to watch him. The Renault car was not up to Alonso’s capabilities, and as such I feel that Alonso spent much of this year going through the motions. This year was a year of him just waiting for a Ferrari contract to be signed.
At the start of the season, Alonso would collect a sixth place here, a fifth there… Although it didn’t set the world alight, it was admirable stuff considering that his team mates could not even think of touching a points position. There were some flashes of greatness — an early dominance of the Hungarian Grand Prix before it all fell apart after his first pit stop and a nifty third place at Singapore among them. I look forward to seeing him in a good car again.
7. Felipe Massa
Obviously Felipe Massa had a very difficult season for reasons outwith his control, what with him having to sit out the second half of the season after being injured in Hungary. But he looked good during the first half of the season, when the car wasn’t letting him down. He out performed his team mate, grabbed the fastest lap in Monaco, a good podium finish in Germany and possibly would have had another good result in China if his car hadn’t broken down.
6. Nico Rosberg
A solid year for Rosberg in my view. I was critical of him during the 2008 season, when he got involved in too many needless scrappy accidents. This year he looked more mature, and is ready to step up to the plate with a better car. He comprehensively outperformed Kazuki Nakajima. Although there were no podium finishes, he had a great run of very strong results, with eight consecutive points finishes in the middle of the season.
5. Rubens Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello had a brilliant year considering it was marginal whether or not he would even be in F1 this year. But the sport’s elder statesman showed why he is still entrusted with the world’s fastest cars. He took a while to get up to speed at the start of the year. This gave Jenson Button the vital momentum he needed in order to secure this year’s Drivers’ Championship. But Button would not have been in that position were it not for Barrichello’s set up data. You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly rely on him to bring you your pipe and slippers. He will be a great asset to Williams, although he is unproven in the role of team leader.
4. Mark Webber
At last, Mark Webber has had a decent season where he has been able to show his abilities without being hindered by bucketloads of bad luck. Even then, he was disadvantaged by the fact that he had a huge chunk of metal embedded in his leg as a result of the injuries he sustained while bicycling last winter. Given that Mark Webber is already quite large as drivers go, this extra weight was an enormous disadvantage. For a portion of the season he looked like a decent Championship contender. Even though a bad phase in the final third of the season put paid to this, Mark Webber took two wins and a handful of other great results too.
3. Sebastian Vettel
It is no secret that Sebastian Vettel is hugely talented. But he is also still young, and has a lot yet to prove if he is to truly deserve the mantle of “Future World Champion” which is often attached to him. He does still make too many mistakes. His lap 1 foul-up in Turkey is unforgettable, and his late tangle with Robert Kubica in Australia was avoidable. Meanwhile, Vettel has shown a worrying trait of failing to overtake drivers. That said, he is undoubtedly fast and generally had the upper hand over his team mate.
2. Lewis Hamilton
This has been a learning year for Lewis Hamilton, and I am sure he exits 2009 a much stronger driver than he entered it. McLaren started the season with a horrid car. The year also began in disaster when he was caught, in collusion with members of the McLaren team, lying to the FIA stewards. But he didn’t let any of that get the better of him. Instead, the McLaren team got on with the job of making the car better, and Hamilton was ready to take advantage as soon as the car was good enough to win races.
The most eyebrow-raising moment of his season was when he let a great result in Italy slip away when he pushed too hard unnecessarily on the final lap. Apart from that, I think the second half of the season was textbook from Lewis Hamilton. I am sure he will be extremely strong in 2010, particularly if McLaren produce as good a car as they ought to.
1. Jenson Button
But the best driver of the year for me has to be Jenson Button. His utter dominance at the start of the season meant that, no matter how much he went off the boil in the second half of the season, he was untouchable no matter which way you slice it.
The thing that impressed me the most about Jenson Button this year was the fact that when he needed to overtake someone he just did it. This is in stark contrast to his main rival for the Championship, Sebastian Vettel. Most of the season’s best overtaking moves have come from Jenson Button, meaning that not only was he the best driver — he was also the most entertaining one.
Happy new year to all readers of vee8!