Motorsport.com's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2016 - Part 1

36,798 views

After another Formula 1 season full of twists and turns, it's time for Motorsport.com's international panel to reveal their top 10 drivers of the year. Who will make the cut in Part 1 of our countdown?

The panel

 Jonathan Noble (JN) - Group F1 Editor

 Pablo Elizalde (PE) - News editor

 Jamie Klein (JK) - UK editor

 Val Khorounzhiy (VK) - News editor

 Andrew van Leeuwen (AVL) - Australia editor

 Oleg Karpov (OK) - F1 reporter, Russia

 Erwin Jaeggi (EJ) - F1 reporter, Netherlands

 Guillaume Navarro (GN) - Editor, France

 Roberto Chinchero (RC) - F1 reporter, Italy

 David Malsher (DM) - US editor

Honourable mentions

 Pascal Wehrlein

VK: The DTM champion's acclimatisation to F1 racing wasn't instantaneous, but it was enough to allow him a few star turns in qualifying and and a superb drive to 10th in Austria. He was ultimately faster, on average, than both of his teammates, although the less-experienced Ocon did run him close.

 Valtteri Bottas

AVL: This time 12 months ago, I was critical of Bottas for not beating Felipe Massa by enough. He rectified that this year, but it still seems that a bit of the shine has come off the Finn over the last couple of seasons. The unknown quantity that is Lance Stroll will present a new challenge in 2017. 

 Romain Grosjean

EJ: Sure, Grosjean had some luck in the early stages of the season, but no matter which way you put it, sixth and fifth places in the first two rounds with the all-new Haas team are quite remarkable achievements. He scored more points in a few other races, making the first year of the US outfit a pretty successful one. Hopefully it can inspire more teams to make the jump to F1.

10.  Nico Hulkenberg

Force India, 9th in points

OK: Yes, he scored fewer points this year than his teammate Perez, but with just a tiny a bit of luck for 'Hulk', it would have been the other way around. He should have had three podiums this year, but each time they slipped through his fingers. His qualifying performances against Perez were also impressive.

PE: At times this year, Hulkenberg showed some of the brilliance that had linked him to top drives in the past, but the German appeared to lack his teammate's consistency. If Renault can get things right next year, Hulkenberg could have a golden chance to live up to the promise he has so far failed to match. 

RC: In the last four races of the season Hulkenberg upped his pace, confirming him in front of Perez in qualifying and often with a significant gap. Even if he missed out on a long-awaited podium finish, the new deal with Renault seems to have given 'Hulk' a great amount of serenity.

Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India

Photo by: XPB Images

9.  Kimi Raikkonen

Ferrari, 6th in points

JN: After a first half of the campaign where there were doubts he would even keep his drive for next year, Raikkonen was like a new man once his 2017 contract was confirmed. He even had the edge on Vettel for much of the second half of the season.

GN: After 2015, it was hard to imagine Raikkonen outpacing Vettel 50 percent of the time in qualifying and making questionable tyre strategies work out. If Red Bull still kept the upper hand on strategy, the Iceman showed Ferrari was right to keep him in the seat instead of a younger, faster talent... for now!

VKFerrari's decision to re-sign Raikkonen for another year midway through 2016 looked, by most accounts, another terribly unexciting call by F1's most famously risk-averse outfit. Half a season later, however, that decision now looks to be indisputably the right one, as, in recent months, Raikkonen was clearly the better Ferrari driver.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF16-H
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF16-H

Photo by: XPB Images

8.  Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari, 4th in points

JK: This was probably Vettel's most uneven campaign since the first of his title-winning years, something that was likely rooted in frustration at Ferrari's inability to capitalise on a promising 2015 season. But he seemed to rediscover his mojo in the last few races (his bizarre tirade at Charlie Whiting aside) after a shaky mid-season patch where Raikkonen had the edge rather too often.

EJ: Sebastian did not make himself very popular in the Netherlands this year with his constant moaning about Max, but he did manage to spice things up from time to time by extracting the most from his car and tyres. If Ferrari can give him a better car and the German can keep his cool, we should be able to see this four-time champ back on the highest step of the podium sooner rather than later.

PE: It didn't take long for Ferrari and Vettel to realise that their pre-season hopes were exactly that: hopes. The German's year was derailed pretty quickly and, at times, his frustration was clear, both on track and on the radio, his complaints becoming a regular feature in most races. When he was at his best, however, he showed all the speed and skill that made him a four-time champion.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H

Photo by: Ferrari

7.  Fernando Alonso

McLaren, 10th in points

VK: The torrid crash to start the season aside, Alonso was most notable in 2016 for the same thing he excelled at in 2015, too – deadpan expressions of anguish related to his McLaren's team performance and the sport itself. That nobody seems to mind the deprecation is because Alonso is still so good at the part that really matters, i.e. the driving.

OK: If you want to know how good your car is, just put Alonso behind the wheel and he'll show its true potential. Finishing the season in top 10 overall and scoring more than twice the points of his world champion teammate Button, and in that McLaren, is another example of his class.

PE: Like most F1 drivers, Alonso's form was masked by the lack of competitiveness of his car. Nonetheless, the Spaniard put on some great performances like in Austin or Monaco to show he is still among the best of the field despite being stuck in the mid-pack. If McLaren can produce a better car next year, it will be good news for F1.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren on the grid
Fernando Alonso, McLaren on the grid

Photo by: XPB Images

6.  Sergio Perez

Force India, 7th in points

AVL: It seems that 2016 has marked the re-arrival of Perez as a genuine Formula 1 gun, after that ill-timed move to McLaren a few years back. Giving Hulkenberg a 30-point belting is no mean feat, and those podiums in Monaco and Baku were impressive. 

GN: If Perez hadn’t scored 40 percent more points than Hulkenberg, Force India could have ended up behind Williams in the constructor’s championship. Instead, brilliant Q3 performances, two podiums and a total of 16 point finishes allowed the team take a major step forward. But what kind of development leader will he be with Esteban Ocon alongside him in 2017? 

EJ: If it wasn’t for Verstappen’s stellar wet weather performance in Brazil, Perez would have been on the podium three times this year. Nevertheless, taking the Force India VJM09 to third in the streets of Monaco and Baku is still an amazing feat. He also scored most of the points that got his team up to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, making him invaluable for Force India.

Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09

Photo by: XPB Images

For the second part of our countdown, where we will reveal our top five drivers of the season...

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Sebastian Vettel , Nico Hulkenberg , Sergio Perez
Article type Special feature