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My Top Five drivers of the 2009 season

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My Top Five drivers of the 2009 season
Nov 24, 2009, 1:21 AM

Thank you very much to the 1,100 readers who took part in the Top Five drivers of the year competition.

Thank you very much to the 1,100 readers who took part in the Top Five drivers of the year competition. I’m delighted that we got more than 1,000 entries!

There were plenty of interesting entries, Luca Badoer popped up a couple of times, while several Kimi Raikkonen fans put their man in all five positions!

I put a lot of time and research into my selection, going back through my race weekend data, looking at fuel corrected figures for qualifying and so on. I’ve also sounded out some of the F1 engineers for their data analysis of the drivers’ performances over the season.

As a result, here is my Top Five, together with my reasons.

1. Jenson Button – It was between him Hamilton and Vettel as to who would be one, two and three. I remember telling a 19 year old Button in Macau that F1 is all about “consistency at a high level’ and I had to give Button P1 because he showed it this year (mostly!), scoring points in all but one of the races. His peaks were very high; he won six races out of seven at the start of the year, pressing home his car advantage with the double diffuser early on and leaving nothing to chance. He also had to make some bold passes along the way. Unlike Vettel he did not make costly mistakes in races and unlike Hamilton he had to deal with the constant pressure of a championship fight. Most of his problems in the second half of the season were in his head and affected him in qualifying mainly, but he still dug in on race day and scored points. Many of his problems however were also to do with the way the car developed (or didn’t!).

2. Lewis Hamilton – Hamilton performed miracles in a car which was 2.5 seconds off the pace at the start of the year and even after a major update kit transformed it from Germany onwards, it was still some way off the pace of the Red Bull and the Brawn and yet he wrung two wins and four pole positions out of it. Even at the start of the season he was fourth in Australia and Bahrain in a car, which looked horrendous when watched from trackside. He damaged his image over the lying scandal in Melbourne, but I think he has emerged from a tough year as a far better, more humble and more mature driver than he was in 2008

3. Sebastian Vettel – I can assure you that there is not a shred of national bias in my choice of the top two. They just did a more complete job and that was the difference. Vettel was outstanding this year, the good things he did were every bit as good as anything Button or Hamilton did and I’m sure that the team principals put him top in their Top 5 because he is so exciting for F1. His four wins were superb, especially the drives in China and Silverstone. He is still a bit raw, still hasn’t got on top of tyre management and he made a number of expensive mistakes which cost him the championship. But he’s a really exciting talent and a fantastic person to deal with. If he continues to mature as he has these last two seasons, he will claim a place in the sport’s premier league.

4. Mark Webber – the Aussie had by far his best season in F1, getting the pole that mysteriously had escaped him, but also two long overdue wins. He was unbeatable in Germany and controlled Brazil. The reason he makes my top five is because for the most part he did the car justice. Fuel corrected Vettel was faster 10-7 in qualifying, which isn’t as dominant as people make out. There were also quite a few races where he started behind Vettel, but beat his exciting team mate to the finish. People also forget also that he wasn’t fit for the first couple of months of the season after his broken leg and shoulder. He reminded me of Nigel Mansell at times this year. On the downside, he went awol a couple of times in the closing stages of the season, but all the contenders for P4 and P5 in my list did that and the others were more inconsistent.

5. Kimi Raikkonen - This was an incredibly hard choice. There were many contenders; Massa was doing better than Kimi before his accident, but didn’t complete the season; Alonso did well with a poor car, but nothing miraculous and his team mates are no kind of benchmark; Barrichello had some great days, but was easily beaten by Button when the car was the class of the field; Rosberg was fantastic through the middle of the season; Kubica had some miraculous days, but others when he was outperformed by Heidfeld. So Raikkonen gets the nod. People say he had a quiet start to the season, but he was impressive in Bahrain and Monaco. But his performances from July onwards in a car which Ferrari had stopped developing, were astonishing. Even the Ferrari engineers don’t fully understand how he managed to get some of the podiums he did based on the performance of his car, compared to the opposition. He had a sniff of a win at Spa and he took it, holding off a clearly faster Force India car. Loses out on consistency, but gains on miracle achievement.

The five winners, who picked the same top five as me are:

Matt B

Richard Thurbin

Nathan Smith

Joe Sumegi

Gareth

We will be in touch via email to get addresses.

Loads of people went for the same top four with either Barrichello or Alonso at P5. A few people had the same five drivers, but Rob Collins had Raikkonen and Webber the other way around, as did Evan, Jon Wilde and June Lee.

If you missed out, then please get yourselves a copy of the book anyway. All copies purchased through this site will be signed. Click on the book cover on the right of the page.

I will be at Motor Books at 13/15 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4AN (0207 836 5376), just off Charing Cross Road on Saturday 28th November from 3pm for a book signing so come down if you are in town doing your Christmas shopping.

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