Who's got the most momentum heading into Austin?
Welcome to my second F1 only installment of our Pound for Pound ranking system. I take into consideration recent results, potential of the driver, team, chassis combination and more to determine who we see as the top ten drivers of the moment. Without further ado, here is my current list.
1. Lewis Hamilton
When a driver is leading the world championship in a dominant car, it can be hard to judge the strength of his performances. The only way to silence the critics therefore is to win, and that is precisely what Lewis has done. Hamilton has gone from strength to strength in the closing half of the season, over coming what once was a size-able deficit to his team mate, the Briton has dug deep and gone on a career best equaling string of four victories in a row. No driver has ever won nine races in a season and not clinched the championship, Hamilton is very much in the catbird seat.
2. Sebastian Vettel
Despite his junior team mate getting the best of him this year, the defending champ has had somewhat of a resurgence of late, including a strong double podium run with an excellent 2nd in Singapore and a fighting 3rd at Suzuka, showing the entire field that even in a car he dislikes, Vettel is still the man in the final fly away races.
3. Valtteri Bottas
Despite not yet winning a race this season Williams has been the only team to top Mercedes in qualifying and Valtteri Bottas put forth the best Saturday effort of his career with a lap on the ragged edge that nearly took pole in Sochi. He backed it up with another fine podium, his fifth of the year. Bottas is quickly casting himself in the mold of the unflappable Finns that came before him like Raikkonen and Hakkinen.
4. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg is only 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton heading to Austin this weekend. He's finished 2nd in three of the last four grand prix, but he is only ranked fourth on our list today because he has made numerous mistakes. Locking up under pressure at Monza, flat spotting at Sochi, the usually impenetrable wall of confidence has been chipped away by the relentless speed of his Mercedes team mate. Nico's incredible recovery drive to take 2nd at Sochi was excellent and the only reason he didn't drop another spot or two in the rankings. Nico still has a shot at the title, but he will have to do far more in the final races if he wants to emulate his father and capture a championship.
5. Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo had so much momentum at the mid point of season that it was bound to slow down sometime. His last four races have been very strong, but not as incredible as his early season run or his back to back victories in Hungary or Belgium. With Vettel finally sneaking ahead of him for a race or two, the affable Aussie has slipped a couple spots in our rankings.
6. Jean-Eric Vergne
Ricciardo's former Toro Rosso team mate meanwhile has vaulted himself into our top 10 with heroic performances in his STR9. Often times drivers who suddenly come to life to rescue their career are sneered upon as if they had been holding back, but in the case of Jev, it is like a driver reborn. His performance in Singapore was heroic, enraged by a second time penalty he went on a tear and made passes that simply shouldn't be possible through the narrow confines of Marina Bay. He is out for once and all to prove to his bosses at Red Bull and the Formula One community at large that he deserves a ride in 2015.
7. Jenson Button
Another driver who has upped his game in the face of a potential sacking is Jenson Button. It has been a quiet season for Jenson, and much has been made of his hard charging rookie team mate, but Button has had the measure of him for most of the year and in the last several grand prix has excelled with the quiet confidence of a former champion and the most experienced man on the grid. He was magnificent at Suzuka and backed that up with a strong 4th place in Sochi, making the best out of an ever improving MP4-29.
8. Fernando Alonso
Alonso has had a rough go of it lately, off the track rumors not withstanding. He has had two mechanical retirements in the last four races something previously unthinkable in his Ferrari career up to this point. After an overly enthusiastic start in Singapore he finished an excellent 4th, but found himself a floundering 6th in Sochi. Strong finishes for the average driver, but not the kind of relentless results we are used to from the Spaniard.
9. Felipe Massa
One of the unluckiest drivers of the season, Massa nevertheless shrugged off his disappointment and finally delivered his first podium of the season with an excellent drive at Monza. He followed that up with a best of the rest 5th in Singapore and 7th in Japan. Had a safety car emerged in Sochi another points scoring result would have been on the boards there as well. He and Bottas have each scored in three out of the last four grand prix helping Williams retain their points advantage over Ferrari for the crucial third spot in the Constructors standings with just three races to go.
10. Kimi Raikkonen
Another driver who has upped the ante of late is Ferrari's beleaguered Kimi Raikkonen. Much has been made of his struggles at Ferrari this year, but finally he has been closer to the front and closer to his team mate helping to deliver some much needed points for the Scuderia. Other than a lackluster race at Suzuka, Kimi has scored points in three of the last four races. He is getting an all new chassis for Austin with the hopes the upward trend can continue. Most eyes may be on 2015 by this point, but Ferrari doesn't want this to be their first winless season since 1993. With Alonso jumping ship, the boys back at Maranello would relish any late season success for the iceman.
Adam Tate is the co-founder of Tribute Racing and a contributor to Motorsport.com