7 – Nico Rosberg
That Nico Rosberg has been one of the stars of the season in F1 2010 is indubitable. Hand-on-heart, who expected the young German to be beaten hands-down by record-breaking, multiple world champion team-mate Michael Schumacher this year? How many expected him to be rapidly consigned to a bit-part role in Schumi's team and triumphant comeback story? Us too, and for that we owe Nico a sincere apology – we underestimated you.
The bare statistics tell a damning tale – but for Schumacher, not Rosberg. The younger of the two countrymen out-qualified his elder statesman 15 times, outscored him by 142 points to just 72 – nigh-on twice as many – and tallied three podium finishes to none. On the 14 occasions when both took the chequered flag, twelve times Nico was ahead, and whilst Michael began to get on terms in the qualifying stakes in the final races, even when he was outpaced on Saturday afternoons, Rosberg invariably turned the tables the following day.
Yes, say the cynics, but the Michael Schumacher of 2010 was palpably not the same model as the once near-invincible force who swept to seven world titles in the top flight – but he remains Michael Schumacher nonetheless, and to comprehensively outperform him in the manner that Rosberg did from season's beginning to close deserves a hefty slice of praise.
For much of the opening half of the campaign, the 25-year-old was simply brilliant, missing the points only twice in the first twelve races prior to the summer break, and producing magnificent efforts to reach the rostrum in Malaysia, China and Britain, all in a car that arguably had no right to be there. There were inspired qualifying performances, too – none more so than his front row grid slot in Malaysia – as he put his Mercedes Grand Prix machine inside the top six ten times. Schumacher managed it just twice.
If his form understandably dropped off as Mercedes fell from the pace mid-season, then Rosberg's composure and determination never wavered, and he always got the best from the cards that he was dealt. As the media focussed on his team-mate's struggles, Nico quietly got on with the job in-hand, and the one thing still missing from his CV come season's end – a victory – will assuredly come. Mercedes has promised a much-improved car in 2011. If they produce one, watch their new number one driver fly.
Statistics – Nico Rosberg:
Mercedes Grand Prix
Mercedes MGP W01
3rd (Malaysia, China, Britain)
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Rubens Barrichello
9. Heikki Kovalainen
10. Nico Hülkenberg
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