5 – Robert Kubica
At mid-season, we rated Robert Kubica as the best driver of the campaign to-date. That he has since slipped to fifth position in our final rankings is not so much a reflection on his performances, as on the increasing limitations of the equipment at his disposal in Renault's R30.
Back at the beginning of the year, it would be fair to say that the R30 was the fifth-quickest car on the grid, behind its rivals from Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Mercedes Grand Prix – and Kubica excelled.
A brace of podiums from the first six races – an inspired second place in Australia, and a brilliant third in Monaco on a day when he was the only driver in the field to prove capable of living with the runaway Red Bulls – were reinforced by an outstanding stretch of eight straight points-scoring finishes from Melbourne to Valencia. Indeed, just nine points more and he would have concluded proceedings sixth in the title standings rather than eighth.
The Pole's qualifying form, too, was exceptional. Only once all season did he fail to make the top ten on the starting grid, and he let team-mate Vitaly Petrov get ahead of him on just two occasions over the course of 19 outings. Indeed, the first time the Russian rookie got the better of Kubica on a Saturday afternoon came at the Hungaroring in August, and even then, the gap between the pair was barely a tenth of a second.
Robert's front row starting slot in Monte Carlo was in many observers' eyes the lap of the season as the 25-year-old's street-fighting qualities really came to the fore, and at Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka – along with Monaco, arguably constituting the holy trinity of real drivers'
circuits still on the calendar – he produced magnificent efforts to place third. His average qualifying position in 2010 was seventh – better than his car deserved.
Whilst Belgium yielded an excellent third place on race day to-boot, Kubica was denied the opportunity to make it four podiums when an errant wheel cruelly put him out-of-contention on only lap three in Japan – but of more concern, perhaps, was the fact that come season's end, Petrov was beginning to just about threaten his team leader for pace.
Whether Robert's motivation was flagging as Renault's competitiveness seemed to fade, who knows, but it in no way detracts from his overall achievements this year. Make no mistake – Robert Kubica remains a class act. Put him in a front-running car, and he will be a title-challenger without doubt.
Statistics – Robert Kubica:
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
5. Robert Kubica
6. Jenson Button
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Rubens Barrichello
9. Heikki Kovalainen
10. Nico Hülkenberg
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