20. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Championship Position: 21st
Having struggled to find his feet in the top flight to begin with – and dogged by the unenviable and unmerited 'pay driver' tag – Maldonado has since settled in well, and his blameless retirement at the hands of Lewis Hamilton in Monaco was one of the saddest of the season. The Venezuelan's recent qualifying pace in a rather less-than-competitive car has been superb. No points yet, granted, but the reigning GP2 Series Champion has proved that he deserves his spot on the grid.
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania Racing (HRT), Championship Position: 20th
Liuzzi has, to give him his dues, done about as good a job in the HRT F111 as could have been expected, taking the fight to and beating the Virgins to restore some semblance of pride to a team that began the campaign in much the same shambolic fashion as the last. The Italian's input has almost certainly been key to that progression, but he now faces his sternest challenge yet in the shape of Daniel Ricciardo.
18. Jaime Alguersuari, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Championship Position: 14th
Of the two Toro Rosso drivers, on the basis of the end of last season, you would have tipped Alguersuari to emerge on top this year – but by-and-large, that has not been the case. The principal issue for the young Spaniard has been his qualifying speed – or rather, persistent lack of it. That has left him with far too much work to do come the grand prix itself – and in danger of ejection.
17. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes Grand Prix, Championship Position: 10th
Having asked his critics to hold fire and only judge him in the second year of his top flight comeback, 'Schumi' is arguably not going to be judged particularly positively. Once more, the most successful driver in F1 history has been left trailing by his team-mate Nico Rosberg, and once more, the knives are out. You cannot help but feel it will not be long now before Michael must face the unpalatable truth.
16. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Championship Position: 6th
To say that Massa has underwhelmed in F1 2011 would be something of an understatement. Eleven races into the campaign, and the Brazilian has tallied fewer than half the points of team-mate Fernando Alonso, has failed to reach the podium (the driver of the sister Ferrari has not been off it for the past four outings) and only finally succeeded in out-qualifying the Spaniard for the first time this year in Hungary earlier this month. More of the same from the Paulista, unfortunately – and not really good enough.
15. Daniel Ricciardo, Hispania Racing (HRT), Championship Position: 26th
He has only made three grand prix starts, but already Ricciardo has turned heads in the world of F1, and you get the feeling that it will not be long before Narain Karthikeyan's replacement at HRT will be consistently getting the better of the much more experienced Vitantonio Liuzzi. A star of the future, this one, have no doubt.
14. Adrian Sutil, Force India F1, Championship Position: 12th
Sutil has endured a torrid time of things in F1 2011 to-date, finding himself consistently out-qualified and outraced in the opening grands prix by rookie team-mate Paul di Resta, and then inexplicably stumbling into all sorts of hot water over the Shanghai nightclub incident. Of late, the German has begun to re-assert himself inside the team with a number of strong runs – but it has been a shaky start, of that there can be no doubt.
13. Vitaly Petrov, Lotus Renault GP, Championship Position: 9th
To say that Petrov has been evenly-matched with experienced team-mate Nick Heidfeld this season would be misleading; to say they have shone in alternate races would be closer to the truth. Like the German, at times in 2011, Russia's first-ever F1 driver has looked like the real deal, but on other occasions, he has floundered hopelessly in the midfield. In truth, the R31's frustrating inconsistency makes it impossible to accurately assess its drivers' form.
12. Nick Heidfeld, Lotus Renault GP, Championship Position: 8th
It is difficult to know what to make of 'Quick Nick' this year. At times – Sepang and Barcelona spring most prominently to mind – he has been brilliant, thoroughly justifying his selection to stand in for the injured Robert Kubica at Lotus Renault GP; elsewhere, though, his qualifying pace has been poor and that has hurt him big-time come race day. Again, the bottom line is that the car is no longer good enough to be able to tell.
11. Sébastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Championship Position: 13th
Buemi entered the season under a lot of pressure to perform, with many tipping him to sink without trace – swiftly to be replaced by Scuderia Toro Rosso reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo – but to his great credit, the young Swiss ace has bounced back in style from a disappointing 2010 campaign to assert himself as the Faenza-based outfit's effective team leader. No future superstar, perhaps, but at least his seat should now be safe.
Make sure to check back on Sunday for the all-important top ten!