Top 10 F1 Drivers of the Year 2011:
After the disappointment of being disqualified from a points finish first time out in Australia – where both Saubers failed a rear wing test – Kamui Kobayashi found the top ten increasingly had to come by.
Although he was a regular scorer in the first half of the season, his results tailed off until he rediscovered the points in the final two rounds.
The Japanese ace, rated the best F1 prospect to emerge from his homeland, posted just three retirements but found his team in a tough midfield battle with Force India and Toro Rosso, especially towards the end of the season. Scoring in both Abu Dhabi and Brazil ensured that he did just enough to fend off Force India rookie Paul di Resta in the final standings.
Somewhat surprisingly, Kobayashi lost the qualifying battle to team-mate Sergio Perez, all too often starting from a lower position that either his ability or the Sauber's potential deserved, but he made up for it on raceday, gaining positions early on to put himself in contention for points. His best result came on the streets of Monaco, where he finished fifth, and Kobayashi will be hoping for more of that in 2012, when he will again be paired with Perez.
It was off the track that Kobayashi made a mark for himself, reacting with dignity and vigour as he attempted to deal with the devastating earthquake and tsunami that affected his homeland, spearheading fundraising and awareness efforts both in F1 and the wider world.
F1 Driver of the Year Top 10:
10. Adrian Sutil