Top 10 F1 Drivers of the Year 2011:
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull-Renault RB7
To borrow one of Murray Walker's favourite adjectives, 2011 was nothing short of 'superlative' for Sebastian Vettel who, coming off the back of his surprise 2010 title, romped through the season with seemingly little in the way of opposition.
Breaking records – Nigel Mansell's previous marks for laps led and pole positions in a single year – along the way, the German proved to be the king of qualifying and, when he didn't finish first, generally joined the winner on the podium. What was more remarkable, however, was that he did it with a car that was far from unbeatable, underlining the talent behind the wheel.
With none of the 2010 errors to speak of, Vettel's worst result was fourth on home soil, while his sole DNF, in Abu Dhabi, was not of his making. Indeed, when he did err, it tended to be in Friday free practice and, even if he lacked the running the two 90-minute sessions would have afforded him, Vettel still tended to be at the top of the timesheets at the end of qualifying. Once there, he proved extremely hard to beat on race day, even he was ultimately denied a shot at the record for the number of victories in a single season as both Abu Dhabi and Brazil – where he suffered a gearbox glitch that, despite gifting team-mate Mark Webber top spot, was not enough to prevent him from setting fastest laps before the end of the race.
He also went some way to laying to rest accusations that he could not 'race', which had been raised after his involvement in accidents while trying to come through the pack in 2011. However, after putting two wheels on the grass to snatch the lead from Fernando Alonso at Monza, and braving it around the outside of Nico Rosberg at Spa – as well as pulling countless clean passes on lesser rivals – the German did a lot to erase the blot on his copybook.
The raised finger salute and personal comparisons to Ayrton Senna grated, but Vettel still proved to be one of the most amenable drivers in the paddock, and will start 2012 as favourite to complete a title hat-trick.
F1 Driver of the Year Top 10:
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Paul di Resta
5. Nico Rosberg
6. Michael Schumacher