After you voted in your thousands for who you thought to be the best Formula 1 driver of 2008, now's the time for Crash.net
to reveal its own top ten, beginning today with positions six to ten.
10. Heikki Kovalainen
After out-qualifying team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the second race in Malaysia, and after setting fastest lap in two of the first three grands prix, some tipped Kovalainen – one of the true stars of the second half of the 2007 F1 campaign, his rookie season in the top flight – to take the fight to his title-chasing team-mate and give the Briton something to really
Why that never materialised has been the subject of much debate. Over the balance of the year the Finn succeeded in out-qualifying Hamilton on only four occasions – and out-racing him barely at all – and his sole triumph in Hungary was fortuitous to say the least.
There are three schools of thought on why Kovalainen struggled so much – one is that he suffered from invariably being sent out on a heavier fuel load in qualifying than Hamilton, thereby putting him at an instant disadvantage when the lights went out; another goes that he was simply rattled by his team-mate's sheer pace; or finally, and most unpalatably of all for the 27-year-old's supporters, that he just wasn't all he had been cracked up to be after all.
That said, there were flashes of genuine promise along the way, most notably his Silverstone pole position, a victory potentially gone begging in Istanbul and a strong performance in Japan curtailed by engine failure. In 2009 he must convert those brief glimpses into a more concerted challenge – or else risk being considered merely a 'solid number two' for the remainder of his grand prix career.
9. Nick Heidfeld
Heidfeld's 2008 season was a strange one. The German – still without a race win to his name after no fewer than 150 starts in the top flight – encountered major difficulties in qualifying early on, as he struggled woefully to warm his tyres up sufficiently quickly to set a fast lap time in the required time frame.
That saw highly-rated team-mate Robert Kubica steal the edge over him, and before long the daggers were out for Heidfeld within the Formula 1 paddock, with the BMW-Sauber management outwardly seeming to offer him few guarantees over the safety of his seat at the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit.
Nonetheless, like the experienced pro that he has become, Heidfeld assiduously worked away at his problems and at one stage seemed to have overcome them, as he out-qualified Kubica in Britain, Belgium, Italy, China and Brazil. There were also brilliant performances when the odds were stacked against all the drivers and the chips were down – in Australia, Canada, Britain and Belgium, the man from Mönchengladbach mastered challenging conditions and confusing situations to perfection to seal rostrum finishes from sometimes unfavoured grid slots.
Silverstone, indeed, witnessed a truly spectacular showing, as the 31-year-old produced a brace of stunning double passes, and throughout his troubles his racing
credentials and overtaking prowess were never in any doubt. Heidfeld reckons the new 2009 regulations will suit his driving style far better – if they do, prepare to see him fly again.
8. Timo Glock