After you voted in your thousands for who you thought to be the best Formula 1 driver of 2008, now's the time for to reveal its own top ten, with below positions one to five.

5. Sebastian Vettel

The man who has been tipped in some quarters to become 'the next Michael Schumacher' - a tag he has modestly shunned - began the 2008 Formula 1 campaign in torrid fashion, failing to go beyond even the opening lap in three of the first four grands prix. Though not all of the retirements were of his own making - suffering an engine failure in Bahrain - the young German did not actually see a chequered flag until Turkey in May...and even then it was in a lowly 17th and last position.

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Then, however, came Monaco, the arrival of Scuderia Toro Rosso's new STR3 - and a dramatic turnaround. From the very back row of the grid, Vettel kept his head on race day around the narrow, tortuous streets of the Principality and produced a fast, composed and error-free performance to move his way up into fifth spot at the close, registering the small Faenza-based outfit's first points of the season in the process.

Out of the remaining twelve grands prix, only four times did the man from Heppenheim fail to score, and in the last seven races he was never outside the top ten on the starting grid. Such was his form, indeed, that Vettel leapfrogged Williams' Nico Rosberg, Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and the Toyota duo of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli to steal eighth position in the drivers' standings at the close.

The undisputed highlight of the former F3 Euroseries runner-up's season, though, was his sensational breakthrough victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, as he added to his record of being F1's youngest-ever points-scorer - by dint of his eighth place on his debut for BMW-Sauber in the 2007 US Grand Prix in place of the convalescing Robert Kubica - with that of youngest pole position-holder too and youngest race-winner, at just 21 years and 74 days of age when he crossed the finish line. Never putting a wheel out of place in trying conditions, it was a magnificent showing - and one that confirmed Sebastian Vettel not so much as a star of the future, but indeed a world champion in-waiting.

4. Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa came of age during the 2008 F1 campaign, there is absolutely no doubt about that. The driver who some had suggested would not be able to handle the absence of traction control and other such gizmos - predicting a return to the Brazilian's former wild days with Sauber - not only rapidly got a grip on the new regulations, but in fact did so rather better than defending world champion Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who he dominated practically year-long.

Massa's 2008 form, indeed, was as impressive as the Finn's was desultory, as he overcame a jittery start - spinning and subsequently colliding with David Coulthard in the curtain-raiser Down Under in Melbourne and spinning again as he vainly attempted to keep pace with Raikkonen in Malaysia - to establish himself as the clear number one at Maranello, confounding all of his critics with some panache.

As Raikkonen's star waned, so Massa's rose, with unrivalled triumphs in his traditional stomping grounds of Bahrain and Turkey and the runner-up spot in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona kicking his title challenge into gear. There would be four further victories over the balance of the campaign, and though two of them were inherited - that at Magny-Cours from Raikkonen's exhaust problem and that at Spa-Francorchamps following Lewis Hamilton's controversial post-race penalty - equally the S?o Paulista was cruelly deprived of successes that should rightfully have been his almost within sight of the chequered flag in Hungary and as a result of Ferrari's pit-stop calamity in Singapore.

There were blips, such as his five spins in the rain at Silverstone and collisions with both Hamilton and S?bastien Bourdais in Japan, but through it all Massa never let his focus sway, and he entered the final race of the season in front of his adoring home fans at Interlagos still in with an - albeit slim - chance of lifting the laurels. Doing all he could possibly do, the 27-year-old's superb win was arguably the finest of his grand prix career, but with Hamilton sneaking in fifth it fell agonisingly just short. The bridesmaid he may have been in 2008, but the Felipe Massa that heads into 2009 is a new man - and one who knows he possesses all the necessary credentials to lift international motorsport's ultimate prize.

3. Robert Kubica

For a period in 2008 - and a fairly lengthy period at that - Robert Kubica looked capable of pinching the world championship crown away from under the noses of favourites Hamilton and Massa, as the BMW-Sauber ace routinely out-performed the equipment at his disposal in the shape of the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's F1.08.

Though race day ultimately ended in retirement, the Pole's maiden front row grid slot in Australia proved to be a precursor to a truly magnificent season, one in which he invariably had the beating of swift and experienced team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who would indeed not succeed in out-qualifying the man from Krak?w until the British Grand Prix in July.

From Malaysia to Canada Kubica would finish no lower than fourth, with his first pole position in the top flight in Bahrain and - most notably of all - his breakthrough victory in Montreal, the scene of his terrifying accident only twelve months earlier that had seen his car somersault sickeningly through the air and from which he had emerged dazed but, thankfully, largely unscathed.

That success - leading home Heidfeld in a BMW one-two - vaulted the 23-year-old to the top of the drivers' title chase, but it would prove, sadly, to be something of a false dawn. As McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari continued to develop and progress, BMW found they had perhaps peaked too soon, and struggled to accelerate into the necessary higher gear that would have maintained Kubica's push for glory. Though he remained in the hunt for the majority of the rest of the campaign, with just three further podiums from the last eleven races he was never again any more than an outsider, and his challenge fizzled out altogether in China, where for only the second time all year he failed to make the top ten on the starting grid.

That was arguably more a reflection on how far BMW had fallen than on its star driver's performance, and though he was perhaps too outspoken at times - making little secret of his belief that the team had spent too much time focussing on resolving Heidfeld's qualifying troubles rather than backing his own bid for honours - Robert Kubica remains very much the real deal.

2. Lewis Hamilton

Having already smashed all rookie records during his breathtaking maiden campaign in the sport in 2007, Hamilton went one better in 2008 in completing the job he had threatened to pull off twelve months earlier - that of becoming F1's youngest-ever world champion. But boy did he make it hard work for himself.

Whilst the Lewis Hamilton of 2007 had been the very model of consistency and composure - albeit until the final two grands prix of the season in which he seemed to lose his head under the immense pressure of it all - the 2008 version seemed to display significantly more rough edges, with almost as many slip-ups along the way as there were sublime performances.

The qualifying 'block' in Malaysia cost the 23-year-old dear, whilst his elementary error in striking the back of former team-mate Fernando Alonso's car in Bahrain did so even more. That, though, was nothing when compared to his mistake in clattering into Raikkonen's stationary Ferrari in the Montreal pit-lane during the Canadian Grand Prix - denying both what could have been a possible victory, and leaving the Briton to walk away red-faced and empty-handed.

France, too, was a disastrous performance, and Hamilton's desperate first corner lunge in the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji - endeavouring to atone for a poor getaway by leaving his braking dangerously late, and sending the field scattering everywhere in his wake - was lucky not to ultimately cost him the crown. It didn't, though, thanks to impeccable triumphs in Australia, Monaco and China, and truly mesmerising drives to lift the trophy in front of his throngs of home supporters at Silverstone and just a fortnight later at Hockenheim, after McLaren's audacious pit-stop strategy had left the Stevenage-born ace with a tall order to accomplish. Spa-Francorchamps should have been another one to add to that list as well, but for the stewards' contentious and much-debated post-race intervention.

Though he again tried to throw the title away in conceding fifth place to Vettel in the dying stages of an uncharacteristically over-cautious performance in the season finale in Brazil, in the end the right man did claim the championship - just. If he is to repeat the feat in 2009, however, Hamilton is well aware that he can ill-afford to be as inconsistent again.

1. Fernando Alonso

It was a tough decision knowing whether to place Hamilton or Alonso first, but ultimately the latter got the nod as though he triumphed only twice, he did so in a car that should on its own merits never even have won at all - and one that, in the early stages of the season, had languished woefully off the pace.

Renault began 2008 in poor shape, and it was only Alonso's canny nous in keeping out of trouble in Australia that earned the Spaniard fourth place. That there would not be a similar result until the Hungarian Grand Prix almost five months later was proof of just how much the R?gie was struggling, and the former double F1 World Champion's stunning and wholly unexpected front row grid slot on home turf in Barcelona owed practically nothing to the car and everything to the sheer brilliance and talent of the driver sitting inside its cockpit.

Come season's end, however, the R28 was the third-quickest machine on the grid, having leapfrogged not only Williams, Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Toyota, but even BMW-Sauber - and that, in large part, was thanks to Alonso's tireless efforts in motivating the team to keep working hard and developing. It is little coincidence that he was also the only driver on the grid to out-qualify his team-mate on every single occasion.

Yes, there were errors along the way, with mistakes in Monaco and Canada that cost him points and potentially even podiums, but they were symptomatic of a man trying to push his car faster than it wanted to go. Hockenheim too was a rare 'off' day for the 27-year-old, but the fact remains that over the second half of the year Alonso was the highest-scoring driver of anyone in the field, and his victories in Singapore and Japan - the former from all the way down in 15th position on the grid - were as fine as any from his world championship-challenging years.

Not finishing lower than fourth in any of the final six outings enabled Alonso to vault both McLaren successor Heikki Kovalainen and BMW's Heidfeld into fifth in the overall standings, and if Renault can begin the 2009 campaign in the same manner as that in which it concluded 2008, the man from Oviedo could just go another four spots higher still next year. Have no doubt - Fernando Alonso remains very much a class act.

Happy Christmas!