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Your views: F1 2011 driver review
9 December 2011
What started eleven months ago with so much promise, and in some cases with an abundance of self serving embellishments, has mercifully come to an end. Yes, the F1 2011 season is over following a wonderful, colourful, ever emotional Brazilian Grand Prix.
Aside from the supremely successful Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull all remaining drivers will soon be trotting out their optimistic evaluations of just how they performed, with the odd excuse thrown in for good measure, and, no doubt, yet another dose of ambitious forecast for next year. Therefore, in the public interest of getting this ritual exercise started, let me be one of the first to cast the stones... er, evaluations on just how, in my humble opinion, the men behind the button covered steering wheels fared this past season.
Let's start with, what I consider, the top five drivers in F1 in 2011...
1. Sebastian Vettel
Smashing success since entering the Red Bull cockpit, this season has been his best, by far. World Champion at a walk, with a car not always the fastest. Destroyed his team-mate and eviscerated top rivals causing them to perform erratically. Congratulations Herr Vettel. Wunderbar!
2. Fernando Alonso
Wonderful, bravisimo, race day performances come to mind. Has the huge advantage of team orders from Ferrari management and delivers consistently for the Scuderia. Occasional poor starts conspire to create yet more work for the man expected to hurl the red cars up to the forefront again. Lacks Vettel's shear pace in all important qualifying.
3. Jenson Button
Jenson performed above the expectations of many experts as he exposed the weaknesses of his highly touted team-mate throughout the season. Jenson also displayed the strengths of the remaining core of talent back at Woking as he got the job done with their car. Never the fastest in qualifying, but very impressive overall.
4. Nico Rosberg
Handled his legendary team-mate easily throughout the season. Mercedes management, having observed his talent up close have placed their trust in him to lead their precious Silver Arrows back to pre-eminence. His confidence evident in and out of the cockpit, this is what the future Formula One star looks like.
5. Lewis Hamilton
Personal emotions, team-mate Jenson Button's performances, as well as the shattering dominance by young rival Vettel, put Lewis in an almost constant state of confusion throughout the season. With three wins, he obviously has the car, and the pace to succeed, but he seems to lack mental maturity, highly unusual for a former F1 champion.
Those men whom had a successful season at their respective teams and showed promise for the future include veterans, as well as newcomers to the scene. They include:
Despite the many on track altercations, and often being out qualified by his team-mate, Rosberg, Michael still has the killer instinct, especially during the opening laps of the race. His race craft is without reproach and only needs a capable car to match his incredible talents.
In the environment to which he is subjected, precisely, the constant demand for improvement or else, Buemi has survived - so far. Prone to driving slightly more conservatively, as to avoid mistakes while battling with an equally threatened team-mate in Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien has established his talent at this level.
In the tumult which is the Toro Rosso driving academy this young Spaniard has accomplished the unusual; he has improved his skill level and brought valuable points to the team. On track battles with legends and pretenders have shown his abundant ability. This driver exhibits what the Toro Rosso experiment is all about.
Exciting, yes, and he can certainly execute a pass, hairy as it may sometimes be. Consistency and qualifying are questions which come to mind, but how much of this is attributable to the Sauber? Giving him the benefit of the doubt due to his aggressive nature, and enthusiasm for the sport, I, like many would enjoy seeing him in a faster car.
Quick and the early inclination to show well against the slightly more experienced Kobayashi, Sergio was unfortunate to be injured at Monaco early during the season. As part of the Ferrari young driver programme he has acquitted himself well in competition both at Sauber as well as at the Ferrari events. Mucho sponsorship dinero doesn't hurt, either.
Generally competitive with vastly more experienced team-mate, Senor Rubens Barrichello, much to the discredit of the Brazilian. Maldonado has been the aggressor both on track, and in interviews, leading observers to believe he has serious ambitions of a career in F1, and is not here because of sponsor finance. Qualified unexpectedly well at certain events.
Acknowledged as the team leader the past season Sutil has not performed on track as well as his rookie team-mate Paul di Resta. Did a wonderful job of it, however, at the team's most important race in India. He appears to be seeking employment elsewhere.
Paul di Resta
For a newcomer to F1 to qualify and race at the same level as the previously highly regarded team leader Sutil is quite an accomplishment. Paul has handily done just that, and appears to be capable of much more. Already spoken of at top teams as a possible future replacement for their drivers, this Scot appears to have a bright future before him.
Unbelievably, Vitaly was the team leader at the former top ranked team, Renault. Aggressive in his driving (just ask Schumacher) and sporadically quick in qualifying, he is a work in progress. Still adjusting to life in Western Europe - and now looking for a new home after the confirmation that Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will drive for Lotus Renault GP in 2012.
Performing above expectations, keeping the team motivated and the points flowing in. Heikki has, this season, rebuilt a portion of his discredited career following years at McLaren. Showing no signs of complacency, unlike his team-mate, the team revolves around him.
Team leader at the bottom end of the grid. Fighting to retain his career against a refugee from the Red Bull apprentice program, and not doing badly.
While new to the team, this highly regarded driver new to F1 has shown brief flashes of talent, which is why Red Bull placed him in the HRT team in the first place.
While Timo had hoped for better days at the Virgin squad, this, his second time around in F1, hasn't worked out as he'd planned. He continues to fight the good fight, and deserves a faster car before, hopefully for him, moving forward on the grid.
Those racers with work to do, fairing less than satisfactorily given the circumstances in which they find themselves include:
Wheels came off his career following late season, undisclosed injury during 2010, and never once looked to be getting back on track. Well liked, capable man - he's an Aussie after all - whom realises he has a mountain to climb each time he climbs into his car, since each and every lap he is compared to the Vettel gold standard.
What has happened to this serious fellow from Brazil? Numerous on track incidents with Hamilton this season have made it impossible to mount a challenge to his more illustrious team-mate, Alonso. Life under the microscope that is the Italian motor sport media can't be easy for him at the moment. With little chance it will improve, one gets the feeling the exit rumours will only get more numerous.
Fan favourite, and outgoing personality aside, for this massive amount of experience Rubinho really should have accomplished much more this season in the Williams cockpit. Proclamations of 'being the best I've ever been' are increasing viewed, by this observer, as wide of the mark. It's been a wonderful career, but what is the upside of continuing to make up the numbers apart from his love of the sport?
Although hardly given an honest chance to impress times move quickly in this sport and Bruno has not handled his team-mate as had been hoped by Renault management. Impetuous move at start in Belgium proved inexperience, and poor judgment, although he has qualified respectably with lack of time in car.
Failure to perform versus the previously average rated Kovalainen, while spending the majority of the year waiting for power steering changes to be made to his car. Consistently shown the way by his team-mate in a team which needs more from him.
New to F1, and at a team with limited resources, it has been an up-hill struggle for the likeable Belgian.
Part-time shot with the ever changing 'family' of drivers at Renault this year saw him ultimately fail to impress management. This has occurred often enough at other teams for one to form the impression 'Quick Nick' will not be seen in future F1 events.
So that's my assessment of the F1 class of 2011. Congratulations again to Sebastian Vettel and his team at Red Bull Racing for having performed superlatively during the entire season. Already, we look forward to a wonderful 2012.
by Crash.net viewer Mike Nichol