It’s time to name the top nine drivers in the Richard’s F1 Driver-By-Driver Rankings. So far, we have the likes of Kobayashi, Rosberg, Barrichello, Kubica, Alonso, both McLaren and both Red Bull drivers left.

So who emerges on top of our rankings pile? The answer might cause a few surprises….


9. Kamui Kobayashi
Kamui Kobayashi Kamui Kobayashi

The first half of the 2010 season had many wondering what had happened to the Japanese driver who had so impressed us in his two outings with Toyota last year. Lacking much of the sparkle at his new Sauber home, his first six races saw five retirements (admittedly three were mechanical) and zero points in the account.

The C29 was not a well set up car, and Kobayashi’s inexperience meant he was often reliant on Pedro de la Rosa to give some set-up direction, and de la Rosa’ wasn’t proving much quicker either…

But then came the European Grand Prix, where Kobayashi finally came alive with a late pit-stop strategy, and he demonstrated some great overtaking moves against Alonso and Buemi in the closing laps to get his first points of the season.

There on, we saw a quicker and more combative driver, regularly mixing it with the quicker drivers, continuing to pull off great overtaking moves. A sensible drive at Silverstone netted him a career-best sixth, but he let it all hang out on his home turf at Suzuka, making overtaking an art at the most unconventional of places, and winning a legion of fans in the process.

Back to the top.

Team: Sauber
WDC: 12th Points: 32
Starts: 19 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 6th
Huge fun to watch on track, Kobayashi was retained by Sauber for 2011 and now finds himself as the de-facto team leader lined up alongside Sergio Pérez. With Sauber hopefully proving more competitive in 2011, he will undoubtedly be one to watch.


8. Rubens Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello Rubens Barrichello

The veteran of the Grand Prix circuit showed that he still has plenty of fight and skill, even after over 300 Grands Prix and pushing close to 40 years of age.

Thirteen appearances in Q3 and ten top-ten finishes were a definite reflection of his raw speed, often hauling the Williams into contention when it frankly didn’t have the outright pace to be there.

Fulfilling a dream to drive for Williams (as his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna had done before him), Rubens settled into the environment very well and became a true team leader, where for the first time in a long time, Williams’ form actually improved over the season.

It was through his resolve that Williams was able to take sixth in the Constructors’ Championship from Force India, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to get involved in some wheel-to-wheel racing from time to time, pulling off what was the overtaking move of the season on Michael Schumacher at Hungary.

Still prone to the occasional tantrum, Rubens let himself down by some occasionally undignified tirades against his old sparring partner, Schumacher, and he might have been wise to let some more dignified (silent) actions speak louder than the words he uttered.

Back to the top.

Team: Williams
WDC: 10th Points: 47
Starts: 19 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 4th
A contract renewal for 2011 is no less than what Rubens deserves, and we remain hopeful that Williams will finally produce an aero-efficient car that he can play with, and that will get the team back to form. He’ll need to impress against rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado.


7. Jenson Button
Jenson Button Jenson Button

Four races into the season, defending champion Jenson Button defied pre-season expectations that he would be destroyed in his first season with McLaren by team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Not only was he the only double race-winner at that point, but he was leading the championship.

Fine drives and clever tactics in the mixed conditions at Australia and China had netted him well-deserved wins, and he psychologically appeared to have the advantage over Hamilton, who was floundering with errors and poor strategic calls.

But that was the zenith of Jenson’s season, as from there on, his form faded dramatically as that elephant in the room – his inability to deal with an ill-handling car – reared its head on several occasions, particularly in qualifying where he failed to make Q3 on four occasions.

Generally slower than Hamilton when it came to determining the grid, his race pace was similar, but when you start from further back then you will finish behind unless you can get clever with strategy.

A different approach paid handsomely at Monza, where he came close to winning while running an unusually high-downforce set-up, but just weeks later, he fell out of the title race with an insipid performance at Korea, finishing 16th and out of the points in the same conditions that he had excelled at earlier in the year.

Unlike his championship rivals, he kept his racing clean and if there was an accident he was involved in, he was always the innocent party. Finishing the race might be one thing, but to win the championship you actually need to finish them further up the order…

Back to the top.

Team: McLaren
WDC: 5th Points: 214
Starts: 19 Poles: 0
Wins: 2 Podiums: 7
F/Laps: 1 Best Result: 1st
The intra-team momentum had swung well and truly back into Hamilton’s favour by the end of the season, and Jenson found himself having to play a supporting role while Lewis kept his slim title hopes alive. Jenson has got to learn to set up the car or drive around its problems.


6. Mark Webber
Mark Webber Mark Webber

That Mark Webber was no doubt the sentimental favourite to win the 2010 World Championship says so much about his emerging popularity over the course of the season. A direct, honest driver who wears his heart on his sleeve, fans and paddock insiders loved his forthright approach, and his ability to generate all sorts of headlines during the season.

But that the Australian failed to win the championship – having led the title race for much of the second half of the season – could also indicate that he has let his (possibly only) chance slip through his fingers.

Drives such as Spain, Monaco, Britain and Hungary were simply sensational, but there were others – Australia, Italy, Korea and Abu Dhabi – were he left his ‘A’ game at home. Sometimes he was unable to live with the pace of his team-mate Vettel, and there were other times when he let his frustrations show too readily, which didn’t endear him to key figures within the team.

We would later learn that Webber had a bust shoulder in the final four rounds, and this surely was the turning point in his championship campaign, which saw him lose momentum (and the title) to finish third overall.

That he even managed to threaten for the championship – despite having been previously dismissed as an enigma – is the strongest indication of just how far he has come.

Back to the top.

Team: Red Bull Racing
WDC: 3rd Points: 242
Starts: 19 Poles: 5
Wins: 4 Podiums: 10
F/Laps: 3 Best Result: 1st
The revelation of his broken shoulder during the off-season will have done some damage to his relationship with Red Bull Racing on the surface, but if they produce another good car – and he wins in it – then all will quickly be forgotten. But he needs to start before Vettel…


5. Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel

That Sebastian Vettel emerged at the end of the 2010 championship season as the quickest driver on the grid and the World Champion is beyond dispute. What is questionable, however, is if he was the best driver on the grid.

And while he accepts the plaudits of becoming World Champion, we mustn’t forget that he is also the sport’s youngest ever champion, and his driving occasionally reflected the impetuousness of someone his age.

Crucial points were thrown away at rounds such as Turkey, Britain, Hungary and Belgium with silly errors, but the team equally let him down with mechanical failures at Australia and Spain. Of his ten pole positions, just three were converted to race wins.

Such was the superiority of his car and his supreme qualifying pace, Vettel should have wrapped up the title at three-quarter distance if he and the team had displayed more discipline.

Incredibly, Vettel never led the championship during the season’s nineteen rounds until his sublime race-winning drive at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix guaranteed him the crown. Indeed, it was his end-of-season charge – just when team-mate Webber self-destructed – with three wins in four races that clinched the deal.

Back to the top.

Team: Red Bull Racing
WDC: 1st Points: 256
Starts: 19 Poles: 10
Wins: 5 Podiums: 10
F/Laps: 3 Best Result: 1st
One might feel Vettel snatched the title rather than dominated it, and he needs to shake the perception that he can race wheel-to-wheel for position, and not rely on winning from the front. His raw speed is not in doubt, and if Red Bull produces another good car, expect more.


4. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton

The mid-season championship leader hung on grimly to the cause in the second half of the season, but ultimately it was a combination of a car not up to the job and a series of costly errors that cost him a shot at a second Drivers’ Championship.

His 2010 season presented several off-field challenges to contend with, most notably the (seemingly hostile) split with his father/manager Anthony and being done for ‘hoon driving’ during the Australian Grand Prix. Quite a bit of 2010 was spent getting his house in order, and perhaps it was a distraction to the young driver…

Having another high profile team-mate join the squad also seemed to rattle him in the early stages of the season, with some ragged driving and poor strategy calls getting him off on the wrong foot. But from a few races in, his driving assumed more discipline and he was consistently able to out-pace Jenson Button by two- or three-tenths in qualifying, sometimes with a margin of up to five places on the grid.

His driving was as combative as ever, and along with the likes of Kobayashi, he was always good fun to watch on the track because you knew he’d have a go. His win at Canada came as a result of an opportunistic move on Alonso, while he drove equally imperiously at Belgium.

But with the confidence came overdriving, and while Hamilton was at times the victim – such as at Melbourne – he also overcooked it from time-to-time, with costly errors and overdriving at Monza, Singapore, Japan and Brazil.

Back to the top.

Team: McLaren
WDC: 4th Points: 240
Starts: 19 Poles: 1
Wins: 3 Podiums: 9
F/Laps: 5 Best Result: 1st
Lewis has promised a more rounded approach for 2011, and will be hoping to eliminate some of the distractions that may have made him take his eye off the ball. Errors will need to be eliminated, and the new McLaren will need to keep pace with its rivals. Fingers crossed…


3. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg punched miles above his weight in a car that was never a match for Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari, picking up impressive podiums in the early rounds at Malaysia, China and Britain.

He qualified brilliantly at almost every event, and if he suffered a dip in form, that was more a case of Mercedes GP taking the wrong development path as it tried to make up ground.

Wet weather proved the opportunity for the playing field to be levelled, and Nico was at his best in slippery conditions, leading at China until a small off allowed Button through, and potentially on course for a huge result at Korea until he was the innocent victim of Webber’s spin.

He finished just two points behind Massa in the championship, and were it not for rare misfortune – losing wheels at Hungary and Japan proved concerning – he might have finished ahead. All up, he rarely put a foot wrong.

He handled the job of having Michael Schumacher as a team-mate with aplomb, and his stock rose enormously by summarily out-classing the 41-year-old virtually all season long, with Spain, Monaco, Turkey and Japan proving the only times that his compatriot proved the quicker.

It certainly begs the question of whether Schumacher was driving as badly as everyone claims, or if Nico just made him appear to be…

Back to the top.

Team: Mercedes GP
WDC: 7th Points: 142
Starts: 19 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 3
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 3rd
With Schumacher’s form seemingly on the improve, Nico will need to watch his back if the 2011 car proves more suited to Schumi’s liking than his own. It’s been five seasons in F1, and while never having the machinery to do it, it’s time to start winning in 2011. Can the car do it?


2. Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica Robert Kubica

Some might argue that Robert Kubica performed better in the 2010 Renault than Fernando Alonso managed with the team in either 2008 or 2009 – high praise indeed – but what is undoubtedly clear is that the Pole proved a thorn in the side of the championship contenders with some sterling performances in a car that had little business being at the sharp end of the field.

At Monaco, Belgium and Japan – all notable drivers’ circuits – Robert was sublime in the R30, which was always several steps behind its rivals in the development race.

He managed a front row start at Monaco, got his new ‘F-duct’ working superbly at Spa-Francorchamps, and was running second at Japan when his wheel fell off.

And with the possible exception of Timo Glock, he was the only driver to comprehensively thrash his team-mate almost every race weekend.

Factor all of this in with the fact that the R30 was (at best) the fifth-quickest car on the grid, and it’s simply a question of when, not if, the Pole will achieve the success he quite clearly deserves.

Back to the top.

Team: Renault
WDC: 8th Points: 136
Starts: 19 Poles: 0
Wins: 0 Podiums: 3
F/Laps: 0 Best Result: 2nd
Robert faces his second off-season of management change at Renault, which is unnecessarily unsettling for a driver just wanting to get on with the job. Provided the new group can concentrate on managing the team – and less on self-publicity – then we should see fireworks!


1. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso

At the halfway point of the season, Fernando Alonso made the bold statement that he could recover from a significant points’ deficit to the championship leaders and mount a challenge for the 2010 championship title.

He fell just a fraction short of his aim, but no one could doubt that Fernando was one of the most outstanding performers of the the season. How he managed to galvanise the team around him in the second half of the season is a credit to his leadership, and he succeeded in rattling off a string of excellent results – his wins at Singapore and Korea were top-shelf – to find himself leading at the final hurdle as the field headed to Abu Dhabi.

But a poor strategic call cost him the title to Vettel, and he rather disgracefully gesticulated at Vitaly Petrov (the man he’d been stuck behind for lap after lap in the race) after the chequered flag fell.

But Fernando is a passionate figure who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he has a single-minded aim to win for Ferrari. Rarely did he have the quickest car, and he generally made the most of his opportunities to keep him in the hunt, although he was just as prone as the next driver to suffer the odd blip.

Examples included his practice accident at Monaco, the self-induced penalty at Britain and his unforced spin into the barriers during the Belgian Grand Prix, but in comparison to his main rivals, he played and drove smartest.

Better luck next time…

Back to the top.

Team: Ferrari
WDC: 2nd Points: 252
Starts: 19 Poles: 2
Wins: 5 Podiums: 10
F/Laps: 5 Best Result: 1st
Alonso was just sensational in the second half of 2010, and if Ferrari can get on with a half decent car in 2011 – not to mention get their season off to a flying start – then he’ll be a hard act to beat.

[Original images via AUTOSPORT, GP Update, LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.