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2009 Driver Rankings

After careful deliberation, I managed to arrange the 25 drivers who competed in the 2009 championship based on how I felt they performed relative to their own abilities and of the cars they drove, and I also took luck, retirements, and weather into consideration. The following is what I ended up with.

25. Luca Badoer (25th, 0 points)

A lot of people defended Badoer, but I was not one of them. He was past his prime and had not driven the new car enough at all. Hadn’t he only driven it in testing prior to the start of the season? Anyway, his pace was absolutely inexcusable even though it was justified. After Luca qualified last and finished in that same position in a Ferrari, there should have been red flags. Not the good kind that the Tifosi wave, either. The fact that he was given a second chance and did no better, even though he claimed that he would, was very disappointing. Luca even promised us that he would do better if he had been allowed to drive for a third race. Thankfully, Ferrari saw the light. Fisichella didn’t score any points after taking Badoer’s seat, but at least he pulled the second Ferrari off of the bottom of the time sheets.

24. Kazuki Nakajima (20th, 0 points)

While his 2008 run wasn’t too bad, his 2009 season was a complete disgrace to the Williams team. Would a Williams employee admit to this? I should certainly hope so. Under no circumstances should one driver score 34.5 points while the other scores zero. The fact that Nico Rosberg, who many write off as a mere journeyman, was able to destroy Kazuki to such an extent surely says that he has no place in Formula One. He simply was not up to speed and undoubtedly brought down the spirits of a lot of Williams fans. Thankfully Toyota’s withdrawal from the sport enabled Frank Williams and Patrick Head to drop this slow moving chicane from their team.

23. Jaime Alguersuari (24th, 0 points)

Alguersuari was called in to replace Sebastien Bourdais, who had a falling out with the Toro Rosso team. Was he better than the Frenchman? No, he was worse. Much worse. While Bourdais was able to somewhat match Sebastien Buemi in a car that he claimed did not fit his driving style, Alguersuari just never looked close. Each race, he just appeared to be nothing more than a Sunday driver if you’ll pardon the pun. What’s worse, he didn’t even seem to improve throughout the season. If he did so, it was only marginally. Overall, I just was not impressed at all with Alguersuari and Toro Rosso should not have thrown Bourdais aside. Perhaps Alguersuari was just plucked too early, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that I do not believe he should return in 2010. If Toro Rosso has any sense, they will look elsewhere.

22. Romain Grosjean (23rd, 0 points)

Another midseason replacement, Romain Grosjean was expected to do well since he had tested for the Renault throughout 2008 and 2009, and he was being called into the team to replace the ousted Nelson Piquet Jr. Unfortunately, Grosjean’s experience with the team did not translate into good results and he mostly trundled towards the back of the grid. His best result was 13th at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Despite the position, he was the second last finisher, ahead of only Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso. In the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, a track nobody had previously raced on, he was the last finisher in 18th position. Some of the blame must be placed on the Renault chassis itself though, given that Fernando Alonso finished 14th in that race. Still, Grosjean was very unimpressive while he was around. After Alguersuari, Badoer and Grosjean, I was very disillusioned with the quality of the midseason replacement drivers. Even though Grosjean impressed me more than half of the replacement drivers, he still did absolutely nothing for me.

21. Nelson Piquet Jr. (21st, 0 points)

I found myself having to fight not to place the junior Piquet closer to 25 due to his blind stupidity in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. This is 2009 though, and I won’t get into the Crashgate scandal. Looking back at the past year, I find myself wondering why Nelson’s potential seemed to drop sometime between 2008 and 2009. In 2008, he had picked up a nice handful of points and looked like a fairly decent driver. However, in 2009, he did absolutely nothing. He even had a few arrogant and unpleasant off-track comments to say about his fellow drivers, which did not help his image at all. It is one thing to be quiet, respectable driver who scores no points, but it is something else entirely to be a pointless driver who runs his mouth off. Up until he was sacked, Nelson never looked as good as he had in 2008. He did not look terrible by any means, but he did not shine even once. His closest would have been in Monaco when he had climbed up to 10th before suffering a retirement.

20. Sebastien Bourdais (19th, 2 points)

Perhaps one of the most unappreciated drivers of the past two years, Sebastien Bourdais did himself no favours by firing off negative comments about his car and team. Despite his Ralf Schumacher-like attitude, he still managed to outperform Buemi over a few weekends, so I was completely stumped when Toro Rosso sacked him and repalced him with a no name whom I had never even heard of. Bourdais had shown glimpses of brilliance, but he could never quite seem to take full advantage of such moments. There is also the point of whether or not his claims that the car did not suit his driving style at all were true. If so, then his poorer drives may possibly be excused. However, if it was not the cars fault, then Bourdais may very well be one of Formula One’s biggest letdowns in the past ten years.

19. Sebastien Buemi (16th, 5 points)

I have trouble saying much about Buemi, since he usually just trundled around and put his car into a few decent positions. He looked quite good at the end of the year, but he clearly wasn’t driving the Toro Rosso as hard as Sebastian Vettel had done a year before him. Still though, Buemi did a decent enough job in a shit car, and he picked up six points over the course of the season. I won’t stand up and applaud him, but he certainly did not do a poor job either. Six points from Buemi is probably the best that Toro Rosso could have asked for from him, given what he had to work with.

18. Vitantonio Liuzzi (22nd, 0 points)

Called in to replace Giancarlo Fisichella after he departed to Ferrari to replace Luca Badoer (who was a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa), Vitantonio Liuzzi had finally gotten the chance to drive a Grand Prix once more. I believe that prior to the Italian Grand Prix, Liuzzi told himself to do the best job of his life on Saturday afternoon. I think this because Liuzzi qualified that Force India in a position he had no right to be in. Seventh position in a somewhat bad car upon your return to Formula One? It turned heads and it had internet message boards talking. Adrian Sutil, the man in the other Force India, had managed to qualify in second position, but Liuzzi’s triumphant performance upon his return to Grand Prix racing overshadowed Adrian’s accomplishment. The next day, Liuzzi was challenging for points in the race when his car let him down. Despite the DNF, he made his mark and he knew it. I sure did, too.

17. Jarno Trulli (8th, 32.5 points)

Often criticized in the past for falling asleep during races and holding up his fellow drivers (often referred to as “the Trulli Train”), 2009 was no different. Despite finishing a few points ahead of Timo Glock, I felt that Trulli was the weaker of the two and mostly only cruised into good positions due to the Toyota coincidentally being great on random days. While Glock was the more consistent of the two, Trulli was the more erratic and unpredictable. To be honest, I had no idea where he would qualify or finish on any weekend. Sometimes Jarno would look incredibly solid and do Toyota a few favours, but he mostly just looked like a tired journeyman for the majority of the season. His outburst caused by his retirement at the Brazilian Grand Prix was extremely uncalled for, and the fact that Jarno tried to bring it up again two weeks later in Japan was just juvenile. Alonso and Raikkonen giggling like school girls during the press conference in which Jarno presented “photo evidence” from the Brazilian accident said it all.

16. Timo Glock (10th, 24 points)

Regardless of how upset I was with Timo Glock for essentially handing Lewis Hamilton the 2008 championship (though it wasn’t really his fault), I have to admit that he was very impressive in 2009. The majority of his performances were very consistent and you could, in most cases, predict within two or three positions where Timo would wind up at the end of each race. All season long, he kept this up and looked very mature. In his last race before having to sit out the rest of the season, he finished a well deserved second. Timo did a great job at Toyota, but one Toyota driver made an even larger impression on me. Timo’s replacement.

15. Kamui Kobayashi (18th, 3 points)

And here is that very replacement. Kamui Kobayashi only contested in two races, but he impressed greatly in each. In his first race in Brazil, he made several ballsy passes on far more experienced drivers. He finished this race one position outside of the points. In the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Kamui drove a fantastic race and ended the day in sixth place, netting three points. It is not hard to understand why, after two races, many have become fans of Kamui Kobayashi, some even declaring him to be the next Takuma Sato. He certainly won a fan in me, and he more than deserves his 2010 seat at Sauber.

14. Adrian Sutil (17th, 5 points)

Despite a minor blip in Singapore in which he almost killed Nick Hiedfeld, Adrian Sutil did avery good job this year. On a few weekends, he managed to get the better of his vastly more experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella. When the Force India chassis began to shine halfway through the season, so too did Sutil. Though he only scored in one race (despite being one position from the points in the season opener!), Adrian Sutil earned a few more points of respect in the Formula One world.

13. Heikki Kovalainen (12th, 22 points)

Despite driving for McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen didn’t really appear to be anywhere almost all season long. His best finishing position over the entire season was fourth, which he accomplished at the European Grand Prix, a race that arguably suited the McLarens very well. I believe that Heikki should have had more results bordering on podium finishes, and I don’t buy that he didn’t achieve them merely because he wasn’t good enough. Heikki is certainly a decent driver and there should be no arguing this. The problem with his 2009 campaign was that his McLaren team often gave him truly bizarre race strategies, and they always cost him dearly. I may be wrong, but I think I remember a quote from Heikki in which he said that the team always fueled him heavy. Why? Even when he qualified near the front of the grid, he was given a heavy fuel load. I often wonder how many points he would have been if only McLaren had given him fairer race strategies.

12. Nico Rosberg (7th, 34.5 points)

Now things start to get a little tricky with my rankings, given how difficult it was to decide on the top 10, which Nico Rosberg just missed out on. Overall, he was pretty much the best that Williams could have asked for. He absolutely destroyed his team-mate and picked up a respectable amount of points in a car which was arguably not even among the best. He had several good performances and almost reached the podium a few times, but there were also several instances in which he appeared to have extremely large brain farts that I don’t think have been explained very well. All we know is that, well, he just didn’t get the job done. Strange..

11. Giancarlo Fisichella (15th, 8 points)

For the majority of the season, Giancarlo Fisichella drove a very awful Force India car. He did a great job in it though, and even though he didn’t score any points until his last race with the team I still think he did very, very well. The Force India team “woke up” at the Belgian Grand Prix, and their car was fantastic. Giancarlo Fisichella qualified on pole position in his Force India, a result that forced Formula One fans all over the world to rub their eyes in disbelief. He went on to finish the race in second behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, losing out on a win only due to the Ferrari having KERS power and making it difficult for Giancarlo to pass. He made a colossal mistake after this race though, and replaced Luca Badoer at Ferrari. He was unable to adjust to the Ferrari and picked up no further points for the rest of the season. It didn’t matter though, since Giancarlo had acheived his dream of driving for Ferrari. Giancarlo Fisichella driving for the Prancing Horse was the feel good story of the year.

10. Fernando Alonso (9th, 26 points)

What do you get when you put a very talented double world champion in a piss poor car? You get Fernando Alonso in the 2009 Renault. The two time champ struggled valiantly all year long with his Renault, and he kept a positive attitude throughout the entire season which you have to respect. Many people feel that Alonso matured greatly as a driver in 2009 and finally came of age. I must agree, due to his optimistic attitude and very admirable race results. While Fernando was mixing it up with Brawns, Ferraris, and Red Bulls, his team-mates were always trundling around the circuit far behind. He undoubtedly made the best of a bad situation this year, and kudos to him for that.

9. Robert Kubica (14th, 17 points)

In 2008, Robert was challenging for the world championship until BMW shifted their efforts towards 2009. This may have cost Robert the 2008 title and for what? A subpar BMW Sauber chassis the following year? Which he and Nick Heidfeld had trouble qualifying anywhere in? There were a few races in 2009 in which Robert Kubica struggled to even get out of Q3, which is just very inexcusable. Still, he did a decent enough job with a poor car and drove the life out of it towards the end of the year, even finishing second at one point. Mysteriously, he was in the running for a podium position in the first race of the year, but his collision with Vettel ended his hopes of starting the year positively. I always found it strange that after that great performance in Melbourne, it took BMW almost the entire season to make the car that competitive again.

8. Mark Webber (4th, 69.5 points)

A definite championship contender early on, Mark Webber was looking very good. Unfortunately, a string of DNFs and poor performances dragged him down the standings. Considering he finished the year behind two drivers whom he had been ahead of earlier in the year indicates, to me, that Mark Webber was the victim of bad luck throughout most of the year. He was very impressive during a few races (especially at the Nurburgring), but there were other races in which he was nowhere. Compared to his team-mate who challenged for the championship practically until the end, Mark Webber’s overall results are a little disappointing.

7. Nick Heidfeld (13th, 19 points)

I’m unsure of what to say about Nick Heidfeld, aside from the fact that he took everything Robert Kubica did and went one step further. Few expected Quick Nick to be better than the Polish Prodigy this year but it happened, and Heidfeld exceeded all expectations in a car that was up not to par for nearly the entire season. This has reawakened the belief in many people that he deserves to be in one of the top teams. I agree, and I almost feel that he should be driving the second McLaren in 2010.

6. Jenson Button (1st, 95 points)

Underwhelming. That is the one word I will use to describe the world champion. Undeserving is wrong, because anyone who scores the most points deserves to be the world champion. However, it is entirely possible to win the title while being very underwhelming. Make no mistake, Jenson Button blew my mind away at the start of the season when he cruised to several victories. Even Rubens couldn’t touch him… But then something happened. At the midpoint in the season, the Red Bulls and McLarens caught the Brawns. Button was unable to defend himself against these new threats and we regularly saw him trundling around for two, three points per race. His team-mate then began to get the better of him, even taking the final win for Brawn Grand Prix. When your team-mate thoroughly destroys you in the second half of the season, I begin to wonder why you won the title and not him. Button was the winner within the team when the Brawn was untouchable, but when the playing field was even, he couldn’t compare to Rubens. This is why Jenson Button is a very underwhelming world champion.

5. Felipe Massa (11th, 22 points)

Despite only contesting for half of the season, Felipe Massa scored a good number of points. Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren, who competed in every race of the year, also scored 22 points. This puts things into perspective with Massa, and if he had not been injured during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, I can’t help but wonder where he would have finished overall. Several positions higher, for sure. He did a good job and drove the socks off of the Ferrari when it was nothing more than a gas guzzing hog.

4. Rubens Barrichello (3rd, 77 points)

For the first half of the season, Rubens was the best of the rest. He looked very, very handy in the Brawn and even though he was losing out to Button, he was impressive. It was not until Silverstone I believe that suddenly Rubens gained an advantage over Button; an advantage that he never relinquished. Peter Windsor has said that it was at the British Grand Prix that Rubens switched to a different brake compound. In fact, apparently he switched over to whatever Button was running on. If this is true, then it is very clear which of the two drivers was the better of the two when the Brawn cars both used similar components. If Peter Windsor is correct in saying that Rubens couldn’t match Jenson at the start of the year due to using a brake compound that he did not like, and by then comparing how he performed after he supposedly switched to another compound, it makes me wonder how the year could have gone if Rubens had used the superior compound all year long?

3. Kimi Raikkonen (6th, 48 points)

Much like Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen drove the Ferrari to the limits at the start of the year. Unfortunately, those limits were not very extreme. Between having bad luck and just not being able to get the most out of a poor car, Kimi’s first half of the season looked very average. However, the car began to come together in the second half of the year and the Finn delivered the goods. A few podiums, a win at Spa, and more points over several races than any other driver on the grid. Even when it became apparent to Kimi Raikkonen that the team was giving him the boot, he drove with his heart and threw the Ferrari into positions that it had no right to be in. I am willing to forgive his performance in Abu Dhabi, since I probably would have driven the same way if I had known that it was my last race for a team that didn’t want me any longer, all because of mounting pressure from a high paying Spanish sponsor. All in all though, Kimi did a good job in 2009 and did not disappoint his fans.

2. Lewis Hamilton (5th, 49 points)

Out of all of the drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton is the only one that I simply do not like. He exhibits the youthful cockiness of a teenager and has pulled many weird moves since coming into F1. Comparing himself to Ayrton Senna or ramming into Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the pits two years ago are amongst the things I detest him for. However, despite my dislike for him, I’ve ranked him second. This is because I do not let my personal feelings towards drivers cloud my perception, and I am fully aware of just how good Lewis really is. He’s something very special and has the natural potential to definitely win several world championships. In 2009, the McLaren was often a dog of a car, but Lewis still managed to drag the car into the points. It was a coming of age year for Lewis as he had to learn what it’s like to be a top driver in an underperforming car. He became a little more humble and let his driving do the talking. In a very poor McLaren, Lewis finished the year in fifth overall with two race wins. However you may feel about Lewis Hamilton, it is impossible to deny that he did a spectacular job in 2009.

1. Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 84 points)

After a few initial hiccups at the start of the year, Sebastian Vettel became, clearly, the class of the field. While Jenson Button’s easy wins looked to be down to him having an unstoppable car, Vettel’s wins looked far more honest in a Red Bull that, initially, wasn’t able to compare to the power of the Brawn chassis. As the year went on, the Red Bull simply got better with each month, and so too did Sebastian Vettel. Jenson Button won six races compared to Vettel’s four. That would give Button twenty more points on merit, yet the world champion only finished nine points ahead of Vettel. Button scored points in sixteen races and had one retirement. Vettel had three retirements, two finishes outside of the points, and twelve point finishes. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Overall, Vettel’s performances were more consistent and yielded more points. To me, it is a crime that Sebastian Vettel was not the 2009 world champion.

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