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Season Review 2012 19

Nigel Roebuck’s top 10 drivers

Although it’s in the February issue of the magazine, we’ve decided to post in on the website so you can join in. Do you agree with Nigel? Let us know who makes it into your top 10 F1 drivers 0f 2012.

1. Fernando Alonso

In terms of what he did with what he had, Alonso’s campaign will stand among the very greatest, by any driver, ever. One thing to be constantly on it in an ultra-competitive car, quite another to be that way in a middling one. His Ferrari’s average qualifying position was seventh, but when it rained Fernando was both times on pole. In 20 races there were 13 podiums and – while necessarily on the edge – very few mistakes. He is simply the best driver in the world right now, end of story.

season review 2012  Nigel Roebucks top 10 drivers

2. Lewis Hamilton

While not the most complete driver in F1, Hamilton is out-and-out fastest. After a tumultuous season in 2011 he was this year back to his best. There remained lapses of judgment – it was foolish to scrap with Maldonado in the late laps at Valencia, and antagonising his team on Twitter was a reminder that maturity still awaits – but the sight of Lewis driving with joyful abandon is hard to beat. Only poor reliability kept him out of the title race – but now, out of the McLaren nest, what comes next?

3. Sebastian Vettel

World Champion yet again, and almost unbeatable in the fastest car. Vettel was often brilliant, but early in the season Red Bull was not the dominant force of 2011 and his head seemed to go down a little. Always an ebullient winner, if rather less gracious in difficult circumstances, he laid to rest suggestions that he can’t race – the drive from 10th to second at Spa was exceptional. Crucially, as we saw in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, his luck is almost a match for his consummate natural ability.

4. Kimi Räikkönen

season review 2012  Nigel Roebucks top 10 drivers

After two disappointing years in the forests, Räikkönen was back, quirky as ever, in F1, an environment in which he relishes nothing bar driving. It was anyone’s guess how the comeback would turn out, but in the event Kimi – unlike Schumacher – was competitive from the outset. That last edge was perhaps not quite there, but he was consistently strong in the races. At Lotus they reasoned that a relatively laid-back ambience would bring out his best. They read him well.

5. Jenson Button

In Melbourne, the opening race, Hamilton took pole, but Button snatched the lead at the start and had the rest of the afternoon to himself. At Spa, five months on, Button was similarly unapproachable, leading all the way at the ultimate circuit. In between times, though, he was often curiously off the boil. At times he seemed bewildered, but by Hockenheim again had the set-up to his taste – always crucial with Jenson – and in the second half of the season played a much stronger hand.

6. Nico Hülkenberg

Sergio Pérez had some fine results, but wasn’t terribly consistent. Many were surprised – given Hülkenberg’s availability – when McLaren signed the Mexican to replace Hamilton. In the long term Nico appears set for Ferrari, after a season of remarkably high quality that yielded fewer results than he merited. At Force India they liked his sunny disposition, pace and flair, as demonstrated at Interlagos. Signing for Sauber might seem like a sideways move, but it might be for one season only.

7. Mark Webber

If it seems odd to place only seventh a man who won superbly at Monaco and Silverstone, Webber made the podium on only two other occasions. There is no doubt about his pace or commitment – when the cars were less than fully competitive he sometimes outshone Vettel – but often he finished lower than expected. It says everything about Adrian Newey’s genius that, despite being accustomed to being considered ‘the other driver’, Webber rejected Ferrari to remain with Red Bull.

8. Nico Rosberg

season review 2012  Nigel Roebucks top 10 drivers

In China he was on pole by half a second, made a bullet start and won conclusively. The breakthrough had been made and it looked as though Nico and Mercedes were finally due the season so long anticipated. Not so: there was a close second at Monaco, but no podiums thereafter. The team often flattered in qualifying, only to deceive in the race, thanks not least to its cars’ appetite for tyres. Rosberg remains a talent, however, and might show better against Hamilton than many anticipate.

9. Paul di Resta

Even after a great result, like sixth place in Bahrain or that fine fourth in Singapore, di Resta invariably comes across like the recent recipient of bad news, such as not being snapped up by a top team. This is unfortunate, for Paul is talented and sooner or later bound to drive for one of them. For much of the season he was on par with his Force India team-mate, before being shaded in the late races. He drives with innate class and his day will surely come – acknowledged, one hopes, with a smile.

10. Felipe Massa

For all his mistakes, Massa scrapes into the top 10 by virtue of his late transformation, which put this loyal and decent man up to seventh in the standings and allowed him to contribute significantly to Ferrari’s season. Frankly lost in the first half of the year, his confidence in pieces, Felipe finally got a handle on the lacklustre F2012, whose later updates suited him perhaps better than Alonso and offered a glimpse of the man who almost beat Hamilton to the title four years ago.

Add your comments

19 comments on Nigel Roebuck’s top 10 drivers

  1. kowalsky, 23 December 2012 10:54

    i agree with nigel, Alonso is the overall best driver in f1 right now. But i have to agree with scheckter as well. Hamilton and vettel are faster on a flying lap.
    Just one thought. If f1 is the ultimate search for speed. How much credit must be given to the one who is fastest, over the one that is consistently fast?

  2. Pat O'Brien, 23 December 2012 12:14

    No argument about #1 but Vettel deserves #2. That Maldonado incident would not have happened with either Alonso or Vettel and Maldonado would certainly have gotten around Lewis, whose tires were run off, if he’d been able to contain himself. Lewis’ driving and his judgement made a move forward this year but his team let him down repeatedly. I hope to see progress with the new team because he is certainly the most entertaining driver on the track, the Nuvolari of our time.

  3. Michael Spitale, 23 December 2012 13:19

    Something tells me deep down Mr. Roebuck knows he should not have put Vettel at 3, but it helps his story line of the genius of Alonso. If Vettel is #2 it takes from the story line so we have to stick to things like… “he had the fastest car” when we all know on avg the McLaren was the fastest car, but was built with bubblegum and kids glue so it feel apart quite often.

    I will concede Alonso was the best this year… but refuse to concede Vettel is #3 as I believe 90% of the pit lane would agree with me on this one.

  4. Michael, 23 December 2012 13:28

    It seems that, much like he does for A. Senna, Mr. Roebuck has a bias against Vettel and will never give him his proper due. We’ve been seeing it since 2010.

    Five wins and a third consecutive WDC and he ranks him third. I wonder what Vettel would have had to have done in Mr. Roebucks mind to be rated higher than Hamlton?

  5. Bill, 23 December 2012 18:53

    I agree on almost everything, with just 2 remarks:

    - Hamiltons biggest failure this year, was stepping away from McLaren, who seemed to have matched ‘genius’ Neweys car on almost all tracks and conditions.It isnt just a problem of maturing, but lacking brain cells.

    - Vettels drive at Abhu Dabi and Brasil can hardly be described as just ‘lucky’. His move on Jenson Button was as ballsy as they come, where a lot of other drivers wouldv accepted 4th place and do nothing but follow the McLaren home. The kid should be applauded for that.

  6. @bonedwarf, 23 December 2012 23:08

    Alonso has been the best driver in F1 for some time now. I’d argue he’s been the best going on seven years now.

    Hamilton is a weird one. He’s like a bomb. He’s devastating, but often times only to himself. I think he’s made a mistake leaving McLaren. On saying that I can entirely understand his reasons for doing so. If he wins another title at McLaren people will always look at him and say “Well yeah, but they groomed him etc…” In short he was a big fish in a small pond. He wants to prove himself.

    And remember, everyone said Schumacher was mad for leaving Benetton…

  7. Cosmas, 24 December 2012 15:29

    As is the case lately, the bitterness of some British journalists in Vettel’s success can not be hidden. Always an IF and a BUT.
    When he was in his first years not becomming yet a champion he was a nice young german man who could appreciated the phlegmatic english humor…. that days belong now to the past . He is now already three times WDC and considered as a thread . Nobody wants another Scumacher like supremacy era ….
    He was awesome BUT he was lucky….
    He was brilliant BUT had the best car….
    I think neither of that is true, he was unlucky equally to Hamilton this year with many DNF’s and many penalties.
    The fastest car this year was without a doubt the Mclaren.
    On the other hand Alonso maybe didn’t had the best car but Ferrari wasn’t that bad in the race as you imply. Quallify pace and race pace were quite opposite in Ferraris case.
    Alonso maybe was the driver with the less mistakes BUT is this the only criterion to make a driver great? Glock didn’t done also any mistake the whole year i think.. why isn’t he on your list then?
    Alonso is one of the best drivers in his era , YES he drove very well this season BUT so did Vettel too ,that’s why he is the champion not because he was more Lucky or had a superior car.

  8. Cosmas, 24 December 2012 15:35

    On the other side you put Rosberg in the top ten?
    This was Rosbergs most dull season …. the only worthy was his win in China.. nothing else, as if he has lost interest for anything or he wanted to give Michael a victorious exit from the sport.
    Massa was in the first 3/4 of the season nowhere to be seen
    as if he was even not in the race , yet he is in the top ten? And not Charles Pic who could be equally quick and sometimes quicker than his far more experienced team mate?

  9. Bill, 24 December 2012 16:10

    I think it had more to do with Michael choosing Ferrari over Newey’s Williams. :) Benetton was good but it was the tail end of the ‘big four’ in terms of resources and facilities.

  10. IM, 24 December 2012 16:49

    Massa in thé top 10?!

  11. Bill, 24 December 2012 17:28

    My contribution the the readers top 10:

    1. Alonso. Almost faultless throughout the year. Immensely lucky at times too.

    2. Vettel. His 4 consecutive wins drew less than gracious remarks from Hamilton and Alonso, but he grinded this championship in the first half of the year, bringing results in an uncompetative car.

    3. Raikkonen. Bit of a prima donna, piled on some pounds but man, can that guy race a car. Spiced up many races.

    4. Hamilton. recovered some of his 2011 implosion. Great in qualifying, probably as quick as Vettel, but in races dropped the ball too many times, and showed outside of racing there will always remain a question mark whether he can truly become a great like Vettel and Alonso.

    5. Hulkenberg. Destroyed Di Resta on pace, qualifying, brains and was quick on all kinds of tracks, in all kinds of weather. Together with Button in McLaren he was 49 seconds ahead of mrr out and out fastest Hamilton in Brasil untill Charlie WHiting spoiled it.

    6. Maldonado. This guy is like an early version of Hamilton: unbelievable quick over a lap, lacks brains in races. Great win at Barcelona though.

    7. Schumacher. Made some really stupid moves in races, but, at age 42, overal very close to the next big thing Rosberg. Very unlucky at times.

    8. Grosjean. Also immense pace with an unwired brain in races. Hope het gets it together.

    9. Perez.

    10. Kobayashi.

  12. Bill, 24 December 2012 20:37

    You make some good points, Comas. The double standards some journos handle in judging drivers is fascinating. I think it must have something to do with Vettel stealing what was supposed to be the great Hamilton show. Yet despite all the uplifting words, that Briton still hasnt delivered on all his promise. I think a lot of British journos have shed a tear when Hamilton announced him leavng McLaren for Mercedes, and many glorious headlines are now confined to the rubbish bin for a long time.

    When Hamilton crashed out of every other race or goes off track after outbraking himself, the line was ‘he is a rookie that will mature’. When Schumacher or Vettel crashes, they get JYS out of the closet, saying really great drivers dont crash.
    When Vettel wins its always the car, yet when Hamilton wins a race, its never mentioned he has a superior engine to Vettel.

    And I dont mind a little bias from British journos, but it shouldnt get into an absurd worship fest. I think in that Motorsport Magazine is a lot less blinkered than Autosport, or BBC’s Andrew Benson. Roenbuck, too, has mellowed out a lot on his obsession with Schumacher since his 5th column days. Still, I agree the little snippets here and there are not impressive and sound a bit like sour grapes.

  13. Michael, 24 December 2012 21:55

    Excellent post Cosmas. When Button won the 2011 Canadian GP the Brits hailed it as one of the best GPs ever and only piled praise on Jensen for his great drive (which he deserved). No mention of the luck which he had seen in abundance on that day (I was there and saw it first hand). The clash with Alonso especially, which punctured Button’s tyre .. had Alonso not gotten the Ferrari stranded on the Turn 4 exit kerb, which resulted in the safety car being called out Button would have had to do a full lap with the punctured tyre and broken front wing while all other cars were at full speed. Instead they queued behind the safety car and the slow pace allowed Button his slow crawl back to the pits for the necessary repairs while keeping him from going a lap down. Very lucky indeed, yet no (or rare) mention of it from journalists. When Vettel drives brilliantly in Abu Dhabi this season his performance is qualified and excused away as “lucky”. Pathetic and petty really, but as I’ve pointed out earlier nothing new. Senna often saw similar treatment .. though they could not deny his talent, they did (and do) all they can to deflate and tarnish him as a person. Mr. Roebuck will tell everyone how Senna drove into Prost in 1990 .. yet ask him if Prost drove into Senna in 1989 and he will do all he can to mitigate the Frenchman’s action while condemning the Brazilian’s.

  14. Alastair Warren, 24 December 2012 23:22

    Bill, it’s Roebuck’s top ten, not a readers poll.

    Some people would support Hamilton regardless of his nationality. Roebuck seems to regularly compare Hamilton to Gilles Villeneuve, a Canadian.

    Roebuck mentioned what may well have been Hamilton’s greatest error this year in the magazine a few months ago. Did Hamilton keep his foot in on that first corner carnage at Spa? Hopefully Hamilton will inwardly digest and learn from that shunt.

    Schumacher’s standard of driving seemed to be entirely incompatible with the Mercedes brand, a brand I associate with airbags and bringing electronic ABS to the world, even if it was with Bosch, and its subsequent availability to the masses.

    What was Schumacher thinking with his squeeze on Barrichello at Hungary on 2010? Was he thinking? How does that compare to Hamilton’s involvement in that Spa shunt this year?

    Hopefully Hamilton will look at Räikkönen’s consistent finishing and point scoring in 2012 and consider the Mercedes brand and the safety of those around him from now on. In Hamilton’s defence he did call in that there was a Marshall or track worker on the track side of the Armco during one of the Friday practice sessions at Interlagos.

  15. Steve W, 25 December 2012 01:33

    I was pretty much agreeing with this list – pretty much, until I got to #10. Massa? No, I don’t agree with that at all.

  16. chris b, 26 December 2012 07:38

    well it seems the consensus from the pit-lane and Autosport Alonso was the best driver this year, and apart from Japan he seemed to be, Vettel or Hamilton as No 2? whilst i welcome the return of Lewis after a horrendous year in 11, and that blinding speed how can you put him above Seb? both had high points both had low, Seb proved he could race when he needed to and was very fortunate in Brazil, not to have retired when spun, so disagree with No 2, although its so close i wonder, i also wonder why international journalists don’t put Seb as No 1, and before anyone starts it has nothing to do with ancestry, so there must be something – but when you think about it aren’t we just so so fortunate to have so many great drivers all at once – after so many years of dirge we get some brilliant drivers.

    Kimi at No 4? very consistent and getting quicker and more confidant as the year progressed, a champion contender again next year, i really hope so –

    ok until the last 3, Paul is a very quick driver who defines a Scottish term – dour- and one i am sad not to see in the Mclaren next year – maybe when Jenson calls it a day he will –

    Nico, frustrates me, and have been a fan for many years and his potential great
    I would put instead of Massa, Timo Glock – another driver in my opinion overlooked,

  17. A.S. Gilbert, 27 December 2012 03:35

    Agree with order of top five.
    Do believe Vettel has a skill orbit near Alonso, yet hasn’t fully exploited it.
    Fernando’s fall from the razors edge, was due by Spa, again in Japan. Pulled results from the fate bank. Best fighting uphill season in years.
    Hamilton, most rapid, the inversion of fortune cost his hope’s propulsion. New team’s due!
    Vettel, especially when mired, tactically notable, clean releases from pit lane to chase 20-21 cars, all a 1+ sec. a lap slower, concertinaed by SC each stint, to plucking. Done artfully yes, gifting no doubt. From pole, were those wins? Likely.
    Kimi, re-loaded early, due earlier on pace, he upped the game. More of his races paid futures, than for others.
    Button, takes races that used to be widely on offer, secures them. Jacky Ickx like.
    Hulkenberg sheltered, wisely so by Ferrari. Skill’s no fluke, if Massa isn’t top shelf early, maybe a crimson nod.
    Webber likes climbing a face, not walking up a hill. Adversity rallies his best, silky ease negates it.
    Rosberg, lack’s tiger for some, but seems to race to what he’s got. One pole, one win !
    Mercedes quixotic , are never better than they grid. Three years illuminating an icon, scant reward.
    Maldonado, won as well as done, in Spain. Rapid, vivid, if lurid control and pilloried too. Clay Reggazoni anyone?
    Perez, fluid, lively hope despite flaws, and rubbish final bit. Alesi-ish ?
    Di Resta’s worthy, had thin luck too often.
    Grosjean’s, maybe the newby best long term !
    Massa’s re-hire show’s Ferrari admit, the bucket 2012′s car was !
    Kobayashi, deserves a drive, pity !

  18. doug, 27 December 2012 23:10

    Is that actually Nico Rosberg in the car? The picture makes him look a lot like Sam Bird.

  19. Shreeram, 9 January 2013 05:59

    Absolutely agree with this list and the reasons given! NR is spot on as usual. The only negative for Alonso would be being outqualified and outraced by Massa at the business end of the season. Not exactly the mark of a supreme champion.

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Nigel Roebuck

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