Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Top 10 Formula One drivers of the decade

The 2010s have been an interesting time for the sport of Formula One, seeing the transition from v8 engines to the current turbo-hybrid engines, Red Bull dominance to Mercedes dominance. There have also been a vast number of incredible drivers in that time, we take a look at who we believe to be the top 10.

10) Mark Webber

Mark Webber helped lead Red Bull into their golden era, alongside Sebastian Vettel, the Australian would pick up seven wins and a smattering of podiums through from 2010 to 2013. While he only raced in the decade for three years, what he did in that time was more than enough to earn him a place on this list.

Some of the drama that came during his time at Red Bull was one of few things that actively provided entertainment in the sport as the team would go on from victory to victory. Just thinking back about Mutli-21 and the 2010 collision with his teammate.

9) Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas has had one hell of a decade. From his time at Williams through to his move to Mercedes, Bottas has proven why he is one of the most reliable drivers on the grid.

Some people may disagree with his positioning on this list, thinking he could potentially be higher up, above the likes of Ricciardo and Button, however I’m still not fully convinced on Bottas. He is an exceptional driver but has seemed to struggle during his time at Mercedes, perhaps it’s down to some of the drama that has come with his seat, being asked to drop back behind Hamilton at Russia and give up a race win, but he has rarely seemed the same driver that we saw during his time at Williams.

I look down this list, at the other drivers here, I struggle to pick a single one of them that I wouldn’t drop into that Mercedes seat ahead of Bottas.

8) Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo has been one of the most entertaining drivers on the grid for most of this decade. Whether it’s his hijinks in the paddock or his thrilling overtakes on the track, the man has brought a level of enjoyment to the sport that few others have in the past ten years.

In his time with Red Bull Ricciardo regularly proved that he was one of the best drivers on the grid, the ultimate opportunist, sneaking in and stealing race wins. He would launch his car down the inside, around the outside, find gaps where they don’t exist. The man is one of the best drivers on the grid but hasn’t yet had a car that has allowed him to truly prove it. His move to Renault was a slightly strange one, however we can only hope that the team continues to improve as the years go by.

7) Jenson Button

Jenson Button had a very strange decade. After winning the world championship in 2009 he would move to McLaren at the beginning of the 2010s, going on to pick up eight race wins between 2010 and 2012.

In that time Button would pick up what was possibly the greatest win in Formula One history, Canada 2011. But he would also go on to inspire a generation of young British drivers, by being one of the nicest guys on the grid.

His dedication to McLaren even in their struggles would limit what he could achieve for the rest of his time in the sport, alongside Fernando Alonso, Button would help drag a limp McLaren car further up the grid than it had any right to be, valiant even in the toughest of situations.

6) Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen is a difficult man to place in this list. Returning to the sport in 2012 following his hiatus, the Iceman joined Lotus, where he would pick up two wins in his first two seasons back in the sport. Raikkonen would finish third in the constructors championship in his first season back in F1, when you consider that at the time the sport was dominated by Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, the fact that a driver from outside of that top six managed to make it into third place in the championhip is incredible.

Since then Raikonnen went on to have a number of successful years back with Ferrari. It can be agreed for the most part that Raikkonen didn’t set the world alight during his second stint with the Scuderia, the fact that he was with the team for five seasons from the age of 34 is downright impressive. There aren’t many other drivers in the history of the sport that have been able to perform at his level, let alone maintain that level at his age.

In his return to the team that he started his career with, this past season, Raikkonen went on to defy all expectations, dragging Alfa Romeo up the grid into positions that no-one expected them to be in. While things tailed off slightly towards the back of the year The Iceman picked up a big fourth placed finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix, to cap off what has been a sensational decade.

5) Max Verstappen

There may be some people who question Max Verstappen’s position on this list, some feeling that he belongs higher up and some feeling that he belongs further back. What Max has done in the past couple of seasons with Red Bull has been sensational, he has already proven himself to be one of the best drivers on the grid and looks as though he will be striving to claim the role of best driver on the grid once Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton move off to other ventures or father time begins to catch up with them.

Verstappen has been the shining light in a spell of hard times for Red Bull as they look to recapture the ability that saw their cars flying high at the top of the grid from 2010 to 2014. A switch to Honda engines this year seems to have provided them with a degree of the boost that they were looking for and with the rule changes coming forward at the beginning of 2021 being mostly focused on the technical aspects of the cars, rather than the engines, many will be looking at the team and expecting them to come out as leaders.

Since joining the grid in 2015 Verstappen has piled up a number of ‘firsts’, just take a look at the list below to get an idea of what the youngster has accomplished in his four years on the grid.

  • Youngest driver in Foruma One history
  • Youngest driver to lead a lap of a Grand Prix
  • Youngest driver to set a fastest lap during a Grand Prix
  • Youngest driver to score points in F1
  • Youngest driver to stand on the podium
  • Youngest Grand Prix winner in history
  • Youngest multiple time Grand Prix winner
  • Youngest to win the same Grand Prix multiple times
  • Youngest to win the same Grand Prix in consecutive years

Come 2029, I fully expect Verstappen to be topping this list, unless Charles Leclerc has something to say about that.

4) Nico Rosberg

It can be difficult to place Nico Rosberg on this list, his retirment following his title win in 2016 means that he has been out of the sport for almost half of the decade, however what he achieved during the years that he was racing warrants his position on this list.

Rosberg was seen as a hot prospect at the start of the decade, joining the new Mercedes team that had taken over Brawn GP. In 2010 he would rack up three podiums in his first year with the team, well before they became the giants that we know today. Rosberg was not just in the right place at the right time with Mercedes, he didn’t happen to be there as a midfield driver, Rosberg was one of the best drivers on the grid and he truly deserved his place in that team.

His dominance during the 2016 season just goes to show how sensational a driver he truly was. It would have been interesting to see just how much of a challenge Rosberg would have been able to make against Hamilton in the following years. While it feels harsh to say, Rosberg is and was a better driver than Bottas, it’s likely that if the German had stayed with the team he would have gone on to push Hamilton harder than we have seen from his teammate in the past couple of years, Mercedes may have ended up looking even more dominant.

In 2017 Rosberg was rightfully inducted into the FIA Hall of Fame, he will certainly go down as one of the greatest drivers of this era and this decade.

3) Fernando Alonso

Despite spending the tail end of his career toiling away at a team that was propping up the grid, Fernando Alonso still managed to find a way for his talents to shine through. Even when McLaren were sitting at the bottom of the constructors championship Alonso was still finding a way to drag that car up the grid into positions that it shouldn’t be.

Stoffel Vandoorne is not a bad driver, we knew this much from when he stepped in to replace Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, however in the two seasons that the pair raced together Alonso would demonstrate the difference between an elite driver and a good driver. He made Vandoorne look like he didn’t belong, because he was just that good.

But his time at McLaren may not even have been his best racing of the decade. The time that Alonso spent at Ferrari from 2010 to 2014 were possibly some of their worst years in the sport, however he still dragged that car to the top of the grid. In the era of Red Bull dominance Alonso would challenge Vettel for the title in 2010, before finishing second in both 2012 and 2013 ahead of Mark Webber in the same car that Vettel was using to dominate the championship.

Alonso’s career was hampered by bad choices, he moved to the wrong teams at the wrong times. If he had managed to make the right decisions he comfortably could have been a six or seven time world champion, perhaps even more. He is one of the greatest drivers in F1 history, just looking at his number of world championships doesn’t tell the wholes story.

2) Sebastian Vettel

Some people seem to have forgotten just how good Sebastian Vettel was at the start of this decade. Some people don’t seem to realise how good he still is. Sebastian Vettel became a four time world champion in the space of four years with Red Bull. Did he have the best car on the grid? It most of those years, yes he did, however he also had a teammate that could provide a challenge. What we saw from Vettel in those four years was a level of dominance that the sport has rarely ever seen.

Just taking a look at the stats, almost all of which have been accrued in this decade alone, reveals how good Sebastian Vettel really is. The issue for the German is that he has shared the grid with a driver that almost none in history can really compare to. In fact if it wasn’t for Hamilton it’s likely that he would be in the same position as the Brit.

Vettel currently sits third in the wins list of Formula One, he sits in both first and second for most wins in a single season, tied with Michael Schumacher for the record of 13. He holds the record for most consecutive race wins with nine, in 2013, breaking the record held by Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher. For the big one, he now sits just eight pole positions below Ayrton Senna and 11 behind Schumacher.

Making the switch to Ferrari at the end of his Red Bull contract looked like it was going to be a wise decision, it’s safe to say hat it has turned out to look that way, despite the fact that it hasn’t played out the way that he wanted. Up to this season it can be argued that Vettel has still been up there with Hamilton as the best drivers on the grid, with Max Verstappen nipping away at their heels.

1) Lewis Hamilton

What more is there left to say about Lewis Hamilton that hasn’t already been said? Since 2014 he has won five world championships of a possible six, he has proven himself to be one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time and that is something that cannot be taken away from him.

When he made the switch to Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, many fans and experts felt that he was making a mistake. The Silver Arrows had struggled to produce results upon their return to the sport, but it proved to be the best move of his career, with the last two seasons alone helping to showcase just how far ahead from the rest of the field he really is.

He has evolved as a driver and matured as a man in that time too. No longer is he the irrational young man who would take risks and attempt almost impossible moves in an attempt to win races, he now knows when to hold back and when to attack. We have witnessed Lewis Hamilton evolve into one of the greatest drivers of all time and with the rate he’s going, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on this list again at the end of 2029.

For more like this, visit our dedicated F1 page here. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook for more opinions and analysis right to your timeline.

Adam Nisbet
Living on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a Newcastle United fan, Adam also keeps a keen eye on the NBA, UFC and Formula One.

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