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My Top Ten Drivers of the Decade
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Dec 2009   |  7:48 pm GMT  |  260 comments

It’s New Year and the end of a decade. The “noughties” were pretty good in F1 terms with some very talented drivers battling it out for glory. I spent most of it very close to the action as the commentator on British TV network ITV and I observed and worked with all the drivers very close up.

I would argue that the decade ends with a stronger cast of drivers than we had at the start. I’m really excited about the array of talent in F1 now, with three out and out aces, one potential ace and some very strong back ups.

Picture 58
1. Michael Schumacher – There can be no doubt about this at all. Schumacher moved the Art of the F1 driver on in the noughties and set the benchmark everyone else has to follow. He has an exceptional talent but doesn’t rely on it, instead put in so much effort to the details of winning. The outstanding driver of the decade with five world titles in the noughties to add to his two from the nineties. He contributed heavily to the rebirth of Ferrari and then he caps off the decade with a dramatic decision to make a comeback. His career will span three decades; a phenomenon.

Picture 59
2. Fernando Alonso – Twenty-one times a Grand Prix winner, many of them in a car which was not the fastest and two hard fought world titles makes Alonso a truly great champion. Alonso is fast and relentless. All the F1 engineers will tell you that there is no better race driver out there today. But it could and should have been three titles; his season at McLaren ended with him just a point off the world title, but common sense tells you that McLaren should have managed that situation better.

3. Lewis Hamilton – A world championship in his second season and proved a match for Alonso, the benchmark driver in the sport, in his first year, few drivers in history have made an impact on the sport like Hamilton. Like the two drivers ahead of him in the list he polarises opinion, but he’s already proved his credentials as a rare talent and a ferocious competitor. Has 11 victories and 17 poles from his 52 GPs and I think he improved immeasurably during a tough 2009 so he’s now a far better driver than he was when he clinched his title. Alonso vs Hamilton vs Schumacher in 2010 is the fight everyone wants to see – it’s box office gold dust

Kimi cool
4. Kimi Raikkonen – A favourite with many fans, who claim his weaknesses, such as poor communication, are in fact strengths. Easily as talented as any of the drivers he raced against, he let himself down by not trying on occasions. That said he performed heroics in the second half of 2009 in a truly awful car. One world championship, 18 Grand Prix wins and 16 poles tells of a pretty good career, but most savvy observers will say it could have been many more if Mercedes’ reliability and his own attitude had been better at times.

5. Felipe Massa - Eleven wins and 28 podiums so far for this likeable and very fast driver. On the cusp of making that difficult transition from a number two driver to a number one during 2008 and early 2009 and was still improving when he had that terrible accident at Budapest. Massa is admirable for keeping his head down after a dodgy debut and making himself into a really good driver.

Picture 57
6. Juan Pablo Montoya – I have to admit that I loved Montoya as a Grand Prix driver. He was fast, fearless, outspoken and always terrific to watch. He reminded me of Nigel Mansell in many ways. He took the fight to Schumacher on numerous occasions and had some no holds barred scraps with Raikkonen. He scored seven wins, 13 poles and 30 podiums for Williams and McLaren and was unlucky not to have hooked into a world championship.

7. Rubens Barrichello - Eleven race victories in the noughties with Ferrari and Brawn and an evergreen presence on the grid. On his day he could beat anyone, including the great Schumacher, but he also had off days. Kept Jenson Button more than honest during their time together at Honda and Brawn.

Butt celeb
8. Jenson Button – Always had the talent, just needed a good car to show what he could do. We got an idea of what he could do in 2004 when he and BAR took the fight to Schumacher, with 10 podiums and then he took that unlikely win in 2006 at Budapest. This year Jenson got his just desserts in a terrific car, winning six races and the world championship.

9. David Coulthard – He had a long and distinguished career, spanning two decades. He won seven of his 13 Grands Prix in the noughties, but only had a couple of really good years, 2000 and 2001. He struggled in the days of single lap qualifying, which held him back because he usually put in really strong race performances. But a major presence nevertheless.

Vettel
10. Sebastian Vettel – Only two and a bit seasons into his career he has established himself as a front runner and looks like he could become a real star. Five career wins and runner up this year, the key question now is has he learned from his mistakes and can he go on to be a dominant driver? I think he showed in Silverstone and Suzuka this year that he has what it takes.

Happy New Year to all the readers of JA on F1 and a sincere thank you to the half a million plus visitors who have come to the site during 2009, for spreading the word and contributing such interesting and inspiring comments.

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260 Comments
  1. Rhi says:

    And who would you tip for the next ten years? I certainly believe that, if he gets a good car under him, Adrian Sutil has a lot of talent that we just haven’t seen yet.

    1. Tarek says:

      Yes he is a bit under-rated. He’s a great wet-weather specialist (proved it at Monaco a couple of years ago) and should have had a solid points total this year, but Jarno Trulli ensured that wasn’t going to happen, and then went on whining about the incident at Interlagos for weeks when, in fact, it was clear for all to see that it was his fault. Sutil is often regarded as erratic and people say he is involved in too many controversial on-track incidents. I find those claims to be slightly exaggerated; Sutil is involved in several such incidents, but he is rarely, if ever, the man to blame for them. That said, I still don’t think Sutil is in the same class as the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in terms of pure talent.

      1. Peter Hermann says:

        Exaggerated?

        Bahrain – penalty in quali, blocked Webber fully intentionally for two laps in a row.
        China – was able to score first pts for FI provided he just kept going; he spun out on straight. Spain – cutting the second corner (tarmac runoff there), not lifting off, and crashing straight into a number of cars.
        Monaco – blocking and trying to crash into Alonso who was lap ahead and leaving the pits.
        Turkey – tangling with Barrichello.
        Great Britain – crashing heavily at the end of Q1, which made it impossible to Hamilton and few others to qualify to Q2.
        Germany – after leaving pits DESPITE being shown blue flag (you can see it on the video footage of the race) crashing in T1 with Raikkonen.
        Belgium – crashing into Alonso in 1st corner which destroyed Alonso’s suspension (discovered while being in pits for refuelling); also overtook Badoer by cutting the track.
        Italy – driving into his own mechanics.
        Singapore – after spinning off he saw Heidfeld coming so he drove straight into him.
        Japan – in quali he didn’t slow down when yellow flags were waved; in race he tangled with Kovalainen.
        Brazil – controversial crash with Trulli, no attempts to control the car while going through the run off area, finally crashing into Alonso.

        The guy had more incidents of 1 driver in 1 season since DeCesaris.

    2. rfs says:

      Sutil is quick but he needs to stop tangling with other drivers so much.

    3. Michael Carty says:

      Coulthard in top 10 and no Webber. Doesn’t make sense to me

      1. shortsighted says:

        Coulthard in top 10 does not make sense to me either. He was always out-driven by his team mates. So are Barrichello and Montoya. They are over-rated here and often out-driven by their team mates.

      2. Pete Isabelle says:

        Webber can’t keep a cool head when a faster car comes up behind him, and he doesn’t hide his emotions when he gets beaten fair and square by his team mate. Until he stops seeing red mist he will be much better, but i think he peaked a while back for sure. :)

    4. Thomas says:

      Hoping you are right. For me Sutil is on my “will never accomplish anything” list, right below Heikki. Would love to be proven wrong.

    5. Peter Freeman says:

      I think Alonso will be beaten by Massa and Hamilton and Vettel will prove to be better than the rest!

  2. Paul Sivyer says:

    I think Mikka Hakkinen should be in there somewhere?

    1. Simon says:

      Hakkinen won his two titles in ’98 and ’99 and retired at the end of ’01, so I don’t think he can be considered for a list of great drivers over the past decade.

      I’m pleased by your inclusion of JPM, James, I think he left F1 vastly underrated because a lot of people didn’t like his outspoken nature, but he was one of the few willing to go wheel to wheel with Schumacher and he’s probably my favourite driver never to win a title (battling with my countryman DC for that honour).

      1. wtf says:

        last decade is from 1999 onwards…he was champion that year and did it in a much mroe impressive way than gake champ button, yet the list says button is better than hakkinen.

        and even considering only 2000 and 2001, he had races where he drove better than anyone on that list. but the mclaren was or not reliable or not fast enough.

        bari, massa, button, coulthard, montaya who are on the list cant touch him by a long way.

      2. krad says:

        How do you work that out. A decade starts at 0 not 1

      3. Elliot says:

        This decade is not from 1999 (ten most recent completed seasons are 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). Hakkinen does not deserve to be in the above list based on two seasons (although he finished second in 2000).

      4. James W says:

        For the purposes of argument, I believe that James Allen has defined a decade from January 1st 2000 to December 31st 2009.

        Most other people would use the same.

      5. Simon says:

        Wrongo. The ten year period from 1st January 2000 to 31st December 2009 is the ‘last decade’, but here probably isn’t the place for such pedantry.

        I agree that Hakkinen put in some very good performances in ’00 and ’01, but I wouldn’t by any stretch call them his best years, even given the failings of the McLaren he was driving. Yes, over the span of his career of course he was far better than the drivers you mentioned, but over the two year span that he drove in the last decade, no I don’t think he was.

        But then these lists are designed to engender debate.

    2. Dale says:

      I think James forgot that one as he’s a cert and way better than many on James’s list

    3. Paulo says:

      Hakkinen’s best years were in the late 90′s where he was just as fast (arguably faster) as Schumacher. in the noughties Hakkinen started to the lose the fire in his belly.

    4. Anthony says:

      Mika only raced for 2 seasons in the 00′s…. and those were not his best.

      1. davidturnedge says:

        Mika was as good in 2000 as in 1998 and 1998 – McLaren (or perhaps Mercedes) had dropped the ball a bit on reliability which cost Mika an even fight Championship in 2000 with Schumi.

      2. AndyFov says:

        I was thinking the same thing, but have since realised that Mika did his best work in the 90s.

        The scary thing is I didn’t realise it was as long ago as that!

    5. Denis Looby says:

      Hakkinen retired in 2001 and his last year was wasn’t his best, but 2000 was a good year from him and it was the year he passed Schumacher and Zonta at Spa a truely epic overtake.

    6. David says:

      One very strong year and two seasons in total in the decade means he’s in the top 10 drivers of the noughties?

      1. Charlie B says:

        Well Lewis is on there, Vettel too. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be but Mika should be there as well.

  3. hugo says:

    I agree with your comments about Montoya,best overtaker in the decade,always fighting and never scared of pushing the Ferrari number 1 to the limit.
    The fact that Barrichello is in the 7th position makes you realize that the quality of drivers is low,very low, compare to the 70′s and 80′s(those are the ones that I saw live).

    1. Dale says:

      Montoya, a huge loss to F1, more should have been done to keep him :evil:

    2. F1 Kitteh says:

      And the fact that Button is in 8th makes you wonder if Barrichello would’ve been a more deserving champion. But yeah happy to see Montoya up there and not forgotten.

    3. J.C. Agoglia says:

      Montoya did not win the championship due to the brillant move by Ferrari and Bridgestone against the “illegal Michelins” in the last part of the championship. The title was going to be Montoya’s and Williams/BMW…

      1. jose says:

        i agree, and don’t forget that stupid marshall at indy, that blackflaged him for clashing with barrichello. Hurt millions of fans with the stupid call, with the title on the the line, and he did it. The good news is he is not longer arround. What a moron.

    4. krad says:

      I hate to say it but the driver line ups were a lot more variable then, especially in the 70′s, mainly due to all the career ending incidents. This gave a lot of drivers the opportunity that don’t these days. Also you had to have a lot more bottle in those days. It would be interesting to see who would cut the mustard from the naughties if you put them in a 60-70′s era

  4. f says:

    Altough I am not a supporter and I sometimes hate is attitude, Rubens is (unfortunately to me) a incredibly fast car. I’ve spoken to some engineers and they said the input he is able to give about the car changed both Ferrari and Brawn cars completely. Not the perfect driver by far, but damn he is good.

    1. Dale says:

      Rubens a good no 2 that’s all :!:

    2. Daniel says:

      I agree. The one thing though, is when the car is sorted, he most usually gets outdone by his team mate… whomever that may be at the time. I always thought if a team were to sign Barichello and Kimi they’d have the best of both worlds…

    3. Rubens is a fast car??

      1. Glen says:

        and he’s made out of carbon fibre apparently.

      2. I heard Niki Lauda is the Terminator in real life!!

    4. Med says:

      Well, fingers crossed he can do the same for Williams – I can’t stand him when he has his crybaby moments, but all will be forgiven if Williams claw their way back to the front

  5. George O'Donnell says:

    James, I entirely agree with you in this order! It’s been a good decade of Grand Prix racing and I think the assessment is very fair. Maybe to be totally honest I’m a little surprised to see Montoya at number 6, but I would say that he is one of the best racing drivers of all time due to the fact that in his career he won the F3000 title, went to win CART in 1999 in his rookie year (awesome achievement in a very competitive series), winner and championship contender in F1, winner in NASCAR. He has a very good CV!

    Happy New Year to you and your family, and I look forward to hearing more from you in the next decade!

  6. Gilraen says:

    Hmm… I would have had Kimi a bit higher (2nd or 3rd, but above Hamilton :-)), but still…. Have a great New Year’s Eve and love to read your contributions in 2010 again!

    Warmest regards,

    Gilraen

    1. Trixie says:

      Agree, Gilraen. Kimi is a natural talent and because it comes so easily to him without the effort required of most other drivers, it’s often misinterpreted as laziness, or not trying hard, or being disinterested.
      IMO Kimi should be 3rd if going by the number of championships won, purely because he has the shortest racing CV before arriving into F1, which again speaks volumes about his ability.
      I would’ve included Kubica in the list instead of the “distinguished” but dull DC.
      Massa, only one spot behind Kimi is not justified and disappointing just as Massa being voted 14th best driver ahead of Kimi on 15th in Autosport mag. Talk about symphathy vote… (Massa must be thankful to that spring coil!?!) Yah, sorry, uncalled for.
      But then again, I completely respect this is James’ Top Ten List after all.
      Happy New Year to all and here’s looking forward to the next decade of racing.

      1. Kirsty says:

        They’re equal as teammates at Ferrari, what’s so shocking about putting Massa one place behind Raikkenon? what sympathy vote? nonsense.

        This isn’t a ranking of drivers’ potential or natural talent, but actual achievement and ability. Their pre-F1 cv isn’t relevant.

      2. Elliot says:

        James makes the point tho doesn’t he: “Schumacher has exceptional talent but doesn’t rely on it”.

        Kimi DOES rely on his talent. Does he have the motivation or application to fully make the most of his career? There’s a reason why he doesn’t have a drive next season and lesser drivers do.

        A shame, as on pace alone he’s up there with anybody you’d care to mention.

      3. M__E says:

        “There’s a reason why he doesn’t have a drive next season and lesser drivers do”

        a reason which you dont fully understand it seems. He wanted a top drive or nothing, which makes sense given his ambitions and achievements/talent.

    2. Fuchsia says:

      i think so too. He should definitely be above hamilton

  7. Hephaestus says:

    Hi James,
    Happy new year to you and thank you for keeping this site alive during this christmas period.
    I must say that I agree with much of your analysis although I would have put Hamilton in front of Alonso.
    He’s achieved more than anybody else in a shorter period although one would argue that it was down to the car being so fast. To that I could reply that Massa had benefited from a far more dominant car when he came to Ferrari but could not match his leader.
    I think Hamilton being so quick cost him the title during his first year.
    He came in as a rookie, hence a natural N°2 as Alonso was the wold champion.
    If his team mate had been less prestigious, the team would have been less reluctant to polarise all their efforts to get the driver championship.
    On the other hand, if Hamilton had not been so strong, Alonso would have probably clinched the title.
    I’ve got a question that has nothing to do with the topic James.
    Do you have any special relationship with the Brawn now Mercedes team?
    On the cover of your book the only car we can see is a Brawn, the foreword is by Ross Brawn and on top of your blog we can see a Mercedes-Petronas car wher we had a Brawn car earlier.
    Sorry for my English. I haven’t praticed for a long time. I’m actually French.
    Cheers.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question – it’s just topicality, really. The book is a yearbook and so you put the champion on the cover and Ross was the man of the year so getting him to write the foreword was great. The New Year banner reflects the news that Schumacher is back with Mercedes. It’s all based on topicality and Brawn is the man of the moment.

  8. TommyB says:

    Pretty much agree with it. Glad you didn’t place Button too high when he did hardly anything before this year.

    I think DC is extremely over-rated although he has scored lots of points this decade.

    Regarding Mika, he was only in this decade 2 years :P

  9. jesee says:

    I would rate Hamilton above Alonso, but a good list nevertheless. Happy new year James, and thanks for keeping me informed for last year!

  10. IMasri says:

    I agree. I think Mika Hakkinen is better than Rubens, Jenson or even Massa for me

    1. Anthony says:

      For god’s sake! He’s rating the drivers for what they did THIS decade (2000-2009)… and Rubens, Jenson and Massa did much more than Hakkinen THIS DECADE!

  11. It’s hard to argue with this list. I’m glad that you’ve recognised Felipe Massa’s contribution. It seemed to me that many commentators were slow to recognise how good he had become, even as he began to out perform Kimi Raikkonen. Moreover, from this TV viewer’s perspective I was struck by his willingness to chat to Martin Brundle whilst out on the grid just prior to the start of races, more so than most drivers.

  12. NA says:

    James, fantastic reading. Good to see Montoya on the list. For me, Schumacher’s dirty, cheating tactics disqualify him from the list entirely. That would move Alonso to #1.

    1. Brian says:

      Who would, to be consistent, then have to be disqualified from the list for his dirty, cheating tactics? :p

  13. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Thanks for your list James. I agree with your assessment of the mercurial Montoya. I know quite a few people who raced in karting against him in Bogota and they say that he was always a hothead. What a shame that he never fully exploited his natural talent in F1.

    Not sure about Button at No. 8 though. I would have squeezed in Hakkinen (although I agree that he is more of a 90′s driver). I would have swapped Button with Vettel, who I think should be higher up than 10 in your rank.

    Great to see you put your opinions forward. These are exactly the kinds of rankings that fans love … although most journalists are too afraid or not knowledgeable enough to come up with them.

    Happy new year from Colombia.

  14. Absolument ! says:

    Ralf deserved a Top 10.

    1. Med says:

      I think the top 10 disappointments is an article for another time

      1. guy says:

        Yeah for sure! Takagi would have to be at the top…

      2. Boston F1 Fan says:

        Yes, and Mark Webber; a great driver who never delivered.

  15. Williams4Ever says:

    James, I agree with your ratings of 10 drivers, only challenge would be on JPM, He should be at par with Lewis. While I was disappointed when JPM left F1, in his First race Lewis reminded me every ounce of JPM.

    Lewis is in same mold asJPM only difference – Right Place at Right Time – Has the right car under him and most importantly has the “TEAM that Backs him to the Hilt!!!” .

    Way McLaren Backed Lewis in incidents like Brazil’07,Fuji’08, Monza’09 is the luxury the Colombian never had during his tenure in F1.

    Happy New Year to You and your Loved Ones. As You said Noughties have been good to F1, Teens are “Awkward Years” when people do lots of stupid things hope F1 survives those and is not permanently damaged :D

  16. ashes1991 says:

    James, why should alonso have had 3? Why shouldn’t it be Hamilton should have 2? Because he drove just as well as alonso and for sure he was more of a sports man than alonso.

    Ash

    1. Anthony says:

      well… maybe because alonso has won 2 championships this decade

      1. ashes1991 says:

        Did u even read that, Anthony? James Allen said he should have really have had 3, hmmmm I’m not a physicist but I get that 2+1=3.

        What I said though, why shouldn’t Hamilton have had 2? Because Hamilton has already won 1 this decade and should really have won 2, if he hadn’t have lost it like Alonso.

        There for 1+1=2,

        U get me? If Alonso deserved to win 3, why not Hamilton (obviously deserve to win 2)? He did just as well, and if you look at the table for 2007 he did better as he achieved more second places that Alonso.

        Thanks

        Ash

  17. Paul Kirk says:

    Giday, 2 comments—-(1)Why are some people saying Hamilton is a better driver this last season, than the season before? I spose it’s because we did’nt see him make so many stupid mistakes because he wasn’t on camera as much, although we did see him lose it late in the last race! (2) There’s a comment above about Montoya being the ‘best’ overtaker, but we also have to rate Jenson very highly in that area as well!
    Regards,
    PK.

  18. Eric Weinraub says:

    Button? You are kidding right? You Brits stick together no matter what. If he manages to stay within a half second of Hamilton it will be a miracle. THey should have kept Heikki. With Ferrari, Mercedes, and RB Button will be lucky to score points.

    1. Elliot says:

      A WDC is gained through talent AND circumstance.

      JB made the most of his car last year at the crucial times.

      Plenty of drivers are given good cars and don’t get it done. Jenson isn’t the best driver in the paddock, but he won a WDC fairly and squarely.

    2. Gemma says:

      I’m english and i agree! Button was well over-rated this year! second half of the season he struggled to win a point or two each race, and qualifing was dreadful for him! I also believe he will be left well in the shadow of Hammilton this coming season

      1. Martin says:

        There’s an interesting comment in Autocourse this year where Alan Henry writes that Ross Brawn told Jackie Stewart early in the year that Button is better than Schumacher, and every other driver Brawn had worked with, at getting everything out of a car. Quite what ‘getting everything out of a car’ means is open to interpretation. While made early this year it would also include the 2008 performances.

        Your third sentence is true, but if my memory serves me correctly, in the races, Rubens never out-paced Jenson. There were races such as Valencia and Silverstone where traffic stopped Jenson moving forward until the pit stops, but once clear his lap times matched Rubens and he a quicker fastest lap (not that Rubens necessarily needed a quick one-off lap in Valencia).

        I think the only reason Rubens is ahead of Jenson in the list is that he’s won 11 races compared to seven over the decade and race wins is a large determinant in
        James’ list in my opinion.

        From my TV screen in Australia, I think (with no science) that Lewis and Jenson will be pretty closely matched in both qualifying and the races.

  19. Sébastien F says:

    The list seems pretty good but I would personally swap Montoya and Massa’s positions.

    1. Mr. L ./// says:

      I agree with this. Very good to see that people with F1 knowledge remember the impact JPM made. Great loss we don’t have him in F1 anymore. IMO the best overtaker of the past decade with great natural speed.

  20. George says:

    Very good list, I agree pretty much entirely. I would probably put Heidfeld in as #11, not a race winner but probably the most reliable and consistant point scorer of the decade.

  21. Dale says:

    What, no Mika, world champion :?: :?
    Sorry James but you have this wrong, Mika was better than many on your list Coulthard included.

    1. Peter Freeman says:

      I can’t remember, which years between 2000 and 2009 did Mika drive and for which team? How did he do in these years championships?

      1. Peter Freeman says:

        I found it on F1.com

        2001 5th Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 37

        Mika’s only year this decade, the same year his team mate David Coulthard came 2nd with 65 points, so not not Mika’s best decade.

  22. Paul says:

    Great picks James – although I agree with Paul Sivyer, Mika Hakkinen should have been in there somewhere. Although most of Mika’s best racing was done in the late 90′s, he was still WDC at the turn of the century. I’m really glad JPM made the list, I was always a fan of his ‘no BS’ style. Happy New Year all!

  23. Antoine says:

    I couldn’t agree mo’ James, I like your top 5.
    Happy new year.

  24. Dom says:

    James, regarding your comments on Alonso, surely he lost two World Championships having been out manoeuvered by Lewis in ’97 rather than just the one….

    Happy New Year all.

    1. Elliot says:

      Lewis Hamilton was a wonder in ’97 – driving a McLaren at the age of 12… ;D

  25. rpaco says:

    You can’t disagree with James, but drivers only shine in good cars.
    Is it really more than 10 years since Il Lione?

  26. Andy Czech says:

    And only two of your choices will feature strongly in the next decade.
    LH + SV
    Changing times indead.
    PF 2010

    1. James Allen says:

      I think Alonso will have quite a bit to say in what happens in the 2010s!

      1. Mr. L ./// says:

        Totally agree. Maybe even Massa.

  27. YiNing says:

    I agree with Gilraen, Kimi definitely should be higher. Lewis is a good driver but I think he still have a lot to prove in the future.

    Happy New Year to all!!

  28. Jameson says:

    James,

    Very interesting list, and it definitely was the decade of Deutsche domination via Schumacher.

    If I’m being intellectually honest and taking into account the entire decade, then for the most part I would agree with your list with few exceptions.

  29. Chris Crawford says:

    Def agree with the order, but somewhere mika hakkinin should be in their. I liked watching mikka and Michaels respect for each other.

    James, thanks for this blog, it’s been really good which more than makes up for you not commentating anymore. Hope you go back to it one day as I was enjoying you becoming the voice of F1.

    I was quite sad watching Brazil 08 when you ended with ‘….goodnight’ and that was it.

    Cheers

    chris.

  30. Lee Grant says:

    Happy New Year James & all you regulars…

    Liked the list – didn’t expect Montoya…good choice though!

    One of my highlights of the decade was watching Anthony Davidson demolish everyone in test sessions when those sort of things were allowed!

    All the best for the 2010 season guys!

  31. Dave Walker says:

    @Paul Sivyer: Hakkinen alone for that move in Spa on Schumi with Zonta in the mix in 2000 is worthy of note if he was to be considered.

    James: I think you have it pretty nailed on for the top 10 drivers of the decade, I can’t really argue with any of them.

    How about a feature on the best overtakes of the decade, like a top ten. A few spring to mind:

    Hakkinen on Schumi in Spa 2000

    Button on Alonso in Hockenheim 2004

    Raikkonen on Fisichella in Suzuka 2005

    1. Paulo says:

      And don’t forget Alonso on Schumacher in Suzuka 2005

      1. jose says:

        and several montoya did on schumacher, like brasil 2001, and spa 2004 if i am not mistaken.

      2. Jeremy says:

        We can’t forget Sato on Alonso @ Montreal 07. :)

  32. Tarek says:

    Great post as always James. No doubt about the top 2. I agree with your selection of Hamilton over Raikonnen at no. 3. Although he’s been an F1 driver for only 3 years, his driving and achievements thusfar have been no less than phenomenal. Glad to see Massa is ahead of Montoya, who I never really liked :). Just a bit surprised to see Button in eighth, particularly as he’s behind Barrichello. During their time together at Honda/Brawn, Jenson proved to be the superior driver. And Button drove quite well for most of 2003-2005 as well. He generally had a good track record in the past decade, so should have slotted in a bit higher I think.
    Happy new year to James and all readers of this fantastic blog and may the next decade prove to be the greatest in the history of F1 racing!

    1. Dale says:

      Massa verses Montoya in the same F1 car, Montoya would have won hands down every time 8)

      1. Martin says:

        Because at team mates Kimi was quicker than Montoya while Massa matched Kimi or was quicker…?

      2. Sam says:

        Well, Kimi didn’t win Massa but he did beat Monti.

        Montaya is a good racer but I don’t know why people always underestimate Massa.

        May be because he didn’t beat his mentor but then who could.

  33. Skanda says:

    Surprising to see Vettel being ranked so low in your order especially considering you have Montoya at #6. I would have him at 5 ahead of Massa.

  34. Lem says:

    Nice list Jame! I agree with your choice of drivers.

    It’s such a pity that Montoya was never given a proper car to fight for the WDC. He’s such a rare talent that can win in any series. Whether its NASCAR, CART, F1 or Sport Cars, Montoya is still an amazing driver to watch.

    1. Dale says:

      What could have been though as much as I liked him he does seem to like his burgers just a little too much doesn’t he :?: :?

    2. Mr. L ./// says:

      JPM would even have won the 3rd race in his rookie year if it wasn’t for Verstappen’s crash from behind. No one on the list made such an impact in a ‘slow car’.

  35. DaveR says:

    I’d agree, Mika Häkkinen should be there.

  36. jose arellano says:

    totally agree, except for hamilton above raikkonen..i think vettel is very good but he hasnt proved himself totally to be in that list..

  37. Jay Rooney says:

    What- no Ralf (ahem)??
    Great choices- David Coulthard has often been classed as average but he was phenominal in 1997 making Mika (also one of the greats) look very average. As you say single lap qualifying hurt his results VERY badly- a terrible shame. I’m very glad you recognized him. I’d like to wish to wish my fellow readers and the JA F1 team
    all the very the best for 2010.

  38. carlm21 says:

    Your website has been a great read this year and I look forward to following it next year in 2010. Keep up the good work. My top 3 drivers in last 10 years are, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton a very close 4th.

  39. Matt says:

    Mika won in the 90s of course.

  40. Adam D says:

    Gr8 list, bit suprised Mika wasn’t in there but after realising he retired in 2001, it would have been somewhat silly to include him if he only had 2 yrs in this decade in the sport. Vettel’s a suprise in there but the reasons you’ve given justify why he’s in there, he’s made a hell of an impact and has looks and drives like a born winner.

    I’d have gone for Webber personally as he’s been a great driver this decade and has improved year on year, but Vettel in terms of his impact derserves it more.

    Good to see JPM in there, talented driver and someone who should still be in F1, was unlucky at Williams because if it hadn’t been for Schumacher’s ferrari being untouchable and a questionable penalty at Indy in 2003 he’d have been world champion. Shame the move to McLaren didn’t work out as although he got injured in 2005 he still won 3 races. Great heart on sleeve driver whose passion was great for the sport.

  41. gpfan says:

    Coulthard? I think not. Montoya and Hamilton may be somewhat elevated compared to my opinion off them. And, no Hakkinen? That is just not right.

    What about Ralf? LOL

      1. Mr. L ./// says:

        Who??? LOL

  42. wtf says:

    massa better than hakkinen?

    ok…..credible list.

    alonso got beaten by rookie hamilton in first year, and mclaren didnt screw up..alonso acted like a cry baby and wasted all.

    1. jose arellano says:

      got beaten??

      does hami fans just blind themselves

      1. wtf says:

        dont like hami at all, no fan of his. fact, he beat alonso fair and square in his first year f1.

        its you alonso fanboys who are blind to this fact and whine about how mclaren didnt hold alonsos hand like the lil girl he is and worship him like he was the second coming ;).

        i mean how dare mclaren give both drivers the exact same car so they can race each other and show who is better, omg ;)

      2. bond007 says:

        so your mclaren fan then ;) ….. dude mclaren it self admitted that they shld have handled situation better …. that is wat screw up is :P

    2. Arya says:

      How convenient it is to blame everything under the Sun to bad boys like Michael or Fernando.

      You guys just amaze me!

    3. Dale says:

      Agreed, Hamilton beat Alonso in his rookie year, how McLaren can be blamed for this beggars belief.
      Fact, if Ron Dennis had allowed Hamilton to race for the win in Monaco he may well have won the championship.
      Fat, Alonso was the man, he who couldn’t be beaten and he was plain and simple.
      It’s all too easy to forget this this was Hamilton’s FIRST year in F1, what he showed the world as the impossible is possible if you have supreme talent :!: We should all be glad he’s driving in F1 and with a little luck and the new era of fair play by the FIA we’ll see fantastic racing from him in the coming years.

      1. jose arellano says:

        Hami = 109
        Alonso = 109

        got beaten ????

      2. Tom Johnson says:

        @jose arellano

        That’s right Alonso got beaten. Go and look up the FIA standings for 2007. ALONSO GOT BEAT is that clear? That you cling to 109 = 109 in Hamilton’s rookie season up against a reigning 2xWDC shows your desparation.

      3. Freespeech says:

        Maybe you don’t know how standings are made, fact is Hamilton beat Alonso look at the record books :!:

      4. Nestor says:

        Actually he was allowed to race Alonso at Monaco but he was bouncing all over the place trying to catch him , that why RD had to slow him down , selective memory is a bad thing ….

      5. Paul Elliott says:

        Lewis 109 points
        Alonso 109 points

        Who beat who?

      6. Anthony says:

        well… FIA F1 Rankings:

        1. Kimi Raikkonen 110
        2. Lewis Hamilton 109
        3. Fernando Alonso 109

        Hamilton got more 2nd places than alonso… in his 1st year, vs a 2 times WDC with 4 years of experience in the sport..

        if that isnt “GOT BEATEN BY A ROOKIE” then tell me what it is..

      7. Curro says:

        No denial of Hamilton’s talent, but the real fact is that they tied on points and wins. It’s also a fact that LH was arguably the best rookie ever and caught Alonso by surprise. Another fact is, as the year went on the team management favoured Hamilton over Alonso.

        Slightly off-topic but why has Ron Dennis such a good reputation as team manager? Over the years a number of world class drivers, including a few world champions, have left the team fed up with him. I think he’s built McLaren into a fantastic operation, but his way of managing people is not good at all.

      8. jose arellano says:

        YES TIED 109 = 109

        fia standings cant have 2 guys in 2nd place.. and just because of that you say he beat alonso? ..pathetic

        and if your next argument its the wins and 2nd places. first think about massa number of wins over hamilton in 2008.

        No denial on hamiltons talent as well, but his fans keep sticking to “he beat a 2WDC in rookie year” its anoying.

        hi tied with a 2wdc settle with that. (and the reasons for this are very arguable)

      9. Amritraj says:

        Quite agree with you the LH vs Alonso bit. Just to add that Alonso had also shifted to a new team and to new tyres. As the year went past, Alonso just got better and better.

        On another note, I am a big fan of Ron Dennis. I think what he has been able to create (in McLaren) is something phenomenal. And the fact that you mention world champions (current or potential) coming to race for him is a testimony to his calibre to provide them with the best machinery and best organisation in F1. I think deep down both Alonso and Dennis regret that their relationship fractured irreparably.

        Dennis doesn’t need to be a people’s man, just as Ross Brawn doesn’t need to a commercial guy and, just as Kimi doesn’t need to put in any more effort that he actually does. Going against the grain of his/ her character can actually interfere with a genius’s abilities.

      10. Freespeech says:

        Ron’s the man, great loss to F1.
        Hamilton BEAT Alonso in his FIRST season in F1, for all those that can’t accept that I have one word – tuff :!:

      11. bond007 says:

        @freespeech
        i understand ur desperation ……if ur fan of hamiltons… thats your problem…. it doesn’t mean alonso is beaten….. and dont give that sh** of FIA 1,2,3 standings…… fact is that after all the favors mchamilton got, alonso equaled in points and wins ….

      12. Martin says:

        Hi Dale,

        I think I’ll throw my $0.02 in on top of all the facts.
        In Monaco during the telecast, Martin Brundle said that he was confident that Alonso had Hamilton’s measure, and the fuel situation, although not officially published, was well known. Alonso would probably have known this before qualifying too, so it could be (speculation on my part) that the pole margin was partly a case of Alonso knowing what he needed to do. Combined with Hamilton regularly rubbing the barriers, as mentioned below, the team told him to slow down as he was going to lose eight points.

        If you look through the 2007 race-by-race and consider why the two drivers finished where they did in the race, you find that generally Alonso was quicker on race pace or did something to stuff his weekend up. For example, running off the track at the start at Spain and Montreal, having braking issue in Bahrain, a poor start in Turkey, a qualifying reliability issue in France, getting penalised in Hungary. In Melbourne, Malaysia, Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Monza, Alonso had a clear edge in pace during the race. Hamilton used lighter fuel loads to get ahead in qualifying. And then in the last three races, Hamilton kicked Alonso’s arse in terms of performance, if not results.

        The season was the reverse of what would be expected – the old hand had the edge in race pace, while the young guy was more consistent and made fewer big errors. It seemed to be Alonso who didn’t deliver under the pressure of the championship – the conspiracy theorists would blame McLaren, either through support or lack of love. A simpler view is that he played it safe.

        Still the rankings from James favour results over talent, and twice as many wins and titles gives Alonso the edge.

  43. Jon says:

    James, I am a huge fan of your blog but you have obviously ignored the fact that people outside of the UK read it on this occasion! I was surprised that Ant didnt make the list ;)

  44. Ted the Mechanic says:

    Ralf will be disappointed James…

    Jenson might be a tad put out as well…

    I agree with your Top 5, but how hard was it for you deciding 2 & 3?

    It’s impossible to predict a ranking as of January 1st 2020, but perhaps in 5 years time the way these names rearrange themselves will be most interesting. And what we’re all hanging around for eagerly waiting to find out…

    1. Dale says:

      I think Hamilton has proved in the 3 years he’s been in F1 that he IS better than Alonso.
      His performance in his first year had to be seen to be believed and his driving in 2009 was by far his best yet.
      What’s Alonso done since McLaren kicked him out :?: Watch what happens when he fails to master Massa as many think he will and at the same time watch what happens at McLaren between Hamilton and Button, I think them it’ll become clear which is the better driver and man :!: 8)

      1. Amritraj says:

        Let’s wait and see indeed, Dale.

      2. Freespeech says:

        Sorry mate but I’m with Dale on this one.
        Hamilton’s driving last year where he drove his best yet will make him even better in the coming years. If Massa gets the leap on Alonso just wait for hom to through his toys out of his pram, to me and many others he showed who he really is in the year he was at McLaren, where if he really was the best he’d have wiped the floor with him but that didn’t happen and we all saw what did :!:

      3. Dale says:

        Looking forward to it :)

      4. Freespeech says:

        I agree, to date he’s beaten Alonso in all three seasons and on that basis he should be ahead of Alonso in James’s top ten

  45. Peter says:

    Can’t argue with the list. All good points made. Next 10 years? I think Hamilton will be the top driver of this decade. He’s got so much talent and we’ve yet to see the best from the man! But right now 2010 should be something!

  46. Peter says:

    Oh and a happy new year to you too James!

  47. Ows says:

    Totally agree James, but would swap Montoya and Barrichello.Can’t wait to see how Michael performs next season as I can see Seb and Lewis being very strong.
    It will be very interesting to see how long Fernando takes to get up to a winning pace in the Ferrari. The next season’s going to be awesome!

  48. Martin says:

    It’s NOT the END of the DECADE YET !
    The calendar did NOT start with year 0….

    But them most of the media don’t understand either.
    Regards,
    “Martin”

    1. The Artist says:

      Martin
      There was no year 0…

      Nor was there a year 1, or 2, or….

      It’s frankly irrelevant

      But it is the end of the decade… A decade is simply a period of 10 years, and as such, we have finished the decade that began in 2000.

      You could consider a different decade from 2001-2010, but both are perfectly valid definitions of a decade!

    2. Martin says:

      A decade is just a ten year period… You could make a case that a Millennium is different, but there’s no historical evidence for Jesus Christ being a living person. Then there’s all the changes in calendars.

      1. Steve says:

        Martin (2).

        Yes there is historical evidence of Jesus Christ having lived. (From the written record, corroborated by many writers).

        However, i) There’s no evidence that he is definitely the son of god – that is a matter of faith
        ii) Given all the detail in the Bible, it is almost certain that Jesus was born between 7 and 4 BC.

        Further to all this, calendars were not started at 1AD. (And obviously people did not call 7 BC 7BC when it was 7BC!!! The calendar has been ret-conned, and as such there was NO YEAR 1!!!
        Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate to celebrate the end of a century when the year ends in 99, and the end of a decade when the year ends in 9!

      2. Martin says:

        Steve, I can’t give you the reference, but a Christian scholar went looking for historical evidence of the existence of Jesus. The earliest credible (as assessed by the scholar) reference was a non-Christian Roman who made derogatory comments about followers of Jesus. Which just tells you there were followers of Christian ‘mythology’ in the second century AD. Otherwise, bias towards Christianity by the writer is very difficult to remove from the analysis.

        On calendars, there wasn’t a year one at the time as you say, but it has been retrospectively created, unlike a year 0, so the AD centuries would go from year 1 to 100, … 1901 to 2000. And from that decades within the 21st century AD would go from 2001 not 2000. However, Formula started in 1950, so 2000 to 2009 is the sixth decade of F1.

        If you use James’ winning system for determining the best of each Decade, you get
        50-59 – Fangio, obviously
        60-69 – Clark – most race wins, two titles
        70-79 – Lauda by one win over Stewart
        80-89 – Prost by wins/skill over Piquet
        90-99 – Schumacher

        If you picked the right ten years then Stewart and Senna would top a decade each. On the wins in the F1 decades, Gilles Villeneuve would struggle to make the top ten in either the 70s or 80s.

    3. Howard Hughes says:

      So 1930 was in fact in the 1920s?

      Please.

    4. Med says:

      Yeah, but you wouldn’t include 2000 as being in the ’90s or 1990 as part of the ’80s would you?

    5. Brace says:

      Hahah, I am too constantly annoyed by that but I gave up trying to explain it to people.
      They just don’t seem to get it.
      When you are counting to ten you go from 1 to 10, not from 0 to 9.
      Also, what about centuries, people?
      I hope you know that for example, every year that began with 19xx except 1900 was in fact 20th century not 19th century. And since you need 100 years for the century, it means it goes till from 1901 to 2000. That’s why it’s called 20th century.

      And now to try to sort this once and for all:
      1st century 1 – 100
      2nd 101-200
      3rd 201-300
      4th 301-400
      5th 401-500
      6th 501-600
      7th 601-700
      8th 701-800
      ….all the way to
      20th 1901-2000

      And same goes for the decades.
      1st decade of 20th century 1901-1910
      2nd 1911-1920
      3rd 1921-1930
      4th 1931-1940
      5th 1941-1950
      6th 1951-1960
      7th 1961-1970
      8th 1971-1980
      9th 1981-1990
      10th 1991-2000

      1st decade of 21st century: 2001-2010

      Understand now, people?

      1. Anthony says:

        so.. the year 2000 is in the 90′s ????

      2. Rich M says:

        A decade is 10 years, any 10 consecutive years. The eighties (80-89), nineties (90-99) and noughties (00-09) as decades make more sense than your proposed periods don’t they, even if by tracking back 2000 years it meant there was a 9 year remainder?

      3. Martin says:

        Brace is correct in terms of referencing back to the change from 1 BC to 1 AD (retrospectively), so we have just started the last year of the 201st decade AD. There in no reason that the noughties needs to coincide with this decade definition. Besides F1 started in 1950 so it doesn’t align with ‘Christian’ calendar.

  49. PaulL says:

    Agree with that top 10 – and as a Mika fan I would NOT have put him top 10 based on his 2 seasons in 00 and 01.

    James, would you have said Schumacher was the driver of the 1990s as well? Senna drove an outstanding 4 seasons before his tragic death and Hakkinen won two titles, but Schu seemed to be the performer throughout and although Adelaide 94 and Jerez 97 would have to have dented his rep I would think he would still get the gong, making that two decades in a row – I don’t know if any driver would have that on his mantle.

  50. Shahzad says:

    The list is fine well put together but i think you gotta ponder over a few positions again…
    like p1,p3,p4 & p10

    considering F1 as a sport where the CAR matters90% & DRIVER10%

    P1 Schumi was good but dont u think that was the era of Ferrari Dominance which translated into Schumacher’s 5 Titles.

    P3 Lewis is a good good driver but i honest dont think he deserves to b such high on the list there r way better drivers below him on the list. needless to say McLaren had a good car for the past 3 seasons & there is a huge Bias in the team.

    P4 Kimi suffers from the biggest weakness of all the COMMUNICATION probs which is rightly acknowledged but the fact that Mercedes failed him in 39% oh his McLaren Years should have been taken into account before listing him P4 i recon he deserves P2.

    P10 Vettel at P10 comes a huge shock to me..compare him to Lewis for a moment u’ll get ur answers…he was never prepared as a BIG (read McLaren) team prodigy and yet performed on inferior cars.

    I think a good consideration should have been given to the performance of the driver and not the podiums or titles……

  51. Cakes says:

    What about Ralf Schumacher?

    1. Dale says:

      What about him :?:
      Having his sir name doesn’t warrant being in any top ten list :!:

      1. Bob says:

        6 race wins, 20~ podiums this decade isn’t bad.

      2. Anthony says:

        well… vettel accomplished almost that in just 2 and a half seasons with 22yr old and is no. 10

        would you rate ralf better? did he finish runner-up in one of his seasons?

    2. garyc says:

      Check your calender. It’s January 1, not April 1.

      1. Dale says:

        Good point :)

  52. Senthil says:

    I think Kimi should be above Lewis …

    Happy New year James

  53. lip_iceman says:

    Out of interest, how many drivers have raced in the noughties? It would add meaning to the measure of the top ten.

    Agree with the list (even though I’m rooting for the top and bottom of the list this year, and would like to see them at 1 and 2 for this decade ;))

    A blessed new year to the readers and you, Mr Allen.

  54. Kevin M says:

    Nice list James.

    I think it’s also worth noting that there’s quite a lot of quality drivers in F1 outside of that list which speaks wonders for the talent currently in the sport.

    Mark Webber could easily be higher up the list if he’d had just a little more luck. Robert Kubica might have been a world champion if BMW were more ambitious.

    I hope the racing improves a fraction this year though. The sort of action we saw from Button and Webber in Abu Dhabi in the final laps is what fans need to see more of.

  55. Tarek says:

    Imagine Michael Schumacher winning a couple more championships and ending up as as the 10′s greatest driver as well. :)

  56. jw1980 says:

    James,

    I am really pleased that finally you have given a top ten of the noughties. This is a really relevent analysis because unlike a top 10 of all time in most instances direct comparisons between drivers can be made (notable exception being Schumacher and Hamilton).
    I did my own top ten in October of 2009 when you asked for readers top 5 of 2009. Here it is:-
    1-Schumacher
    2-Alonso
    3-Raikkonen
    4-Hamilton
    5-Montoya
    6-Button
    7-Coulthard
    8-Barrichello
    9-Massa
    10-Vettel
    I put Raikkonen ahead of Hamilton by dint of the fact that he’s competed and achieved more than Hamilton in the last decade. However, in the short time Hamilton has been in F1 he has proved himself to have far better potential than Raikkonen and I believe 2010 could be the year when Hamilton takes over the mantle of being the best out there not withstanding Schumacher’s return.Referring to 2007 you could argue likewise that if McLaren put their full weight behind Hamilton from the onset then may be he would have won the world championship.
    I am pleased that I have the same top 10 as yourself. Everyone’s list normally contains an anomoly and I am very surprised to see Massa as high as five. Although he has improved a lot in recent years I don’t honestly know how he can be positioned above Button for example. Essentially Massa had the best car in 2008 and did not win the championship.
    Bring on 2010 and what should be a great season. By the way I beleive the talent out there at present is just as good as the 80s. MS, FA and LH are vastly superior drivers to Nelson Piquet who was a triple world champion back then. Admittedly more drivers won races in the 80s but that was as much down to poorer reliability of the cars in those days than anything else….

    1. Karthick says:

      If you are going to consider only the performances in noughties, without giving any weightage overall talent that’s the perfect list. (LH is at a disadvantage because he had only three years).

      1. jw1980 says:

        Karthick,

        I agree with you in the sense that someone who has raced throughout a decade is at a great advantage to someone who has raced for just a couple of seasons. I also believe that achieving something enhances your greatness. 2008 is a great example. Many pundits rated Kubica as the best driver of the season. In reality he had just one fortuitous victory. He was not under anywhere near the same pressure as Hamilton or Massa. One occasion when he was under pressure was qualifying for the Australian GP 2008. He had the best strategy to achieve pole but made a mistake. It’s interesting that after all the hype of 2008 he does not feature in the noughties top 10. In fact since then it would appear that Vettel has surpassed him.
        Another interesting point is that elsewhere on this feature someone has stated that Schumacher has been incredible to be considered the driver of the 90s as well as the 00s. Prost was probably the driver of the 80s. I believe that Senna was superior to both of these drivers but due to timings and other factors was not the driver of any decade….

  57. Steve says:

    Personally, I can’t agree with your ranking of Barrichello over Button.

    Yes, Barrichello is a great development driver, but just look at their relative championship positions whilst they’ve been at Honda/Brawn.

    2006:
    Button 56 (6th)
    Barrichello 30 (7th)

    2007
    Button 6 (15th)
    Barrichello 0 (20th)

    2008
    Button 3 (18th)
    Barrichello 11 (14th)

    2009
    Button 95 (1st)
    Barrichello 77 (3rd)

    So, during their time as team-mates, Barrichello finished ahead of Button once. Remember that Button is a far superior racer to Barrichello, who is admittedly fast, particularly in qualifying, but often disappears in the races.

    Further to this, it is difficult to see why you have ranked Massa above Button, Barrichello and Montoya. This is the same driver who was essentially dropped by Sauber after his first season, and this seems to be the only reason you have for ranking Button so low! Give it a little more thought, you know it makes sense!

    1. PaulL says:

      But it’s about their impact on F1 racing in the decade.. not so much the relative abilities.

      Rubens had many wins at Ferrari up against Schumacher – his 4 wins in 2002 for example all came in races Schumacher was 2nd in. Also he was sublime in a few races in 2003 where the Ferrari was not easily the strongest.
      Button has probably been there and there abouts for a while but hasn’t impacted F1 racing the noughties quite as much as Rubens.

  58. Olivier says:

    Great to see Montoya up there. I’d put him in the top five i/o Massa. It is a shame he didn’t end up in a latin team.

    Out of curiosity, what were your criteria for making the list?

    Here’s mine:

    1. Michael Schumacher
    2. Fernando Alonso
    3. Lewis Hamilton
    4. Kimi Raikonen
    5. Montoya
    6. Jenson Button
    7. David Coulthard (the ultimate gentleman driver)
    8. Sebastian Vettel
    9. Rubens Barrichello
    10. Kubica

    1. Felipe says:

      “7. David Coulthard (the ultimate gentleman driver)”
      the ultimate gentleman driver? wow, very relevant comment.
      Coulthard 2008 season was a shame, honestly.

  59. Alexx says:

    Hi James,

    I think your choices are fairly accurate, but maybe switch Button & Vettle,

    after all, Button is Champ in a perfect Brawn car, but Vettle won a race in a Torro Rosso(Minardi) has greater natural speed and ability to adapt to difficult cars.

    In my opinion Button = Webber seems more of a comparison.

    1. monktonnik says:

      Valid point about Vettel, except when you consider Button’s first win in Hungary 2006 in a dog of a car.

      1. Dermot Keelan says:

        2006 Honda wasn’t as terrible as other 2007 and 2008…i think Vettel’s maiden win was a greater achievment than Buttons considering that in the respective years neither driver’s car were anywhere near the front of the pack.
        The difference being Vettel dominated at Monza on the saturday and won the race from start to finish in changing weather conditions.

      2. monktonnik says:

        A fair point. Vettel dominated the weekend. I think that they had a great car for the track conditions. This is backed up by Bourdais qualifying 4th.

        In Hungary JB qualified 4th (behind Rubens in 3rd) and was demoted 10 places for an engine change, then fought back through the pack to 2nd, and got lucky with a dodgy pit stop for Renault when Alonso’s wheel fell off (again!??!). He still had a great strategy and passed several cars on the day in difficult conditions.

        I would say that the first wins are actually pretty typical of the drivers race style. SV can be absolutely dominant in the right conditions and sweep all before him. JB has the ability to pass and make the best of poor qualifying, although to be fair when he is dominant he also converts this to wins.

        They are both great drivers and Vettel shows the potential to ge a true champion, but from a sporting point of view I know which I prefer to watch.

  60. Mark says:

    Thanks James. Love the site and read it almost every day. Happy New Year. Have a great 2010.

    1. James Allen says:

      “Almost”…??? Thanks for that and Happy New Year

      1. swayze says:

        Almost is your fault James you dont post everyday. :~]

  61. chris says:

    I like how this post is composed. The photo of Alonso and Lewis says everything; they are of equal ability and neither driver is better than the other; period. Alonso is more intelligent than lewis but that’s about it. I must say that i am surprised that Jaime Alguersuari has not made the list.

  62. Howard Hughes says:

    I agree with some people that Ralf deserves inclusion, though of course it’s tricky to see who exactly he should have displaced, and arguably his greatest season was 99, when the world sat up and realised this kid was SPECIAL…

    I think that people in the know realise that Ralf’s career effectively ended with that horrific crash at Indy; still one of the greatest racing impacts in history, and one which technically broke his back.

    Prior to that though, he was a genuine WDC contender in 2003, and contrary to most peoples’ expectations that Montoya would destroy him, Ralf matched him season by season. Statistics will show that JPM came out marginally on top pointswise, but battle by battle there really was just the width of a credit card in it, and many times Ralf wiped the floor with him. So if Montoya is number 6, and Ralf kept him more than honest, and Raikkonen is number 4, and Montoya kept HIM more than honest, then surely Ralf deserves consideration.

    After his accident I feel that the fire had gone out for Ralf, and he was always subject to ridicule that anyone without his brother’s surname wouldn’t have received. But F1 Racing magazine stated at the start of the decade that they genuinely thought he would go on to become one of the greatest racers of all time – he had THAT kind of talent. And if he’d had a car as good as the McLaren or Ferrari for all the years Coulthard and Rubens had theirs, I reckon we’d be seeing things differently now…

    1. Saban says:

      Howard, I completely agree with you said. However my personal belief is that the Indy accident did not change him. He qualified 5th on his comeback in China but retired due to a collision, finished 2nd in Japan, and 5th in Brazil before going to Toyota in 2005.

      His first year at Toyota started off pretty well. He consistently scored points and had a few podiums to finish the season 6th in the championship. Ralf also beat Trulli, who was very competitive against Alonso at Renault in 2004, 2 out of their 3 seasons together also.

      In my opinion, everything started going downhill when Toyota sacked Mike Gascoyne. He was the main reason why the 2005 car was so competitive. Without Gascoyne, their cars got progressively worse and I believe this is what made him lose his motivation.

      I would of loved to see him in the 2008 McLaren to mentor Lewis. I think he would of been much more competitive than Heikki was against Lewis.

      1. Howard Hughes says:

        Y’know what? You make some excellent points here. I’d read quite often that insiders had identified two different Ralfs, pre & post accident, and I’ve been inclined to agree. But given the stats you’ve produced, if these F1 insiders are correct, then it just shows that he was pushing extra hard after his comeback.

        You’ve made a superb point too re Gascoyne – the two went way back to Jordan days, and with him gone, and Ralf seeing first hand how the corporate control at Toyota was never going to achieve more than mediocre results, then maybe his motivation just sapped. Saying that, a racing driver, particularly a hugely well-paid one, should always give 100%, but then that’s where the various other drivers and team bosses’ comments about the effects of Ralf’s physical abilities and motivation after the accident have made me think the both probably go hand in hand.

        Good point too re him at McLaren. I know that they turned down his interest in favour of Heikki – given the stats you’ve just reminded me of, I’d say anyone who reckons that a motivated Ralf wouldn’t have done a LOT better than Heikki are in cloud cuckoo land. But then of course perhaps it would have been mentally difficult for Ralf too – to have gone from multiple race winner and one time WDC challenger to a role simply mentoring a star of the future… But then maybe, as with Fisichella, Hill, Zanardi, Montoya, Trulli etc he’d have held his own…

        But he certainly deserves a hell of a lot more respect than he gets. Cos on his day he was sublime.

  63. Martin says:

    James, I’m curious about the statement in the Alonso section: “All the F1 engineers will tell you that there is no better race driver out there today”. I’m not interested in the ‘all’ bit so much as why do you think the F1 engineers know that Alonso is the best race driver? Is it data related, or is largely subjective judgement from people close to the action living the F1 life?

    I think there would be great reader interest in who the collective engineering wisdom thinks is the fastest (best) qualifier. My judgement from the TV screen is that one lap pace isn’t one of Lewis Hamilton’s outstanding areas. While has been on pole many times, he often had a fuel weight advantage. Compared to Alonso and Kovalainen, there could be a limitation in quick corners – Lewis said as much about Kovalainen last year, and Silverstone, Spa and Monza all favoured Alonso in qualifying and race conditions once the fuel levels were considered.

    Back to the original question of ‘best race driver’, how broad is the context? From the five red lights going out, who’d get the best result/complete the race in the shortest time, regardless of whether the driver likes the car or the potential result? Do broader strategy input/set-up/team motivation aspects play a role?

    Your list has got me thinking about the best drivers who won fewer than five races (and then none) during the last decade. Rosberg vs Schumacher will be an interesting test of those theories.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes it is about race data

      1. John Pugh says:

        Top ten points scorers 1999 – 2009 are:

        1. Michael Schumacher – 799
        2. Kimi Raikkonen – 578
        3. Fernando Alonso – 577
        4. Rubens Barichello – 530
        5. Jensen Button – 327
        6. Felipe Massa – 320
        7. David Coulthard – 314
        8. Juan Pablo Montoya – 307
        9. Ralf Schumacher – 257
        10. Lewis Hamilton – 257

        If you average their totals by the number of years they drove (allowing Massa 1/2 a year off this year) it becomes:

        1. Michael Schumacher – 114.14
        2. Fernandon Alonso – 96.17
        3. Lewis Hamilton – 85.33
        4. Kimi Raikkonen – 72.25
        5. Rubens Barichello – 53
        6. Juan Pablo Montoya – 51.16
        7. Felipe Massa – 49.23
        8. Mika Hakkinen – 42
        9. Sebastien Vettel – 41.67
        10. Jenson Button – 36.33

        Some years ago Jean Alesi said that the driver contributes about 10% of the team’s results. (I expect he didn’t reckon on Nelsinho when he said it!) It would be interesting, if anyone has the time, to see how the tables above change if the team’s 90% input (calculated by reference to their constructor’s championship points) was deducted from each driver’s total. My guess is that beneficiaries might include Ralf, Heidfeld and Kubica all of whom ‘punch above their weight’ at the bottom end but otherwise not much change.

        Sorry you didn’t go to the Beeb this year. Well done for showing them just how wrong they were with a really impressive year’s reporting.

      2. Sam says:

        I think this is definitely the fans would LOVE to know James.

        It will help us a better understanding of driver abilities.
        In fact, I am surprised why they don’t publish it.
        I wander what it is so good about him compare to others? What makes him that good?
        Is it because he can produce almost identical lap times through out the race?
        Does he drive like his time in every sector is his best through out the race?
        Sorry for too many questions, but I wander if his ‘race data’ is as impressive as the likes of Schumi or Senna?

      3. jose arellano says:

        i guess telemetry (throtle, brake, steering, etc.)but james we all would love to have more insight on this!

        i remember once i saw a video of a comparision of schumi throtle input vs other guys. it was very different.

      4. Jonathan says:

        I’m confused.

        If all engineers think Alonso is the best on the basis of “race data”, this must be data that is available to all engineers. But as far as I know, teams don’t share telemetry with each other.

        So is it just that he puts in consistently fast sector times? Surely not, as this would only show that he is the most consistent driver, not the best.

        In general, I’m not sure how cross-team comparisons of driver ability can work. The machinery is unequal and there is no way of factoring this out.

  64. RobbM says:

    Happy New Year everyone

    I’d agree about JPM, i really wish he was back in F1, i don’t know what age he is now. Can’t be much older than MS … love to see him a Lotus…

    Rob

    1. Tarek says:

      JPM is younger than MS!

  65. Mike T says:

    James, How can you justify Button to be so low? Come on Massa, Montoya never showed the consistent pace/race driving of Button over the season have they?

    I think your reading to much into “results” i just disagree with Massa being so high up there as when he was in the sauber he never showed any potential that even you said is “special”.

  66. Paul says:

    James, this is totally off subject, but what are your professional plans for 2010? Have you ever considered working for SpeedTV in the States, taking over Peter Windsor’s position? He will obviously have his hands full running his team next year, but he used to do the press conference and pit lane work for Speed and was IMO the only real talent on their broadcast team! As a Brit who just moved to the USA a few years ago, I would love to have your voice and insight accompany my F1 experience again, and it would take someone as passionate and knowledgeable about the sport to be able to replace the great PW. F1 in the USA needs you James!

    Really enjoyed the website this year James, and it’s great sense of community among the genuinely intelligent and passionate people who post here. Have a great new year and look forward to enjoying a great 2010 with you!

    1. KMG1980 says:

      I’ve recently moved to Australia and Peter Windsor also does some reporting for One HD, who broadcast F1 out here. Similarly, he is the only member of the broadcast team that has any idea what he is talking about. I wholly agree with Paul that James Allen would be an excellent addition to the team. How about it James? The weather’s great down under!

  67. Paul Mc says:

    I think a Top 10 Worst Drivers of the Decade would have been an entertaining list :)

      1. Paul Mc says:

        Nelsinho Piquet – for the obvious reasons

        Giancarlo Fisichella – Despite 3 race wins in his career, he failed to show at Renault in a Championship winning car that he had the pace to be a title contender. We also got some rather public team radio calls urging him to speed up. Showed at Ferrari that he really wasnt up to much.

        Sebastien Bourdais – failed to beat his more inexperienced team mate, Buemi at Torro Rosso, also involved in too many avoidable accidents particularly taking his team mate off in Spain

        Yuji Ide – Superlicense revoked due to erratic driving

        Narain Karthikeyan – has he ever over taken anyone?

        Alex Yoong – failed consistently to be within the 107% rule in qualifying

        Gaston Mazzacane – 21 races with 8 DNFs, fired by Alain Prost

        Giorgio Pantano – 14 races, 8 DNFs replaced twice in Jordan by Timo Glock

        Scott Speed – verbally and physically abusive to drivers and his team principle

        Tarso Marques – Martin Brundle put it best “Tarso Marques couldn’t drive a nail through a piece of wood”

      2. Baart says:

        good idea!

        1. Zsolt Baumgartner (remember??:) )
        2. Yuji Ide (kamikadze driver)
        3. Giorgio Pantano
        4. Gianmaria Bruni
        5. Christiano da Matta
        6. Christijan Albers
        7. Olivier Panis
        8. Jacques Villeneuve (Jacques A.D. 2006 version)
        9. Ralf Schumacher
        10. Scott Speed

      3. Baart says:

        Do you have my list of the worst drivers of the decade ??

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      Not that I want to be beastly to drivers who tried their best, but here goes : -

      1. Yuji Ide
      2. Gaston Mazzacane
      3. Tarso Marques
      4. Alex Yoong
      5. Zsolt Baumgartner
      6. Luca Badoer
      7. Tomas Enge
      8. Ralph Firman
      9. Christijan Albers
      10. Patrick Freisacher

  68. Joe says:

    Hi James

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blogs over the past year on this website and more-or-less agree with your assessment of the 10 best drivers of the decade – although I would put Vettel further up the list. For me, he is a much better driver than at least 4 of the drivers you’ve nominated.

    I dont’t know who you think has proved to be the best test driver of the last decade but I’d like to nominate Anthony Davidson! What do you understand the likely hood to be of him getting a race drive next year? I thought he was in line to drive for Lotus? While he is a tremendous asset to Radio 5 Live, and I’m sure David Croft would very much love to work with him again in 2010, he really deserves a drive in my opinion and there have been a lot of drivers in F1 over the years with far less talent than him. Baumgartner is one such name that springs to mind!

  69. Segedunum says:

    If you want to complain about a driver’s attitude then Montoya’s was the one to complain about. He wasn’t unlucky not to win a championship and he should have done in 2003. If you put Michael Schumacher or Kimi Raikkonen in that Williams that year it would be difficult not to see those drivers win the championship where Montoya (and Ralf) could not.

    On results, which is really what counts, you’ve got it pretty right though. The jury is out on Vettel. We’ll see what he’as made of next year before his silly not-so-secret move to Mercedes happens.

    1. Zami, Melbourne says:

      I agree about Montoya not being able to deliver in 2003. However, it doesn’t make him any less of a driver. There are a plenty of great drivers didn’t end up wining WDC in their career. Rubens Barrichello is one of them even though I believe his luck nothing to do with being Michael Schumacher’s team mate. Even Lewis Hamilton might not have been able to win any championship if Ferrari didn’t make a mess out of their pit stops and give Massa the same reliability as Schumi. Plus we all know about the Singapore scandal. Even if Lewis didn’t win any championship he still would’ve been my no 3. I’m not even a McLaren supporter!!! JPM had a unique character which the sport lacked since his departure. So his spot is in top 10 is well deserved

  70. Mike says:

    Hi James,

    Your list makes for very interesting reading and, in my humble opinion, is far more accurate and balanced than the corresponding Autosport list, which is heavily biased towards recent years. Odd considering their pedigree and experience in covering F1.

    Schumacher clearly must be number one, and Alonso/Hamilton following that is hard to dispute. How heartening it is to head into 2010 knowing that the top three drivers of the decade will be duking it out in different teams, all of which will likely produce three of the best four cars for 2010.

    The enigmatic Raikkonen is hard to place – my immediate reaction was to question putting him fourth as I believe his slump against Massa in 2008 and 2009 has tarnished his aura, but his continued presence at the sharp end through most of the decade means that he just about deserves it.

    Interesting that most of us would place Alonso above Hamilton and Raikkonen above Massa, even though both have been beaten (and arguably psychologically disturbed) by their immediate neighbours on the list. I would contend that at the current time both Hamilton and Massa are capable of trumping their “nemeses”, but on the balance of performance through the decade they deserve to be just behind.

    My list, for the record, is:

    1) M Schumacher
    2) Alonso
    3) Hamilton
    4) Raikkonen
    5) Massa
    6) Button
    7) Barrichello
    8) Vettel
    9) Montoya
    10) Hakkinen

    I believe that if we are giving a place to Vettel for two good years at the end of the decade, we must similarly acknowlege Hakkinen’s title in 2000 and moments of (albeit sporadic and inconsistent) brilliance in 2001.

    Thanks,

    Mike

    1. Mike says:

      My apologies, Hakkinen of course won the WDC in 1998 and 1999, although ran Schumacher very close in 2000. I believe my above point still stands though.

  71. F1fan says:

    No Kubica? I’m disappointed…

    1. jose says:

      if you put kubica, you must pur heidfeld, and i doubt many people are sorry he is not there.

    2. Anthony says:

      Just 1 win… finished lower in the points than Nick Heidfeld 2 of his 3 years together…

      I think not… he’s overrated.

  72. Zami, Australia says:

    Happy New Year James!!! Wish you & your family all the very best for 2010

    There is no question about McLaren’s terrible driver management in 07. My top 10,

    1. Michael Schumacher
    2. Fernando Alonso
    3. Lewis Hamilton
    4. Sebastian Vettel
    5. Kimi Raikkonen
    6. Felipe Massa
    7. JPM
    8. Jenson Button
    9. Rubens Barrichello
    10. Mark Webber

    The reason Sebastian Vettel is higher than the other 6 driver because of his heroic performance with Torro Rosso in 08 & great performance in 09. With Ross Brawn like leadership he would’ve been the world champion with that Red bull. He also didn’t have the luxury of having the best car to begin his career with. He had to prove his talent with smaller team & as a test driver to earn his position as a star of the future. Not because I am from Australia only because I put Mark Webber on the list because he is better but unluckier than David Coulthard when it comes to leadership & getting the possible result that his car can achieve. Coulthar failed to deliver. He is certainly my no 11 though. As there were never more than 3/4 teams to choose from the grid over the last decade my top 3 has to be Ferrari, Renault & McLaren.

    OFF the topic James,
    Why do some teams have around 80 personelle on the grid and some new teams have only 30 or 40? How many people you need to have working for the team on a race day anyway? Has the no changed from last Decade?

    1. James Allen says:

      Budget has been the main reason. Next season teams will have to have no more than 48 people on site.

      1. Adam Taylor says:

        Do you know what the 48 people include?
        Chefs, set up crews (particularly Red Bull Energy station), management etc??

  73. Vinay says:

    Hello James,

    Wish you a very happy new year!

    I am surprised Mika Hakkinen doesn’t find a mention in your list!

    -Cheers
    Vinay

  74. Jon says:

    Good top-10 James, as with many I’m glad to see JPM recognised – Autosport’s similar top-10 completely ignored him. As you say, Juan was never afraid to say what he thought or to get stuck in to Schumi. Whenever Juan was behind the Ferrari you just knew he was going to try something and some of his passes were simply breathtaking.

    The fact that in the 3 years since leaving F1 Juan has become a genuine contender in NASCAR (where most other converts have failed miserably) shows his sheer talent. I think there’s also quite a strong parallel with Kimi. Both left teams which seemed to be their spiritual home but never really gelled with their new teams, both seemed increasingly fed-up with the F1 lifestyle and both have switched to very different but equally tough disciplines….

    Keep up the good work with the blog in 2010!

  75. Ron Silva says:

    Nice list James. Barrichello was a nice touch. He probably would not make most people’s list, but I agree with you, he deserves a spot.

    I have to say that two of your drivers wouldn’t make my list though:

    1. I don’t think Jenson Button has done enough. He is bloody good on a flawless car, but definitely mediocre otherwise. He could easily make next decade’s list, I think, but he has to prove himself. I look forward to his fight against Lewis.

    2. David Coulthard is not even on my top 20 list of the decade. I can’t understand how a slow, “too-much-of-a-gentleman” driver could be listed here. Not even Carlos Reutemann ( who was fast by Giles Villeneuve standards, as well as a gentleman ) accepted to bow to his team-mate on request ( Brazil 1980, was it ? ). That gesture pretty much resumes David Coulhard in my mind. Coulthard was very likeable, but he would not have won a World Title if he had raced at this peek for another 20 years. Did he EVER feel like a threat to Mika, to you ? Does a driver who never mastered the one-lap qualifying thing really deserves a spot here ? I get it… he was a gentleman at a time when Michael Schumacher ( and many others ) “swept” the road side-to-side to avoid being overtaken, but that does not make him into a top-10 of the decade kind of driver.

    1. George says:

      I agree about Coulthard, there was a running joke in my family that he was so slow people kept running into the back of him (I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for him in Brazil ’08).

      I kind of agree about Button too, back in the BAR days you never really got the feeling he might win, and ’07 and ’08 he was so slow it was embarrassing (mostly down to the car I know). He is a champion though, and has been consistent given what he had to work with, he just doesn’t have the spark.

    2. Freespeech says:

      Agree with both your points. Button lucked it last year and Coulthard could never be described as one of the best 10 drivers of the last 10 years.
      I think James is maybe too close to both of these two to make a real subjective view.

      I think that most of the 2nd rate drivers in F1 today would have won the championship if they had been driving the Brawn, the most expensive car EVER developed in F1 (all this fairy tail stuff is rubbish the fact is that Honda in their madness spent an absolute fortune in developing the car before it turned a wheel).
      I’m surprised so many in the know like James sway to this fairy tail stuff and if Hamilton or Alonso had been behind its wheel they would have wrapped up the championship midway through the season.
      Button good in an excellent yes he is but so are most the others.

    3. monktonnik says:

      Coulthard was up until recently the 4th highest points scorer of all time. I think he is still top ten by quite some margin.

  76. Silverstoned says:

    Happy 2010 to you James.
    Certainly true that your first 3 polarise opinion!

    One slight winge: your comments about Raikkonen’s “attitude” and “weaknesses” are not so easy to back up, imho. Otherwise as fair and objective as such a list can be.

  77. Mario says:

    Why Coulthard? He was forever stuck in the gravel trap or in the barriers. Oh, I see! You picked him up for some contrast…?

  78. Eric Weinraub says:

    My Top 10 list of the ‘Also’ rans…. guys great enough to be in F1 but really aren’t talented enough to really be remembered….

    1. Ralf Schumacher…. sadly unmotivated
    2. Jarno Trulli …. overrated against the best but still talented
    3. Fisi… raw talent wasted
    4. Heifeld… consistent. fast. nuff said
    5. Kubicka…very quick but results have not come
    6. Wurtz … very quick. very smart but failed to deliver
    7. Sutil
    8. Klien
    9. Frentzen
    10. Glock

  79. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Autosport’s rankings for those who are interested:

    1. M. Schumacher 254
    2. Alonso 235
    3. Hamilton 191
    4. Raikkonen 177
    5. Button 111
    6. Vettel 89
    7. Massa 88
    8. Montoya 83
    9. Hakkinen 79
    10. Barrichello 55
    11. Coulthard 23
    12. Kubica 13
    13. R. Schumacher 8
    14. Trulli 4
    15= Webber 3
    15= Sato 3
    17. Verstappen 2
    18. Villeneuve 1

    1. Tarek says:

      The top 10 here is very good, even perfect perhaps.

  80. jose says:

    nice list. I am glad to see that i am not the only one that misses monty

  81. Cliff says:

    Hi James, can’t argue with your list, but I now I am left with a number of hyperthetical questions

    What if the FIA had not ruled against the Michelin runners when it looked like Montoya could win the WDC?
    What if Montoya had won the WDC?
    What if Alonso had won the WDC in 2007, would we looking at a four times WDC in FA (assuming his form continued into 2008)?
    Would LH be considered such a great talent?

    Personally, i’m pleased with the way things have turned out. F1, for all its faults remains as exciting as ever.

    Off topic,

    Do we have any dates for the team lauches and test days? I am looking forward to reading your assessment of the teams and the results of the test.

  82. yos says:

    Happy New Year James.
    I agree with your top 10 choices except maybe in place of DC i would have put Ralf and i would have swapped JPM and Massa. JPM was so fast and with a Ferrari he could have troubled Schumacher unlike Massa who was 0.5 sec slower.

  83. RON says:

    The list only needs two entries:

    1. Michael Schumacher
    2. Lewis Hamilton

    The others are there just to make up the numbers…

    Kimi’s WDC was a result of extreme interference from the FIA – it was Ferrari’s 60th anniversary, and they did everything possible to ensure Hamilton’s easy win was thwarted…

    Alonso’s WDC was a result of a massive tire advantage and little else…. he couldn’t even beat a rookie Hamilton, who was playing the no2 role for most of the season…

    Button’s WDC has no value at all, because it’s purely the FIA giving a massive 1.5 sec a lap advantage with the double diffuser – they took half a season to clarify the rule, which is pathetic for such a fundamental issue… it was all contrived to attract sponsorship to the dying team… Button is now wasting a top seat at McLaren, as a result of this race fixing…

    I sincerely hope the level of race manipulation will come down with the fall of Max “Meddling” Mosely…

    1. swayze says:

      Astonishing that a multi million pound company like McLaren have been hoodwinked into giving a seat away to a no hoper ……………… In your opinion obviously.

  84. Michael Nichol says:

    Barrichello and Button in the top 10 tell me there wasn’t the depth of talent we would all like to see in F-1 over a 10 year span!

    1. Daniel Gomes says:

      As if they were underachievers!

  85. Steve W says:

    Nice list James. Good to see you put Kimi up in the top 4, as it’s easy to forget after the last couple of seasons just how consistently good he was in the McLaren days. With better reliability he could have won one or two titles for McLaren. Also totally agree about Montoya. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved is aggressive race craft and outspoken comments, he was great value for F1 and very good driver too. Shame he didn’t stick around.

  86. D. says:

    James,

    I agree 100% with the first two picks of Michael and Alonso. As you say, there can be no doubt. But come on, Lewis 3rd over Kimi ? That can’t be. Kimi has been the fastest F1 driver besides Michael and has performed feats nobody else has, such as winning from 17th in Suzuka, winning at Spa in ’09 and coming back from 17 points in the last 2 races in ’07 to win the title. These achievements take speed, guts, courage and determination. And … he is a trully unique character, straightforward, unpretending, and simple. He never caused a scandal, never lied (unlike Lewis) and never complained about the car being slow, his engineers, pitcrew … not even when burning gasoline splashed onto his helmet from Vettel’s car. I don’t see Lewis having accomplished anywhere near what Kimi has, as a driver, to let alone his questionable character.

    1. Mr. L./// says:

      Question for you D.:
      Was Kimi faster than Heidfeld in his first year? Or even as fast as Heidfeld in his first year?

      Answer is no.
      I agree that Kimi is up there with the best but the impact Lewis has made is exceptional.

  87. Christopher Snowdon says:

    James, what about the ten misfits – always good to remember the ones that shouldn’t have made it!

    Agree with your list, but can’t we add an eleventh place for Jarno Trulli? It would kind of sum up his decade in a way!

  88. michael grievson says:

    Coulthaf has won a lot more races. Plus he’s the highest British points scorer on record.

  89. I think every driver on James’ list deserves to be there, excellent choices one and all.

    Rubens has always been underrated and I’m sure that the Brawn car would have lost Jenson the WDC in the second half of the year without Ruben’s car development skills.

    Montoya was a tremendous loss to F1 and it’s telling that many Autosport.com subscribers ( including me ) now go regularly to the NASCAR section just to see how he’s doing. He just wanted to race and have fun off the track. The politics of F1 and the highly disciplined environment at McLaren were clearly not ideal for him.

    It would be pointless to argue with James’ rankings – we all biased by having personal favourites and he’s in a position to have far greater insight that any of us.

    Where we are on a level playing field is contemplating the future. Five years is a good time period to look at and here’s my ranking for the five years ending 2014 :

    Hamilton 2 WDCs
    Schumacher 1 WDC (But back for only two yrs)
    Vettel 1 WDC
    Alonso
    Raikkenen or AN Other
    (A new find, maybe Kamui Kobayashi)

    Why no WDC for Alonso ?
    I predict he won’t be able to handle Massa’s popularity in the team or his speed. The Ferrari will probably not be a match for the other teams until in desperation they buy in Adrian Newey.

    Other predictions :
    Williams return to the podium with an excellent 2010 car, brilliantly developed throughout the year by the team’s very skilled engineering team and superb feedback from Rubens. They then attract a top driver for 2011 to drive beside Rubens.

    ( Maybe this is just wishful thinking ? )

    Prodrive make the grid at last when one of the current teams fails and become a top running outfit by 2014.

    By 2015 the team rankings will be :
    1 McLaren 2 WDC
    2 Mercedes 1 WDC
    3=Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull ( 2 WDC )
    6=Prodrive

    Renault becomes only an engine supplier.

  90. Alistair Blevins says:

    Interesting selection. I find it more interesting that it is hard to come up with many other drivers for consideration.

    It certainly shows the career longevity of the modern F1 driver, and also that over the course of a decade, so few drivers, despite success in the lower formulas, really shine in F1.

    Equally, looking at the stats, it shows that there are a lot of journeymen out there who manage to eek out careers far beyond what their talent should allow. Fisichella, Trulli, R. Schumacher, Alesi, Heidfeld, Panis etc…

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      Alistair, I think that your points are supported by the fact that for every Hamilton, Vettel, Kubica there’s a Yuji Ide, Tarso Marques and Gaston Mazzacane. Then consider Christian Albers, Patrick Freisacher, Alex Yoong and a few others that didn’t make the grade. See post 67 for a few more suggestions and you can see why Fisichella, Trulli, Ralf etc had long carreers.

      I suspect that an examination of other decades in the history of F1 would show similar i.e. two or three ‘aces’ and lots of competent journeymen per decade.

      Any volunteers to kick this off?

  91. three4three says:

    A fair top ten, except for the omission of Hakkinen and inclusion of Coulthard. Also appreciating Barrichello’s presence on the list, were he more consistent he would be a force to be reckoned with.

    “Alonso vs Hamilton vs Schumacher in 2010 is the fight everyone wants to see – it’s box office gold dust”

    Hell yes!! Bring on 2010 and a Happy New Year James and all!

  92. Suzy says:

    A good list, but I would have put Häkkinen on it. I know his only good year this decade was 2000, but it was a very good one (some even say he was actually better there than in 1998). And even if it’s just one season, if Coulthard, Barrichello or Montoya can be on the list than so could Mika IMO.

  93. P Byrne says:

    It seems to me Alonso is more highly rated by F1 insiders and engineers than the average F1 fan who are probably influenced by his implosion at McLaren in 07. Does the telemetry demonstrate something we can’t see? Or is it his consistant excellence?

    1. Mike T says:

      I think its down to more “results” then anything else. When he was with Hamilton he was really up against it. And we have to remember his renault years he had the whole team working for him -thats a fact and that gave him 2 WDC’s.
      I don’t think he is supreme as people all make out.

      1. Amritraj says:

        What do you think happens at McLaren with Hamilton ?!

      2. Martin says:

        From James said in reply to my question, which was that the engineers from all teams rate him based on all the available data that they have, so a few thousand sector times, straight line speeds, corner apex speeds (all provided by the FIA) and then the teams own intel through things such as acoustic analysis possibly. What the percentage difference is, and therefore could we pick it from the TV or trackside? We are yet to be enlightened…

  94. Sam says:

    Happy new years James.
    Just wandering what would be your nineties list.
    It’s a lot more trickier because there was Ayton, Prost, Mansell in the early ninties. Mikka won two titles while another double WDC working on Ferrari resurgence.

    1. hugo says:

      90′s has to be divided before and after Senna’s death.
      For me the best era was the end of 70′s and the 80′s,a LOT of great drivers,the ones that will be remembered forever and ever.
      Look at now,not more than 5 will get that honor from 95 to these days.

  95. mo says:

    ’2. Fernando Alonso – Twenty-one times a Grand Prix winner, many of them in a car which was not the fastest’

    ……………the michelin shod renault wasn’t the dominant car of 2005 and 2006???

    Really james, wasn’t it?
    Well, it was – certainly for the first half of 2005 before Mclaren got going, and by then it was too late.
    And in 2006 a very similar situation, with Michelin dominant for the majority of the year and only Michaels persistence and bridgestone development allowed him to claw back a 26 point defeceit.

    Unless i was watching another F1…..

    1. fausta says:

      James was spot on.

      1. Jonathan says:

        The 2005 McLaren was faster, but unreliable.

        So it’s true that Alonso won the 2005 WDC in a car that was not the fastest, but this does not really say anything about his driving.

  96. Monktonnik says:

    What if JB hadn’t been replaced by JPM?
    What if Renault didn’t have the mass damper system for half a year?

    What ifs are all well and good but you could make anyone look better with a series of those.

  97. Chilb says:

    First off, you are doing great work James, absolutely love the website. Its nice to see JP Montoya on your list, he was a brilliant overtaker & racer. I will never forget the move on Schumacher into turn 1 at Interlagos Brasil 2001, when he was heavier on fuel (1-stoping vs. Schumacher’s 2-stoppping). Its a shame he didn’t hang around for longer in F1. He always polarized people’s opinions, but thats what made him interesting to watch.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. Glad you appreciate it

  98. S2K says:

    DC and no Mika Hakkinen?

  99. bg f1 fan says:

    great article!!!

    In my opinion, Hamilton has strong chances to pass Alonso and MS for the all time glory. Surely he has time to get there, but future is uncertain as always.

    Regarding weak drivers list, I think there should be two lists. One for drivers with less than 2 full seasons and another for short term drivers. Short term drivers tend to do stupid things that hurt their teams that drivers get sacked. However, other drivers that should develop and show their potential, fail to do so in many years and thus leave even bitter taste into their teams and fan base.

    Ralf, Fisi, Rubens, Massa(to some extent), Coulthard have consistently failed to perform with accordance to their car strength and team mate.

    1. Freespeech says:

      In terms of talent I agree, Hamilton has it all and can only get better but to beat the records set by Schumacher will not happen as unlike him he will have to race his team mate and other great drivers (Alonso and Vettel to name two) which sadly Schumacher never did after the death of Senna 8)

      1. bg f1 fan says:

        fair comment!!

    2. Tarek says:

      The 2 worst drivers of the decade (if not F1 history): Yuji Ide & Alex Yoong, with Antonio Pizzonia a close 3rd. No question about this one.

  100. Elliot says:

    M_E- I don’t understand? No top team offered him a car or tried hard to get him. Ferrari paid him off, Mercedes looked elsewhere, McLaren went for Jenson etc.

    Why? Because for all his talent, he’s not a team man.

  101. Martin Collyer says:

    Interesting thing here for me is the JPM/Ralf discussion points.

    Montoya arrived in F1 with a red-hot reputation from F3000 and Champcar. I thought he would thrash Ralf regularly, but he didn’t. It’s certainly true he was never afraid to take on Schumacher M.

    So, was Montoya over-hyped or did I underestimate Ralf? I’m still not certain but I do remember being disappointed that Montoya didn’t live up to expectations consistently. His final half season with McLaren was not good.

    With regard to Ralf, in 2005 teamed with Trulli at Toyota, that season was curious too. Trulli seemed to just about have the measure of Ralf until right at the end of the season when Ralf nosed ahead by a couple of points. Wasn’t there a late upgrade that suited Ralf more than Trulli? It makes it look like there’s not much to choose between those two and few have suggested that Trulli should be in the top-ten list. So why should Ralf be there?

    So, if Trulli shouldn’t be in the top-ten and neither should Ralf, then why should Montoya? As mentioned above, he hardly thrashed Ralf did he?

    So if we drop Montoya from the top-ten, who is to replace him? Kubica? He has only won one race and he hasn’t consistently thrashed Nick Heidfeld. Many have pointed this out, but how many have suggested Heidfeld should be in the top-ten? Mark Webber perhaps, but only two wins so far.

    Time to give up now, I’m more confused than ever but should there be a vote for ‘best post of the year’, this one gets my vote.

    H.N.Y. to all and may we have a great season.

  102. Mr. L./// says:

    JPM always had the better of him if you look at points / finished race and also pole positions. Only in 2001 Ralf had the better of him but mainly because of DNF’s. Ralf was good but didn’t have the raw speed of JPM.

  103. Peter Freeman says:

    James I am confused about the Hamilton Alonso debate.

    Clearly Hamilton beat Alonso in 07 and had McLaren changed his tiers in China even for snow tires he would have been WDC in his rookie year. Yes he too made mistakes, but the wopper came from his team and not him, in China. He was a rookie, while the team with all their experience should have managed China better by any standard!

    However it is clear that as a rookie he was a match (if not better) for Alonso! Need I point out how much more experience Alonso had and that he was a double world champion? How then did Alonso not clearly have the upper hand? It is so extraordinary that he did not a host of people can’t believe McLaren did not deliberately slow him down! Do you believe they did?

    Now lets consider Hamilton in 08 and 09. Has he improved? You clearly think he has from your article and I would say you are correct!

    And Alonso? Has he improved by a similar amount?

    So if the 2 were team mates again this year, who honestly do you think would win?

    1. James Allen says:

      That is a fascinating question – very hard to answer. All the points made here are valid about the way Hamilton took Alonso on from the first corner of the first race, which was truly astonishing. Both men have improved and I think they are probably still incredibly evenly matched.

      1. Peter Freeman says:

        It is an interesting question and it brings up another question: Massa vs Alonso.

        Of course this one will be answered this year.

        Why I bring Massa into it is quite simple as he too has improved in leaps since 07 and was a true competitor against Hamilton in 08. I am not sure what Alonso is doing right now but I can tell you what Massa is doing: focusing day and night with every ounce of his being on one single goal- beating Alonso!

        It does not even matter that much to Massa if the 2010 Ferrari is not that competitive, as beating Alonso is as much an achievement and a point to prove to the world as winning the WDC. (Well almost!) But to Alonso WINNING is what is expected and the pressure is ON!

        How well will Alonso handle things if Massa begins to get the upper hand? He did not handle it well over at McLaren in 07 and Massa is already established at Ferrari. But having said that, 07 has given Alonso the experience he needs to handle any such situation better should it arise and I imagine he has thought about it since 07.

        I know the world is expecting an Alonso walk over, but I sense Massa as become a laser beam right now and 2010 is going to be his best year yet. He has nothing to loose and every thing to prove. Alonso on the other hand has a big question over him. After Hamilton in 07, if Massa beats him in 2010, history will look some what differently at Alonso.

        The pressure is on!

  104. Alex says:

    Great list James which has provoked a lot of debate here! I agree with your list.

    I have an idea for another article though…
    top 10 races of the decade!
    You’d have to put germany 01, Spa 00, Japan 05 and Brazil 07 in there!

  105. TaCtO says:

    Hello.

    Hi James. Good, reasoned and balanced list.

    On the other hand, just wished to remark the amazing level of parrot-ism I’ve constantly seen in many hamilton-ians regarding Alonso, for the last two years. And it will continue… Never thought that “got beaten by a rookie” could last for so long…

    Anyway, let’s hope all drivers get a good car for the following two or three years, and may be we will able to make a proper judgement then, not now…

    Cheers,
    TaCtO

  106. Paige says:

    James,

    I agree on the drivers selected for the list, but I disagree somewhat on the order. Your top-4 drivers are exactly as I have them, and I think most would agree are exactly as they should be rated. 5-10, though, could use a re-ordering, in my opinion.

    For one, I think we have to classify Button at #5 for the simple reason that he is one of the five World Champions of the decade. The Formula One World Championship is the hardest thing for a racing driver to accomplish regardless of how good a car he has, and when a driver wins one, it means a lot about his ability. I’d bump him to #5, with Massa (who is well-deserving of being on the list) moving down to #6.

    I would then bump Barrichello up to #7. Barrichello’s body of work over the decade proves him to be a quality driver who can develop the car and deliver results, even when the car isn’t optimal (as he’s shown the last two seasons).

    I’d place Vettel in at #8. What he’s done in 2 1/2 seasons is, IMO, much more impressive than anything Montoya or Coulthard did in their years this decade. In particular, Vettel’s win in the wet at Monza far surpasses any individual performance that either of them put forth.

    To me, Montoyta showed to just be a very fast driver who wasn’t very good at setting up/developing the car and was needlessly hotheaded, barbaric, and wreckless in his driving style. He also didn’t really deliver a body of work over a full decade, as Massa and Barrichello did. Still, I think he belongs at #9 just ahead of Coulthard.

    1. James Allen says:

      Some very good points here. But don’t forget Coulthard’s win at Magny Cours in 2001 where he gave Schumacher the finger..there were others, some real quality wins there and he did score a heck of a lot of points. Montoya was fantastic and had some great victories, he achieved more in the last decade than Vettel, I’m sorry, but it’s a fact.

      1. Peter Freeman says:

        Montoya may have achieved more, but he was not a driver with champion greatness like Schumacher. While Montoya was fast, on occasion, he also was unique in having a SULK button on his steering wheel! Simply put, when things were not going his way, he hit the sulk button and all of a sardine the radical pace was gone! This is the opposite of how Shumi reacted in similar situations, the worse things went the harder he pushed! Yes Montoya achieved more than Vettel in the last decade, but no he is not the driver Vettel is. Vettel has rightly been described as having some of Shumi’s qualities, Montoya had erratic speed only, no greatness.

  107. MANO says:

    Hamilton = 109
    Alonso = 109

    Does anybody know in how many races Ham beat Fred ?

    Does anybody know in how many races Fred beat Ham ?

    If we’re comparing team mates to see who did better, the points each scored against everybody else don’t count, right ?

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