F1 Winter Break
My Top Five Drivers of 2011
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Dec 2011   |  1:54 pm GMT  |  160 comments

We have been running our annual end of year competition for readers to name their top five drivers of the season and this year we had well over 700 entries.

The first ten entries which match my selection, will receive a free signed copy of our review book of the season; James Allen on F1 2011: Vettel Steals the Show, which is due to be published on December 13.

It was a difficult choice, as always, with many strong contenders throughout the field.

So here is how I see it:

1. Sebastian Vettel
I’ve gone with the World Champion as number one for the last two years and I see no reason to change this year. If anything this is the most emphatic superiority we’ve seen by one driver over the rest for a long time, regardless of how good his car was. Take Vettel out of this year’s standings and it would look like a close championship, with three drivers within 13 points of each other. Vettel is 122 points ahead!

His qualifying was nothing short of electrifying and he had to soak up more pressure in races than people give him credit for.

He adapted earlier and better than others to the new Pirelli tyres and put right some of the things he had got wrong the year before, like overtaking. He has his detractors, who think it’s all the car, but they are fighting a losing battle.

He’s the best 24 year-old F1 has ever seen. Where it goes from here, who knows?

I just wish Red Bull wouldn’t do things like hold Mark Webber back from passing him in the closing stages at Silverstone. It makes it look like there is a finger on the scales in his favour – he doesn’t need it and it undermines his achievements.

2. Jenson Button
It was a very close call between Button and Alonso for second place, because both drivers were outstanding this year in cars which were short of the Red Bull’s pace. Button gets the nod because of the way he took his three wins, especially the crazy 4 hour epic in Montreal where he was running last at one point. His win in Japan was top drawer too. The way he adapted to the Pirelli tyres was impressive as was his clever use of strategy.

Like Alonso his races were usually better than his qualifying performances, but he had some strong qualifying runs especially towards the end of the season.

I also give Button huge credit for having the courage to move to Lewis Hamilton’s team to prove that his 2009 title win wasn’t simply down to the Brawn car. He proved it this year, beating his talented but troubled team mate, scoring 54% of the team’s points in the process.

3. Fernando Alonso
For several years Alonso has been the most complete driver in F1 but that’s under threat now from Vettel and it will be fascinating to see how he responds in 2012 if Ferrari give him a more competitive car.

Alonso made life tricky for himself, by falling behind team mate Massa a few times in qualifying or at the start this year which compromised the first half of several races, but he never failed to squeeze the maximum out of the car, as usual. He scored 68% of his teams’ points this year.

He often got himself into competitive positions late in the race only to be passed on the out-lap from the pits on the harder tyres, like Germany and plenty of other examples. It showed the Ferrari’s weakness and must have been frustrating as hell for Alonso. But the fact that he was even fighting for the win in Germany shows he was doing something remarkable with a poor car.

4. Heikki Kovalainen

It’s very easy to talk only of drivers in top teams when compiling lists like this one, but I’ve always seen F1 as a front race, a middle race and a back race and this year Kovalainen did the same at the tail end of the field as Vettel, Button and Alonso at the front; he dragged every ounce of performance out of his car and you cannot ask for more than that from a driver.

The 2011 Lotus was a step forward but was still a second off the pace the team had hoped for if it was to challenge the midfield. That Kovalainen was able to dominate the other new team cars by a big margin and battle with a Williams and other midfield cars some times says a lot about his ability and character. When you have a career setback, as he did when he was dumped by McLaren, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself.

But F1 is about adapting and overcoming and Kova has shown his quality this year. The experience will have made him a much stronger competitor.

5. Jaime Algeursuari
This final spot could have gone to Nico Rosberg or Adrian Sutil, both of whom had some great days in 2011. Or maybe even Paul di Resta, who had several good weekends in a strong Force India car.

But I’ve picked out Alguersuari because you always have to improve as a Grand Prix driver and he showed tremendous growth this year, which you can’t say about Sutil or Rosberg. After a shaky start he just got better and better to the point where you had an eye on him in every race in the second half of the season, as he took the improved Toro Rosso and made some bold strategies work for him. The key was his strong pace on worn soft tyres, which he pushed for long middle stints. Because we really went into the Race Strategies in depth with the UBS Strategy Reports this year, we could see close up what he was doing.

From Canada onwards he was in the points 7 times in 13 races, with outstanding drives in Italy and Korea and strong runs in Canada, Valencia and India. He scored 63% of his team’s total points which is a strong sign.

I don’t think he’s the next Vettel, but he’s a good racer and still only 21 years old. He’s started 46 Grands Prix now, so he’s got some experience. I’d expect him to really kick on in 2012 with the possible incentive of a 2013 Red Bull seat if he keeps growing. Let’s hope he does.

We’ll trawl through the 700+ entries to find the winners.

The limited edition JA on F1 2011 Review book is selling fast and at this rate should be sold out after Christmas. If you want to make sure you secure your copy, you can order one here for £9-99 plus postage. It’s deliverable pretty much anywhere in the world.

Click HERE to buy

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I have got the same top three!

The last two ar different, but hey! you can't win them all!

I also would like to say:

James, great website.. I really love it!

Keep up the good work.

Greetings form the Netherlands!


I think Seb is overrated. The only reason for his domination has been the supreme car he has been driving. Alonso or Hamilton would have been as dominant as Seb in the same material. Seb has still a lot to prove. I am not exaggerating whe i say that Alonso is F1s nr 1 follow by Hamilton. Those two are the elit in the F1 grid. After those two i would put Seb, Button, Rosberg...

Juan V


I agree that Alonso is king of the hill and has been for some time but how does Hamilton come in second when he is getting smashed by his own teammate in a team that was supposed to be his? Seb is phenomenal and I would put him second to Alonso but only because Alonso has the edge over a race distance, quali in the same cars would be interesting though.


I'm not sure if this site is the best use of your eloquent language. Other forums play host to that.

Mark may be a strong driver, however time and time again his results on track have not matched that of other drivers. Jenson and Alonso (and it pains me to say that) often surpassed him in inferior cars.

That said, Webber is an impressive character and there's no reason why he shouldn't have a great 2012 after the win at Brazil.

But please... respect other forum members.


I concur... ...awesome website!

See you in Austin, TX in November 2012!



Great List soo glad to see jaime and Heikki they very very much deserve it


I don't like Heikki but have to admit that he has done an extraordinary job when you take into consideration that driving for a rear of the grid team during the later half of his career and being lapped every race must be bone crushing for guys who have won all their lives! He has not only kept his motivation up but he has improved it! He also blew the doors off his teammate's career. Well done Heikki, let's see more of it next year!


Vettel did what he should have, won in the best car. The car and tires not being to the liking of Webber, who is not in the same league to begin with, probably exaggerated Vettel's achievements this year.

Alonso's performances in that average Ferrari are far, far more impressive.


I think you would find that if RBR were 110% behind Webber rather than Vettel the Red Bull driver standings would be reversed, with Vettel complaining consistently about this, that and the other. Instead we have Mark, the whipping boy of Vettel fans everywhere looking like a second rate driver. I'm a big Alonso fan, but when Webber over took him at Spa I saw greatness that goes under appreciated simply because Vettel is the 'chosen one' at RBR.


@ Spinodontosaurus, @ JK, you two can't be serious. Drivers don't get supported because of some blind fluke. It is the better driver who usually becomes the main focus of a team. As an Alonso fan, you should know that more than anyone. Over the last three years, Vettel has proven himself time and time again to be a comprehensively better driver than Webber, and the championship results don't lie. Vettel has had the best car, so did Webber but it was Vettel who made the best use of it, which is why James and a large majority of people voted him as driver of the year.

I was wowed by the Eau Rouge pass on Alonso as well. Yet 2 weeks later, it was Vettel's turn to pass Alonso in great style. Webber is a decent driver, but great enough to match Vettel? So far, a resounding "no".


@JK exactly. The car flattered SV. Nothing special about him but F1 talks up its 'winners' to sell itself as something special. It's all marketing and profit. It's a circus.


I'd be interested to know who is "special" and wasn't flattered by their car when they won the WDC?


You're both wrong. Vettel was simply the best this year. If any other to driver had been in that Red Bull this year, it's hard to imagine them having achieved the same set of results.


Blimey! I got them right!

Rupert Richardson



Kimi Räikkönen No 1

We will see


Good luck fighting the Williams's and the Saubers!


Kimi is here for racing !!!


+1 Kimi's comment.

& Others should also know that Kimi never listen's to other comments.

He does in his own way.

Kimi Räikkönen rocks. 🙂


First 3 races will be Williams and Saubers, remaining seasons it will be with BIG 4 🙂


If this season is any indicator the reverse is likely to be true...


Hi James

Ordered the book a while back, what date id the book starting to ship?




Superb, thanks for that James.

Personally, I'd probably switch Button and Alonso around, but I agree with your reasoning.

Is there any insider info on Vettel's qualifying pace? To be that much quicker than Webber - who as we know is very quick over one lap - is some feat. I've read or heard (perhaps on this blog) that the Red Bull's EBD can be controlled by the driver during the corner with the throttle pedal: has Vettel found the perfect way to use this, maybe, and that's his joker?


Its a no brainer that this year Button is ahead of Alonso while Vettel is top. Totally agree with James' list.


It certainly isn't (imo) a no brainer to put Button ahead of Alonso, and it appears that that may be James's opinion too:

It was a very close call between Button and Alonso for second place

It seems to me that the McLaren has been a better car than the Ferrari most of the time this year, and so for Alonso to do so much with it, and to comprehensively outdo his team mate in the process is an achievement worth weighing up against Button's own superb season's achievements.


Well, the thing is Button did that by not being Default No1 driver 😉


It can't be controlled as such. But there are some techniques you can use so to give you maybe an extra tenth. Ironically that's the one thing Vettel has never mastered, while Webber uses the technique quite a bit.


I remember (correct me if I'm wrong) a BBC article by Mark Hughes last year that said Webber perfected a technique in the first half of last year, but Red Bull added off throttle blowing technology to the EBD that negated Webber's advantage (and has til this day).

With the banning of the off throttle blowing next year, we may see Webber regain some (but probably not all) of the advantage he had in corners from the first half of 2010 (hopefully)

Anyway this explains it better: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9127533.stm


Did we have to choose them in the correct order, or just name the five?


Order. I got top 4 but had Di Resta instead of Alguersuari.


No comments, or maybe Hamilton could make one:

"...It was interesting that you smile about that..."

— Hamilton after Indian GP qualifying

No more cookies for him on this blog, I guess...


Um.. yeah... Lewis shouldn't be anywhere near a top 5 "best drivers" list for this season's body of work. I don't even think you'd get an argument from himself about that one. You'll find very few people who don't think he'll bounce back and have a tremendous season next year, though, myself included. He's as strong an opponent as any on the grid.

As for the 'smile':

"Lewis, it was close after the first run in Q3, then you aborted your final run and, of course, you are moving three places back on the grid as well so your thoughts really on qualifying today?"

Lewis Hamilton: "It was interesting that you smile about that."

I guess what you're trying to say is that James was making fun of Lewis, or was happy that Lewis got a penalty? I've read this blog for the past 2 years and have never seen anything that backs that up. It's why I keep coming back. We get great objective features on a variety of teams and drivers.

To me, the comment from Lewis was another example of how he believed that everyone was out to get him this year, from drivers on track, to the stewards, to the media.


'It's interesting that you smile about that..'

Lewis implying 'I see you know it's ridiculous as well as I do'.


@ Becken

Hell, I too was shocked to know our JA on F1 was smiled for I was always under the impression JA on F1 was a fan.

Oh well, it seems Jens is now officially the Golden Boy, what can we do? *Shrugs*

But am pretty keen to see next season (or whatever season) how many of the so called Jenson fans jump back on the Hammy bandwagon once normal service resumes (Can't wait).


Be strong, happy days aren't far away!


It's not about jumping on fan bandwagons or enjoying knocking people down. It's just analysing objectively the best drivers over the whole season.

How can anyone be angry Lewis isn't in the top 5. He'd probably be insulted if he was, thinking 'What, so you think that was a world class year's performance?!' It would mock the sport and do disservice to the other world class drivers. I'm sure he'll be back in the top 3/5 next year.


Are you implying that Hamilton had a great season, but was overlooked in this post because of that comment?

This was about about the five top drivers of the past season. Not favorite drivers of last season. You can be fan all you want but, Lewis did not have one of the best five performances of the year.


Well well are we forgetting that he was the only driver outside the red bull team to start from pole?. If Alonso is the complete driver he should have won more GP than Hamilton. Now don't start that Ferrari did not give him a good car, if that is the case jarno truili & timo glock were also podium contenders who were let down by virgin and lotus.


Your comment makes no sense at all! Why are so many Hamilton fans so utterly obtuse!

Any driver with a top car is a podium contender, so what's your point?! McLaren was massively better than the Ferrari yet you expect Alonso to have won more?

It's top 5 drivers of the whole year. By your Hamilton pole logic, Hulkenberg should have been driver of the year last year!

Lewis had some great performances - as always - but over the year he was weak. Would he have even made the top 10? The consistency just wasn't there.


If you're choosing to ignore how ALonso finished ahead of Hamilton in a Ferrari that wasn't as fast as Mclaren, you can't really boast about how amazing it was that Hamilton took a whole one pole position away from Red Bull.

Christopher Lewis

Great comments

Just out by one, but cant take anything away from Jaime's driving

Good competition James



Totally agree with your choice and your reasoning, especially Heikki - so easy to get overlooked sitting at the back of the grid, but he proved just what a talent he is. Let's hope next year's car allows him to prove it to even more people


I have no doubt that there is a finger on the scales.


Can't argue with the top 4 James!

Button v Alonso for P2/P3 was always going to prove a tricky one to judge.

But I'm struggling to agree with Algeursuari in P5. He was outqualified by 12-7 over the course of the season by Buemi, which is surely indicative of a driver who is not extracting the maximum from his car in my view.

Yes, you may argue that there are no points for qualifying. But had he qualified better, how many more points might he have secured?

Yes he showed growth, but are we judging the top 5 drivers of the season or the top 5 growers?

Sutil for me.


i get your point and i too guessed sutil as the fifth driver but your qualifying comparison is one shared at McLaren too. Button our agreed no2 best driver of the season was still nailed by Hammy in qualifying by that sort of margin but Hammy didnt make the top five and button made number two so i dont get the argument!


Thanks for your comments Christos.

My reasoning below:

Qualifying is only part of the equation.

However the key differentiating factor in this circumstance is that Button's benchmark is arguably the most naturally gifted driver on the grid in terms of raw pace, coupled with the fact he's already a proven world champion.

Whereas at Toro Rosso, based on the evidence to date, Algeursuari is being benchmarked against an average midfield runner of only moderate calibre.

Hope that clarifies!


Got them all right except the last one which was by far the most difficult! Can't disagree too much with Algeursuari. He was under a lot of pressure to as he was about to be dumped by the RBR production line.


I don´t know how can anyone rate Button´s season higher than Alonso´s. He´s had some brilliant races, but finishing only 13 points ahead of the spaniard having a better car for 18 out of 19 races sepeaks volumes of who was the better driver this year.



I thought Alonso was far more impressive in lugging that Ferrari around.

Button did what was expected of the car, he collected the points reliably. He didn't ever go above and beyond the capability of the car like Alonso in that inferior Ferrari. But that is Button's approach, conservative and steady wins the race. (but probably not often enough if others are not falling off the track/being penalised).

Also I reckon many have the misguided perception that Button looked better when Hamilton by his own standards had so many issues with stewards/penalties/off track.

I think if Button had the inherent speed to put it pole he would have deserved the rating, but pure speed is not in his bag of tricks, and in motorsport that is difficult to swallow to be accepted as one of the most talented on the grid.


Because of several reasons:

-In several races where the playing field was levelled and the driver had the biggest impact (Canada, Hungary) he came out on top.

-Looking at the points table doesn't show the whole story, Webber beat Alonso but not many people are lining up to put him in their top 5 list.

-If we are going by the points method, Button lost more points to mechanical failures than Alonso this year, adding the missed points from those (Britain, Germany) would give Button a more comfortable points lead.

Although I also don't think Button's bravery in moving to McLaren should be a factor either...


exactly. every time Alonso lost out or fell behind, it was because he cudnt do anything else at that point. i dont think that was the case with Button. he's gud on some tires, not so good on others. i know and also think that he's a very well-liked and friendly person, but somehow i dont like seeing him win. i like the remaining 5 more than him when it comes to driving, and wud have given one of the top 5 places (not necessarily 3rd) to Lewis or Schumi


Button would have finished much further ahead if not for two DNFs that were not his fault.


Alonso would have finished much further ahead if not for Button taking him out in Canada 😛


You can't compare Button to Alonso in that way... Alonso's team mate was absolutely nowhere all season. Buttons team mate is Hamilton who won three races - Had Alonso had such a strong team mate you can bet he wouldn't have quite so many points! Also, the race Alonso won at Silverstone was a bit of an outlier because of the 1 race ban of the blown diffuser.

I'm not saying Alonso didn't have an awesome season, just that you're not giving Button the credit he deserves.


Totally agree, I can't rate Button higher than Alonso, the Mclaren was a faster car and there were races where it was the fastest car. Button should have had some wins at the end of the day. Button showed great growth but I feel like Alonso may be penalised for already being at the highest level. Just my 2 cents.


He had 3 wins..


First there is no such thing as should anything.

Vettel cracked under the pressure FROM Button when he spun off.

For me Vettel has had an advantage which no one could match this season, which enabled him to have that little bit extra in qualifing 3 and the beginning of the race. It couldn't always be used because of fuel consumption.

For me Hamilton is the driver that everyone is scared off when he is behind them and has the rawest race on the grid.

Hopefully 2012 Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren are very close and we don't have one dominant team. I want to see racing every week not a presessiom of the best aerodynamics.


He is saying that the expectation is that McLaren should win races when they had the best race car at about 9 of the 19 races (just look at Martin Whitmarsh's comments after each race to back that up). Therefore to win three out of nine, and not create any others is not a great return. Alonso basically took his one chance. Button needed Vettel to fall off the road in Canada, Hamilton to do likewise in Hungary and Hamilton to have a puncture in Japoan.

A vital thing for beating the Red Bulls this year was to qualify and start well. Then you could have a race like Button did in India. To often Jenson compromised his race result by poor opening stints. Charging at the end of the race, like Valencia is basically pointless if you end up so far behind.

In comparison at least Alonso out qualified Massa for the majority of the season (not the same as out qualifying Hamilton, but the margins were huge) and for Japan there was a decision to compromise qualifying anyway for tyre wear reasons.

Another way of looking at is, how would you realistically expected Alonso to do better? Running in Hamilton at Malaysia for one. I didn't see his Canada exit, but that is probably the only other thing I can think of.

Button had several races where Hamilton clearly out performed him and others where Hamilton would have been ahead if Hamilton had not had a problem.

The only way that I can see Button being the second best performance of the season is if you believe that on-form Hamilton is on a different level to the rest of the grid. Personally, I believe that Vettel edges Hamilton on one lap pace and in race conditions both Alonso and Vettel have the edge as they are more likely to manage the tyre wear. The comments that James gets from the various team engineers seem to back this up too.

Still none of this really matters. The team managers who hire the drivers are the only ones that count.


Yeah he SHOULD have had 3 wins. The car was good enough thru the season. Alonso should have had none.


Very odd choice of Button over Alonso. Why give Button credit for going to Mclaren in his second season there?? Surely the time for those bonus points was his first season?


1. JB's first year was always going to be hampered as the car was already designed to suit a massively differing size and style of driver.

2.I am not as certain as some about how much superior the McLaren was supposed to be over the Ferrari. Had Massa been a shadow of his former self, the show would have been a lot closer. I seem to remember Alonso and the McLarens being reasonably comparable on the softer tyres. Only when the hard tyres came out did Alonso fade and JB come to life.


Agree 100%... and I don't even think it was close between Button and Alonso.

Yes JB had some very good drives. But one can not deny the fact that over the whole season McLaren had a much better package than Ferrari yet JB could only make it a 13 point difference over 18 races !

Maybe in some races on soft tyres the pace of the Ferrari was equal... but in qualifying and on hard compound tyres Ferrari seemed like a truck losing places like it was a HRT.

Rating JB high because he was much better than LH... I mean.. it says it all about LH, the crash kid of 2011.

Of course you can give a driver (JB) credit for mastering his teammate but you can not benchmark the quality of a driver against his teammate... were was Massa then the last few years?


Sorry... 19 races...


i am a massive Button and McLaren fan but i agree Alonso had a better season. Given that Redbull conspired against Webber i find it hard to rate exactly Vettel's season so i'd maybe argue that Alonso was the best driver this year!


Totally agree.


Well done Heikki


Alonso or Button should be tied or Alonso P2, just swap the cars for both and try to picture the season for both.


I think you make a really good point, even though it's as moot as it gets.


You must be right, because you chose the same as me! 😉


Heikki is my favourite driver, he's cool as fuck.


In those shades? I know F1 is going HD but I didn't realise 3D glasses would be necessary!


I got them right as well, ha ha made up!


Hi James,

Not quite sure I'd go with Jaime at 5. Though not too sure who I would put in his place.

I have a question about the fortunes of Jenson and Williams. I am a massive Jenson fan, but I often wonder how things would be if things were different.

Where would Jenson and Williams be now if things had gone a little differently.

If Jenson was forced to drive for Williams at the time of the whole contracts debacle. I seem to recall Sir Frank saying at the time saying that sponsors had been signed on the basis of Jenson driving for them that year.

So my question is, would Jenson still be in Formula 1 either still for Williams or even Mclaren, and secondly would Williams be in the same situation it is now, or in a lot better shape. I know its all hypothetical, and I'm not saying Jenson alone would make all the difference. Just would be interesting to hear your point of view.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Hi John,

I presume you mean for the 2005 season?

I'll run two scenarios and let you tell me what you think.

Mark Webber as Button's teammate at Williams. In this case I'm suspecting Mark will have the edge in qualifying and Button in race results. As Webber found in 2006 the world wasn't that interested in him, so he went to Red Bull. Jenson equally tired of time-bomb Cosworth engines, rejoins BAR-Honda as the only well rsourced team that will have him. (Quits F1 in frustration, winless, after the 2008 British grand prix.../wins first race in Melbourne 2009).

Heidfeld is Button's teammate. Button has a slight edge in qualifying, stays ahead in the races. Ferrari, remembering 2004, picks him over Massa. Button wins a couple of races as Schummi's number two, comes third in the Championship. Partners Raikkonen in 2007-08. Stepney and Coughlan are really just patriots who want to see a Brit win - information not passed to McLaren. Hamilton is not the sole focus of the UK press. Who wins in 2007 and 2008?

In this latter scenario, we end up with Rubens as the 2009 World Champion, just edging Vettel and Webber with Bruno Senna stuffing up a few chances to win a race before the Red Bulls start to dominate.




Agree on all 4 and in that order... I'd of gone for Sutil for 5th or Rosberg - Alguesari did well on occasion but not 5th place well


I got them right, but having counted I think I was about 14th person right, not bad considering I was the 438th comment, and yes I do have a full time job 🙂


I picked them all but not quite in the right order! I had Alonso ahead of Button but, on reflection, maybe I over-compensated for personal likes and was extra hard on Button.

I never really considered Rosberg or Sutil. The former because his races rarely matched his qualifying, which was undoubtedly top class, and the latter because the races when he impresses - and he certainly can when he wants to - seem too sporadic, which has for me been his failing throughout his time in F1. Also, his speed compared to the much less experienced Di Resta and Hulkenberg should have been greater.


It is only James opinion - other similarly placed experts - e.g. Alan Henry in Autocourse - will have different lists for various reasons.

Personnally, I've marked Button down on his qualifying/start/first stint performance relativel to Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. He gives himself too much to do in what is a car that often has race winning pace.

Apart from the influenece of pressure, how were Button's performance's better than Kovalainnen's? In smashing his teammate and the opposition in the new team race (just as Vettel did), Heikki was a lot better than Button. Given their respective cars, how do we compare skill/speed objectively?

All I'd suggest is that if you consider being able to do this analysis of the best drivers as being important to your enjoyment of F1 (for a lot of people it isn't) you consider James' reasons and your own (and anyone else's if you care to) and see if your opinion changes. Otherwise, it might be easiest to cheer on Jenson.

For me, I was struggling to split Vettel and Alonso for #1. In qualifying, both beat their teammates by a large margin. I can't think of a race where Alonso was out-driven by Massa, where Vettel had Germany. Both got some results they shouldn't have. On that same scale I had Kovalainen next. Button heads the pile of the rest in the could do better, as evidenced by what their teammates did in other races. Hamilton clearly beat Button in some races, so Button could have done even better than he did. To me that applies to all but three of the drivers.




Correct choices correct order, Heikki has been a legend this year, I really hope the Caterham team supply a solid mid-runner next year so Heikki can get more of the spotlight, well done!


Spot on James,

i think your top 5 selection reflects an expert F1 assessment of the drivers, that most of the F1 pitlane would agree with.


Nice to see Algeursuari recognised. As you noted he performed well in the second half of the season and you can easily see the progress he has made since his debut in '09.


Great choices. Well done all five.


Nearly! I had the top 4 right but chose Di Resta for #5.


I agree with the first 4 drivers, not too sure about Jaime in number 5, but then I wouldn't know who to put there instead.

I know he had a bad season by his standards, but surely Hamilton should get a mention as a contender for that position.

After all, he did get 3 wins, the same as Button, was also the only non-RBR driver to get a pole. And despite all the collisions, especially with Massa, he still managed to be within 85% of Button's total.

Plenty of face palm moments, but also some amazing driving too.


i agree that would and was my top five. Hammy had a shocker by his standards but still owned on most others!


Amazing James! Looks like we see eye to eye 🙂


Heikki on the list? What the...?!

"he dragged every ounce of performance out of his car and you cannot ask for more than that from a driver"

I don't see how he is so highly rated when Hamilton destroyed him at McLaren. If you put any of the current top five drivers into the Lotus they could drag more performance out of the car, to be honest. Nothing special about this guy, just another Fisichella at most.


This is the same Kovaleinen who outdid Fisichella in his first season, whilst being threatened with the sack.

He has also completely destroyed the same Trulli this year that gave Alonso a hard time in 03-04, deserved much more credit than he gets.


can't really compare the Trulli from 03-04 to how he drives now. By that theory Rosberg is one of the all time greats.


Agreed. Heikki never got into the zone at Mclaren and he himself admits that the performances weren't what they should've been. But at Lotus he's regained his confidence and is easily the best driver out of the backmarkers. I think that now he could perform similarly to the current Mclaren drivers, if given the car.


Agreed, confidence is King.

Years ago I once asked my old Foreman why do you still go to football when your team is now in the Second Division? His answer was simple, "We win games in the Second Division". His point was his team needed to play in a lower division to regain their confidence. Heikki has done the same, albeit forced, and it appears to be working, and the best of luck to him. Whenever you see clips of him in the paddock or in interviews his body language was that of someone happy with himself and his team.

Lotus now need to build him a car that can challenge the midfield teams on a regular basis.


Curses James, I got Button and Alonso the other way round otherwise I would be getting a nice new book. Anyway James and all your avid readers may I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

As for our difference in 2nd and 3rd I thought that given the McLaren was second best car at worst most of the season Jenson should have expected to deliver the results he did.

Fernando on the other hand should never really have had a sniff of the podium or a win (Silverstone for the one off different regulations race)

I had much the same reasoning in placing the other four.

Anyway fantastic season Canada was the standout race of the season and Seb blowing on the last lap made Jenson's victory all the better.

For my New Years wish I would want 4 or 5 cars all chasing for race victories with little to choose between them race to race with Jenson winning the last race to seal his second WDC and McLarens first constructors title in I dont know how long..........

Bring on testing in Februrary..............


I only got Algeursuari wrong. Went for Sutil instead.

I enjoyed your chat with H&J today. Will JAonF1 readers get a discount tickets to see you in panto in Scarborough?


I think Algesaurus was amazing in the second half of the year also. He must have been coming close to the sack before Canada arrived. If that was a bit of a freak result after a topsy-turvy race thanks to the weather, then the confidence boost a few points gave seems to have done him wonders. Since then on he was magnificent. I have to say Buemi had his moments too but I think he'll only ever be 'OK' whereas Jaime shows potential to be more than that.


I agree with the list except for the fact that i'd switch Alonso and Button. That Ferrari was not just a dog of a car but dog's dinner! He squeezed every ounce of life from it and gave the Mclarens and an odd RedBull a run for their money. But gotta admit, Vettel ( all that speed must have started take toll on the young man, he is going Berger like bald!) is class apart! The other young pilots who have impressed me so much in my 2 deacades of following motorsports were Schumacher in the early 90s and Valentino Rossi in late 90s/early 2000s - and we all know what they did to the history books! Take a bow, there's a new king in town!


It will be easy to search for the winners. Just look for "Alguersuari" and that will eliminate entries that dont have that name.


Nice writing. I had to agree about Kovalainen, what a great job he did!! Acited to see him next year. Ofcourse Kimi is back! Love to see how he will perform on mid-class!


Well you almost have to discount Vettel, but I think you can sum it up in a different way. There's no doubt that without Adrian Newey's car Vettel would not be where he is currently, but it would most definately be wrong to say it is all car. I've heard various percentages banded about, but I used to say 90% car 10% driver, but perhaps 80-20 might be more accurate. The thing is that when an F1 driver has a car like a Red Bull and the results start to roll in, confidence rises exponentially, and as a consequence the Vettel of today is a different animal to that of even 12 months ago. In other words drivers feed off the cars performance, and it can work both ways if the trend is going in the opposite direction. I think what we can say about Vettel is that he got to grips with the Pirelli tyres very quickly so that I think he did better in this respect than other drivers this year. Discounting Vettel, I think Jenson put in a very good performance in the second half of the year. Alonso as always did the best he could given the combination of car and tyres.



Heikki is fantastic driver,because hi come ro FINLAND


All I can say is Vettel has definitely gone up in my favourite people's book this year.

If it wasn't for Vettel, Alonso would have been a 3 times champion last year + the youngest two times champ in history

And if it wasn't for Vettel, Button would have been a 2 times champion this year.

Very difficult to dislike somebody that keeps doing us (Hammy army) these sort of favours no matter how much he tries to annoy us with the FINGER!!!

Meanwhile, pretty disappointed I didn't get the order right, I see I only got 2 out of 3 right?

Oh well better luck next time.


Alonso didn't has the car to challenge Vettel but both McLaren drivers are regularly closer to Vettel if they do everything right on and off the track. I personally feel both Button and Hamilton made life a bit easy for Vettel, otherwise 2011 season would be much more intense.

I wonder how the championship will play out had FIA withhold the ban imposed only at Silverstone.


Woo, on the button and in the right order! Well happy with that.


So close! I had Rosberg in 5th instead of Jamie. I can't agree with you on that last spot, Algersuari certainly improved quite a bit this year so that he was on of the top 10 drivers by the end of the campaign, but I think he started this year worse than he ended last and it took him until Canada to get it together, and thats just not good enough.


I absolutely love KOV's attitude, but its very hard to see how fast he really is or isn't, because the Team Lotus car was in a class by itself. Never mid-pack, but always faster than the two tail-enders. All we know is that he beat Trulli.


Replace Alonso with the guy who really deserves to be top 5, Schumacher, and I got it right too!

Any prizes for the top 5 you wanted to put James???


I can't believe it James. My decision was 1.Vettel 2.Alonso 3.Button 4.Kovalainen 5.Alguersuari (comment Number 200)i think most people chose Button in 2nd position and also Diresta inside their top 5 simply because of their nationality.What about you James did you make the same judgement error?I agree that Button was impressive this year but the fact is that Mclaren was much much faster than ferrari...(by the way i am not an Alonso or Ferrari fan either)


Hi James

Great article, as ever.

Bit surprised Perez didn't get an honourable mention at least.

Some of his drives had the maturity of one with much greater experience... Seemed like he pulled some massive results from races that saw him at the tail of the field early on.


Correct drivers, wrong order! Nooooooo!


Amazing how easy it is to become the forgotten man in F1. Webber came back after from the first three races with a dud car and showed real character. He mixed it with Button, Alonso and Hamilton all year. That effort was a major contribution to Vettel's run-away sucesses as by scrapping-with and so holding back the Mclarens, in particular, he allowed Vettel to get the space to run free at the front where the Red Bull excels. When that didn't happen Vettel became vulnerable to the Mclarens in especially at the end of races. Towards the end of the season Webber became a real threat to Vettel. For his determination, persistence, ability and effort this year, Webber deserves a place in the sun.


Except Webber wasn't really a threat to Vettel, except for in Brazil, Germany and Britain.


Germany yes, Britain/Brazil only after Vettel's troubles (broken jack/troubled gearbox).


Your point about splitting the pack into three groups and then looking at Heikki within his sub-group is thought-provoking but I still would have gone with Jerome d'Ambrosio out of the 'back race.' It's true Heikki has done well and shown good spirit, but I'm not sure that's enough to get him Top 5.

Alguersuari is fair enough in a way; he has grown quite quickly this season and was really good in Korea. As someone who has a soft spot (in racing terms) for Sebastien Buemi though, I would argue that the points percentage is a bit misleading. Sebastien had quite a few mechanical problems late in the season when he was fighting for points, and when he had the upper hand over Jaime early in 2011 the team wasn't fighting for points.


Top four, yes, but Alberquerque, no way, sorry too many faults!


Will there be an electronic version of the book?


No, the idea is to create a collectable


An interesting strategy. The books certainly are collectable and the consistency of typface and format makes them look good on my shelf.

I'm an avid ebook reader though and I find I'm doing more and more of my reading on the Kindle for convenience. I now only buy physical copies of books that are special and even then, I'm tending to buy the Kindle edition anyway which is where I actually read it. It's a slightly expensive habit, but it both fits my lifestyle and satisfies the collector in me.


Imho this is a bad decision. Me, and probably many others, only buy ebooks (not ewooks). Ok. Wait a month and get your physical copies sold this xmas. Then make some extra pounds on kindle sales. Collectable my arm.


Can't believe it 4 ot of 5 and in the same order. Opted for Sutil instead of HK.

On the plus side, I've already ordered the book and it should arrive some time next week.


Wow! I got them right! I guess 30 years of F1 has taught me something useful!


I think Schumacher should have been inducted in the top five. He proved this year that age no match against sheer determination and just why he is the seven time world champion.


good point- why are kovi and algi rated higher than schumi?


Haha, i love how everyone says Hamilton had a poor season (even himself) and his name is absent from these sort of lists.

But... he won 3 RACES?! only bettered by Vettel! Hamilton had a poor season and Button had his best ever. But there really wasn't much between them, even inc DNF's and incidents.

Most of the grid would kill for a poor season like that.


You can't just measure the high points though. I think most people measure these lists in terms of potential. Hamilton delivered way below his potential this year due to driving into Massa, getting penalties etc


Red Bull was the best car out there, but I think McLaren actually had a car to challenge and beat Red Bull on more than few circuits this season. Button has driven better this season than he has ever has. Yet I still feel the 2007 Hamilton or Alonso would have given Vettel a far tougher challenge in the 2011 McLaren.

Thats not Vettels fault, he did all he needed to do and more to secure a well deserved 2nd championship. But I think Vettels so called "emphatic superiority" is somewhat flattered by the overall poorness of Ferrari, and Hamilton crashing and whining for most of the season.

In my opinion Alonso was the best driver out there this season, followed by Vettel. On his day Hamilton is capable of competing with and beating both Alonso and Vettel and if Hamilton ever grows up, he's capable of doing it over the course of a season.

But for 2011, Button was the next best driver out there. My estimation of Button has risen this season far more so than than the year he won his championship.

I would definitely have Kovalainen and Algeursuari in the top five. But I have to say I think Rosberg was disappointing and DiResta was solid at best.


Interesting comment about Algeursuari, about seeing things in the strategy over the course of the year.

Was there anything else discernible over the longer period? Perhaps about a driver, or perhaps the route a team has taken through development. Or maybe how Pirelli have fought to keep the teams on the back foot.


I really can't accept this.

Giving NO:1 to Vettel is just not good. Because, he had the best car in the grid. And always on pole. Never started from the back of the grid this season. Everything worked for him well except Yas Marina circuit.

Won the championship very easily.

Kimi, Fernando, Button, Schumi all started in middle or at the back of the grid had podiums and some even won races.

That really shows a true legend.

I think this guy never did that.

And James, I can't accept your comment about Alonso, saying

"For several years Alonso has been the most complete driver in F1 but that’s under threat now from Vettel and it will be fascinating to see how he responds in 2012 if Ferrari give him a more competitive car."

Alonso had proved that he is the best driver in the grid.

And everyone knows what happened at 2010, like how vettel became the youngest champion.

About vettel, if you look 2008 Toro Rosso, it is a good car, where even Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest time in Q1 in Spa.

Just like for lewis in 2009, for vettel also a year will come and let he may prove it.


So #1 should never be given to the driver of the best car?


As for 2008, it would be very hard to justify why a win, numerous top 5 finishes and 8th overall are down to the car, not his talent when he was competing against Ferraris, BMWs, Mclarens, Renaults, Red Bulls and Toyotas.


He can't be the best for this year because he was always on pole. Yes, because in your world, grid order is determined by a random draw, not best time around a track.



Wish we can see worse 5 also from your side also. 🙂



I dont agree with your list not , I think it is worth mentioning that Jenson benefitted in a way from Lewis's misfortunes, it is debatable whether all the incidents he has been involved in were entirely his fault.

Button has driven well no doubt about that, but I am not entirely convinced that he can now be considered a better driver

than Hamilton.one thing is certain he is is definetely worthy adversary but he is still needs to beat Lewis convincingly.


Vettel, Button and Alonso are also definite picks for me. For 4th I would perhaps have picked Rosberg. Kovalainen was a good pick though.

For the "2011 disappointments" I can immediately think of Massa and Webber.


I like your list- I knew there would be a lot of discussion about Alonso or Button for P2. It could have gone either way. However I think we now have a habit of underestimating Button, who is to say he would not do well in the Ferrari especially if he was the clear number one supported driver:-) ? As great as Alonso is, I just can't stand the fact that he is not happy to compete on level terms with his team mate.


I wasn't even close to winning a book 😛

I picked Alonso for 2nd place since he was with Ferrari, but with his drives in Canada and Japan, I can see how Button got it. Kovalainen and Alguersuari were just outside my top 5, since I went for the underrated (IMO) Rosberg (who was solid throughout the year, and led for a while in China) and Hamilton (who still won 3 races), though I wouldn't argue much about LH not making the cut.


Great top five James, particularly pleased to see Jaime in there as his progress this year has been absolutely phenomenal.

On only one point would I disagree - that Alonso's status as the most complete driver in F1 is under threat from Vettel, for two reasons:

1) We're yet to see how Vettel will cope when things aren't all going his way. I do think he improved this a lot betwen 2010 and 2011, and I realise that he's only had a short career so far, but I don't see that we can call him "complete" without seeing how he can perform in a broader variety of situations.

2) Alonso is still improving, and is clearly relaxed at Ferrari despite their issues this year.

All that said, I'd love to see them in a head-to-head next year in similarly-paced cars...though not as much as I'd like to see McLaren and (ideally) Mercedes get in on the act too, though.


Got them right... But I doubt that post #538 was high enough in the order to win it. 🙁 But well, at least I got them right. 🙂


Thanks for taking part


Anytime James, thank you for giving us the chance for winning something.


Ahh bummer! I got the top 5 correct was comment #366 due to living in the U.S.! I just tallied it up and I think I'm the #12 correct answer... James, do you think you can give out consolation prizes for your loyal overseas readers?


It was always going to be a toss-up for 2nd place between Button and Alonso but obviously Jense got more wins/better results so he would come out on top. But imagine Alonso in a more competitive Ferrari or at least one not so miserable on hards. He'd be matching Vettel I'm sure of it. Those 2 electrifying starts in Barcelona and Monza were insane and you know if he has the lead he won't let it go IF he had a proper car.

You can't fault Vettel, he did have an amazing season. The team got EVERYTHING right and as long as Webber got within the top 5, the Constructor's title was theirs. I guess I can't complain about RBR's treating of Webber due to the fact that Ferrari does the same but it's very shameful because Webbo deserves better. After Turkey 2010, its not been the same. He hasn't been able to beat his teammate since FOR SOME REASON. I miss the dueling between them. Vettel has been performed excellently but I'm suspect over the gap to Webber being that large. The RB7 and its handling of the Pirelli's is built to Vettel's preference (as also to Alonso at Ferrari), that I'm sure of.

As for Kovalinen, I'm not a believer. Yes, he's beating Trulli but so what ? F1 is about pushing to the limit and his time in McLaren showed he wasn't up to task. A few years later on and I'm not impressed. The limit of the Lotus is far below that of the front-runners so him pushing that car doesn't prove to me he can get it done if he were in one of the top squads again.

Ultimately, the racing in 2011 was exciting but in the end, it was just fog IMO. It was interesting because of all the overtaking but it was artificial. The fastest cars over the full race distance would always finish in their order except for a few who found it difficult to overtake and therefore lost time. Vettel was the absolute fastest, always on pole and could take care of his tires while the others battled eachother. Just look at the lack of different podium finishers and the typical race results at the end. I can't explain it well but I'm not a fan of 2011. I say get rid of DRS, which was mostly a kneejerk reaction instituted after Abu Dhabi (Alonso/Petrov). That track itself was THE problem. Oh, if I could make up the racing regs... *dreams*


Alonso should've been number two there James.. You said it. Jenson beat his "talented but TROUBLED team mate". Shouldn't that have been a given?


I'd take beating a troubled Hamilton over beating a troubled Massa any day to be honest...


I do not agreed:-)

Alonso had the best season....we shall see what Vettel will do in a car similar to what Alonso had this year.


I got the same top five in the same order. Here's hoping that was in the first ten!

The one I am most pleased to see in your list is Heikki. F1 is about great stories and this year was a great chapter in what could turn out to be something special. He has been an exceptional servant of Lotus/Caterham over the past two years and that mutual loyalty just may pay off next year. Gascoyne and co have got a driver who is motivated, comfortable in the team, a great spokesman for Caterham (surely important to Tony F) and seems genuinely on form behind the wheel. Given a mid-field car next year (circa. Sauba or Torro Rosso) we could be in for even greater competition for the final points finishes, one of the highlight of this season, in the absence of a close title fight at the front.

James, my question to you, from your insights into team personnel and dynamics, how was Heikki perceived during his time at McLaren? Clearly his confidence took a knock next to Lewis, but was he well liked by the engineers etc? Or was it simply a bad fit with the Mclaren way?

Thanks as always for the blog. Great reading. 2011 was your best year yet.


He really won over Whitmarsh on a personal level but he clearly couldnt cope with Hamilton and they gradually lost faith


I always noted that when Ron Dennis was there in 2008 he never once mentioned Heikki at all. Never in an interview I saw anyway, clearly for him Heikki was just a rent a driver.


Good to see you did not pick Webber again in the top-5. Glad to see you picked Heiki and Haime, well-deserved. But I am wondering this: the logic for picking these two was that they over-achieved given the equipment they had. By the same logic, I think Alonso should be the No. 1 driver. What he did w/ this terrible Ferrari car was nothing less than tremendous. Button said exactly that recently for FA. The best 5 drivers, in terms of sheer ability, are Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Nico, Sutil.


In what way, may I ask are you related to Adrian sutil?


Hi James

Was wondering if we could get some ideas about your 5 worse drivers or at least a few people who you think had a disapointing year?


That's just asking for a flame war to break out!

But in terms of most disappointing, think I'd have to go with Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Maldonado (last one is tough)


Agreed with your answers there. Hamilton disapointing as we know how good he can be and his attiude at times. Massa was a non event this year and I think he can count himself lucky he has still got his drive there next year. Take away his run ins with Lewis and he doesn't even feature in any of the races.


Button ahead of Alonso? No chance I think your giving 2nd place to him because he's your fellow Brit. IMO Alonso should be number one.


Gee, you were so close James 😉

I was secretly going to send you a prize if you got them right.

Better luck next year mate 🙂

Thanks for all your hard work James. I have enjoyed this forum immensely.


Hi James, if you were to pick the 5 best drivers of the season by using your after each race articles 'who is your briver of the day' who wil come out on top? i don't think we will see much difference though.

You count the one he has the most votes for first and so on.


It comes out as Button, apparently


Always fun to read these lists and how different people interpret different drivers.

I'd agree with the top 3, only real question mark against Button is the fact he was outqualified pretty handily against Hamilton (12-7).

The last two spots are up for grabs by about 6-7 drivers. I'm a little bit weary of Algeursuari, he qualified pretty poorly (out in Q1 5 times) and I think a lot of his results were the result of the bizarre fact that often missing the cut was an advantage as you had extra tyres for the race. Having said that, he still had to make it work, and his drive in Valencia (as highlighted on this website) was very impressive - 18th to 8th with no retirements in the race.


Just a thought. Jaime started from 18th most number of times. That position had an advantage as you saved up an extra set of tyres.

No wonder he made much more progress than Buemi who started only one place ahead but with a lesser set of tyres.

It makes Jaime look better than he actually was. I would give the no.5 spot to Michael / Stil / Paul.



Got them right, but was 15th I think to do so..!! Know how Barrichello feels now..!!



Considering your position, I understand "polithical moves" as: Vettel, first and Button, second. Quite reasonable in my view.


Don't you think it would be fair to say that Alonso didn't have a competitive team mate and at no time up to the settlement of the title. Alonso was always gifted Massa's position when necessary, which turned out to be quite often, whereas Button had no such luxury and beat fair and square a well known talent.

If you swapped Alonso and Button, would Button get a subservient team mate? Did Alonso beat Rookie Lewis in equal machinery? I have to confess I don't recall the result of that one.

Top Tags
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!