Between 2010 and 2019 F1 has had 65 different drivers of which 12 won races, 14 scored pole positions and 25 different drivers sprayed champagne on the podium.
This is my list of greatest drivers of the last decade. I’ve compiled this list by calling on stats and also my own judgement on how the drivers skills and how they have dealt with whatever has been thrown at them during this decade only.
1. Lewis Hamilton
Years active: 2010-2019
Fastest laps: 44
Best championship finish: 1st (2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019)
The 2010’s had it all for Lewis Hamilton, but the first half of the decade did leave us wondering if we would see him win more than one title. With McLaren’s form slide beginning as early as 2012 and his stock slowly falling after a lacklustre 2011 and 2012, he needed to do something drastic to avoid becoming the next Jacques Villeneuve by winning a championship in his second year and then falling by the wayside. The very best drivers though know exactly what to do both on and off the track, what a winning formula looks like and most importantly what to do with it. When Hamilton joined Mercedes most people called his move ridiculous, but those people though hadn’t seen what Mercedes had in-store.
The move Mercedes turned out to be a masterstroke. All those that called his move ridiculous were proven wrong pretty much from the start, as he scored only one point less with Mercedes in 2013 than he did with McLaren in 2012. From there both him and Mercedes never looked back. Now here we are… 7 seasons, 102 podiums, 62 pole positions, 65 grand prix victories and 5 world championships later. It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for him either. In seasons 2014-2016 he had Nico Rosberg breathing down his neck and in 2017 Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel presented a new challenge. Even 2019 was harder than it seemed where Ferrari’s pace was faster than Mercedes in some early races and then from the summer break onwards. Because of his results this decade he’ll undoubtedly go down as one of the sports greats, if not the greatest.
- Only beaten by teammate twice (Button 2011, Rosberg 2016)
- He has the most poles, wins, fastest laps and laps lead this decade
- Finished the most amount of races with 176 finishes
2. Nico Rosberg
Years active: 2010-2016
Fastest laps: 18
Best championship finish: 1st (2016)
For Nico Rosberg it wasn’t a question of whether he’d win a championship, it was just a question of when. Like many drivers did, he entered the decade with a new team and teammate. Everyone’s eyes though were firmly focussed on him, as the teammate of Michael Schumacher in 2010 and as part of a Mercedes outfit that was returning after a 55 year absence. This pressure though didn’t phase him at all as he soundly beat Michael Schumacher in their time together. Schumacher definitely wasn’t in his prime but even if you take this into consideration Rosberg still has the upper hand. If you don’t agree then the stats definitely don’t lie. From 2010-2012 Rosberg scored 324 points, 5 podiums, 1 win and 1 pole whereas Schumacher scored only 197 points and 1 podium.
Rosberg’s real test though came from 2013-2016 when he teamed up with his childhood karting friend, Lewis Hamilton. Right from the start he gave his more decorated teammate a good run for his money and even early bragging rights by scoring two race wins before Hamilton could even manage one. Rosberg’s early Mercedes pressure test served him well here as he entered one of the fiercest intra-team battles we’ve seen. After being beaten the previous two years he was more hungry than ever in 2016 where the fight went right until the final race. He ended holding on to win his first championship, then to top it all off he sensationally left the sport giving Lewis no chance of ever returning serve. This move also made him the fifth driver ever to finish their last world championship race on the podium.
- Recorded the biggest winning margin of the decade with his 37.776sec win in China 2016.
- Third most amount of victories in decade.
- Brought Mercedes their first podium, fastest lap, pole position and win since returning to F1 in 2010.
3. Fernando Alonso
Years active: 2010-2018
Fastest laps: 10
Best championship finish: 2nd (2010, 2012 and 2013)
At the beginning of the decade if you’d have asked most people who would emerge as the driver of the next decade, I’m sure most would have answered with Fernando Alonso. Those people had good reason too. He was the only driver other than Michael Schumacher that scored more than one world championship in the 2000’s thanks to his back to back 05 & 06 triumphs. His move to Ferrari also helped this choice make even more sense after their strong showing throughout the 2000s. Looking back on it I’m sure he rues the missed opportunity offered to him at Red Bull for 2009-10, and that decision from Alonso would set the tone for the majority of the next decade.
In the early part of the decade he was in his peak form. This was clear when he was able to mount a championship challenge in both 2010 and 2012 when his teammate was nowhere to be seen. This competitiveness was short lived though as he was dealing with fading performance from Ferrari, culminating with only 2 podium finishes in 2014. With their switch to Honda power Alonso jumped to McLaren hoping for a much more competitive package. McLaren though were having a performance problem of their own with both their chassis and their lacking Honda engine. Because of this move Alonso spent the rest of the decade battling for points rather than wins, whilst Ferrari enjoyed a great resurgence. Despite all this though he ends the decade with his fair share of wins and podiums, quite a remarkable feat considering the performance of the cars he drove.
- Outscored by teammate only once in 9 seasons.
- Alonso has the fourth most wins of decade with 11.
- Contended for 2010 and 2012 titles, missing out at the final round on both occasions.
4. Max Verstappen
Years active: 2015-2019
Fastest laps: 7
Best championship finish: 3rd (2019)
It’s hard to believe that Max Verstappen has already completed seasons in F1 and what a five seasons he’s had though. Unlike most drivers his rise to be a front running driver in F1 didn’t take long, with his first grand prix victory coming a little over 12 months after his debut. His competitiveness from then on has never let up and has only gotten better and better. Early on in his career he definitely had his critics, making driving errors that are usually seen in F2 or F3. It even got to a point where some thought he should be placed back in a Toro Rosso car, but like any great driver should be able to do he instantly made some adjustments and improved.
Now he’s developed into one of the more consistent drivers in the sport scoring the majority of Red Bull’s points in 2019. Whilst the Red Bull car wasn’t quite on the level of Mercedes and Ferrari he’s been able to grind out some positive results in a way that few other drivers on the grid could. Although he’s already started over 100 races his career is only just getting started. So long as Red Bull continue on their upward trajectory then we could very well see him in contention for many championships in the near future. Because his incredible experience for his age he’s the first driver in Formula 1’s history that has a shot at joining the 400 grands prix club.
- Verstappen is already the most successful Dutch F1 driver ever.
- Only Red Bull driver to win on their debut with the team.
- Ties with Jenson Button for fifth most victories of decade.
5. Daniel Ricciardo
Years active: 2011-2019
Fastest laps: 13
Best championship finish: 3rd (2014 and 2016)
Daniel Ricciardo is undoubtedly a talented driver, but this wasn’t always so apparent. He enjoyed a quiet start back in 2011 with the now defunct HRT team and was quickly promoted to the Torro Rosso team for 2012. This was when we started to get glimpses of the skill this long driver possessed. When you have two young drivers in a team it’s always hard to get a gauge on how good they actually are from outside the team. This was the case with Ricciardo as his teammate at Toro Rosso for 2012-13 was fellow Red Bull junior Jean-Eric Vergne. On the inside of a team they have access to a lot more info on all aspects of their driving and more. This info must have helped Ricciardo as he was the chosen one to replace the retiring Mark Webber for the 2014 season.
From there on he was able to unlock his full potential and unleash his talent into the F1 world. Daniel Ricciardo quickly asserted himself as one of the sports fastest drivers and showed he has more than what it takes to be a future F1 champion. When the car was competitive he was able to drive it to its full potential, when it wasn’t he had killer overtaking moves to get the most out of what he had. He’s also the only teammate of Max Verstappen’s that has been able to match his performance. Ricciardo is also one of F1’s most consistent performers and hardly cracks under pressure, as we saw during his 2018 Monaco Grand Prix victory. Other than his hiccups in the first part of his time with Renault it’s hard to recall many times he’s made unforced errors during grands prix.
- One of only two drivers to beat Sebastian Vettel in a season in the 2010’s
- 6 of his 7 victories haven’t been from pole
- Scored the equal fifth most fastest laps of the last decade. (shared with Valtteri Bottas).
6. Sebastian Vettel
Years active: 2010-2019
Fastest laps: 35
Best championship finish: 1st (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013)
In the late 2000s Sebastian Vettel rose through the Red Bull junior ranks and into everyone’s minds as a champion of the future, and boy did he deliver in the 2010s. His decade started off with a bang after an extremely close battle with his teammate Mark Webber along with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in 2010. He spectacularly beat favourites Webber and Alonso in the last round for his first title win and then went on to win 3 more in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He didn’t have particularly easy either, having to fight off four other drivers in 2010 and one in 2012 to clinch his titles. By the end of 2013 it seemed nothing could stop Sebastian Vettel.
In 2014 though a couple of things seemingly halted him. That was the regulation change to lower downforce cars powered by V6 turbocharged engines and the arrival of a new and younger teammate in the shape of Daniel Ricciardo. Now at Ferrari Vettel did experience a slight resurgence in 2017 as he mounted a championship challenge to Lewis Hamilton, but mistakes from his part ended up costing him. Since then he has experienced a gradual slide in form and in 2019 was beaten by a teammate for only the second time in his entire career. It’s also interesting to note that Vettel has only had a younger teammate twice in his whole career, and both times he has been beaten by the younger teammate (Ricciardo 2014, Leclerc 2019). He’s undoubtedly a great driver, but his form over the last two years along with the type of mistakes he’s making means I rank him at #6 on this list.
- Finished the second most amount of races in 2010s with 175 finishes.
- Recorded the second biggest winning margin of the decade with his 32.627sec win in Singapore 2013.
- Recorded the third biggest pole margin of the decade with his 0.913sec margin over P2 in Malaysia 2013.
7. Mark Webber
Years active: 2010-2013
Fastest laps: 16
Best championship finish: 3rd (2010, 2011 and 2013)
Mark Webber, a favourite of F1 that really was “not bad for a number two driver”. So much so that only he and Nico Rosberg who were able to mount a title challenge on their own teammate last decade. He was the more experienced member of F1’s top team in 2010, perfectly poised to become F1’s next star. Halfway through 2010 Mark Webber’s name was ready to be engraved on that championship trophy, but unfortunately he lost out in final race showdown with Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. After a lacklustre 2011 he mounted another title challenge in 2012, but once the second half of the season rolled around he was left behind by Vettel and Alonso.
Webber had many career highlights but his most notable ones were definitely his 2010 and 2012 Monaco Grand Prix victories. Upon his second win he joined an exclusive club of 13 other drivers who have won the race more than once. His company on that list further highlights the skill he possessed as the list included no less than 10 world champions with names such as Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Lauda and Hill. Webber’s competitiveness and professionalism remained right until the end of his career as shown by his pole position in his 3rd last race and a podium finish in his very last race. At the time this was only the fourth occurrence ever of a driver finishing their last world championship race on the podium, and the first time since Jo Siffert in 1971.
- Recorded the second biggest pole margin of the decade with his 1.346sec margin over P2 in Malaysia 2010.
- Scored fourth most fastest laps and pole positions of the decade with 16 fastest laps and 12 poles.
- 3rd highest podium strike rate of decade at 42%. Only Vettel (56%) and Hamilton (63%) are higher.
8. Valtteri Bottas
Years active: 2013-2019
Fastest laps: 13
Best championship finish: 2nd (2019)
Valtteri Bottas has always been a tricky driver to get a read on. He’ll have some superb patches of form where he’s almost untouchable (start of 2019), then he’ll suddenly have other times where he goes completely the other way (2018 or mid 2019). With that being said though he definitely has earned his place both in Formula 1 in and in the Mercedes team. In his first season in F1 he wasn’t able to show his true potential in a disappointing Williams car, but in 2014 that all changed. Williams enjoyed a small renaissance and he was able to score their fist podium finish in over 2 years at the 2014 Austrian GP. He then went on to score a further 5 podiums that year beating his more experienced teammate Felipe Massa in the process. Although Williams’ performance began to slide again he was able to score a further 3 podiums over the next 2 seasons to become the teams most successful driver of the decade.
After Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement at the end of 2016 Mercedes needed a driver who has proven to deliver results at the front of the grid. It was Valtteri Bottas who was chosen to replace Nico Rosberg from 2017 and since then he has never looked back, going on to score 7 wins, 36 podiums and 11 pole positions with the team. Bottas’ driving style is ultra smooth and very consistent, all the ingredients of a great driver. So long as he can apply those skills consistently for an entire season then he’ll definitely be able to give Hamilton a run for his money in the future.
- Recorded the fifth most poles and equal fifth most fastest laps of the decade (shared with Daniel Ricciardo).
- His 0.617sec and 0.658sec 2017 wins in Russia and Austria were both in the top 10 smallest winning margins of the decade.
- He has scored podiums in 6 of his 7 seasons in Formula 1, only missing out in 2013.
9. Jenson Button
Years active: 2010-2017
Fastest laps: 6
Best championship finish: 2nd (2011)
After a topsy turvy decade through most of the 2000s Button finished the decade in the best possible way, with a world championship in 2009. This meant both he Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber went into the new decade as the in form drivers. Button by no means got left behind in the 2010 title race though, staying in contention until the last few rounds. This was then backed up by an unbelievable 2011 in which he scored more points than his championship winning year (once points are adjusted to 2011 system) and most importantly beat teammate Lewis Hamilton. From 2012 onwards McLaren unfortunately experienced a dive in form and Button only managed another 7 podium finishes from his next 99 races before he decided to retire. He did though manage to beat Fernando Alonso in the championship in 2015, the only time last decade Alonso was beaten.
Whilst the 2000s probably provided more highlights for Button he did have one huge highlight for the 2010’s, and that was his 2011 Canadian GP victory. A victory that many still talk about to this day. After occupying every position in the race order and pitting a total of 6 times Button pounced on Vettel after a mistake to take the lead on the last lap. This race is also in the record books as the longest ever race at over 4 hours long, and it is these landmark races that are so often won by the very best drivers such as Button. Jenson Button was also one of the nicest characters in the F1 paddock whilst also being fiercely competitive, a rare characteristic not only in F1 but in the sporting world.
- Scored the most points in one season than any other McLaren driver with 270 points in 2011.
- Scored more points in 2011 without winning championship than his championship winning year (adjusted to 2011 points system)
- Only teammate of Fernando Alonso to beat him in a season.
10. Kimi Raikkonen
Years active: 2012-2019
Fastest laps: 11
Best championship finish: 3rd (2012 and 2018)
Kimi Raikkonen, a rare driver that is as popular with fans as he is within the paddock and is almost as much a part of Formula 1 as Ferrari, the team with which he used to race. His popularity also isn’t limited to a certain nationality, age or even by his results as he loved by all wether he comes first or last. Kimi Raikkonen’s career highlights and best results are definitely from the 2000’s, but his vast experience has seen him remain as one of the sports most consistent performers of the last decade. His experience is such that he’s started over 30% of all Formula races to have ever happened!
Despite only having three wins to his name this decade he’s made sure they were memorable ones. His first win upon his return was the most iconic which was at the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP. Despite spending two years out of the sport and not having won a race for four years it looked like he’d never missed a race, controlling the pace well and perfectly executing his plan. It seems as though his team maybe didn’t share this same point of view as they made pedantic radio calls, to which he replied “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”. This line has now been immortalised by being printed onto merchandise and mentioned often by F1 fans and commentators. Kimi’s abruptness and lack of words is what’s made him popular, and this popularity turns into exposure and much needed sponsorship dollars. Whilst he is past his prime it is because of this this that Kimi Raikkonen will have a place in F1 for as long as he wants.
- Became the only driver to win with a V10, V8 and V6 turbo F1 engine with his 2018 USA Grand Prix win.
- Has third most Q3 appearances of the decade.
- Lead the championship once this decade.