I tend to get a little squinty-eyed when Formula 1 pundits and press start with they “Best of…” lists at the end of the season. It’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s just that these lists are usually great for headlines and outrage but never definitive beyond those in the paddock who know the comprehensive truth of the matter.
If this season’s team boss top driver list at AUTOSPORT had chosen anyone but Lewis Hamilton, the mobocracy on social media would have been in full meltdown. However, choosing Lewis will give counter propulsion to detractors of all things Hamilton and they will surely see this as a slight to the new world champion.
This year’s team boss voter roster looks like this:
Toto Wolff, Mercedes-
Christian Horner, Red Bull-
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari-
Vijay Mallya, Force India-
Claire Williams, Williams-
Eric Boullier, McLaren-
Franz Tost, Toro Rosso-
Gunther Steiner, Haas-
Fred Vasseur, Renault-
Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber-
Dave Ryan, Manor-
And here’s how they voted using a points system devised by the fine folks at AUTOSPORT:
1 Lewis Hamilton, 234-
2 Max Verstappen, 183-
3 Nico Rosberg, 176-
4 Daniel Ricciardo, 133-
5 Sebastian Vettel, 90-
6 Fernando Alonso, 67-
7 Kimi Raikkonen, 61-
8 Sergio Perez, 52-
9 Valtteri Bottas, 26-
10 Carlos Sainz Jr, 25-
I don’t disagree with their praise of Lewis Hamilton, surely he deserves a nod for clawing back all those points from a mechanically-induced deficit but I tend to look at these types of lists in context.
Had Lewis been 43 points off his teammate and they were both in a Sauber, would he have made it to the top of everyone’s list? Surely the Mercedes was the only car capable of vaporizing such a deficit and in context, could Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso or Daniel Ricciardo—not to mention the world champion Nico Rosberg—have garnered slightly more favor given what they achieved in the car they achieved it in? Alonso’s size 12 boot up the backside of a stubborn McLaren who seemed to always go faster when heading back to the barn was something to behold.
What of Red Bull’s resurgence mid-season? They predicted they’d be quicker after the summer break and they were. Max Verstappen provided some of the season’s most exciting drives and passes and, along with Ricciardo, they actually won races this year which is something Ferrari said they would do but didn’t.
Perhaps I am less likely to hand Lewis the award because I actually expect this level of performance from him in a car so shame-inducing and comprehensively dominant. His teammate, Nico Rosberg, managed to beat Lewis to the title which, given Hamilton’s abilities, is a feat of grand proportions, no?
The past two years, you’d had no argument from me over lobbing the award Hamilton’s way but this year, I have my own list of top drivers:
1 Nico Rosberg-
2 Max Verstappen-
3 Daniel Ricciardo-
4 Lewis Hamilton-
5 Sebastian Vettel-
6 Fernando Alonso-
7 Carlos Sainz-
8 Sergio Perez-
9 Kimi Raikkonen-
10 Valtteri Bottas-
Now, there is context behind these picks and this is where these kinds of lists leave me squinty-eyed because they are subjective and left to the logical thought process of those who make such lists. This is why, perhaps, the team boss list is a much better measure of who the top drivers were but again, it’s all contextual from a fan’s point of view and you have to factor in fan bias as well.
Nico Rosberg- When you can beat Lewis Hamilton in the same car, you’ve done something very, very big
Max Verstappen- At 19-years-old, this young man’s race craft is still developing but his learning curve is as short as I have ever seen in F1 and he’s been the most exciting thing on the grid in a car that shouldn’t be making the passes it did
Daniel Ricciardo- While he may have been finishing behind his teammate, Plucky Teen Max Verstappen, in the latter part of the season, Daniel is the real deal and finished 3rd in the championship in a car that wasn’t supposed to do that
Lewis Hamilton- Lewis clawed back a serious points deficit and won the last four races of the season in a desperate attempt to win the title but his poor starts and lukewarm mid-season didn’t do him any favors—not to mention all the drama he created within the team and his inability to see beyond his own navel
Sebastian Vettel- It wasn’t Sebastian’s fault that his car just wasn’t up to the task and to that point, there were times when I felt he was over-driving the car for results that just weren’t’ there and making mistakes along the way as a result but an outstanding effort nonetheless
Fernando Alonso- If you watched any of his performances this season, you saw a two-time champ—and arguably one of the best drivers on the grid—strangle his McLaren for results that shouldn’t have been possible and he was one of my star drivers of the season
Carlos Sainz- Carlos did a very Alonso-esque season wrestling results from a car that had a year-old engine and a chassis that out-matched the power unit’s ability to deliver and he was also one of my star drivers of the season
Sergio Perez- From his first Monaco, I knew there was something special about this man and best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is no small feat in a car that wasn’t nearly as competitive or financially bulked up
Kimi Raikkonen- Kimi had a much better season and when the car turned toward his driving style, he starting paying dividends
Valtteri Bottas- Valtteri did a masterful job of claiming 8th in the championship in a car that was sliding further and further backward even giving the Force India’s 4th in the championship but he held his ground and did the bulk of the work for Williams F1
The devil is in the context and so is the bias as any fan would tell you but it’s possible the team bosses have biases too. I wonder if Christian Horner rated Verstappen and Ricciardo first and second? Did Claire Williams rank Bottas and Mass first and second? Probably not, to be fair.
What is your top 10 list and the context behind it?