Welcome to the third part of my Driver Review article for 2008. Here I will be analysing the drivers I ranked in 6th-10th places.
Click the links below if you haven't read the previous two parts.
10th Kimi Raikkonen
Championship Position- 3rd
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1042
Pole Positions- 2
Fastest laps- 10
Season highlight- Earning 10 fastest laps
Season lowlight- The races where he qualified too far back to compete for victory
Last season it would have been unthinkable that Kimi would only appear 10th on my list in 2008. 2008 should have been the season where Kimi came into his own, after scraping the title in 2007. Except rather the opposite happened. Kimi was outclassed by team mate Felipe Massa and came nowhere near to defending his title. A mixture of poor performances, difficulty in setting up and adapting to his Ferrari and bad luck all contributed to what was the worse season of Kimi Raikkonen’s career to date.
Kimi Raikkonen had a scruffy error strewn race in Melbourne, but came on strong in the next few races. He won in Sepang, he came second in Bahrain, won in Spain and came third in Turkey. This was a very strong four race sequence for Kimi. He scored 34 points out the 40 available in those four Grand Prixs. This the strongest sequence any of the front runners put together all season long. Leaving Turkey Kimi Raikkonen was championship leader by 7 points over Massa and Hamilton. His championship defence was looking strong at this point.
From Monaco onwards his season went downhill. He struggled in the wet conditions and left empty-handed. He got hit by Hamilton in the Montreal pit lane. He was very competitive in France before an exhaust problem. Apart from Spa, that was perhaps his last really competitive race he had. The rest of the time he struggled.
Kimi Raikkonen’s main problem was simply adapting to his Ferrari, and in particular the Bridgestone tyres. Kimi Raikkonen was the most high profile driver on the grid to struggle to generate heat into his tyres. Thats an issue which became a recurring theme of his season. The Ferrari wasn’t strong at generating heat into its tyres. That was a big issue in qualifying. Whereas Felipe Massa managed to get around the problem Kimi didn’t.
On fast tracks this was less of an issue. In fast corners heat is generated with ease. Thats why we saw Raikkonen being so quick on tracks like Magny-Cours and Catalunya. In races he didn’t like his tyres graining and this also slowed him down. On fast tracks and hot days when the Ferrari was at its best and looked after its tyres well there was no problem. This wasn’t very often though in 2008.
To put it simply Kimi Raikkonen hardly ever got the Ferrari setup to his liking. The Ferrari is a very different beast to the Mclaren in which he used to thrive in. However couldn’t Kimi have tried to change his driving style more to adapt? Could the mechanics have done a better job developing the car more to his liking? There was the whole of season testing for both driver, and his team to adapt. Kimi and Ferrari haven’t been getting the best out of each other of late for whatever reason. It was only really by China that Kimi got a good handle on the car. The team opted to remove the shark fin and Kimi seemed to find more speed. Why not have tried that earlier on in the year?
When Kimi Raikkonen was up to speed he was still one of the quickest drivers out there, if not the quickest. You don’t suddenly become a slow driver over-night. Another issue Kimi Raikkonen had was when he qualified badly he ended up stuck behind cars and unable to overtake. He hates understeer and in another car’s turbulence you get alot of understeer. The heat from the car in front also grained the tyres. Kimi Raikkonen often lost too much time following cars. It has to be wondered why Ferrari regularly insisted on putting Kimi on heavy fuel when he struggled to qualify, and then subsequently struggled to fight through the pack in the race.
He made too many errors too such as scraping the barriers in Monaco, spinning 3 times in the wet at Silverstone, and hitting the wall in Singapore amongst others. At times these errors came out of sheer frustration and trying too hard. There were times when Kimi looked a bit resigned to defeat when things weren’t going to plan.
He had some bad luck as well. He was on his way to victory in Magny-Cours but an exhaust issue relegated him to second. In Spa he would have won if the heavy rain hadn’t struck in the last few laps. He could have challenged for victory in Montreal if Hamilton had seen the red light. In Japan he was likely to have won had he not been baulked by the two Mclarens. So there was the potential for six race victories rather than just the two, which he did win. This would have made his 2008 results look more respectable.
In conclusion this just wasn’t Kimi Raikkonen’s year. When the car and track layout/conditions were to his liking, he was still the super quick driver he always has been. However too often he never had a proper handle on his Ferrari and didn’t solve his issues in qualifying. Although his team should accept some of the responsibility for not getting the best out of him Kimi, he should take the majority of the blame. He is afterall a very highly paid racing driver in motorsport’s premier series. He should be talented enough to solve the issues which he had in 2008.
Next season Kimi Raikkonen will have a new race engineer. It will be interesting to see if this changes Kimi’s fortunes. Driver engineers have become pretty important in modern F1. Maybe a new engineer may give Raikkonen the lift he needs. The introduction of slick tyres could also be crucial to Kimi’s form next year. They will suit his style more than Bridgestone’s recent batch of grooved tyres have done.
9th Rubens Barrichello
Championship Position- 14th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 987
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Finishing in third place at Silverstone.
Season lowlight- Being disqualified in Melbourne when points were possible.
Rubens Barrichello drove the same dog of a car that Jenson Button had in 2008. However unlike Jenson Barrichello’s performances attracted much praise throughout the season.
Rubens Barrichello is similar to Giancarlo Fisichella in that he has very often, produced giant killing results in cars under par. Rubens Barrichello was more experienced in this type of machinery, to be able to extract more than team mate Jenson Button. Rubens Barrichello is a very adaptable racing driver, so doesn’t rely on the car behaving in an exact way like Jenson does.
Rubens Barrichello kept a very positive outlook throughout the situation. He had a smile on his face all season long and kept spirits of the team up. A key thing for Rubens was that with his career on the line. He had to deliver great performances to stand a chance of being considered for 2009. Therefore unlike Jenson, Rubens had that big motivation to keep pushing, despite the chances of a highly successful season (points and championship wise) being next to nil.
Rubens Barrichello took his chances whenever they came during the season. At Silverstone he was supremely quick once put onto the extreme wet tyres and took a brilliant third place. Rubens also stayed out of the chaos in the wet Monaco GP showing all his experience, and took a well deserved 7th place.
Canada was another very good performance of the season. By that time of the season Honda were slipping back quickly after a reasonable performance early on. Somehow Rubens changed what was possible with a dog of a car, and managed to scrape it into the top 10 shootout. In difficult track conditions Rubens again used his experience to his advantage. In the race he finished seventh.
In a bad car Rubens managed to score 11 points which was a very good effort. Team mate Jenson Button could only manage to score three points. Over the course of 2008 Rubens Barrichello outpaced Button, more than Button outpaced him. Barrichello beat Button 10-8 in qualifying.
In Istanbul he broke the record for the number of starts in F1. To compete at such a high level for so long is an immense achievement to be very proud of. Rubens Barrichello still looks to be enjoying himself, and most importantly still a very competent driver.
Despite not having good equipment, Barrichello took the maximum he could out of the car and more at times. His performances were very good, even if they weren’t often rewarded or noticed. He put 110% into the season. It would be a travesty if Rubens Barrichello didn’t have a place on the 2009 grid. With Honda’s exit from F1 his chances of returning in 2009 aren’t great as it stands. This is very sad indeed.
8th Mark Webber
Championship Position- 11th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 998
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Finishing 4th in Monte-Carlo
Season lowlight- Suffering mechanical failure, when in a position to race for victory in Singapore.
Mark Webber performed well again in 2008 but Red Bull’s car wasn’t that strong, particularly in the second half of the season. Red Bull were in the tightly packed midfield, and that made qualifying performance very important to challenge for points.
Along with Jarno Trulli, Webber is another of F1’s resident qualifying experts. His ability to qualify at the front of the midfield allowed him a good chance of scoring points. Qualifying in the middle of the midfield pack or further made scoring points very difficult in 2008. With so many cars similarly matched it was hard to get enough of an advantage to overtake.
Mark Webber’s qualifying ability is mainly down to his ability to brake late and not lock-up his tyres. He is super accurate and has great tyre management. He hardly ever makes errors over a single lap. He never cracks under the pressure when on that final flying lap, to make it to the pole position shootout. His tyres are always heated up and in the zone ready for a hot lap. In qualifying the warm-up lap is very often as important as the actual flying lap itself. Mark Webber has this whole process sussed out whereas other drivers haven’t. Mark’s best lap was when he made it to the front row at Silverstone. This wasn’t just down to a feather like fuel load. In the race he pitted only one lap later than Kovalainen, and three laps later than Raikkonen and Hamilton. Red Bull wasn’t anywhere near the pace of Mclaren and Ferrari so he did brilliantly to get in amongst them.
Mark Webber’s race pace has regularly been a weakness in his F1 career. Over the past couple of seasons he has come on strongly in races. In the first half of the season he put together a very consistent run of points finishes: seventh in Malaysia and Bahrain, fifth in Spain, seventh in Turkey , fourth in Monaco and there was a sixth place at Magny-Cours too. That race in Monte-Carlo was particularly strong in difficult conditions. In this part of the season he getting the car to finish perhaps further than it deserved to finish.
Unfortunately for Mark Webber as the season went on the team slipped back, and got overtaken by most of the midfield teams. This ment that even with Webber’s talent, points finishes became harder to come by. Silverstone was a big chance but a costly spin on the first lap wrecked his chances. He posted the fourth fastest lap of the race, which showed the pace he did have there.
Mark’s tag of unluckiest driver in F1 didn’t desert him in 2008. In China he qualified 6th and could have had a great race. Unluckily for him an engine failure put him 10 places back. In Singapore a Safety Car helped put him into second place, and potentially allowing him to compete for victory with Fernando Alonso. Mechanical failure struck and the chance was gone.
Considering that the Red Bull wasn’t a very quick car he did well to get 21 championship points. Red Bull were very rarely the strongest team in the midfield group. With a bit more luck it could have been 30 plus points. Mark didn’t score many points in the second half of the season, but that was more down to the car than him. However he still managed to scrape a few points, and qualified a magnificent third in Monza.
There were many races in 2008 when Mark took the car further then it deserved to be. He completely obliterated David Coulthard. He beat him 16-2 in qualifying therefore always had the big advantage when it came to races.
Let’s hope his broken leg heals as quickly as possible.
7th Nick Heidfeld
Championship Position- 6th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1112
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 2
Season highlight- Finishing 2nd four times
Season lowlight- Not even making it past Q1 in Fuji.
Heidfeld was one of the stars of the show in 2007. This season turned out to be a role reversal in the BMW Sauber team. It was Kubica that thrived and Nick who struggled more in 2008.
This car wasn’t as much to Heidfeld’s liking as the 2007 car had been. In fact the new car suited Kubica’s aggressive driving and late braking much better. Nick’s biggest problem was in qualifying. He was again one of those that struggled to heat up the tyres in order to do a quick lap. Nick Heidfeld is a very smooth and gentle driver, which is the complete opposite to Kubica’s driving style. Being smooth and precise isn’t a huge help, when you have to be aggressive in order to get the best out of the tyres in qualifying.
There were times in the season where Heidfeld struggled just to get into the pole position shootout. In Fuji he didn’t even make it past the first stage of qualifying.
Heidfeld ended up being heavily beaten in qualifying 13-5 overall by Kubica over the whole season.
Despite problems in qualifying Heidfeld’s race pace remained very impressive most of the time. Starting further back made life harder for Heidfeld, but he raced very intelligently and got some great results. He finished 2ndfour times in 2008. He drove a great race in Melbourne and made the most of misfortunes for other front runners. In Canada he again made the most of errors from other front runners, and his strategy made use of the Safety Car period. On the negative side he did beaten by Robert Kubica to race victory, who was stopping twice.
Silverstone was his strongest race of the year, as he dealt brilliantly with the very wet conditions, and kept his head whilst others lost theirs. He pulled off a couple of stunning overtaking manoeuvres including the one on Kovalainen and Raikkonen in Luffield. Heidfeld effectively found where the best available grip was.
In Spa he showed the full extent of his F1 experience. With a couple of laps to go it started to rain. Nick knew that with one lap to go it would be hard to survive on dry tyres, especially on the longest track on the calendar. The switch pulled off brilliantly and he went from the lower end of the points to third place. This even became 2ndplace after chicanegate. This decision by Heidfeld was probably the sharpest decision from any driver all season long.
Nick’s standings in the fastest lap charts were often very high. He ended up in the top 3 fastest laps 7 times throughout the season. This showed how strong his race pace was at times. He posted the quickest race lap twice in 2008.
The main problem for Nick was qualifying too far down, and not getting the opportunity to make the most of his race pace. The qualifying issue really ruined his season. Had he been able to consistently qualify high up the grid like Robert Kubica then who knows how this season could have turned out?
In the end he got 60 points and finished 6thin the championship. Many praised Kubica to death all season long but in fact Nick only got 15 points les.
Therefore Nick Heidfeld’s season wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be by some.
Championship Position- 9th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1010
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Holding off Kovalainen, and finishing third in Magny-Cours
Season lowlight- Suffering mechanical failure, when on verge of a heroic result in Singapore.
Jarno Trulli had a brilliant season in 2008. He perhaps had the best, and most consistent season of his entire career to date.
In 2008 Trulli had a car which really suited him. It is very important for Trulli to have a car, which is well setup and very consistent. Jarno Trulli has also always had a problem with tyre graining, since F1 switched back to grooved tyres in 1998. The 2008 Toyota looked after the tyres well, and graining didn’t occur very often. This ment that we saw the Trulli we all knew and loved on Saturdays, regularly turn up for Sunday’s race as well.
On Saturdays Trulli’s qualifying was as good as usual. He completely dominated team mate Glock 14-4 in qualifying in 2008. Jarno Trulli started in the top 10 on the grid 14 times out of 18 races. For a team that were involved in the tightest of midfield scraps, that was a phenomenal qualifying record. Over a single lap Jarno drives like he is on rails and is superbly accurate. His lap of the season was splitting the Ferraris in Brazil, and earning a front row grid spot. Fourth on the grid in Germany was another superb qualifying effort.
Back to his races and he delivered great drives consistently, and there were no major errors to speak of. Jarno Trulli took the maximum he could from the race on most occasions. His most impressive race was his 3rdat Magny-Cours. There he fought off big opposition including Alonso and Kubica, and even better Kovalainen. For the last 10-15 laps of the race he had Kovalainen all over his gearbox. To his credit he fought like his life depended on it. In 2004 he fell asleep at the last corner in Magny-Cours, and gifted Rubens Barrichello a place on the podium. This season that ghost was well and truly put to rest. This was a very satisfying moment for Jarno.
Other great races included his drive to 4thin Malaysia, which was fast enough to give the Mclarens a headache. In Singapore the Toyota hated the big bumps. Jarno Trulli drove brilliantly well to keep the car in a points paying position and earn the 7thfastest lap of the race. Trulli could have potentially finished in the top 5, but his hydraulics let him down.
The only dents in Jarno’s season were wet races. The Toyota wasn’t very well adapted to damp and cool conditions so it was hard to score in these races. In Monza he still managed to be heroic and qualify 7th, but couldn’t get any points in the race. Monaco and Britain were both very difficult and pointless races.
In conclusion Jarno Trulli looked like a new man. He loved his car and was competitive all season long. He obliterated Glock in the first half of the season, but it was more even in the second half of the season. Jarno scored a decent points tally of 31 points earning him 9th in the championship.
Next season Jarno Trulli may be one of the drivers to flourish most on slick tyres.
Tune in next week to find out in which order I ranked my top 5: Lewis Hamilto, Felipe Massa, Sebastien Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica.
Who will be my number 1? You could be surprised!
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