F1 2011: The 10 Best Drivers of the Season so Far

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F1 2011: The 10 Best Drivers of the Season so Far
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The 2011 Formula One season is now pretty much at it's midpoint. Sebastian Vettel may be running away with the title, but which ten drivers have impressed the most with the car they have been given? This is a list of the ten guys who have shone the most with their performances over the first half of the season. 

10) Vitaly Petrov’s first season in F1 was somewhat of a disappointment. Frequent errors meant he was continually under scrutiny, but strong drives in Abu Dhabi and Hungary may have just about saved his job.

He rewarded Renault’s faith in him with a brilliant third place in Australia, but his form has tailed off a little since then as the Renault has lost ground on their rivals. He scored a good fifth place in Montreal and some points in China and Turkey, but results have not been going his way as of late. With some developments on improvements he can score points again, but the main thing is the night and day difference in his own performance compared to last year.

9) Not many drivers have had it as tough as Felipe Massa in recent times. The Brazilian has struggled to challenge his team mate Alonso at Ferrari and hasn’t been on the podium at all this year.

But that’s not to say Massa hasn’t been more spirited this season. His highest finish has been fifth place, but he has shown he might be regaining some of his old form. He challenged for the podium in China and has been close to Alonso at times recently; maybe the second half of the year could turn his season around.  

8) Sergio Perez made quite an impact as a rookie in the first race of the year. He miraculously managed to do just one stop and scored points on his debut, only to have his Sauber disqualified after the race. A huge accident in Monaco left him forced to miss the race there and in Montreal, but he has shown his potential to be a future superstar in other races.

A strong showing at the last round in Silverstone, with a finish of seventh place, may be the kickstart he needs to score consistent points like teammate Kobayashi. Perez is one for the future, but he has certainly had a solid start to his F1 career.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton after his collision with Jenson Button in Canada

7) Mercedes have struggled to give their drivers a good enough car to challenge the big three, which has left Nico Rosberg having a difficult season so far. He hasn’t finished on the podium yet and has just 40 points on the board. Nonetheless, he is still seventh in the standings and has consistently out performed his teammate Michael Schumacher.

His strongest performance of the year so far came in China where he briefly led the race, but he has never strongly challenged the Red Bulls, Ferraris or McLarens yet. Improvements are needed if he is to be in the top three in the rest of the year.

6) Lewis Hamilton has been the most controversial driver of the year so far with his driving on the track and his comments off of it. He has been hounded for his mistakes at times but also been praised for his brilliance. In his finest form, he fantastically dethroned Vettel to win in China and came close to do doing so again in Spain.

But at his worst, he caused multiple collisions is Monaco and ran into teammate Jenson Button in Canada. A quiet drive to fourth in Valencia and a spirited race in Silverstone has seen him redeem himself, but more consistency and a cooler head is needed for Hamilton to regain his best form. 

5) Touted last season to be brushed aside by Hamilton, but in his second year at McLaren, Jenson Button is proving to be a match for his teammate. Fully established and comfortable with the team, it has been a good year for Button so far.

A solid second place in Malaysia saw him challenging Vettel for the win, and he could have won in China if not for driving into the wrong pit box. In Monaco, he shined with lighting pace, but bad luck and a red flag robbed him of his chance at a win.

His finest moment, and the reason he pips Hamilton for fifth, was in Canada. After an incident filled race with countless pitstops and penalties, Button still managed to come through and pass Vettel on the final lap when the German slid off the road. Button had been last at one stage, which made his victory all the more impressive.

If McLaren can improve their car, Button could once again been challenging for wins in the second half of the season. 

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

4) Mark Webber may be the unluckiest man in F1. All the KERS issues and reliability problems have all seemed to go his way this year. He is yet to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel this season and has time and time again had to overcome the odds. However, he has still not finished lower than fifth so far this season, with some truly stunning drives.

In China, electrical problems meant he was eliminated in Q1, but he came through the pack in the race to pick up an unlikely third in the dying laps. One more lap and he would have overtaken teammate Vettel to take second place.

Webber has shown his never say die attitude all season long, but the results haven’t gone his way. Surely he will get his first win on the board soon though.

3) In the latter half of last season, Kamui Kobayashi established himself in Formula One. As a rookie, he wowed with his overtaking and never say die attitude. This year has seen the Japanese driver really prove himself in the sport as a top driver.

A disqualification at the first round in Australia robbed him of points, but after that he scored six points scores on the trot, including a fine drive to fifth place in Monaco and a strong showing in Montreal where he ran in second for some of the race before eventually placing in seventh.

The Sauber is far from the best car, but Kobayashi is making the most of it, and I for one predict big things for him in the future. At 24, he can only get better and could we see him on the podium before the end of the season?

2) It was a slow start to the year for Fernando Alonso. No podiums in the first three races in the Ferrari that was a great deal slower than the McLaren and Red Bull. However, it has been quite a turnaround from the team from Marinello.

A strong third place in Turkey after a great drive from the Spaniard and a close second behind Vettel in Monaco showed signs of a Ferrari recovery. At Valencia, he split the Red Bulls to take second place. He then followed up with a win in Silverstone to put himself third in the championship.

It may be a long shot to challenge Vettel, but Alonso should have a strong second half of the season.

1) There can be no arguments about the number one. Sebastian Vettel has hardly made a single mistake this season, and it shows in his huge championship lead. His success has been down to stunning qualifying and his dominating race performances.

We have only seen him crack a few times, such as his mistake in Montreal where he handed the win to Button and his slow pitstop at Silverstone. But with six wins out of nine races, only a monumental downfall could cost him this years championship.

Follow Me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/F1_SamStore and blogger http://f1fastlane.blogspot.com/ 

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