The conclusion of the 2008 season provides a fitting time to reflect on a great year.
With action, drama, emotion, controversy, and conflict smattered with a few classic races, the 2008 season has been a rollercoaster ride.
Lewis Hamilton took the championship by just one point on the final corner of the last lap; we have truly seen history as the youngest champion is crowned and one of the closest finishes of F1 is finalized.
The 2008 season has also been a great year for the drivers, with all of them having their fair share of drama in an unpredictable year. But, who has driven like a champ and who has driven like a chump? Who has impressed and who has not? Who deserves credit and who no longer deserves a seat in F1?
I will review each driver's performance this year and assess his position in the sport.
Note: I have not included Super Aguri in the rankings as I feel that it would be harsh to analyze only four races compared to a full season.
Giancarlo Fisichella: 2008 was a tricky season for the Italian. Scoring points was always going to be tough if bizarre circumstances didn't favour him. Furthermore, competition was scarce after the break up of Super Aguri; that hardly helped to motivate the Italian. The only other person he could race was his teammate. Going down to the fact that Sutil had that great race in Monaco, I would say that Fisichella's performance was less impressive than Sutil's season.
Anyway, given his record, he should have scored points in a season racked with unpredictability.
Best Moment: In Brazil, where he raced with the likes of Hamilton in the early wet conditions after a well timed pit stop for dry tires.
Worst Moment: His reluctance to allow the leaders through in China.
Adrian Sutil: His race in Monaco showed how good of a driver he is Maybe, if he can get in a team further up the grid, he could have a decent career. However, all too often the Force India was not fast enough. Thus, he languishes down the order.
Best Moment: Monaco, where he spent almost the entire race in the points and was in an unbelievable fourth before Kimi Raikkonen lost control coming out of the tunnel.
Worst Moment: Obviously, the Raikkonen incident.
Jenson Button: Practically anonymous this year, Jenson was obviously none too impressed when Honda announced their decision to focus on 2009. Hopefully for him, it will prove an inspired decision. After that decision, Jenson had neither the focus nor the car to challenge for points and scored only once. He is a good driver and, in the right car, could win races. But, with every passing year, his chances of winning races and championships are becoming less likely.
Best Moment: Very hard to say. Spain was his only points finish, so yeah, Spain.
Worst Moment: A horrible weekend at Silverstone saw him qualify a meager 17th and spin off on the 39th lap. In reality, it all went downhill after Spain.
David Coulthard: A rather timid end to his career saw him have poor luck. He was part of his fair share of incidents, including scrapes in Australia, Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, G.B., Japan, and Brazil. However, he was also completely dominated by Webber, taking just eight points (six of which came from his lucky drive to third in Canada).
His first lap incident in Brazil, which ended his racing career, was unlucky and summed up his season.
Best Moment: Hard to say, but his drive in Singapore was his best, as he held off Lewis Hamilton for over 20 laps.
Worst Moment: Brazil. Being taken out of his last race by an overzealous Nico Rosberg.
Rubens Barichello: If anything, Rubens was the better driver in the Honda team, taking 11 points and the team's only podium. He also seemed to be the happier of the drivers, maybe because he knew he was under the most pressure and thus had to perform and please the team. However, he did put in some good performances, which only highlighted Button’s obvious lack of focus.
Best Moment: Silverstone, where the tire gamble paid off.
Worst Moment: Clashing with Fisichella in Spain, and throwing away a likely points haul to boot.
Kazuki Nakajima: After the first six races or so, Nakajima would have probably been higher. Indeed, at the beginning of 2008 Nakajima was almost pegging Rosberg as his obvious ability to stay out of trouble allowed the Japanese to haul in the points.
However, after Monaco, he scored just two points. What held back Nakajima was his lack of pace in qualifying. That always put him at a disadvantage as he couldn’t work his way through the pack, even if he had the pace. This also made him more susceptible to contact; he was involved in a number of incidents in the year.
He is only a rookie and does deserve another year with Williams, but he will have to get everything right next year.
Best Moment: After a pretty indifferent season, he was probably relieved to hear he was signed for Williams for 2009.
Worst Moment: Damaging the car on the first lap of his home race was pretty bad.
Nelson Piquet Jr: A tricky start to the season left him with much to prove. He finally did that in France, passing double world champion and teammate Fernando Alonso at Renault’s home circuit and scoring his first points with a seventh. This seemed to give confidence to a driver who seemed wholly lacking of any self belief or motivation. ]
However, what really seemed to give Piquet that confident edge was when he was placed on a less pressurized qualifying and race strategy, meaning that later in the season he was able to impress the F1 paddock.
Best Moment: Safety car turmoil led him to the front in Germany and was only passed by speedy Hamilton on his way to an excellent second.
Worst Moment: Monaco, where he could only qualify 17th and crashed out while trying out dry tires on a damp track. This was the lowest point of the season for the Brazilian.
In Australia, he was in fourth before the engine expired just three laps from the end. In Belgium, he was running third until almost the last corner, when he was passed by drivers on wet weathered tires and could only manage seventh.
In Italy, he stalled on the grid, losing any hope of scoring in a car that won the race in the hands of Vettel. In Japan, he was penalized for his collision with Massa and lost his seventh place.
It’s pretty obvious that Bourdais was fast when the car was fast, but "lady luck" intervened on too many occasions. He deserves another chance.
Best Moment: Belgium, where he was strong all weekend and outraced Vettel in every way.
Worst Moment: Italy on the grid, when all the dreams of a podium came crashing down yet again.
Heikki Kovalainen: This may be harsh, but Kovalainen only finished seventh this season in a car that won a championship with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel. His shortcomings include losing out to Fernando Alonso, in a generally midfield Renault, and Nick Heidfeld, whose season tailed away. Some of this was down to bad luck. Spain, Monaco, Turkey, and Japan were all races he could have scored podiums in, but incidents beyond his control intervened. Also, there was some poor driving, such as in Canada and Germany, where Heikki was truly outclassed by Hamilton. He never really challenged Lewis and has firmly become No.2 in the Mclaren team. Surely though, there is more to come from him.
Best Moment: Inheriting the Hungary victory from Massa was the only bit of good luck he received in a turbulent season.
Worst Moment: Japan, where he was finally in a perfect position to win but was snuffed out by a blown engine.
Mark Webber: Had the season ended after France, Webber would have probably been the most inspiration story of the season. After 2007, a year wrecked by reliability, Mark took 18 points in six races, averaging an astounding sixth place per race. Putting off a torrid start, in which he retired on the first lap in Australia, he fought back with five points finishes in a row and a fourth place in Monaco.
Sadly, the Achilles heel of Red Bull, their development program, struck once again and its weak Renault engine hurt Webber. He scored just three points in the next 10 races, a sad way to end a very promising season.
Best Moment: Second on the grid in Silverstone was pretty cool and generally he qualified very well (as usual).
Worst Moment: Had a chance for a podium in ,but the car gave up on him after 29 laps.
There's my first 10 up for scrutiny and analysis.
Coming up is my top 10, which I expect to complete tomorrow at some point.