In part 2 of my 2008 driver reviews I analysis the seasons of the drivers I ranked 11th-15th this season.
Click here to read PART 1 if you haven't already
15th Kazuki Nakajima
Championship Position- 15th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1024
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Finishing 6th in Monaco
Season lowlight- Only making it to the top ten shootout once (Singapore).
Nakajima was surprise recruitment to Williams in 2008. After a mixed season in GP2 many saw it as a bit too early to give Nakajima his race debut. Williams however could see some potential in the young Japanese driver, and the sponsorship money he brought to the team was also a much needed bonus.
Overall Nakajima proved alot of people wrong and had a very solid first season. His main struggle was in qualifying. He was one of those drivers in 2008 who had great difficulty getting heat into the tyres and putting one great lap together. Nakajima was beaten 14-4 by Rosberg in qualifying. His inability to qualify well made racing for points quite difficult.
However Nakajima turned out to be a very intelligent, and shreud racer who kept his head in difficult situations. He nearly always brought the car home in one piece. In fact he only retired from two races in 2008 (Turkey and Canada). This was a very good record for a rookie. This has been better by few drivers including Heikki Kovalainen and Tiago Monteiro who both retired just the once in their debut seasons.
Although his relatively poor grid positions left him too far away from the points, he did grasp any opportunity that came his way. His ability to bring the car home was a big advantage to him in 2008. There were more crazy races this season than there are normally. In Melbourne he brought the car home in 6th place. In the wet race in Monte-Carlo he crossed the line in 7th place. He then came 8th in both the British and Singapore GPs. These again were both crazy races.
This was all well and good but overall he did lack raw pace. Rosberg was generally 0.3 to 0.5 seconds quicker throughout the whole of the season. Nakajima can’t just rely on crazy races to score points for the team. In normal races he rarely featured at all. In the fastest lap chart he hardly ever appeared very high up. This shows consistent race pace but never spectacularly quick pace.
In fairness in the latter part of the season that was more down to the car than him, as Rosberg struggled at times too. The Williams was poor at the end of 2008 as focus was put on the 2009 car.
In conclusion 2008 wasn’t a bad season at all for Kazuki. He already ticked quite a few boxes. He was reliable and didn’t make errors. He was consistent, a hard worker and maximised his opportunities when they came. The main issue is that he is just lacking that bit of pace that he needs to be a real success in F1. If he can find this in winter testing he has the potential to be a decent F1 driver and Japan’s best ever.
14th Sebastien Bourdais
Championship Position- 17th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 887
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Qualifying 4th in Monza
Season lowlight- Stalling on the grid in Monza, and being denied the chance to show that he could have challenged for victory.
There were big question marks over Bourdais coming into his first season of Formula 1. Could a driver who won against a weak grid in America be successful in Formula 1.
In the end Bourdais’s season was mixed. However he had a bit of bad luck which without he could have got alot more points.
In the first few races of the season he was on a par with Vettel as Toro Rosso kept the 2007 challenger. Bourdais drove brilliantly in the crazy race in Melbourne. Bourdais had been used to multiple Safety Car periods during his time over in America. That experience paid off in this race. He ran as high as 4th place till disaster struck and he had an engine failure. Due to a high rate of attrition he still finished 7th on his F1 debut.
When the new car arrived by the Monaco GP his performances seemed to go downhill as Vettel shot up. The main cause of this was that the new Toro Rosso appeared to be more suited to Vettel’s driving style, and further away from Bourdais’s style. Therefore Bourdais struggled badly for a period upto the Valencia GP, when he then started to re-adapt. Here he made the top 10 shootout for the first time in his career. He raced solidly to 10th in the race.
Belgium was then his best race of the season. Bourdais was out-racing Vettel for most of the race, and would have finished ahead of him in 5th had it not been for late rain shower. In Monza ever worse bad luck struck. In the heavy rain both Vettel and Bourdais were super competitive. Vettel got the pole position but Bourdais qualified a very respectable 4th. Sadly Bourdais was unable to leave the grid and was a lap down before he even managed to get away.
We will never know where Bourdais would have finished. When he was in clean air his pace was as strong, if not better than Vettel at the front. In fact Bourdais’s fastest lap time in the race was 1.2 seconds faster than Vettel’s. There is no reason why Bourdais wouldn’t have challenged for race victory. A podium was certainly very likely. You could only feel very sorry for Bourdais.
In Japan he had another strong race denied by more cruel luck. He finished 6thahead of Vettel but lost the points due to a collision with Massa. Bourdais was simply coming out of the pit lane and was hit by Massa who was coming down the straight. Somehow it was deemed Bourdais’s fault. That was more points down the drain.
In the end Bourdais only scored four points in 2008. That looks bad but it wasn’t a fair reflection on his season. In first two thirds of the season he definitely struggled to adapt. As 2008 entered its final third he became a very fast driver, and was fairly even with superstar Vettel, if not quicker on two or three occasions. It may have taken a painfully long time to adapt to a Formula 1 car but he was quick when he finally did.
Hopefully Toro Rosso take into account Bourdais’s pace in the final third of the season, and give him a second season which in my opinion he warrants. He isn’t as special a talent as Vettel showed in 2008 (talents like Vettel are rare), but he definitely has the potential to do well in a decent car.
13th Nico Rosberg
Championship Position- 13th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1068
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Finishing on the podium in Melbourne and Singapore.
Season lowlight- Forgetting about the red light in Montreal and losing the chance for a 3rd podium.
Rosberg had a great season in 2007 and he was becoming very hot property. Many reports had him billed at Mclaren’s number 1 target although those were always rumours. There were definitely other offers but for 2008 he would remain at Williams.
The general story of 2008 for Nico, was that it was a challenging season, in which his star fell somewhat.
When the car allowed Rosberg to perform to his strengths he did extremely well. At tracks where the car wasn’t suited it was very hard to drive. Rosberg ended up stuck in the tight midfield in these races, and went completely un-noticed. He wasn’t able to challenge for points at every event as he did in 2007.
He did beat his team mate once again but it wasn’t as comfortable as it had been with Alexander Wurz in 2007.
There were a few more errors that crept into Rosberg’s game this season. In Monte-Carlo and Montreal he could have scored points but made silly errors on both occasions. In Montreal in particular there was a strong chance of finishing on the podium, but he lost his wing in the pit lane mayhem.
Australia and Singapore were Rosberg’s strongest races. In Australia he qualified brilliantly in 7th position and drove a mature and consistent race to 3rdposition. In Singapore there was considerable luck involved but it was still a stunning drive. Rosberg pitted under the Safety Car and when others pitted (legally) he took the lead.
Fisichella was blocking everyone in 3rd place and this enabled Rosberg to do a series of fast laps. By the time the stewards got round to giving him the inevitable penalty, Rosberg had built up a great lead, and still ended up in 2nd after serving the penalty.
In 2008 Rosberg had a mainly quiet season mainly due to Williams slip in performance. When Rosberg had the rare opportunities to show what he could do he was still as brilliant a driver, as he showed himself to be last season.
The biggest problem for Rosberg now after 2008, is that other drivers have taken his place as the rising stars in F1. This includes the likes of Kubica and Vettel who have had much better cars than the Williams. They are now the talk of the paddock instead of Rosberg. They are now the number 1 targets for the team managers as opposed to him.
If he doesn’t get a competitive seat again soon his promising F1 career could start to evaporate.
Should he have been banging on Ron’s door after Mclaren announced Alonso had quit Mclaren?
12th Timo Glock
Championship Position- 10th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 950
Pole Positions- 0
Fastest laps- 0
Season highlight- Taking a brilliant 2nd place in Hungary
Season lowlight- Having a heavy accident in Germany when on the year to a solid points finish on home soil.
In the first half of the season it looked like Glock was going to go straight back to where he came from (GP2 series which he won in 2007). He really struggled to get anywhere until the German GP, where it all started to turn around for him.
He had a couple of major issues. The main one was that the car had been built to compliment Jarno Trulli’s driving style. Timo Glock’s style varied massively and that caused him alot of problems.
Glock was another one of these drivers in the “can’t enough heat into the tyres for qualifying” group. F1 cars had also changed alot since Glock last drove in F1 in 2004 (when he had a brief stint with Jordan as a tester and racer).
Even worse Glock was up against Trulli who is F1’s resident qualifying expert. Glock often got put off by the fact his team mate could find 2 or 3 tenths extra from nowhere and he couldn’t. Being a couple of rows behind gave Trulli the big advantage when it came to scoring points for the team.
During the season Glock worked with his engineer to get the car away from a Trulli setup to suit Glock’s style of driving better.
By the German GP the situation massively improved. Glock was driving a very strong and consistent one stop race and could have finished in around 6th place. Unfortunately there was a suspension failure, and he had one of the heaviest accidents seen in F1 in 2008.
Hungary was the big moment of Glock’s season. It was a track Glock’s car liked and the Hungarian heat suited the Toyota even better. Glock now had the car fully to his liking and everything fell into place. He qualified in a brilliant 5th position and finish 2nd in the race. There was a bit of luck thanks to problems for Massa and Hamilton. However he drove consistently fast all weekend, and was driving at the front on merit.
For the rest of the season he continued to drive well, and scored 5 more points finishes out of the remaining 7 races. (However he lost 8th in Spa due to ignoring a yellow flag.)
His 4th position in Singapore was particularly heroic, as the Toyota struggled on the bumpy track surface.
By the end of the season he won a respectable 25 points and came 10th in the championship standings. However overall he was beaten by team mate Jarno Trulli, who performed consistently well throughout the whole season.
Timo Glock has shown plenty of potential. Had he adapted quicker he would appear higher up in these rankings.
11th Heikki Kovalainen
Championship Position- 7th
Race Starts- 18
Raced laps- 1011
Pole Positions- 1
Fastest laps- 2
Season highlight- Taking his maiden F1 win in Hungary.
Season lowlight- Suffering a puncture at the start in Turkey when there was a realistic chance of victory.
Heikki Kovalainen was always going to be up against it alongside Lewis Hamilton, and so it proved to be the case.
In the car that won the drivers championship Kovalainen could only come 7th with just 3 podiums. No matter how you look at it, that is quite a poor season.
Clearly he has alot of potential but he didn’t consistently show it (couldn’t was the more accurate word at times). Things never really went his way.
The season started quite well with 5th place in Melbourne (which should have been second) and the fastest lap of the race. He then raced to 3rd ahead of Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia. This was a very solid first 2 races for Mclaren. Unbelievably Kovalainen would only score two more podiums in the rest of the season (his maiden F1 victory in Hungary and 2nd in Monza).
Kovalainen went on a run of bad luck from Spain onwards. Heikki had a very heavy accident during the Spanish GP due to a car failure. He was very lucky to come out of it in one piece. Turkey was perhaps his most competitive weekend of 2008. He looked a match for Lewis there and qualified on the front row of the grid.
He had the race pace to at least challenge for race victory, but a collision with Raikkonen punctured a tyre which ruined his afternoon. In Monaco he failed to get away from the grid (wasn’t his fault) so this was another race ruined before it really began. He got the 2nd fastest lap of the race and fought back to 8th so clearly he had a chance of a great result.
In France he got a harsh grid penalty, which again resulted in a compromised race but he battled to 4th place. At Silverstone he drove a scorching qualifying lap, and earnt the first pole position of his career. With Mark Webber behind him chances are he could have taken the win (had it been dry). However it rained heavily and his pace wasn’t as strong in these conditions.
So overall the first half of the season had been full of promise but full of bad luck and misfortune. He was on occassions showing himself to be a very capable driver. His qualifying pace was particularly strong.
Unfortunately all these lost points ment that his title challenge was all but over. At this point the team were more and more focused on Lewis Hamilton’s title charge.
As the season wore his bad luck seemed to subside but his pace, which had been good in the first half of the season seemed to drop. The team noticed that very often in the races his driving style was taking too much out of the tyres. The Mclaren mechanics solved this issue but with these setup changes his pace faded.
He became very much on his own in the team as the team rallied around Hamilton, and didn’t really give Kovalainen the help he needed to get his speed back and progress.
In Germany Kovalainen’s race pace was simply terrible. During most of the race Heikki was upto a whole second off the pace of his team mate. In Hungary he wasn’t on the front runner’s pace all afternoon but inherited victory after problems for Hamilton and Massa. It wasn’t a deserved win but at least Kovalainen had something to smile about.
In Monza he had a great chance to win. He started second behind Vettel. However in the race he was comfortably beaten by Vettel. In reality he had have won that race in a Mclaren. Issues keeping heat in the brakes halted his challenge.
The rest of the season Kovalainen’s task was to help Hamilton, but he wasn’t quick enough to this effectively. He often qualified too far behind to be of much help. China highlighted the huge gulf that had been created between the two Mclaren drivers. Lewis Hamilton won the race comfortably whilst Kovalainen was struggling to keep up with Alonso in 5th. Kovalainen retired from the race later on with mechanical problems.
In conclusion Heikki Kovalainen showed alot of speed and promise. Sadly his season became savaged by bad luck early on, and it became one downhill slope with a bit of joy in Hungary. As the season reached its climax Heikki looked a bit lost and his confidence was down. Mclaren became more and more of a one man team during the season. Had he had a much better start with less bad luck then the season may have turned out more positive.
Heikki is a much better driver than the 2008 championship standings and stats show. He clearly isn’t as talented a driver as Lewis Hamilton but without all the bad luck, and more equality from the team his season could have been better.
Heikki Kovalainen is in danger of becoming the next Rubens Barrichello if he is not careful. Mclaren looks like Lewis and Ron’s team from the outside. Heikki Kovalainen has to assert himself more in the Mclaren garage next season and start the season with a bang. Otherwise 2009 will just be another 2008.