2011 Driver Ratings: Part Two

By on Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kovalainen again starred for Team Lotus

We take a look back at how each driver performed in 2011.

15 | Heikki Kovalainen | Team Lotus

‘If you want to win, hire a Finn’, or so the famous saying goes. Kovalainen may have now notched up his second consecutive point-less season, but he’s looking more and more like a man determined to lead Caterham (nee Team Lotus) into the midfield. An inspired strategy in Barcelona placed him 15th on the grid, although a rather dismal race ended in the wall. From that low point, Kovalainen starred and was matching the lower midfield towards the end of the season. He also comprehensively beat Trulli in qualifying throughout the season and showed superior pace too. 2012 is time for Caterham to step up to the midfield and Kovalainen is the ideal team leader as he thrives in the Team Lotus/Caterham atmosphere.

High point: Finishing on the lead lap in Suzuka

Low point: Silly crash in the Spanish Grand Prix


Jaime Alguersuari. Photo credit: Red Bull GEPA

14 | Jaime Alguersuari | Scuderia Toro Rosso

For much of the first half of the season, Alguersuari looked more and more like he’d be heading down to the Job Centre. The Chinese Grand Prix looked promising as he qualified 7th, although his tyres soon wore out and a wheel fell off after his pit stop. Poor performances in Turkey and Spain, where he finished a lowly 16th, were backed up by his involvement in the multi-car pile-up in Monaco. Helmut Marko’s finger was poised on the ‘fire’ button. However, an inspired drive in tricky conditions in Canada was supported up by another stellar race in Valencia, enabling the young Spaniard to keep his seat. Steadily improved throughout the season, taking 7th in both Italy and Korea as he maximised the superior top speed of the STR6. It’s difficult to realise that Alguersuari is still only very young, 21, and he still has a lot of potential to unlock. His qualifying performances against Buemi were not as strong as his races, although 26 points is a massive improvement on his 5 from 2010. Is he good enough to join Vettel at Red Bull? Only time will tell. But if he gets the boot from STR, it will be a huge disappointment.

High point: Overtaking Rosberg near the end of the Korean Grand Prix to finish 7th

Low point: Crash in Monaco put him under increasing pressure


Kamui Kobayashi. Photo credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

13 | Kamui Kobayashi | Sauber F1 Team

Kobayashi’s season was surely one of two halves. In the first, he was always in the top 10 and maximising the potential of the C30’s tyre usage. After being disqualified in Melbourne (not his fault), he was one of few drivers to have finished in the top 10 as the F1 field arrived in Valencia, having finished 5th, 7th twice and 10th on three occasions.  However, as 3 or 4 stop races stopped becoming the norm and teams began to grasp a better understanding of the Pirelli rubber, Kobayashi slipped back. From the European Grand Prix onwards, Kobayashi only claimed five points, compared to his team mate’s twelve. Perhaps one problem is that now with overtaking easier than it had been before, one of Kobayashi’s skills is now something that has been diminished. He needs to watch out, because his flamboyant style will only get him so far and Sergio Perez is improving…

High point: A brave move on Sutil in Monaco to claim 5th

Low point: Dismal weekend in Korea where both cars struggled


Sergio Perez missed two races after this huge crash

12 | Sergio Perez | Sauber F1 Team

While Paul di Resta claimed the title of 2011’s best rookie, Sergio Perez was not far behind him in terms of talent. His final tally of 14 points may seem slightly disappointing compared to Kobayashi’s 30, but there are several things that need to be taken into consideration. Perez stunned on his debut by finishing 7th, from which he was later disqualified for a technical infringement, and was beating Kobayashi in qualifying. Was lucky to escape uninjured in Malaysia after ballast fell from Buemi’s car and hit his, although his luck ran out in Monaco. Having made it to Q3 for the first time – no mean feat for a rookie – he had a massive accident which saw him miss two races. In those two races he missed, Kobayashi claimed 16 points, the difference between the pair at the end of the season. Perez should be back stronger in 2012.

High point: Debut in Australia made the F1 world take note

Low point: Crash in Monaco which set him back a fair distance


Petrov's season didn't really take off

11 | Vitaly Petrov | Lotus Renault GP

So much promise, so little delivered. Pre-season form and words from the team suggested he was a changed driver. And so it proved for one single race. Then he reverted back to his 2010 self, albeit with less Renault parts scattered in the four corners of the globe. Went flying in Malaysia, although he soon returned to the points for a couple of races and managed to stay on the road in Canada to finish in the top 5. However, his season tailed off as the R31’s pace gradually declined, although he dealt with the drop in form poorly both on track and off it, with an ill-advised TV interview post-Abu Dhabi doing little to help his case. Crash in Korea did little to improve his reputation. Improved his 2010 points tally by 10 points, although judging him accurately is difficult due to the lack of a suitable barometer thanks to Kubica’s unfortunate injury. Probably deserves a place in F1, but at a team wanting to fight for the title? Probably not.

High point: Podium in Australia was a surprise

Low point: Much of what followed, although Singapore weekend was truly atrocious.

Paul di Resta. Photo credit: Force India F1

10 | Paul di Resta | Force India

After initial promise in the first couple of races, di Resta’s form tailed off. A string of eight races without a top 10 finishes was hugely disappointing, especially when considering what might have been. He ran as high as 5th in Canada before a silly incident with Nick Heidfeld saw him drop down the order. Qualifying 6th at his home race was sensational, until a botched pit stop left him in the lower midfield. However, they were bookended by poor performances both in Monaco and Germany, where he was beaten comprehensively by Adrian Sutil. However, for a man who hadn’t raced a single seater since 2006, his rookie season showed promise. Strong 7th in Hungary kick started his season, which included 6th in a tiring Singapore Grand Prix. Over the course of the season, he was beaten by Sutil. However, he drove without often showing signs of inexperience.

High point: Qualifying 6th at home in difficult conditions

Low point: Messy Monaco Grand Prix left him 12th


Heidfeld was shown the door by Renault

9 | Nick Heidfeld | Lotus Renault GP

When Robert Kubica was severely injured in February, Renault turned to Nick Heidfeld to lead the team’s championship charge. On the final day of testing before his accident, Kubica had set the fastest time. Granted, it was only testing but it showed the R31 had promise, especially given the radical forward exhausts. Heidfeld battled to a podium in Malaysia and also collected several points throughout the season. However, as the development of the car slowed and others caught up, Renault looked to Heidfeld for inspiration. It never came, according to Eric Bouiller at least. Heidfeld dropped legal action against the team in September and his firing wasn’t a surprise, as he was seen as the scapegoat for Renault’s poor performances, combined with money from Bruno Senna’s sponsors. Renault’s form got worse after Heidfeld’s departure and despite scoring more points than Petrov, the German was on the side lines. For a man who was usually seen as rather bland, there was a certain irony about the way he exited his last race – jumping athletically out of his stricken R31, which subsequently exploded. Fans joked that Bouiller would blame him for that as well, although there was disbelief when he actually did. Heidfeld was ultimately made the scapegoat with the team blaming his lack of leadership. However, subsequent performances showed that the R31 was flawed because of the Front Facing Exhausts system, which almost caused Heidfeld severe problems twice in Spain and Hungary. Wasn’t best pleased at being replaced by Senna and his F1 career is probably over. However, with the comeback of Schumacher, De La Rosa and Raikkonen, you wouldn’t bet against him popping up in a few years’ time.

High point:  Rocket start in Malaysia that led to podium finish

Low point: Being lumped with the blame for Renault’s poor form.

Part Three will follow later this week as the Top 8 drivers are assessed

Part One can still be viewed here: http://www.f1zone.net/news/2011-driver-ratings-part-one/10772/

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