The Ten Commandments:
There is no such thing as ‘top ten drivers in the world’, for the list varies with every race. For example: Lewis Hamilton looks like the best driver in the world at one corner, and as soon as he hits a delicious straight, he overdrives and looks a lot like the legendary Yuji Ide (widely regarded as the worst F1 driver in history). Similarly, around 4 races ago, Jenson Button looked very much the British sporting hero- an almost-there underdog, gritty and competent- but now, he resembles the English Cricket Team.
The list is endless, of course, but as a prelude to the historical Indian GP- a list of the current top ten in the world must be churned out- for general awareness, if you may:
So here we go (Pre-Itialian GP):
10. Kamui Kobayashi
Ironically, Japanese drives- while known for their over aggressiveness and foolhardy driving- are also one of the most exciting back markers in the world. The true underdogs, who love a scrap. Fortunately, Kobayashi may have considered the great Takuma Sato as his idol and not Yuji Ide, for obvious reasons. It shows- with Kobayashi, a descendent of the GP2 Asia Series, as he has quickly graduated to BMW Sauber after replacing the injured Timo Glock in the 2009 season. He has never looked back, and inspite of being plagued with reliaibility issues last year, he has had a solid 2011 season.
27 points from 12 races may sound a bit deceptive, but he replaces the veteran Renault driver (recently ‘fired’) Nick Heidfeld at tenth place.
9. Vitaly Petrov
Heidfeld’s younger and promising partner in Renault seems to be having a rollercoaster of a season after making an instant impression as the first ever Russian F1 driver in the 2010 season. Starting the season on the podium at the Australian GP, the Russian has had only one retirement this season- in complete contrast to his now-extinct racing partner. Soon, the hyper-talented Robert Kubica might be back- and they will make a formidable pair for the ex-World Champion team.
8. Michael Schumacher
Relatively, this man deserves to be a lot lower on the list- just for his decision to make a comeback in 2010. As of now, he looks a lot like Bjorn Borg trying to make a comeback with a wooden racket in the 90s. Nevertheless, after a promising last few races, he seems to be hitting his stride- atleast as far as the mediocre Mercedes speed lets him. Consistently outperformed by teammate Rosberg for majority of the last season, the legendary MS will be racing for a lot of pride. 7 world championships and 91 wins- he wants more. But , unfortunately, the ship may have sailed- and it’d be nicer for all of us if there is no Schumacher on the driver list for 2012. Whatever it is, Indian fans will not give a damn. Hype that surrounds his appearance here might just rival Messi’s recent cameo in Calcutta. 8th? Who cares.
7. Nico Rosberg
Schumacher’s widely-regarded teammate was considered to be the next big thing when he made his racing debut for Williams in 2006. Sadly, he is still considered to be the next big thing in 2011. His graph has not risen as sharply as he may have wanted it to, and some below-par driving combined with inexplicable team choices (Mercedes are way behind the pace after 2009) has made Rosberg one of the most complete packages- without much to show for. Outstripping his illustrious old-timer teammate every second race is just not enough, and if he wants to emulate the meteoric rise of Vettel, he needs to make some smart choices for 2012. He is at number 7, but deserves to be a lot higher- just for his all-around racing abilities.
6. Felipe Massa
The biggest disappointment of this season, we are watching the once-super-consistent Massa fade away into oblivion in one of the more competitive cars this season. Proof: Alonso, his Ferrari teammate, has amassed more than double of his own 76 points. The statistics screams out for attention. Massa has never been the same after the life-threatening injury in 2009- and inspite of being one of the most respective number 2 drivers that has ever graced this sport, his time is coming. The gap between 5th placed Hamilton and Massa is a good 70 points- and hence, it makes much more sense to concentrate on the top five…
5. Lewis Hamilton
The mercurial Brit maybe at number 5 right now, but his position varies from 2 to 10 almost every curb of every race track of this entire season. Superbly inconsistent and extremely exciting, Hamilton may have blown his title bid in the last race, but is so close to the 3 above him in the standings, that they can hear eachother breathe. In all probability, Hamilton and Button might just take eachother out at one point soon, leaving Webber to safely assume the mantle of the ‘best of the rest’ this season. Two victories and a couple of podiums this season are still immense proof of this young, talented driver’s utter frustration with his relatively slow car, as compared to the top dogs (the ‘Bulls’). He may want to change it all over the next few races, and come Indian GP, Hamilton might very well be either fighting for second place or for (inexplicably) 7th place. He is capable. Can’t deny that.
4. Jenson Button
Hamilton’s Brit teammate in a Brit team, Button- who was well out of contention just 3 races ago- has roared back in non-English style with a win and two podiums to secure his place, yet again, as one of the frontrunners for a championship podium place. Two race wins in 2011 in tough race conditions- has driven home his ability to master changeable (read troublesome) race circumstances and has just about taken the spotlight off his lack of qualifying speed. Despite a senile statement that is something on the lines of ‘I can still win this title by winning all the remaining races’, Button has to be admired just for the sheer graph that his once-dwindling career has taken. If there was ever a rags-to-riches story performance-wise, the charismatic Englishman is the face of it all- from the depths of 2007-08 with Honda to the glory days of Brawn GP in 2009 to the frontrunning days of Mclaren Mercedes in 2010-11. This is a man who never gave up, inspite of not winning a race for his first 111 GP starts.
3. Fernando Alonso
Widely considered as the best driver in the post-Schumacher era (and the reason MS may have retired), Alonso was exactly what this sport needed way back in 2006. A breath of fresh air in an underdog Renault car, soon turned into a has-been in a controversial Mclaren season of 2007. When he returned to Renault, of course, it was too late to salvage those glory days. But throughout his unintelligent choices, his racing ability has always stood out- heads and shoulders above the rest, even when he was part of the famous middle-pack that makes up the numbers. Skillwise, he is still the strongest out there, but is saddled with a below-par Ferrari car. He can never be counted out, though, and before Nadal (and the football team) came along, he was the first face of Spanish dominance. He should not be known as the Champion of 2010 that never was- after making up a 47 point deficit in the last 3 races of the season, only to blow it to…a German.
2. Mark Webber
One of the best qualifiers in F1, Webber has always been known as the gentle giant who threatens, but is never threatening enough. Despite plenty of race victories over the last 3 years (especially in 2010), he has faltered at crucial points (very unAustralian-like) and has clearly assumed the number 2 driver of the ultra-fast RBR team- in more ways than one. He may be number 2 right now, but not many bet on him holding that position for the next 7 races, inspite of his very consistent form this season. He makes a good foil for his World Champion teammate, but he lacks something skillwise that seem to be present in the 3 drivers in inferior cars below him in the standings. It could be an aura, a persona of sorts- but Webber- one of the oldest drivers on the track- will clearly not fade away into racing oblivion. He is a lot like the legendary number 2 Rubens Barrichello (and even David Coulthard), and has signed for the 2012 season for RBR once again. Disappointed? Think again.
The young German, widely hailed as the reincarnation of Schumacher (who is oddly, still alive and well…and racing) has blown away opposition to bits this season- much unlike the 2010 season where he performed a Houdini in the final race to jump from 3 to 1 in one of the most exciting Championship showdowns in recent history. If that was a fluke, 2011- the entire season- with 7 wins out of 12 and 5 more podiums, is definitely not. Technically, he is already a double World Champion, and it will be interesting to see if the fire still burns bright enough for him to break a long-standing record of his idol (7 championship wins). He has age on his side, but so did Alonso when he broke through in similar fashion in 2005. The sign of a great driver is his performance in one of his startup teams, the teams that make up the lower grid, and Vettel’s performance in 2007-08 for Toro Rosso matches that of Alonso for Minardi and Schumacher for Benetton. It is yet, though, to match Senna’s outrageousness for Toleman and Lotus way back in the 80s.
Once again, though, he has plenty of time to create his own legacy. His nationality is in his favour, and his dominance is not half as boring as Ferrari’s was a decade ago.
That’s it then- we’re all set for our next post- a review of the highly-awaited Italian GP at Monza followed by a lowdown on the top ten teams that are going to race before you at the Buddh International Circuit on Oct. 28-30th.