|THE TOP DRIVERS OF 2009|
|THE TOP RACES OF 2009|
|=.||Abu Dhabi GP||1||1|
1. Jenson Button; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Button just gets the nod for the job he did in the first half of the season, despite the wobbles later on. Hamilton wins applause for his fighting spirit throughout the whole year.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Belgian Grand Prix; 3. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Brazil delivered tension, drama and lots of overtaking - and the right way for the title to be won. Spa was tense despite not a great TV spectacle, while Abu Dhabi gets the nod for looking so great.
• Something to remember: Jenson Button marching into the near-empty press conference room in Brazil. "Where is everybody? I'm the fucking world champion!"
• Something to forget: Saturday night in Hungary, when it was unclear about just how badly injured Felipe Massa was. Terrible hours
1. Lewis Hamilton; 2. Jenson Button; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Fernando Alonso; 5. Mark Webber
Hamilton impressed even more than in his championship year, helping McLaren back to the front and taking two wins in a car that was still far from perfect, and gets the nod of Jenson Button who inevitably had to go into conservative mode to seal the championship in the second half of the year.
When Vettel was good, he was stunning, but cost himself points in Australia, Malaysia, Monaco and Hungary while Fernando Alonso dragged 26 points and a pole position out of a Renault that was at its best no more than a reasonable car despite the feeling that he didn't push himself race-in, race-out. Webber's injuries held him back more than he let on, and although Vettel had the slight edge over him for the bulk of the season, it wasn't by too much.
1. Malaysian Grand Prix; 2. Brazilian Grand Prix; 3. German Grand Prix
Malaysia started with Nico Rosberg recapturing the glory days by leading for Williams and ended with Kimi Raikkonen eating ice cream after the red flag. In between, there was a great drive from Jenson Button, the most difficult conditions seen all season and some great battles.
Brazil featured some great battles and McLaren setting fire to a Ferrari in the pitlane, while Mark Webber's fightback from a drive-through was the highlight of a gripping German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
• Something to remember: Has to be the euphoria surrounding Brawn GP's win in the Australian Grand Prix after a long, cold winter of uncertainty
• Something to forget: The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Stunning set-up, but unfortunately it was neither good for racing nor a great drivers' challenge. One for the five-star hotel set
1. Lewis Hamilton; 2. Jenson Button; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Mark Webber; 5. Robert Kubica
Hamilton: Even the team reckoned second half wins were down to Lewis, not the car. Button: A first half worthy of Jackie Stewart. Thereafter rescued poor qualifying with sparkling races. Vettel: Highs were very high indeed. But too many errors. Webber: Pushed Vettel mighty hard, often out-raced him. Fantastic competitive spirit. Kubica: Totally transcended car in Australia and Brazil and solid in between.
1. Chinese Grand Prix; 2. Spanish Grand Prix; 3. Singapore Grand Prix
A stunning one-run only in the Chinese GP qualifying for Vettel lay the foundation of perfect drive on Sunday. In Spain, Button turned around Barrichello's superior strategy with stunning stint's-worth of quallie laps that did Rubens's head in. In Singapore, Hamilton took a car that was no better than several others and utterly dominated.
• Something to remember: Felipe Massa's Schuey-like middle stint in Monaco
• Something to forget: Max Mosley being part of Todt's election campaign
1. Sebastian Vettel; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Mark Webber; 4. Jenson Button; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Sebastian Vettel is top dog after fighting at a consistently high level. In a year dominated by double decker diffusers he was in the thick of it throughout despite being DDD-less for a third of the year. Made mistakes through charger's instinct, yes, but Seb proved the best racer out there.
Lewis Hamilton started the season with an inferior car, but was usually way further forward than he had any right to be; Singapore win sublime. Mark Webber won twice despite steel pins in his right leg, and proved a fighter to the very last.
Jenson Button capitalised on his DDD, then slumped just when he should have raised his game, suggesting a fortuitous, not fought-for title. On his day Rubens Barrichello is among the best - and had enough of them to finish third in the WDC.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Japanese Grand Prix; 3. Belgian Grand Prix
Interlagos had it all, from Friday through Sunday, while Suzuka marked a fantastic return of a real racer's circuit. At Spa the sight of Kimi Raikkonen and underdog Giancarlo Fisichella playing nip and tuck for 40 laps on the most majestic circuit of all was sheer magic.
• Something to remember: Webber's win in Germany
• Something to forget: The sight of Felipe Massa sitting motionless in Hungary
1. Sebastian Vettel; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Jenson Button; 4. Fernando Alonso; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Despite a few costly errors during the season, Vettel gets the top spot for being the quickest and most aggressive driver of the year. Had his Red Bull team not been hindered by the double diffuser row at the start of the season, he could have been champion. Hamilton, like Vettel, also made a few mistakes during the year, but was always driving on the limit when not over it.
Button was a deserved champion, but in the second half of the season he was overshadowed by team-mate Barrichello and, except for Brazil, lacked aggressiveness. Alonso, with a car that was no match to his abilities, showed he is still one of the strongest men on the grid.
1. Belgian Grand Prix; 2. Italian Grand Prix; 3. German Grand Prix
Belgium had almost everything, including a thrilling finish after a dream weekend for Force India and Giancarlo Fisichella. The Italian Grand Prix saw an intriguing battle between the Brawns and Hamilton, despite the Briton crashing out in the end. Webber's charge to win after a drive-through penalty made for an entertaining German Grand Prix.
• Something to remember: Brawn's fairytale comeback from the doldrums
• Something to forget: The continuous, annoying, pointless friction between the FIA and FOTA over... everything
1. Sebastian Vettel; 2. Jenson Button; 3. Rubens Barrichello; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Mark Webber
Vettel threw a few chances away this year - but that's what 22-year-olds with only a season and a half of F1 experience are supposed to do. Overall, he was the most consistent front-runner in a crazily up-and-down season. That's not to begrudge Button his title, even if he couldn't maintain his devastating early form.
Barrichello and Webber were sublime at times but needed to beat their team-mates more often, while Hamilton's incorrigible racing spirit was fun to watch. The same was true of Alonso - who probably should be somewhere in this top five too.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. German Grand Prix; 3. Australian Grand Prix
Alongside the title clinching fireworks, Brazil provided non-stop wheel-to-wheel racing thanks to its mixed-up grid and the racing-friendly (and not at all contrived) Interlagos layout. The Nurburgring was enjoyably complicated and Australia enjoyably messy as the new order asserted itself.
• Something to remember: The whole Brawn fairytale. Try and imagine how you would have replied twelve months ago if someone had predicted that would happen...
• Something to forget: The time-consuming, distracting FIA/FOTA breakaway/future rules row saga, and the antagonism involved on both sides
1. Rubens Barrichello; 2. Mark Webber; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Sebastian Vettel; 5. Jenson Button
I based it on who surprised me the most. Did you really think Rubens would challenge for the title? Even at mid-season you'd have been laughed at for suggesting it, but he recovered both his performance and his mental state to give Button a scare, whereas Jenson is ranked last because he behaved exactly as I expected.
While Webber was comprehensively outqualified by his team-mate, the gap was slight and he took the opportunities when they came in the races. Hamilton drove more impressively this year than in either of his previous two, and apart from a few understandable hiccups Vettel doesn't look like a driver in only his second full-season.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Malaysian Grand Prix; 3. Australian Grand Prix
The season opener and championship deciders are always going to be among the most interesting races, but for opposite reasons. With the former you have no idea what to expect but in the latter you know exactly what to look for, so you can study how the race and weekend unfolds. Before the rain came, I thought the Alonso/Raikkonen/Webber/Glock duel at Sepang was the best of the season.
• Something to remember: The later start times for Australia and Malaysia. It was the first season I can remember that didn't involve waking before sunrise to watch a race.
• Something to forget: The FIA v FOTA disaster mid-summer. This was the ideal economic year to argue about breakaway championships, and it seems even more sensible now that Theissen, Howett, and Briatore are no longer in F1, while Montezemolo has left his position as head of FOTA...
1. Fernando Alonso; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Jenson Button
Winning isn't everything. Pound for pound, no one gets more out of a car than Alonso, as his unlikely podium at Singapore and exciting pole at Hungary underline. Look out Felipe.
Champion of the second-half of the season, Hamilton's last ditch effort to overtake Button at Monza, crashing out at the Lesmos when he was assured a podium finish, says it all about this Racing Machine with a human touch. His pole at Abu Dhabi supplied substance to the sense of occasion that F1's newest track hoped for.
Button's timid behavior in the latter half of the season and the natural advantage he had with the double diffuser Brawn-Mercedes early on leave him with something to prove in 2010.
1. Australian Grand Prix; 2. Belgian Grand Prix; 3. Brazilian Grand Prix
Brawn GP's stunning and cunning 1-2 at Melbourne in its first race was the shock of the new, an achievement not matched since the Mercedes-Benz Streamliner did it at Rheims in 1954. Spa was a taut David and Goliath battle pitting Fisichella in the lowly ex-Jordan Force India against Kimi in the mighty Ferrari.
• Something to remember: The last five laps of Abu Dhabi, with Webber and Button giving it their all in a tense and exciting dice: why did we have to wait for such a thing until the last laps of the season?
• Something to forget: Webber's dirty driving throughout the season on starts: pushing Alonso on to the grass at Barcelona, crowding Rubens at the Nurburgring before Turn 1 and dangerously squeezing Kimi at Interlagos
1. Jenson Button; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Mark Webber; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Given the last races of the championship, Button would hardly be at first place, but the beginning of the season was stunning, he must be given credit for that and for all the years when he raced with inferior material.
The opposite could be said for Hamilton: hard first part of the season and a good second one, for the first time racing a car that was not the best around. Vettel made too many mistakes and his best races don't compensate for the loss of the championship. Webber and Barrichello filled in for their sporadic good performances.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Chinese Grand Prix; 3. Malaysian Grand Prix
Brazil was the only one really to remember, as the show faltered big time in 2009. Too many races were a chess game until the first refueling stop and a procession afterwards. The format changes in 2010, with the ban of refueling, that was about time.
• Something to remember: Brawn GP. A rural Formula 1 team reminiscent of the seventies, a breath of fresh air after the pharaonic campaigns of McLaren and Ferrari
• Something to forget: The FIA-FOTA war and Crashgate. Any winners from these disputes?
1. Jenson Button; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Sebastian Vettel; 4. Rubens Barrichello; 5. Mark Webber
You can only drive with the equipment at your disposal, and back in February it was hard to believe that Brawn could potentially sweep the board, but it did just that with a string of magnificent early performances from Button. His smooth driving style and ability to keep the tyres under control in the first seven races were the perfect springboard for success, allied to the contentious 'double-diffuser' and the best powerplant in the sport.
The other four drivers pressed the champion hard at times, but this was Jenson's time to button-up the title. He thoroughly deserves this after the pain of last winter and potential unemployment.
1. Malaysian Grand Prix; 2. Belgian Grand Prix; 3. Australian Grand Prix
The Malaysian rain storm was a particular highlight for me, but prior to that the racing on track was sensational with so many great overtaking moves. By contrast, Spa was a classic two-horse race, but who could have thought that Fisichella in a Force India would grab pole on the Saturday and then prove to be the quickest car in the field during the race!
2009 saw a changing-of-the-guard at the front and what a start we witnessed with the Brawns streaking away while Ferrari and McLaren battled just to stay on the road, tyre performance drop-off that resulted in lap times up to seven seconds per lap slower than the optimum pace and a late-race altercation between two of the hottest prospects in the sport.
• Something to remember: Kimi Raikkonen's 'Coke and an ice-cream' at Sepang
• Something to forget: The gut-wrenching feeling as the midnight FOTA breakaway championship announcement was made. No one wants to see our sport torn apart
1. Jenson Button; 2. Rubens Barrichello; 3. Mark Webber; 4. Sebastian Vettel; 5. Lewis Hamilton
Button is number one for winning the title, his team-mate Rubens Barrichello second for often beating him during the second half of the season.
I put Mark Webber next ahead of Sebastian Vettel for his greater consistency during the year. Vettel generally was supremely fast but also occasionally off the boil as well as the odd (costly) error. However, any order of these top four could easily be argued to be the correct one.
'Best of the rest' was Lewis Hamilton, just edging out Kimi Raikkonen, both drivers having a strong finish to the season after a dismal beginning.
1. Belgian Grand Prix; 2. Italian Grand Prix; 3. Australian Grand Prix
The Belgian GP saw a battle between two cars throughout the race, between two drivers who ironically would be team-mates at the next round, in two cars that no one would have given a chance of winning after the first round of the season.
The Italian GP saw a battle between several drivers on several strategies, Lewis Hamilton's last-lap crash showing that he was pushing until the chequered flag fell. Finally, the Australian GP for Brawn's dominance and the late-race clash that ended the hopes of two drivers and led to another team and driver ending up in hot water.
• Something to remember: Jenson Button's title and Mark Webber's first win(s)
• Something to forget: The rule changes which, intended to increase overtaking, ended up reducing it...
1. Jenson Button; 2. Sebastian Vettel; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Mark Webber; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Button scored the most wins in 2009 and all six came in a dominant first half of the year. While he often struggled to get the best out of the car and tyres after that, particularly in qualifying, the absence of mistakes on race day and his determined drive to the title in Brazil puts the champion on top.
Vettel is clearly on course for major success and will surely learn from some costly mistakes during his first title campaign, while Hamilton showed true racing spirit and impressive speed, even when the car was a handful. Webber creditably bounced back from a serious off-season leg injury to win twice, while a reinvigorated Barrichello kept the title race going with two impressive victories.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Chinese Grand Prix; 3. Belgian Grand Prix
Interlagos once again served up a brilliant spectacle, with biblical rainfall on Saturday leading to a mixed-up grid and plenty of overtaking as the big guns surged forwards. China was the best of the rain-affected races as Vettel took a commanding first win for Red Bull, sweeping aside the chaos as others slid off the circuit. Spa delivered a remarkable story of Fisichella fighting at the front in a Force India while his future team-mate Raikkonen reminded us of his speed with Ferrari's only win of the year.
• Something to remember: Button's sprint to the unique Monaco podium after parking his winning car in the wrong place
• Something to forget: Breakaway threats amid the pitched battle between FOTA and the FIA
1. Jenson Button; 2. Sebastian Vettel; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Nico Rosberg
Button and Vettel were the stars of the year with very little between them, while Hamilton, Raikkonen and Rosberg led their respective teams emphatically and all punched above their equipments' weight on a regular basis.
1. Belgian Grand Prix; 2. Brazilian Grand Prix; 3. Italian Grand Prix
It wasn't a great year for memorable races, but Spa was particularly enjoyable. The familiar Brazilian recipe of drama and a title conclusion, and Monza is always good because it's everything a GP circuit should be.
• Something to remember: Jenson Button finally being rewarded
• Something to forget: Lying, cheating and politicking
1. Jenson Button; 2. Sebastian Vettel; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Mark Webber; 5. Rubens Barrichello
Button dominated the first half of the season, then made no (race) mistakes under pressure to secure the title. Vettel is clearly an emerging champion, while Hamilton drove like the one he is without the equipment. Webber was magnificent despite recovering from serious injury. Barrichello proved he still had it with an inspired title challenge, while Raikkonen is also worth a mention, for his ability to rise above the lame horse that was this year's Ferrari.
1. Brazilian Grand Prix; 2. Turkish Grand Prix; 3. Belgian Grand Prix
Button's courageous charge through the field in Brazil was the highlight of an extraordinary season. Button and Vettel's battle in Turkey was engaging, while Fisichella's drive for Force India at Spa was enthralling.
• Something to remember: Webber finally winning at the Ring - despite a drive-through penalty
• Something to forget: British media's hot-and-cold approach to Button's title challenge. And Luca Badoer...
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