Here come the top 10 lists…was Hamilton really the best?

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I tend to get a little squinty-eyed when Formula 1 pundits and press start with they “Best of…” lists at the end of the season. It’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s just that these lists are usually great for headlines and outrage but never definitive beyond those in the paddock who know the comprehensive truth of the matter.

If this season’s team boss top driver list at AUTOSPORT had chosen anyone but Lewis Hamilton, the mobocracy on social media would have been in full meltdown. However, choosing Lewis will give counter propulsion to detractors of all things Hamilton and they will surely see this as a slight to the new world champion.

This year’s team boss voter roster looks like this:

Toto Wolff, Mercedes
Christian Horner, Red Bull
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari
Vijay Mallya, Force India
Claire Williams, Williams
Eric Boullier, McLaren
Franz Tost, Toro Rosso
Gunther Steiner, Haas
Fred Vasseur, Renault
Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber
Dave Ryan, Manor

And here’s how they voted using a points system devised by the fine folks at AUTOSPORT:

1 Lewis Hamilton, 234 points
2 Max Verstappen, 183
3 Nico Rosberg, 176
4 Daniel Ricciardo, 133
5 Sebastian Vettel, 90
6 Fernando Alonso, 67
7 Kimi Raikkonen, 61
8 Sergio Perez, 52
9 Valtteri Bottas, 26
10 Carlos Sainz Jr, 25

I don’t disagree with their praise of Lewis Hamilton, surely he deserves a nod for clawing back all those points from a mechanically-induced deficit but I tend to look at these types of lists in context.

Had Lewis been 43 points off his teammate and they were both in a Sauber, would he have made it to the top of everyone’s list? Surely the Mercedes was the only car capable of vaporizing such a deficit and in context, could Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso or Daniel Ricciardo—not to mention the world champion Nico Rosberg—have garnered slightly more favor given what they achieved in the car they achieved it in? Alonso’s size 12 boot up the backside of a stubborn McLaren, that seemed to always go faster when heading back to the barn, was something to behold.

What of Red Bull’s resurgence mid-season? They predicted they’d be quicker after the summer break and they were. Max Verstappen provided some of the season’s most exciting drives and passes and, along with Ricciardo, they actually won races this year which is something Ferrari said they would do but didn’t.

Perhaps I am less likely to hand Lewis the award because I actually expect this level of performance from him in a car so shame-inducing and comprehensively dominant. His teammate, Nico Rosberg, managed to beat Lewis to the title which, given Hamilton’s abilities, is a feat of grand proportions, no?

The past two years, you’d had no argument from me over lobbing the award Hamilton’s way but this year, I have my own list of top drivers:

1 Nico Rosberg
2 Max Verstappen
3 Daniel Ricciardo
4 Lewis Hamilton
5 Sebastian Vettel
6 Fernando Alonso
7 Carlos Sainz
8 Sergio Perez
9 Kimi Raikkonen
10 Valtteri Bottas

Now, there is context behind these picks and this is where these kinds of lists leave me squinty-eyed because they are subjective and left to the logical thought process of those who make such lists. This is why, perhaps, the team boss list is a much better measure of who the top drivers were but again, it’s all contextual from a fan’s point of view and you have to factor in fan bias as well. I try to be neutral in all occasions and this is why I get hate mail from #TeamLH even though I praise him on many occasions. It’s the burden I carry for being a removed American I suppose. 

Context:

Nico Rosberg- When you can beat Lewis Hamilton in the same car, you’ve done something very, very big
Max Verstappen- At 19-years-old, this young man’s race craft is still developing but his learning curve is as short as I have ever seen in F1 and he’s been the most exciting thing on the grid in a car that shouldn’t be making the passes it did
Daniel Ricciardo- While he may have been finishing behind his teammate, Plucky Teen Max Verstappen, in the latter part of the season, Daniel is the real deal and finished 3rd in the championship in a car that wasn’t supposed to do that
Lewis Hamilton- Lewis clawed back a serious points deficit and won the last four races of the season in a desperate attempt to win the title but his poor starts and lukewarm mid-season didn’t do him any favors—not to mention all the drama he created within the team and his inability to see beyond his own navel
Sebastian Vettel- It wasn’t Sebastian’s fault that his car just wasn’t up to the task and to that point, there were times when I felt he was over-driving the car for results that just weren’t’ there and making mistakes along the way as a result but an outstanding effort nonetheless
Fernando Alonso- If you watched any of his performances this season, you saw a two-time champ—and arguably one of the best drivers on the grid—strangle his McLaren for results that shouldn’t have been possible and he was one of my star drivers of the season
Carlos Sainz- Carlos did a very Alonso-esque season wrestling results from a car that had a year-old engine and a chassis that out-matched the power unit’s ability to deliver and he was also one of my star drivers of the season
Sergio Perez- From his first Monaco, I knew there was something special about this man and best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is no small feat in a car that wasn’t nearly as competitive or financially bulked up
Kimi Raikkonen- Kimi had a much better season and when the car turned toward his driving style, he starting paying dividends
Valtteri Bottas- Valtteri did a masterful job of claiming 8th in the championship in a car that was sliding further and further backward even giving the Force India’s 4th in the championship but he held his ground and did the bulk of the work for Williams F1

The devil is in the context and so is the bias as any fan would tell you but it’s possible the team bosses have biases too. I wonder if Christian Horner rated Verstappen and Ricciardo first and second? Did Claire Williams rank Bottas and Mass first and second? Probably not, to be fair.

What is your top 10 list and the context behind it?

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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25 Comments on "Here come the top 10 lists…was Hamilton really the best?"

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Magnus
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Magnus

I understand that drivers finishing highest in the points gets most attention.
But I think the performances from drivers in very mediocre cars is way more impressive than the merc/RB/Ferrari drivers.
Fernando Alonso’s 2016 have really shown how good he is.
Carlos Sainz has delivered something no one would believe.
Sergio perez’ podiums, Hülkens starts, Magnussens P7 in Russia, Grosjeans P5 and P6 in a brand new team, Wehrleins point in Austria – all very high class.

Negative Camber
Guest

I agree. I think Fernando, Carlos, Sergio, Max and even Pascal have done a fine job contextually. I guess you could weigh in the result of their efforts as an impact on the team’s success such as getting the McLaren in Q3 and top 10 etc. All things have to be considered but I think it is subjective to a large part as well.

Van Dieu
Guest
Van Dieu
Total points tally doesn’t always tell the whole story, but I think that Ros, Ham, Ric, Ves & Alo were all at very high level this season and there is just a paperwidth between the lot of them. However, the jobs they are being asked to do is vastly different and reflective of their machinery, so comparing drivers between teams is fiendishly hard also. All I will say is that from observation this season, Rosberg has taken his opportunities and been a model of resilience, Hamilton has fought admirably with his back to the wall displayed displayed his qualities, Ric… Read more »
Negative Camber
Guest

You said it better than I did. It is contextual and roles differ depending on position in championship, car, etc.

Thierry Dubus
Guest
Thierry Dubus

What? No Ericson or Nasr in the top 10?

Negative Camber
Guest

LOL…I almost snuck that in but worried that some folks wouldn’t have gotten the joke…Paul would have though because he knows it’s the truth! ;)

Mike
Member
Mike
I think this is super interesting, because there are no definitive answers due to the fact that we mix contexts. Emotional victories, lap statistical, seasonal points awarded, positions lost or gained, quantification of performance due to different engine and chassis configs, etc. If the team bosses were (i think i read this was accurate) looking at just track positions gained and and places = $, it makes sense, in and of that specific metric. LH had the most – China from 22nd position to 7th, Russia 10th to 2nd, Europe 10th to 5th, Spa 21 to 3rd. Nico went from… Read more »
Negative Camber
Guest

Agreed. When I look at a list, I tend to think overall impression, not hard stats and that’s why I’m usually wrong but in my mind, I think drivers like Fernando are very impactful given the situation. Perhaps more so than Lewis who is in the fastest car by a country mile and I expect him to win every race. Let’s be honest, given the equipment he has, he should have but therein lies the rub, mechanical issues prevented that and I would argue several slow starts. the

Mike
Member
Mike

Totally agree…this is what i love about F1, the unexpected. I would say that balky starts he HAD control over cost Lewis the WDC as much as the touted mechanical issues. You know, i sometimes feel badly for new F1 fans because they have no idea really how amazing Alonso is…as complete a driver as Vettel & Lewis, maybe more so..and yet look at his machinery deficit. Next year..yes??!!!!!

Alex Brașovan
Guest
Alex Brașovan
When it comes to these lists, I tend to choose my drivers based on their driving and their speed, not just results. That’s why Rosberg isn’t even in my top 3. Yes, the fact he beat Hamilton on points through sheer application and resilience is remarkable but at the same time Lewis out-qualifyied him 12 to 9 and out-raced him 10 to 6 on equal terms. Had Rosberg managed to out-race Hamilton in a straight fight over the season, that would have definitely made him my top driver. With all of Lewis’ engine failures and bad starts, Nico still failed… Read more »
Negative Camber
Guest

I wouldn’t disagree with that. I think maybe, in my mind at least, I expect LEwis to win every race in a car with such pummeling good domination. He did beat all the other teams but when it came down to it, he didn’t beat his teammate and there are reasons for sure but not all of them are other people’s fault. Therefore, the high expectations I have for him and his talent and car are working against him in my mind for my list.

kcabmi
Guest
kcabmi

If you take out the races where equipment failure affected the race, or even just Malaysia, who beat who?

Member

He did beat his teammate though. More wins, more poles, more podiums. Problem is his engine beat him. This is a survey of best driver not who scored the most points. If it the survey was who scored the most points? Then it would clearly be Nico.

johnblair7
Guest
johnblair7

Its really hard to pick, so I’m sitting on the fence :) Nico did great and worked mega hard. Lewis fought hard and had some great races, Max was a revelation, Danny Ric was strong, Fernando thrashed his car to places it shouldn’t have gone. Carlos quietly got on with it. Disclaimer, Lewis is currently my favourite driver, He’s British and he’s mixed race, and there’s not been many in F1 and certainly none that have performed at his level.

Guy Fawkes
Guest
Guy Fawkes
I agree with everything you said, NC, and I agree with your list but for two positions. I would put Raikkonen in front of Vettel. Raikkonen had a better all around season than Vettel, with less complaining and more “shut up and get the job done with the equipment you’ve got”. Raikkonen made fewer mistakes than Vettel as well. And honestly I’d bump Bottas down to 11th and Grosjean into 10th. Bottas did what he could, but I honestly could never have foreseen Haas having anywhere near the season they did this year. And a lot of the credit for… Read more »
Member

Not bad. 3 years in a row now Hamilton has won Driver of the Year. If we put the same test to fans, I’m pretty sure Verstappen would win as fans turn these things into popularity contests. They tend to vote based on likeability rather then results/performance.

MIE
Editor

With the scoring system used (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1) it looks like six team bosses but Hamilton in first place, three put him in second place and two down in third. While first and second places are understandable, I wonder which two drivers were placed ahead of Hamilton by the two team bosses who put him in third place.

Member

This is why they keep it a blind survey.

Lovejoint
Guest
Lovejoint

Ros #1?! You must be joking…Oh no. You’re searching for clicks, don’t you. You even bother to answer to people, even if it’s about nothing, which is also a good effort to get new viewers Well, you got mine…for the last time. Bye!
btw, if you haven’t noticed, your beloved Ros didn’t beat Ham. Unreliability beat him.

Samouri
Member
Samouri

It seems as though Lovejoint, that Toto Wolff would agree with you on how Hamilton lost the WDC, when he said, ” This year, clearly, Malaysia cost Lewis the championship. It’s clear.”

jakobusvdl
Guest
jakobusvdl

Here’s a thought for Bernie to work on, 22 drivers, add an extra GP, to get to 22 races, Then every driver drives for every team, twice, cars chosen at random. Points all the way down to 22nd.
That would show us who’s the best driver, and which car is the best, over a whole season.
Other than that, the ‘best driver’ is the one who gets the best out of the best car over a season…..this year its Rosberg

kcabmi
Guest
kcabmi

My list would be based upon how well a driver does at racing – not just at driving.

So my top three, in no particular order, would Hamilton, Alonso and Verstappen. Hamilton’s car have him the easier job when cutting through. The other two gave us some of the best racing moments.

Rosberg wouldn’t be on the list as he usually falls to pieces when challenged. He had the easiest season, with the fastest car and an increased number of chances to drive away from the front.One fewer and….ah, well.

News Play F1
Guest

I agree with you somehiw but … why Sergio were better than Nico Hulkenberg? And Max better than Daniel? Kimi to far awawy from Seb.

Member

Podiums

McSerb
Guest
McSerb
A bit of sophism, eh ? “Had Lewis been 43 points off his teammate and they were both in a Sauber, would he have made it to the top of everyone’s list?” My God, if they had both been in a Sauber COULD Hamilton possibly have been 43 points off his teammate ? How many points did Sauber win during the championship ? I think the team bosses really put Rosberg too far behind Hamilton but the Negative Camber list (with Hamilton in fourth place) is so subjective that more direct people might simply call it biased. I doubt even… Read more »