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Season 2007 - The definitive driver review

Season 2007 - The definitive driver review
Eurosport - Mon, 26 Nov 11:01:00 2007

With a super-close season of Formula One action now behind us, eurosport.yahoo.com assesses the performances of all 26 drivers who raced in 2007 to find out the best and worst of the year.

1. Lewis Hamilton - McLaren (2nd, 109 points, 4 wins)

Okay, so he didn't win the title, but he can hardly be blamed for his gearbox selecting a false neutral in the final race now can he? The most remarkable season by a rookie in Formula One history generated an unprecedented amount of interest, even if statistically he didn't do any more than Jacques Villeneuve in 1996. Four wins and six poles saw him well and truly rattle his world champion team-mate in more ways than one. Made one mistake in China which ultimately cost him the title. He'll put that right in no time.

2. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari (champion, 110 points, 6 wins)

Unusually, the champion, and a thoroughly deserved one at that, is not ranked top here - not because of patriotism, but because he struggled for a few races early in the season to get to grips with Ferrari's Bridgestone tyres after years on Michelins with McLaren, and because he ruined his Monaco weekend with a crash in qualifying. A sensational end to the season saw him take five wins and nine podiums from ten races and turn a 26-point deficit into a one point title-winning advantage after having three times been runner-up.

3. Felipe Massa - Ferrari (4th, 94 points, 3 wins)

Unbeatable on his day, as his wins in Bahrain, Spain and Turkey proved, and out-qualified Raikkonen nine times to eight. Ruined his championship chances with a lousy effort in Hungary that left him outside the top ten and with a silly error in Canada when he was disqualified for exiting the pit-lane while the red light was on during a safety car period. Made up for it though by playing the team game brilliantly in Brazil, sacrificing victory in front of his home crowd to hand Raikkonen the title. Justifiably rewarded with a new three-year contract.

4. Nico Rosberg - Williams (9th, 20 points)

Rosberg mixed his youthful aggression with a new degree of maturity to such an extent that he could even have matched Hamilton with a better car. One bad race in Monaco, where he and Williams dropped the ball on strategy, was quickly forgotten with a series of good drives. The highlight was a sensational career-best fourth place in Brazil, capped off with an amazing move around the outside of the lighter-fuelled Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber at the Senna 'S'. Will stay there next year, but McLaren really should have done more to nab him.

5. Fernando Alonso - McLaren (3rd, 109 points, 4 wins)

When you sign a world champion you expect performances like his at the Nurburgring and Monza. Unfortunately, they were few and far between as his feathers were ruffled by a rookie, even if his team-mate was a remarkable one. Too often, like in Bahrain and Brazil, he was somewhat short of his best. Attempting to blackmail Ron Dennis over the spygate affair, blocking Hamilton in the pits in Hungary and demanding number one status in the team all stank of sour grapes, and it was no surprise to see him part company with the outfit.

6. Robert Kubica - BMW Sauber (6th, 39 points)

Kubica's most obvious impact this year was the one he made with the wall in Canada before rolling his car. Away from that 170 mph thumb-braking accident though, the Pole was a revelation and looked so comfortable at the Swiss-German team with his 11 points-finishes, that it would be easy to forget that it was his first full season in Formula One. His resolute defence of fifth place from Alonso in France looked like that of a veteran and was even more remarkable as it came only three weeks after his Montreal crash.

7. Jenson Button - Honda (15th, 6 points)

His one and only victory in Hungary in 2006 must have seemed like an awfully long time ago when he retired from last place in this year's event with a hydraulic failure. Yes, he could have moaned about his recalcitrant motor less than he did, but he had a point - the 'earth car' was a piece of junk. The old 'Jense' returned in China with a brilliant fifth place and showed that if the machine is good enough, then so is he.

8. Heikki Kovalainen - Renault (7th, 30 points)

A bad debut in Australia that was publicly panned by boss Flavio Briatore, but the Finn recovered exceptionally well afterwards, out-qualifying his vastly more experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella more often than not and finishing ahead of him in the championship. The icing on the cake was a superb second place in the most difficult race of the season in Japan, holding off the charging Raikkonen for the last handful of laps.

9. Nick Heidfeld - BMW Sauber (5th, 61 points)

In contrast to Kovalainen, Heidfeld had a magnificent start to the season and had already done enough to secure his 2008 contract before the championship returned to Europe. Bahrain was notable for an outstanding move on Alonso around the outside, as was Canada, where he kept his nose clean to finish second. His position is hampered by his inability to guide BMW Sauber out of a mid-late season slide in form comparative to rivals Williams and Red Bull.

10. Sebastian Vettel - BMW Sauber/Toro Rosso (14th, 6 points)

Vettel covered himself in glory by becoming Formula One's youngest points scorer with eighth place in the USA. The quality of the BMW Sauber gave him a rude awakening when it came to joining Toro Rosso, as his early lack of pace was flagged up. Blotted his copybook again in Japan when he took himself and Mark Webber out of second and third place behind the safety car, but had already shown remarkable speed before then and backed it up with fourth place in China and showed up team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi.

11. David Coulthard - Red Bull (10th, 14 points)

Hard to judge this season for the veteran Scotsman. Coulthard was no match for team-mate Mark Webber in qualifying, but was always more likely to make the finish when points were available. Some would put that down to better reliability, but would Webber have backed off like DC did in Spain when his gearbox was playing up in a bid to safeguard a fine fifth place rather than go for fourth? Who knows. Points finishes in all three wet races boosted his championship position and proved his class is still there.

12. Adrian Sutil - Spyker (19th, 1 point)

Made a lot of mistakes, but showed outstanding speed in between. Monaco provided an initial highlight as he went fastest in a wet final practice session, but it was Belgium that proved his talent as he ran ahead of the Super Aguris, Hondas and Toro Rossos for most of the race before slipping back at the end. Took unfair criticism from Anthony Davidson for ramming him in Brazil when in fact brake failure had been to blame. Driving for Spyker will not have helped him move up the grid though and has already missed out to Timo Glock on a Toyota drive next year.

13. Mark Webber - Red Bull (12th, 10 points)

A bit of a hit-and-miss year for eurosport.yahoo.com's resident F1 blogger. Scored a well-deserved podium finish in Europe but was cruelly robbed of two more in Canada and Japan due to a bad strategy and Sebastian Vettel's brain-fade. Too often slipped down the order during races due to small mistakes when points were going begging, but did suffer from one of the worst finishing records in the field with seven DNFs, none of which were his fault.

14. Vitantonio Liuzzi - Toro Rosso (18th, 3 points)

Poor in qualifying, poor in the races. He rescued his season with some cracking wet drives in Japan and China, but rookie Vettel was better and the Italian is driveless as a result. Even Scott Speed, who was sacked mid-season, was better on Saturdays. Williams declaring their interest will have been a confidence boost, but their decision to overlook him for a 2008 race seat leaves him looking towards Force India. Hmm.

15. Takuma Sato - Super Aguri (17th, 4 points)

One of the more difficult drivers to place, as nobody was really sure how fast the Super Aguri was this year. Miles better than team-mate Davidson on some occasions - and miles slower on others leaving consistency a major question mark for the Japanese driver. Too many below-par drives erased the memories of scoring the team's first point in Spain and his sensational late pass on Alonso around the outside at Montreal's champions' chicane.

16. Markus Winkelhock - Spyker (unclassified, 0 points)

Is it fair to include in this list a man who only started one race? Who cares! Winkelhock, an unremarkable DTM and Formula Three driver, made a chance call to start his debut race at the Nurburgring on wet tyres and reaped the benefits as he charged into an incredible race lead as the heavens opened. That he was able to hold off the likes of Massa and Alonso for three laps before the race was stopped is reason enough to rank him.

17. Scott Speed - Toro Rosso (unclassified, 0 points)

Perhaps the most inappropriately named F1 driver of recent times, the American (yes, it's all starting to go wrong already) forgot that before you start slagging off your team you actually have to be talented enough to make a difference when the going gets tough. The tensions he caused came to a head after he crashed out of the European GP and then accused team boss Franz Tost of physical violence towards him before saying: "You couldn't pay me enough money to work with them again any more." Needless to say he was sent packing and is now pursuing a career in the ARCA oval series in the USA.

18. Alex Wurz - Williams (11th, 13 points)

A strange signing in the first place, and his season was probably about what he, and Williams, expected. A brilliant, if lucky, podium finish in Canada masked a campaign that saw him out-driven by Nico Rosberg and fail to make the top ten on the grid for any of the 17 races. His contribution in terms of car development cannot be underestimated and his increased seat time this year undoubtedly had a positive effect. They will miss him next season if he chooses to retire completely and not remain as a tester.

19. Kazuki Nakajima - Williams (unclassified, 0 points)

Quick on his debut in Brazil and deserves his full-time race seat for 2008, despite running over his tyre man at his first pit-stop. If Williams have been watching him in GP2 though, they should probably think about doubling their spares budget to cater for how many off-track moments he will have.

20. Jarno Trulli - Toyota (13th, 8 points)

A bit of a nothing year for Formula One's favourite wine merchant. Toyota's complete non-performance hardly helped, and one point in the final ten races would surely have been a better record if they had not messed up the strategy and let Lewis Hamilton by in Brazil. His consistency is still there - he qualified either eighth or ninth for 12 of the 17 races while team-mate Schumacher failed to make Q2 on numerous occasions - which has him seven places above the German, but in truth he will be distraught with 2007.

21. Giancarlo Fisichella - Renault (8th, 21 points)

Following world champion Alonso's departure to McLaren the onus was put on Fisichella to fall back on his 11 years of F1 experience and develop another championship-winning, or at least race-winning car. He failed miserably and was regularly beaten in both races and qualifying by his rookie team-mate Heikki Kovalainen in the second half of the season. A well-below par season for the Italian.

22. Rubens Barrichello - Honda (unclassified, 0 points)

Failed to score a point for the first time in his 15-year career, the final nail in the coffin of a disastrous season. Not this low down because his car was abysmal, but because team-mate Button out-qualified him 12 times to six. Showed good speed in season finale in front of home crowd, but hopes of a score were ended as his Honda torched itself.

23. Anthony Davidson - Super Aguri (unclassified, 0 points)

Made a sensational start to his rookie season with 11th on the grid in Australia and finished the race despite a wrenched back injury. Failed to show the same kind of form later in the season and his inability to score a point all season confirms that he is as good as team-mate Sato, but no better. Pushed far too hard as the team failed to develop the car in the latter stages of the season, resulting in too many crashes. Would be interesting to see in a Williams or Toyota next year though.

24. Sakon Yamamoto - Spyker (unclassified, 0 points)

Yamamoto's return to Formula One in Hungary was down to the depth of his wallet, not the scale of his talent. Faster than Christijan Albers for sure, but a little too crash-prone for Colin Kolles' liking. His ramming of Fisichella in Brazil was just daft. Unlikely to remain with the team under their new "Force India" guise, so expect to see him return home to Formula Nippon.

25. Ralf Schumacher - Toyota (16th, 5 points)

2007 was a complete disaster for the man once described by Willi Weber as the second best in Formula One. His brother he isn't, and Toyota, after a $60, million error, have finally pushed him out. He says he has offers to stay in F1 next year, but after only three points finishes and five failures to even make it into Q2, who will have him? McLaren? Who does he think he is kidding?

26. Christjan Albers - Spyker (unclassified, 0 points)

Rubbish. Just rubbish. If he was slow - and he always was - then it was the car, or the tyres, or his cat's fault, but never his. Getting rid of his manager before the US Grand Prix was the beginning of the end. With no Lodewijk Varossieau to calm down Colin Kolles, Spyker sacked him after Silverstone.

Jamie O'Leary / Eurosport
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