Following another year of enthralling grand prix racing (Seb aside, of course), it is time for us to compile our top ten drivers of the 2013 Formula One season. Although our choice for #1 may be as obvious as Red Bull’s own choice for #1 (see what we did there…), a number of drivers have put in stellar performances to warrant a place inside our top ten.
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) +5 from 2012
The smiley Australian may have not had a Vettelian season to warrant a place with Red Bull in 2014, but it was a strong one nevertheless. After both he and Jean-Eric Vergne failed to impress in 2012, a good year was needed. Ricciardo responded with some good performances and seven top-ten finishes (compared to just three for Vergne). A particular highlight was his qualifying pace, and with clear signs of maturity in the second half of the year, Ricciardo’s promotion is by no means a gamble.
Perhaps it’s a little bit harsh to list Button so low given the quality of the MP4-28 that blighted his best efforts in 2013. Nevertheless, the Briton did put in some good performances to earn himself a place inside our top ten (Brazil and China being particular highlights), and he certainly outclassed teammate Sergio Perez across the course of the year. However, with little to shout about and not a single drop of champagne with which to celebrate the team’s fiftieth birthday, JB will be hoping for better in 2014 with the arrival of the new car and Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen.
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) -5 from 2012
Much like Button, Raikkonen’s fall in places could be attributed to the circumstances under which he raced during 2013. The year started so brightly with a brilliant win in Australia and a string of top three finishes, but the championship charge slowly faded. A run-in with Sergio Perez in Monaco (which, in my eyes, was in fact Raikkonen’s fault) prompted the Finn to say that someone should “punch” the Mexican, and it was the first in a string of brilliant Kimi-ism’s in 2013. Other gems included the swear-off in India, his response to questions about a Twitter account, his absence in Abu Dhabi and finally his exit from Abu Dhabi. It was a strong year for the Finn, but perhaps one lacking that edge that he will hope to re-discover at Ferrari next season.
7. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +4 from 2012
It was a mixed year for Nico Rosberg. Consistent? Certainly. Wins? Two of them. However, none of it was particularly spectacular. It’s hard to pick a race that Rosberg wiped the floor with the rest of the field, bar Monaco, where it was more a case of “softly softly catchy monkey” with the tyres. He was always there or there abouts, and had the Mercedes W04 not been such a tyre shredder, he may have picked up a few more wins and podium finishes. His end of season form was good as he harped on about being ‘best of the rest’, but it was true. P2 in the constructors’ and a good, solid year. Very few would have expected him to win more races than Lewis Hamilton and only finish eighteen points behind him, so credit where credit is due to Mr. Rosberg.
6. Mark Webber (Red Bull) non-mover from 2012
It may have lacked the win that so many wanted Mark to pick up in his swansong year, but it was a strong showing nevertheless. Just as Seb excelled with the RB9 after the tyre changes and the summer break, Mark also looked to have upped his game. In the final eight races of the season, he was always there or thereabouts for a podium finish, and subsequently finished P3 in the drivers’ championship, thus equalling his best finish from 2010 and 2011. Just four DNFs to his name, all of which were down to a car failure, and without some pretty rotten luck, the Aussie could have beaten Alonso to second place. It was a great final year with some memorable drives, and many will remember him as the intended winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix even if the record books will say differently. Just as he has done since his debut at Albert Park in 2002, Mark has been spectacular and given us some great lasting memories.
5. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) +3 from 2012
This ranking has been made all the more difficult as 2013 was very much a tale of two seasons. Had this been based on the year up to the German GP, then perhaps Nico Hulkenberg would not be featured in the top ten. However, the German driver rallied during the second half of the season as the Sauber C32 car improved, allowing him to produce some stunning drives. His form from the Italian Grand Prix onwards was stunning, but the true showing of his class came in Korea when he took on and defeated Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Another good result was on the cards in Abu Dhabi until an early release in the pits resulted in a drive-through penalty. It may be an injustice that he has been forced into yet another sidestep to Force India for 2014, but importantly, he does have a seat and a platform upon which he can show his worth as a future champion.
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) non-mover from 2012
“It’ll never work,” we scoffed. “Why leave McLaren?” we asked. Lewis Hamilton proved all of his critics wrong in 2013 by escaping from the sinking ship and excelling with the Silver Arrows. He may only have claimed one win, but it was an impressive one at that in Hungary where Lewis himself claimed that it would take a “miracle” to win the race. Miracles do happen, occasionally. Further to that, the 2007 world champion produced a number of other stand-out performances across the course of the year. It was consistent, but he struggled to really push the likes of Vettel and Alonso, scoring just four podium finishes besides his win in Hungary. Nevertheless, a solid first year with Mercedes that certainly was not expected. Then again, why were we so skeptical?!
Again, it was a tale of two seasons for Romain Grosjean. Following a crash with Daniel Ricciardo at the Monaco Grand Prix, the Frenchman’s time appeared to be up. It was made clear that he was on a three-race rolling contract, and his position was under threat. Following another two non-scores in the lead up to the German Grand Prix, he looked dishevelled. I asked him at the Nurburgring whether or not he was frustrated, to which he retorted: “Of course! Of course I am!” with typical gallic flair. That weekend he oh-so-nearly won the race, eventually finishing in third place behind Vettel and Raikkonen. From that race on, he looked like a different man. He was unfortunate not to finish on the podium in Singapore after a air consumption problem, but his drives in Korea, India, Japan and the USA were nothing short of sensational. Whereas Rosberg won races but failed to stun, Romain Grosjean did exactly the opposite. He may claim that the arrival of his son, Sasha, whom he called “the best thing in the world”, had nothing to do with his upturn in fortunes, it is a neat coincidence.
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) -1 from 2012
As has become the norm with Fernando Alonso over the years, his performances in 2013 were spirited and impressive despite the problems with the F138 car. It’s rather bizarre to think that the ‘dog’ of the F2012 actually did more for Alonso than this year’s challenger, but he did have a brief moment where he looked to be the man to beat. In Australia, he was the quickest man and simply outdone by strategy, he retired in Malaysia, won in China, suffered from hard luck in Bahrain and won in China. All looked good. However, whilst Red Bull continued to develop and Mercedes enjoyed a blistering pace over one lap, Ferrari appeared to stand still. All the same, Alonso was consistent and only failed to score when hard luck struck. It was a good year for the Spaniard, but he still lacks that elusive title with Ferrari that warrants his itchy feet.
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) +1 from 2012
The clichés and superlatives used in association with Sebastian Vettel have been exhausted. Nine wins in a row and thirteen in total meant that the German driver eased to his fourth straight world title and was simply devastating. The fall-out from Multi 21 harmed his reputation, but he answered in the most spectacular fashion. Perhaps his most dominant hour came in Singapore when he was putting as much as two seconds per lap over on the rest of the field, but Vettel also proved that he could fight. In Japan, both Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber threatened to rain on his parade, yet Seb controlled his own pace to bring himself back into the fight. We are currently amid one of the most dominant eras of the sport. Love him or loath him, Sebastian Vettel established himself as a legend of Formula One in 2013.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.