Formula 1 drivers of the decade – 5-1

Date published: January 4 2020

There were 66 F1 drivers in the 2010s. 25 made the podium, 12 won races and three became World Champions, but who were the 10 best?

We’ve already revealed the bottom half of our list, so let’s get on to the business end…

5. Max Verstappen

It’s pretty impressive that, at the age of 22, Verstappen has been on the grid for half a decade already. What’s even more impressive though is just how well he’s driven in that time.

He started off with a season at Toro Rosso and immediately showed the extent of his talent with excellent drives such as the P4 finishes in Hungary and the USA. He carried that form into 2016 and it quickly earned him a promotion to Red Bull, where he, incredibly, won his first race at the Spanish GP.

Apart from a rocky spell at the start of 2018, the Dutchman has gone from strength to strength ever since. Combining his speed with consistency, he has continually out-performed his car and won eight races, each as impressive as the last. As soon as he has the car, titles will be his. The 2020s may well be the decade of Max Verstappen.

4. Nico Rosberg

In his six seasons on the grid in the 2010s, Rosberg was team-mates with the two statistically best drivers of all time. He brushed aside the first and was one of the few drivers to often prove more than a match for the second. Not bad at all.

He began the decade as team-mate to Michael Schumacher at Mercedes. Most expected the seven-time World Champion to be the team’s star man, but Rosberg had other ideas. He prevailed in each of their three seasons together, getting four podiums to Schumacher’s one and one win to Schumacher’s none.

His team-mate then went from being an ageing legend to one at the peak of his powers in the form of Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg didn’t have the Brit’s speed or raw talent but drove well enough to ensure he’d take any chances he was given. He was rewarded for this in 2016 when, thanks to unrelenting consistency and a bit of luck, he prevailed to win his first World Championship in what would prove to be his final season.

3. Fernando Alonso

In a fairer world, Alonso would have ended this decade with at least one more title to his name. It wasn’t to be, largely due to the machinery he had underneath him, but my word did his driving deserve it.

He won five races and led the standings for much of his first season with Ferrari. However, he got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov in Abu Dhabi to finish it four points behind Sebastian Vettel. He came even closer in 2012, drving the wheels off his car to somehow put himself in title contention. Again though, Vettel took it away from him in the final race, finishing three points clear this time.

After two disappointing years with the Italian team, Alonso left for McLaren in 2015. Sadly it would bring an end to his time at the top in F1. With a Honda (GP2!) engine, the car usually, if lucky, found itself in the midfield battle. Nevertheless, Alonso continued to drive as well as ever and got some extraordinary results in it before retiring to pursue the triple crown.

2. Sebastian Vettel

Vettel may have struggled towards the end of the decade, but he started it with four seasons of near perfection which resulted in four consecutive World Championships. For that alone, he comfortably made our top two.

He didn’t lead the standings for most of 2010, but two dominant victories to end it earned him his first title. 2011 was a different story as he dominated the rest of the pack, winning 12 races and finishing off the podium only twice. The 2012 title was won in the final race with one of his best drives as he fought back to finish P6 after spinning on lap 1. There was no such drama in 2013 as he dominated again, winning 13 races this time.

After a poor 2014, he opted to join Ferrari and has had mixed fortunes. In his first two seasons, he didn’t have a car capable of challenging Mercedes but generally got the most of out it, taking three wins and 19 podiums. In 2017 and 2018 though, he did and could have become World Champion again if not for individual errors. These mistakes were present again in a disappointing 2019 season, but we still think the Vettel from the first half of the decade is still in there somewhere. At least we hope so.

1. Lewis Hamilton

Was it ever going to be anybody else? No, of course not. Winning a race every year and becoming World Champion five times, Lewis Hamilton has quite comfortably been the best driver of the last decade.

The start of it was disappointing by his standards. He finished only 16 points behind the top in 2010 but never truly looked to be in title contention, while 2011 and 2012 failed to give him a car good enough to challenge. Nevertheless, in that time he still won 10 races.

Everything changed when he joined Mercedes in 2013 though. His first season was solid, but once he was given a championship-winning car in 2014, he never looked back. 2016 didn’t go his way, but in the other four seasons, he has been imperious. Seeing off the challenge of his team-mate initially and Sebastian Vettel in 2017 and 2018, he’s proved that he’s the best on the grid and maybe even ever.

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