Lewis Hamilton pips Max Verstappen to top 2016 F1 driver list

Hamilton, Vertsappen, Rosberg and Vettel

Lewis Hamilton may have been pipped to the 2016 world title by Nico Rosberg, but his determination to chase down his Mercedes’ team-mate right to the very end clearly caught the eye.

After the curtain came down on the season, we asked you to vote for your top three drivers of the year and it was the three-time world champion who came out on top.

Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton – 38%

Of those who selected their top three drivers of the season via the BBC F1 list, 38% put Hamilton in top spot.

The Briton won the most races with 10 but his title challenge was hampered by mechanical issues.

Hamilton was in particularly impressive form in the closing stages of the season, taking pole and converting it to victory in each of the final four races but in the end Rosberg did just enough as the German beat his team-mate to the title by five points.

Best moment: Hamilton finished the season strongly but it was a brilliant victory in Monaco that kick-started his campaign as he produced a masterclass in defensive driving to keep Daniel Ricciardo at bay for 45 laps.

Max Verstappen – 37%

Max Verstappen, Brazilian Grand Prix

How Max Verstappen will hope a title battle with Hamilton will be as close as this in the near future. The fearless Dutch teenager was chosen as the number one driver of the season by 37% of you – just 1% behind Hamilton.

The 19-year-old is clearly an exceptional talent but he produced some breathtaking displays this season that will have perhaps taken even those who know him best by surprise.

Best moment: Arguably Verstappen’s most eye-catching display was his drive in the wet in Brazil where he battled back from 16th to finish on the podium with one move in particular standing out – a gutsy, around-the-outside pass over Sergio Perez at Turn 10 that he completed in Turn 11 having corrected a big slide on his way through. And this in a season when he won his maiden grand prix in Spain.

Nico Rosberg – 14%

Nico Rosberg

It’s not surprising to see that some selected Rosberg as their number one driver of the season, he did win the title after all.

He may have had the rub of the green with regards to the reliability of his car, but he undoubtedly drove brilliantly at times this season, especially at the start of the year when he carried on his strong finish to 2015 by winning the first four races.

Best moment: Rosberg was superb in Singapore, winning the race to reclaim the championship lead from Hamilton. However, it was his lap for pole that was particularly outstanding as he qualified over half a second clear of Daniel Ricciardo.

What the pundits thought

tom clarkson

“His victories at Silverstone and Interlagos were peerless,” says Tom. “But he’s always been capable of mind-bending performances; what stood out about Lewis Hamilton in 2016 was the maturity he showed in adversity. He’s now the ultimate all-round driver.”

jennie gow

“Some are keen to compare Max to the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in his talent – which clearly shone in Brazil, says Jennie, “but I make him my driver of the season not just for talent, but for the thousands of new fans he is bringing to F1. While Lewis Hamilton is lorded for opening F1 to new audiences and doing his thing in Hollywood, for me it’s actually Max who is bringing fans through the gates and turning on a whole new generation to the sport we know and love.”

Chief F1 writer Andrew Benson: 1) Daniel Ricciardo, 2) Fernando Alonso, 3) Lewis Hamilton

“Ricciardo was brilliantly fast and consistent all season, while Alonso showed his enduring qualities with some outstanding drives and stunning first laps. For me, both, on balance, shaded Hamilton, who was phenomenal as ever for the most part but had a couple of very shaky weekends and made too many poor starts.”

Disappointments of 2016

Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel – 26%

Sebastian Vettel finished on the podium in seven of the races in 2016, so is it a bit of a surprise to see him topping this?

Certainly by his high standards, Vettel did disappoint this season. After winning three races in his first season at Ferrari, he failed to claim a single victory in 2016.

Ferrari were expected to be one of Mercedes’ main rivals but that challenge failed to materialise as Vettel instead found himself mostly scrapping around in fourth of fifth, his frustration evident in his many expletive-laden radio messages in the latter half of the season.

Worst moment: telling Formula 1’s race director, Charlie Whiting, to go away, in a note-quite-so-polite manner.

Sebastian Vettel, Mexican Grand Prix

Daniil Kvyat – 23%

It was the year to forget for Daniil Kvyat as he started the season at Red Bull and finished it at their junior team, Toro Rosso.

Kvyat later said that situation led to him no longer enjoying F1 and his future in the sport was left uncertain, but his contract at Toro Rosso was renewed for 2017 and he will be hopeful of coming back strongly in the new year.

Worst moment: The Russian was demoted after his home race, where he twice hit Sebastian Vettel within the first three corners of the first lap. Although he did drive to an excellent podium in China before that, managing to rile Vettel in the process.

Esteban Gutierrez – 6%

The Mexican came under fire from his fellow drivers’ rival team bosses for his track manners over the course of the season. He was criticised by Daniel Ricciardo for not obeying blue flags in Germany and by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff for “cruising around” in Singapore while Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg were fighting for victory.

In the end he was dropped by Haas having failed to score a single point all year.

Worst moment: Being hauled back into the garage by Haas team principal Gunther Steiner after attempting to flounce away.

What the pundits thought

Tom Clarkson: 1) Felipe Nasr, 2) Esteban Gutierrez, 3) Rio Haryanto

“Until we got to Interlagos, 2016 had been an underwhelming year for Felipe Nasr. More often than not out-qualified by team-mate Marcus Ericsson, he delivered no performances of real merit until we got to Brazil. But that drive to 9th place, in those conditions, and in that car, was spectacular. More please.”

Jennie Gow: 1) Felipe Massa, 2) Sebastian Vettel, 3) Valtteri Bottas

“Felipe Massa – in what was supposed to be his final year in F1 it would have been nice for the Brazilian to go out on a high – unfortunately its not been either his, or Williams’ year and his best result of a couple of fifth’s at the start of the season seem a long time ago. At least he now seems likely to get another chance.”

Full tables

Best drivers of 2016 table
Positions based on the amount of times each driver was ranked first
1 Lewis Hamilton
2 Max Verstappen
3 Nico Rosberg
4 Daniel Ricciardo
5 Fernando Alonso
6 Jenson Button
7 Kimi Raikkonen
8 Sergio Perez
9 Carlos Sainz
10 Sebastian Vettel
11 Pascal Wehrlein
12 Rio Haryanto
13 Kevin Magnussen
14 Nico Hulkenberg
15 Felipe Massa
16 Jolyon Palmer
17 Daniil Kvyat
18 Valtteri Bottas
19 Romain Grosjean
20 Esteban Ocon
21 Esteban Gutierrez
22 Marcus Ericsson
23 Felipe Nasr
Most disappointing of 2016
Positions based on the amount of times each driver was ranked first
1 Daniil Kvyat
2 Esteban Gutierrez
3 Sebastian Vettel
4 Lewis Hamilton
5 Jolyon Palmer
6 Nico Rosberg
7 Jenson Button
8 Fernando Alonso
9 Rio Haryanto
10 Kimi Raikkonen
11 Valtteri Bottas
12 Felipe Massa
13 Max Verstappen
14 Daniel Ricciardo
15 Kevin Magnussen
16 Romain Grosjean
17 Carlos Sainz
18 Felipe Nasr
19 Marcus Ericsson
20 Esteban Ocon
21 Pascal Wehrlein
22 Nico Hulkenberg
23 Sergio Perez

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BBC Sport – Formula 1

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