The 2006 championship was contested by 27 different drivers, 18 of which entered every race.
Which ones impressed and which ones struggled? We rate all 27, starting with the first 17 today and looking at our top ten drivers in detail tomorrow.
27 Yuji Ide (#23 halfway through the season)
Super Aguri’s first nominee for the second seat only had four starts before he was dropped. Ide had the right nationality but not much else – certainly not much testing, which explained why he frequently qualified and raced well off the pace. A needless clash with Christijan Albers at Imola did for him.
26 Sakon Yamamoto (New)
The fourth Super Aguri driver also got the gig thanks to his nationality, replacing the more capable Franck Montagny, but not making much of an impression. Kept his nose clean, at least.
25 Tiago Monteiro (22)
A nothing year in a nothing team for Monteiro. The only remarkable thing Monteiro did was thunk into team mate Albers in Canada.
24 Franck Montagny (20)
Montagny popped into Super Aguri and did a decent job, but the stamp on his passport said ‘France’ and not ‘Japan’ and that was that. Happily he has since found a testing berth with Toyota for 2007 – and on the strength of their drivers’ performances this year, there could soon be a vacancy there.
23 Christijan Albers (21)
Albers generally had the edge over lead driver Monteiro, particularly in qualifying.
22 Robert Doornbos (New)
The Red Bull test driver got three starts for the race team and never really drew attention to himself, although he did manage to out qualify David Coulthard.
21 Christian Klien (17)
Once Red Bull made it clear to Klien that there would be no seat in F1 for him next year he seemed to lose interest. After turning down a ride in Champ Cars for 2007 he fell out with the team and was dropped.
It was a shame, given that only a car failure prevented him, rather than team mate Coulthard, from scoring the team’s first podium in Monaco.
20 Jarno Trulli (15)
An utterly forgettable season for Toyota and for Trulli. The team popularity results of the FIA survey said it all – they struggled even to beat the likes of Super Aguri. Trulli never seemed to move forward from the instant antipathy he felt towards the 2006 Toyota when the team first started running it at the end of last year.
19 Ralf Schumacher (16)
The only highlight in a dismal year for Ralf Schumacher was his podium in Australia. It came courtesy of attrition, but also because Schumacher avoided the kind of mistake that claimed his brother in that race.
Still, he managed to throw his car at team mate Trulli in Barcelona. Perhaps mindful of that, he shied away from overtaking his team mate while being held up by him at Suzuka.
18 Takuma Sato (19)
Could Honda refugee Sato be on the verge of redemption? It looked unlikely when he threw his race at Indianapolis away in a needless clash on a day when points were a possibility. But it all came good in Interlagos with a magnificent run to a deserved tenth.
17 Scott Speed (18)
The first American in Formula One for 13 years had an indifferent start to the season and was regularly outpaced by team mate Liuzzi. But in the second half of the year he closed in on the flamboyant Italian and had at least justified his place in the sport. But he has to raise his game next year.
16 Jacques Villeneuve (12)
After BMW boss Mario Theissen’s concerted effort to oust Villeneuve from the team during the winter it was no surprise he didn’t go the distance in 2006. He just didn’t get on terms with team mate Nick Heidfeld often enough, the minimum you expect from a former champion.
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi (14)
Liuzzi made a habit of squeaking through the first part of qualifying and scalping some bigger name – more often than not one of the Red Bull ‘first team’ drivers. His opportunistic pass on Michael Schumacher at Melbourne was first-rate, but his tendency to spin at least once per race took the shine off.
14 Rubens Barrichello (7)
Generally overshadowed by team mate Jenson Button, the chaotic race at the Hungaroring was exactly the kind of race Honda employed the mature, experienced Barrichello to win. But Button took it, rather undermining why they brought Rubens on board in the first place.
13 Pedro de la Rosa (N)
Drafted in to replace Juan Pablo Montoya, just as last year, de la Rosa took an excellent second in Hungary. But he seldom impressed from that point onwards and it will be a surprise if he keeps the race seat for ’07 facing a challenge from GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton.
12 Robert Kubica (N)
Undoubtedly would rank higher had he more starts, Kubica’s third place in his third race was one of the most exciting performances by a rookie in years.
11 Nick Heidfeld (9)
Heidfeld scored solid points for BMW all year long and helped them to fifth in the constructors’ championship. But the arrival of Kubica put the wind up him and the team started talking about how much faster Heidfeld was driving – which isn’t the compliment it might sound like. Kubica will be a major headache for Heidfeld next year.
- Drivers half-season report – part 1
- Drivers half-season report – part 2
- F1 2006 Review: Highs & lows
- F1 2006 Review: The year in pictures
- F1 2006 Review: Men of the year
Tags f1 / formula one / grand prix / motor sport
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