Who Have Been F1’s Most Underrated Driver ?

By 5 months ago

In F1, the likes of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are household names. Some are in discussion as the greatest driver of all time.

On the flip side, some brilliant drivers have been overshadowed by these great drivers in F1. They may not be household names but deserve to be known.

1. Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg etched his name into history when he won his only drivers’ championship in 2016. He started his journey with Williams F1 back in 2006. With a mid-table Williams for four seasons, he was generally under the radar. He did score a couple of podiums with Williams during the 2008 season.

As the seasons went by, his driving matured and he was regularly scoring points. In late 2009, it confirmed he would partner Michael Schumacher at the newly formed Mercedes F1 team. it was only in 2013, with the arrival of his friend and rival Lewis Hamilton, did Mercedes emerge as a force in F1.

During the 2014 season, Mercedes proved to be the most dominant car. The championship ultimately boiled down to a duel between Hamilton and Rosberg. That would be the F1 narrative between 2014-16.

With 23 wins and 52 podiums, Rosberg had a successful stint with Mercedes. In 2016, he finally won the world championship that he was craving in an entertaining season. That season saw him collide with his teammate at the Spanish Grand Prix. Ultimately, he won the title at Abu Dhabi, and shocked the F1 community by retiring shortly afterwards.

2.  Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez came in with a lot of backing, starting his career with Sauber F1 (now Alfa Romeo) and was easily labelled as a pay driver. He showed that he was otherwise.

His podium during at the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix had him fighting Fernando Alonso for a possible victory. That race earned him plaudits from the F1 community. He took 3 podiums in 2012 with Sauber.

An underwhelming stint at McLaren F1 tarnished his reputation. His 2013 teammate, Jenson Button was very critical of his driving. Following a dismal 2013 season, he left McLaren to join Force India F1 (now Racing Point).th whom he has been ever since taking in 1 podium in 2014, 1 in 2015 and 2 in 2016 including one at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.

Arguably during the 2017 season, he showcased amazing consistency, taking a Force India to a tally of 100 points, without any podiums. He would step onto the podium once more in 2018. Perez continued to punch above his weight during troubling 2018 and 2019 seasons.

He is now a more experienced and composed driver when competing on the track today, but will fight hard for each position.

3. Juan Pablo Montoya

In his brief F1 career, Juan Pablo Montoya made a big splash. While he had a lot of retirements, he has 7 wins to his name and 30 podium finishes with Williams F1 and McLaren. Montoya pushed his car beyond the limits. He is the owner of some distinct F1 records.

He set the Fastest Average Top Speed in Practice with a speed of 262.242 km/hr in the 2004 Italian Grand Prix. During the 2005 Italian Grand Prix, he recorded the highest top speed in the sport, at a mind-boggling 372.6 km/hr.

His best year was 2002, where he was 3rd in the world championships. Montoya would finish 3rd as well in 2003 but never finished in the top 3 of the drivers’ championship again.

He made a sudden exit from the sport in 2006 when his contract terminated midway. After his F1 career, he had a career in NASCAR and Indy Cars. Notably, he is a two-time winner of the Indy 500. He currently races in the Weather Tech SportsCar Championship.

4. Gerhard Berger

An experienced driver, Gerhard Berger made 210 starts in 17 years. He has 10 wins to his name and finished 3rd in the championship twice. However, he’s retired 95 times in from races in his career.

The first half of his career contained more of his retirements. During his last five seasons, he consistently finished races more often. With Ferrari F1 in two separate stints, he finished 3rd in the drivers’ championship, in 1988 and 1994.

He retired after the 1997 season and refused to participate in 1998. He cited the new regulations did not inspire him to continue racing. Berger served as director of BMW after his career before acquiring a stake with Toro Rosso.

Berger was also remembered for his friendship with Ayrton Senna and his love for practical jokes on each other. His relation with the Senna family continued after Senna’s death. He advised Senna’s nephew Bruno Senna on his entry into the sport in 2010.

5. Giancarlo Fisichella

Giancarlo Fisichella, raced with 7 teams in F1, including Ferrari and Renault.  Fisichella finished his career in F1 with 231 starts, 3 victories and 19 podiums.  He scored Force India’s first pole position and podium position at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.

His best seasons came in 2005 and 2006. He finished 5th and 4th in the drivers’ championship respectively.  During that stint, he racked up two of his race wins and 9 podiums. He was consistently finishing in the points.

During the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari signed Fisichella. It was a dream come true for the Italian. However his stint was underwhelming and he failed to score any points  He drove for Ferrari in the remaining 2009 season, starting from his home Grand Prix in Italy.

During the 2010 season, he was a reserve driver for Ferrari but never raced in a Grand Prix weekend again.

During 2010 he started competing in the 24 hours of LeMans, winning the GTE PRO class a couple of times. He last participated in LeMans in 2019.

6. Damon Hill

Damon was the first son of a former F1 champion to win a title. He made his debut with a beleaguered Brabham F1 in 1992. He continued to test for Williams F1, the powerhouse of the early 90s.

Williams surprised many when Hill was chosen as a Williams driver, ahead of multiple candidates. It started a 4-year successful stint with Williams. He finished 3rd in 1993. During 1995 and 1996 he was the runner up to Michael Schumacher, before winning a title in 1996. The pair were known for their feisty racing. It even culminated with both receiving 1 race bans for moves on each other.

During his 4 years with Williams, he won 21 of his 22 races and stepped onto the podium a total of 40 times. However, his relationship with Williams deteriorated. In 1996, despite winning the title he was dropped from the team.

Hill continued with Arrows and Jordan before ending his career in 1999. After retirement, he entered into several business ventures and has been an occasional commentator for F1.

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