28. Karun Chandhok
A very likeable personality and a brilliant commentator, but on the few occasions he has been in the car has demonstrated why he struggles to get a full-time drive. Chandhok started the season inauspiciously by crashing straight away in practice for the Australian Grand Prix. A full race weekend in Germany was only a little less embarrassing.
27. Jarno Trulli
Trulli has done little to demonstrate that he deserves to be in F1 in 2012. Trulli may be 27th in my driver rankings, but he does go straight to the top for most pathetic excuse, as he constantly blamed his poor performances on a power steering issue that appears from the outside to be imagined.
26. Vitantonio Liuzzi
This season has been one chance too many for Liuzzi. What might have been a promising career has ended in virtual disgrace. His season has been typified by clumsy errors and a general lack of pace. His rookie team mate Daniel Ricciardo often had the upper hand.
25. Jérôme d’Ambrosio
I found d’Ambrosio to be disturbingly anonymous throughout this season. It is mighty difficult to tell when a driver is in such a poor car as the Virgin Racing car. On the one hand, d’Ambrosio has not made any bad mistakes, which must be a good sign. But I would have liked to see him achieve a bit more.
24. Narain Karthikeyan
Karthikeyan almost certainly should not have been racing in F1 this year on merit. His first clutch of races were nothing to write home about and he was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo. But he gains 24th in my rankings on account of his solid one-off appearance at the Indian Grand Prix.
23. Pastor Maldonado
It has not been a happy season for Maldonado, who has had to answer accusations that he is only in F1 because of Venezuelan oil money that is handy for the Williams coffers. The 2010 GP2 Series Champion has largely been unable to answer.
There were one or two stand-out performances — particularly at Monaco (a circuit he has excelled at in lower formulae), where he was in line to finish 6th before being punted out by Lewis Hamilton. But this has been marred by a deliberate crash during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, and some lacklustre driving at Abu Dhabi.
22. Timo Glock
I feel really sorry for Timo Glock. He deserves so much better than this. But in a car as poor as the Virgin, it is difficult to place him any higher. He did not outperform Jérôme d’Ambrosio often enough to justify a higher position.
21. Rubens Barrichello
I feel bad for placing Rubens Barrichello this far down the list, but he has not had a good season. Two 9th place finishes in a row were impressive, but most of the season was typified by uncharacteristic errors. Sadly, I think Barrichello’s career has run its course.
20. Daniel Ricciardo
Has the Red Bull driver development programme found its next Sebastian Vettel? It’s tough to impress in an HRT, but Ricciardo has done just that. His qualifying performances need a bit of work, but his race results have been nothing short of spectacular in comparison with his much more experienced team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi.
But Ricciardio will have to ensure that he keeps up the good work, or Liuzzi — a former Red Bull protege — is what he might become. Jean-Éric Vergne breathes down his neck in the Red Bull sausage factory.