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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

The hottest heads in F1 // Who are the men who can’t stand the pressure in the F1 field?

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Finally another sensational F1 season looms. We are less than two weeks away from the opening race in Australia kicking off the 2013 season. In fact, the new season is so close that the even more sensitive Pirellis of an F1 car won't touch Tarmac until the cars touchdown in Melbourne. Yes, the preseason really is hotting up. And speaking of hotting up, this brings me to the topic of the latest top five: the hottest heads in F1.

Despite being some of the best drivers on the planet, at times some guys are one track short of an A side and do something that they regret, be it for the rest of the weekend or even the rest of the season. And don’t think that this section is full of rookies who don't know where their front wing is; this selection includes 4 world titles, 48 wins and 276 starts. Let's get down to it before any of these guys bump into each other.

5. The not-so-smooth Mexican enters F1

Gutiérrez scrapes this unwanted accolade. In GP2, he did have the occasional moment of madness and went too aggressive when patience would have yielded a far better result. This is a big reason why his sensational speed didn't yield as many points as it deserved.

Four wins and nine podiums in 42 races is nowhere near what his talent is capable of, as shown by finishing third overall in GP2 last year. He has improved over time but there are still unwanted mistakes in his locker.

4. Even triple champions struggle

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

He may be a three times World Champion but there is no denying that Vettel can get hot under the collar when things go wrong. He won't be panicking about the shade of his visor to his race engineer when conditions change (see Felipe Massa) but he has made brash decisions in the past. Late into his maiden world championship season, people were doubting that the German was capable of winning a world title because he was involved in too many incidents and made too many mistakes. Some of the more memorable include slamming into Jenson Button's radiator while trying to overtake the Briton at the Bus Stop in Spa; and who can forget him causing the Red Bull debacle in Turkey?

Winning a maiden championship did calm the German down, and incidents have become far less common, but he still has a moment of panic when he is being panicked. In 2011 he just had to have a clean final lap of the Canadian GP and a sixth win in seven races was his. But he turned in too late for turn seven, in admittedly tricky conditions, and a half spin gifted Jenson Button a shock victory.

Home pressures don’t seem to help either. His worst weekend of 2011 was in Germany, where he was far off the pace of teammate Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando, again spinning when in a duel with Felipe Massa. Then last year, he had driven a solid race to third, but got flustered when Lewis Hamilton unlapped himself, allowing Jenson Button to move clear. As Button’s tyres went off, Vettel opted for an aggressive move around the outside on the exit of the hairpin, passing the Briton off the track.

Had he bided his time, he’d have likely got him on the final lap, but instead Vettel was dropped to fifth with a post race penalty. Vettel is of course a great driver, but pesky errors nearly cost him the title last year and it is clear there is still maturity to be gained.

3. Antics still plague Lewis

I have to say, I love how much Lewis Hamilton wears his heart on his sleeve, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t regret it at times. It was great to see the frustration at the European GP as Pastor Maldonado punted him off. It was a rare insight into the emotions of a Formula One driver. That said, it showed weakness too, as drivers know they can get to Lewis.

Valencia was also an example of how Lewis can be too aggressive and not let things go. Although I hold Maldonado responsible for that incident, a wiser driver than Lewis would have left space and settled for fourth, especially when you consider the state of his tyres at the time.

There is no getting around the fact that he is still too aggressive at times

Had this list been compiled last year, I’d have had Hamilton at number one, mainly because of his antics off the track. His “maybe it’s cuz I’m black” comment won him no favours, as well as his post race scuffle with Felipe Massa in Singapore.

His driving was far more aggressive then too, as he collided with Massa race after race, as well as with Pastor Maldonado in Monaco and Belgium. Overall, I think that one of the most charismatic drivers in the field has calmed down this year, but there is no getting around the fact that he is still too aggressive at times and has a range of emotions far wider than most drivers in the history of Formula One.

2. "First Lap Nutcase" pipped to Hot Head Crown

Romain Grosjean is such an accident prone driver, he’s been forced to sit out a race. Martin Brundle warned about it. He even had a hard helmet to protect himself as Pastor Maldonado, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean all lined up near each other on the grid. 100 metres later and two of them had collided and the other had jumped the start.

Grosjean had eight incidents in the early laps of races, seven on the first lap, as well as a collision with an HRT in qualifying for the Brazilian GP. Amazingly, he seemed fine for the rest of the race, it is just the close proximity of cars at the start. Excluding early lap incidents, he had two main incidents, both in the wet, as he spun off in Malaysia and Brazil. In fact, if you only take the last 90% of each Grands Prix into account, Grosjean had a rather boring season.

Romain Grosjean in the Lotus
Credit: Malcolm Griffiths/LAT Photographic

Even after being banned for the Italian GP, Grosjean still had issues on the first lap, bumping into the back of Mark Webber in Japan. He just seems to panic when in close combat. In fact, he got so nervous about wheel to wheel combat, he’d pull out of the move far too soon, as seen in Korea, losing out to both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hülkenberg. If Grosjean is to advance to his full potential, he must calm down on the first lap and learn how to make up positions at the start, rather than ending it in a pitbox, having his front wing replaced.

1. Latin blood boils over

Well, if it wasn’t going to be Grosjean, it’d be this guy. Pastor Maldonado may be one of the most hated men in the field. If all the drivers in the F1 field entered the ring, my money would be on him as his aggression knows no bounds.

The main reason that Maldonado takes the crown is his moves outside of the sessions. In Spa 2011, Lewis Hamilton needed to post a lap to stay in the second part of qualifying. In his way was Pastor Maldonado, who also needed a good lap. Hamilton dived down the inside in a perfectly legitimate move, angering Maldonado in the process, who then took a swipe across Lewis Hamilton on their in lap.

He made a brash move, was forced off the track and barged Hamilton into the wall

He took a lot of criticism for using his car as a weapon that day, but the penalty he incurred didn’t teach him, as he did exactly the same thing entering Portier in third practice session for last year’s Monaco GP, this time with Sergio Pérez.

And that’s not all; another mark against Maldonado is his refusal to back down. The Venezuelan was on the verge of outscoring Williams' entire 2011 points total in the opening race in Australia. He was chasing down Fernando Alonso and pushed too hard, putting it in the wall on the final lap when his team really needed the points. He did the same thing in Valencia. Had he been patient for another lap, he’d have been on the podium as Hamilton struggled. Instead he made a brash move, was forced off the track and barged Hamilton into the wall, costing both a good result.

So, Pastor Maldonado rounds up our collection of ‘hot heads’ in Formula One. I think that it’s fair to say these guys have a long way to go to become cool as a cucumber, or even Kimi Räikkönen, but as you can see by the names on this list, these guys are still successful, but it is certainly an aspect of their game that needs improving.

Next time, to finish off the top fives, and to get everyone in the mood for the Formula One season, we’re pulling out all the stops: it’s the five best drivers on the grid.