Congratulations, Sebastian Vettel, on winning the 2011 F1 World Championship. Yes, yes, I know Red Bull’s toothy finger-pointing whippersnapper has mathematically yet to claim his second world title, but frankly the blighter could take the remaining six races off and I doubt his rivals would suddenly find the consistency to overhaul the mammoth 112-point lead the German ace has built up. So the title race is over. Finito. Hey ho.

But while I may not be the 24-year-old wunderkind’s biggest fan, it would be churlish to say he hasn’t deserved the championship this season. In fact, you’d have to be some kind of twisted clown to claim otherwise. If you are such a person, leave now. Go on, shoo. Leave your internet browser of choice and the room, and wait for a responsible grown-up to come in and switch it off for you. GO AWAY, CLOWNY.

For the rest of us, the remaining big interest in the Formula One season is to view the battle for second place. Wheee! It’s like 2001/2002/2004 all over again, when Michael Schumacher would win the title in the Australian Grand Prix first practice session (or it felt like that), and the focus would turn on to whoever could be best of the rest.

To be fair, it is quite exciting, as there are four drivers with a big claim to that prize, and each of them have had their own interesting campaign so far. But before this season is out, I am going to tell you, non-clown reader, who deserves the prestigious honour of being the second-best F1 driver in the world. But first, the other contenders:

"Is it cos I is black?"

Lewis Hamilton

The Jekyll and Hyde of the racing grid, when Hamilton has been on top form, he has been mesmerising to watch. His two victories in China and Germany were the stuff of all-time fantastic drives, while there have been excellent runner-up races in Australia and Spain and mature performances in Great Britain and Italy. Why then, has he had what he has confessed to being the worst season of his career?

Because, unfortunately, he has acted rash far too often. Impatience cost him dearly in Monaco and Canada – he was determined to overtake like it was his last credit on Sega Rally and he needed to reach the next checkpoint before the time ran out and he’d have to fork out another 50p. And his driving was a bit arcadey too- all over the place.

Luck has deserted him somewhat, and baffling stewards have dished out some pretty harsh treatment to Lewis over the course of the season (New achievement unlocked: Being first driver ever to get penalised for weaving a bit like you did at the same piece of track one whole year ago. What’s the betting he’ll be the only ever driver to get his punishment?), but when you’re also crashing into cars in braking zones at Belgium, you aren’t helping your cause. So no, absolutely not the 2nd best driver this season.

"My jeans are tighter than yours, David Coulthard."

Mark Webber

The Canberra Milk Kid (TM) last season claimed he was a number two driver, but I’m afraid, on the strength of this season’s showings, he isn’t even that. Sure, his consistency has been excellent, by finishing between 2nd and 5th for every race up until he crashed in the Italian GP, but relatively that’s not exactly impressive when your team-mate has racked up eight wins and 10 pole positions. He might get handed the opportunity to win one or two races at the end of the season once Vettel wraps up the title, in a bid for Red Bull to secure a one-two in the final standings, but whoop-de-doo if that happens.

The Australian has clearly just not managed the transformation from last year’s Bridgestone tyres to this year’s Pirellis as well as Vettel, or there’s some car characteristics that he just cannot find an edge on. Whatever the case, the fact is there’s only been one race where he has comprehensively beaten Sebastian, ironically at Germany. Number two? Nope.

It was this or Troy Tempest from Stingray.

Fernando Alonso

The Spaniard has had a strange season, appearing quite impassive with everything that happens to him, as well as unusually unflappable in public- apart from cackling like some kind of supervillain when he claimed (of all things) 4th position in the Spanish GP qualifying. Curiously, the motorsport website crash.net had the gall to even claim Alonso was the best-performing driver this season, like Vettel had been just some kind of bad dream. The silly CLOWN PEOPLE.

Yes, Alonso has been on his usual top form, even if the Ferrari car is not quite as bad as some would have you believe. While it may be allergic to harder tyre compounds, running about as fast as if the wheels were made of blancmange, the team and Alonso have been capable of good results, and these have appeared in abundance. Drives in Turkey, Monaco, Valencia and especially Great Britain have shown why Alonso is a two-time world champion, and how he can extract just about all the car’s potential more often than anyone on his day.

So why isn’t he the second-best? Well, he’s had a couple of blips along the way. Just because Malaysia and China were early in the season doesn’t mean I’ll forget about them, and in those two races he was outperformed even by team-mate Felipe Massa. China was particularly poor, as Massa fought with the leaders while Alonso was reduced to scrapping for the lower half of the top 10. The way he simply gave up in Barcelona after an admittedly half-baked strategy played out didn’t help, and he was a touch careless in Canada with the collision with Button that led to his retirement. Nonetheless, a supremely strong season.

So, there’s only one candidate left. and it’s a surprising one. It’s:

Yes, I went with the obvious pun.

Jenson Button

Yes, I know, I was shocked too. But think about it- Button has been exceptional these past few races in particular, charging through the order with mature, well-considered drives in a manner not unlike Alain Prost (only with 40 fewer wins at the moment, obviously). Yes, he’s still flawed in qualifying and he messed up in Australia against Massa, but other than that, where has he gone wrong?

While the ultimate pace of Hamilton isn’t quite there, he can overtake cleanly and often and bring himself into strong positions come the end of the race. And, while he may not be championship runner-up now, don’t forget he is the only driver in the top five to have had two mechanical failures, both which denied him the proverbial hatful of points and what would comfortably place him as second in the championship now anyway. So is he the best of the rest? Well, yes.

Now watch as Felipe Massa wins the next six races to make this 1,200 word piece look total codswallop. Meanwhile, if you have thoughts, just use this comments form below. Right there. Don’t be shy. Unless you’re a CLOWN PERSON, in which case you should GO AWAY.