Any driver who has the potential to win the championship in the right car can be considered top tier in my book - Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Riccardo and Button are those. Not sure Kimi has it anymore however.
Give a man the top tools to do the job. If he does it on the day, he's top tier. Button. Kimi. Hamilton. Vettel. Villeneuve. Heck, so was Ralf Schumacher on his day.
Give a man inferior tools and he still does the job consistently, he's a legend. Senna. Schumacher. Alonso. Flashes of Hamilton. A certain Vettel win.
Give a man top tools, and he still fluffs it!? Well... there goes his credibility. Vettel; Kimi and Button have shown that when it is bad, it's really bad. And that is what separates a true top class driver from legend.
Vettel without his tools of a superior car this season is being shown up a bit by Ricciardo. Doesn't take his top tier ability and results away, but dents 'legend' status somewhat. We've yet to see if this means Ricciardo is the real bee's knees; and Vettel's success is tainted.
Hamilton, considered superior but now on equal par with allegedly second tier Nico, is being shown up in much the same way. Does it mean Hamilton isn't as legendary as believed; or does it mean Nico is actually underrated!? Different argument altogether.
Kimi is a shadow of 2012 right now. His car is rubbish, and his skill overshadowed. Given the tools, he's a rocket. Take the tools, he's forgettable.
Alonso has consistently shone in crap cars. That's why, for me at least, gets the legendary boot in.
In the best car right now, Nico is top tier. If he had done a Rubens and been a P4 driver when the sister car was winning everything, then he is not a T1 driver.
I can't help but feel those anti-Nico bashers are just a little sore that he is doing a lot better against Lewis than the previously believed 'pants down floor wiping' that was predicted.
I guess I have detracted from the T1 definition, sorry! It's a whole can of worms this discussion. I do agree with those saying Hamilton is the better driver and whatnot. Nico has indeed been VERY lucky, and luck has been the swinger in why he is leading the title right now. But this is Formula 1, and those who have watched it long enough can appreciate that there are MILLIONS of factors, and that LUCK is just one part.
To consistently win races; points; titles and be top class, you need many things and not just a few.
That's why there are many different race winners; but only a handful of top class champions.
Edited by danmills, 09 June 2014 - 14:21.