Blinky replied to my post in the equivalent Hamilton thread which is now locked. As this is a general point I thought it would be alright to answer in here.
Purely in terms of performance (i.e. within the control of the driver, difficult as that may be to pin down), there is no driver who would. That word implies too high a level of certainty. On 2012 form, there is also no driver who could (that includes Alonso in 2012 form).
Blinky McSquinty wrote:
But Formula One is not determined by hypothetical results, the teams and drivers have to deal with the real world, rain, luck, all manner of uncertainties. You don't put a theoretical team on the grid, you put a real car and driver on the grid, and let them race to determine the outcome. Just because a driver is quick in qualifying that does not automatically make him the best driver, it only makes him the quickest qualifier.
When Hamilton won the WDC in 2008 he had every right to stand tall and state "I'm the best driver in the world". But you can own that title for only one year, then it passes to the next person who wins the WDC.
That's why they race.
You are making a couple of different points and muddling them slightly.
1) "Just because a driver is quick in qualifying that does not automatically make him the best driver." I completely agree, I'm not sure how you got that from my post. When I say "performance" I don't mean pure speed, I mean the whole basket of attributes which need to come together to make a top F1 driver. As I implied, I believe Hamilton in 2012 displayed such a potent combination of brutal speed and metronomic consistency in both his driving and his car setup (his only real on track mistake in the entire season was outbraking himself at the restart in Abu Dhabi, which could have cost him dear but didn't; such was his dominance that weekend I think it's unlikely Raikkonen could have held him off for the rest of the race anyway) that no driver could have beaten him in performance terms
. Which brings me on to point 2:
2) Indeed, F1 takes place in the real world and is subject to all manner of uncertainties. So, knowing that, how on earth can you extrapolate something so complicated as who the best driver is from simply looking at the points tally at the end of the year? Are you really saying the best driver in any given season is the one who won the WDC. Sorry, but that's laughably shallow. For example, in 2012 Vettel won the world championship because the combination of driver, team and external factors meant that car number 1 delivered the most world championship points at the end of the season. As the driver, he obviously gets some of the credit for that; he beat his teammate comprehensively and drove well in a number of races, excellently in a few. But don't think that just because it's called the drivers championship you can isolate their performances from all other factors in such an unsubtle way.
As a general rule, Vettel fans value statistics above all else while Hamilton fans look for the nuance that defines how those statistics were accumulated. Hardly surprising, is it? In the case of 2012 you can brush off every bolt of lightning that crippled Hamilton's title charge if it makes you feel better, yet despite Hamilton finishing ninety points behind Vettel and only two points ahead of Button, I haven't seen too many people putting Vettel's 2012 performance ahead of Hamilton's. I haven't seen anyone putting Vettel's 2012 performance ahead of Alonso's. Perhaps there's more to F1 than just the numbers?
Edit - I forgot to answer the last part of your post. 2008 was actually Hamilton's second most error strewn year. He was magical in some races, downright shoddy in others. It was probably his most mercurial season. In 2008 I would have said Kubica was the driver of the year. When he lost his title to Button in 2009 he didn't become a worse driver; he went up in most people's estimations for driving well in a car which was pants for the first half of the season. It is possible for a driver to win the championship one year and come fifth the next year while driving better. That is just the massive role the cars have to play in this sport. The most a driver can say after winning the title is "my team and I were the best package of the year," and even that doesn't take into account the effect things like arbitrary punctures and other drivers can have on a title challenge.