Formula 1 is one of the few sports in which the playing field for its competing athletes isn't equal for all. Every driver except for his teammate has different equipment, none of the cars are equal in terms of performance.
This makes the task of identifying which competitor is the fastest of them all a difficult one. For example, Lewis Hamilton may have four of the last five driver's championships, but who's to say that Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo or Fernando Alonso wouldn't have had similar success in that Mercedes? Add into the mix that every circuit is unique, and it makes the endeavour an impossible one, and that's before you allow for different generations of talent.
With that being said, some drivers' statistics don't reflect their overall talent, and there are some drivers that are generally overlooked when it comes to identifying the best of the current crop, and here are a few examples.
#1 Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg may hold the record for the most race starts without scoring a podium, but the German's talent is clear for all to see. He finished best of the rest in the driver's standings in 2018, and we´ve explained why we think he'll give Ricciardo a run for his money in the Renault this year in another article.
The one criticism which we think is valid for him is that he does have a tendency to make mistakes when the chance of a podium presents itself. For instance, he made an unforced error at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix which ruined his chance at a top 3 finish had he stayed in the race.
He also could've gotten second place at Brazil in 2012, but he ran into Hamilton which ended his chance of finishing the race in the upper echelons of the points.
Rest assured, though, if Renault produce a 2019 challenger that is closer to the top 3 teams, don't rule him out to beat his podium duck.