Here at Badger we’re all for singling out the heroes from the zeroes, as many regular readers will know from our post-race Hot Rod or Hot Dog analysis. In the F1 world there are those who do well and get the praise but then there are the  rest, the others, the forgotten men. It’s clear some people on the grid don’t get the recognition they deserve, so this week we’re looking for the hidden gems and asking;

“Who’s the most unsung hero in 2011?”

We’ve scoured the grid with a fine tooth comb and found our top three; remember, these are our choices. If you have some of your own, we’d be glad to hear them!

HRT

Our first choice isn’t just one man, it’s a whole team. And, contrary to popular belief, the plucky Spaniards aren’t the worst team out there – although they try to fool us each and every week.

Run on a budget that’s probably less than you have in your pocket right now, they’ve done well to keep themselves afloat in a sport that’s pretty dog-eat-dog. Many other teams have crumbled after fewer races, but HRT keep on going.

Bad, but not the worst you know - Sutton Images

There’ve been some canny deals in there to help them along. Narain Karthekayan, who brought along the only sponsor the team has, made way for Daniel Ricciardo mid-season. This brought some Red Bull money into the team, and a naturally faster driver. Williams gearboxes have sat in the rear all season, and they’re the smallest and most radical you can get. That saves weight, makes the cars faster…OK, we’re clutching at straws there.

But results don’t lie; HRT are having a better season than Virgin. With last year’s car plus a few shiny bits bolted on. That has to count for something.

Heikki Kovalainen

You want to carry on taking about underdogs? How about the King Underdog himself, the man who’s at the sharp end of the backmarkers; Heikki Kovalainen. The Team Lotus man may not have secured any headlines for his hard work but, in relative terms, he’s probably driving the best he’s ever done.

Being the most passed driver, you do end up in people's mirrors a lot - Sutton Images

Take his qualifying performance in Spain this year. In dry conditions he hauled his Lotus into 15th places on the grid. By normal F1 standards, that’s not great, but it was the first time on merit a new team had got into Q2. Small victories people. It was made even more impressive seeing as he out-qualified both the Force Indias. That’s a team that now scores regular points.

Yes, it is still clutching at straws, but you don’t see Jarno Trulli doing that, and he’s meant to be the qualifying specialist. And he was dropped for Karun Chandhok.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher’s difficult second album has been better than 2010: he’s closer to Nico Rosberg even though Mercedes themselves have been further back in terms of outright pace to Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. Each and every race weekend, in theory, the German marque should be 7th and 8th on the road. Yet we all know that’s not the way the sport works.

Take Canada as the shining example of how much Michael is improving. In the wet and drying conditions he rose into the podium places – only scuppered by the fact there was a dry line forming, dropping him back to 4th. It was vintage Schumacher.

And let’s not forget the points tally as well. Michael is only 7 points behind Nico Rosberg in the standings, but this time 12 months ago he fewer than half of the younger German’s score. That’s a marked improvement. Who says he’s lost it?

Next year is the crunch time for Herr Schumacher – Mercedes now have more technical directors than HRT does staff and the bigwigs at HQ will want some serious results on the investments so far. But 2011 is set on a firmer foundation than 2010, and that can only lead to bigger and better things.

Ahead of a Ferrari is no mean feat - Sutton Images

That’s it for our choices, but do you agree or disagree? Let us know below!

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