Thought of the Day | 1.12.15 | School’s Out

As the Formula 1 road show grinds to a miserable halt for the winter months – rather with a whimper this year – it’s about time to look back at the 21 drivers who got the chance to showcase their talents in a sport that is under the public microscope, more so than ever it seems.

Lewis Hamilton – 9/10

The effervescent and sometimes rather temperamental Brit made it three World Championships in 2015, his second in just three years with the Brackley team. Locked in a fierce battle with closest rival and team mate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton looked to have the measure on the German when going wheel to wheel, however the gap in race-craft is far smaller than this time in 2014 between the two. Whilst coming under harsh criticisms from the public due to his slacking performances in the final three rounds, I’m sure he’ll sleep easy when reflecting on the first 16 rounds.

Nico Rosberg – 8/10

It’s been a solid end to another frustrating season for Rosberg, as he could do little but watch team mate Hamilton romp to the title. The fact that it was his mistake in Austin that gifted Hamilton the title will do little to lower his blood pressure – but despite the various car failures he suffered at big points in the season, the tensiometer failure in Sochi and the power unit blow out that curtailed his Monza podium dreams, he can take solace from the excellent run of form at the back end of the year, three straight victories. But will they prove to be meaningless come March?

Sebastian Vettel – 10/10

After dire 2014 campaigns, there’s been a rejuvenation in both the Ferrari and Vettel camps in 2015. The German looks miles happier in red rather than Red Bull, proving to be the Mercedes’ biggest threat throughout the year. Victories in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore proved that he still had the same drive and skill that helped him to four consecutive World Championships from 2010-2013. If Ferrari’s rumoured improvements come to fruition in 2016, Vettel may be in with a chance of emulating his idol in winning a title to bring back to Maranello.

Kimi Raikkonen – 6/10

My rating of 6 may seem harsh on the placid Finn due to his bouts of poor luck in 2015, but the truth is, he hasn’t lived up to expectations and was thumped by Vettel in the German’s first season with Ferrari. There were doubts over his future in F1 come 2016, but the confirmation of a seat alongside Vettel has ended those. But his sparring partner and fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas will be waiting in the wings if he doesn’t improve. But we’ll leave him alone, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.

Valtteri Bottas – 7/10

A solid but unspectacular year for Bottas, following on from a superb breakthrough year in 2014. Two podiums for the Williams driver doesn’t do his talent justice and if he and Raikkonen can keep off the exact same pieces of tarmac next year, he could just get that elusive first win – if Williams can make the extra step up to challenge the Ferraris and the Mercedes. Their early performance in Silverstone shows that they can do it, if they stop making it hard for themselves.

Felipe Massa – 6/10

Another quiet year for Felipe. He cuts a more relaxed figure from his later Ferrari days, but his performances have been underwhelming in 2015. No repeat of the Austria 2014 pole, but another two podiums in Austria and Italy shows he might not be over the hill yet. He retains his seat alongside Bottas for 2016.

Daniil Kvyat – 9/10

Few expected the young Russian to beat Daniel Ricciardo this season, his first in the Red Bull senior team, but Kvyat scored three more points that the grinning Australian – maintaining a pleasing level of consistency as well. Sure, he has some creases to iron out, his poor start to the season, the loss of concentration leading to the massive shunt in Qualifying for Japan – however that could be put down to nerves. Most importantly, he shows the same promise as he did in his first season in F1 in 2014. The podium and gutsy drives in Hungary and Austin will go some way to calming those nerves.

Daniel Ricciardo  – 7/10

Similarly to Bottas, the Honey Badger hasn’t quite carried on his 2014 form. His old team mate Vettel has taken the torch from him, in being the lucky driver that gets to win a race alongside Messrs Hamilton and Rosberg. Outscored by Kvyat, scoring just one podium – alongside Kvyat in Hungary, he’s felt the full force of Renault’s lack of competitiveness. With Red Bull having a minor meltdown at various points in the season, it’s been far from easy to keep that infectious smile on his face. Still, his performances on Instagram has been a highlight.

Sergio Perez – 8/10

Another driver who has benefited from changing teams is the Mexican, ‘Checo’ Perez. Buoyed by the prospect of being the poster boy for his native country’s first Grand Prix since 1992, he’s outperformed team mate Nico Hulkenberg, to a few people’s surprise. A thrilling podium in Sochi was the highlight of his year, alongside a few top 5 finishes and his wonderful drive in Monaco, managing to stretch his Supersoft tyre stint for around two years more than anyone else on the grid.

Nico Hulkenberg – 6/10

A poor year for the Hulk, not managing a podium or any stand out drives, scoring 20 less points than Perez. He keeps his seat at the Aston Martin/Force India team for 2016 and due to a calendar clash, F1 will be firmly on his mind, rather than defending his Le Mans crown in June. We’ll see if he can recapture his 2013 form and force his way into a top team, but that seems unlikely with the wealth of talent arising from the smaller teams and the junior formulae.

Romain Grosjean – 7/10

The Frenchman’s 10 year association with Lotus/Renault has now ended as he moves onto Haas for next year, but he can look back on his 2015 season with pride (for the most part). His persistence in Belgium led to him profiting from Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure and getting his first podium in 20 months, but in typical Grosjean style, silly mistakes can tarnish his reputation. Let’s see how his new team adapts to the sport next year. It’ll either be a spectacular failure or a master-stroke as the Enstone team will lose their Mercedes power.

Max Verstappen – 10/10

“17 until September you say?” “He’s too young, isn’t he?” “Lucky lad; I’m 37 and I don’t get a company car.” Many people had their say on the young Dutchman, expressing their doubts during pre-season. The fact that the FIA have increased the minimum driver age means that Verstappen’s record of being the youngest ever driver in the sport’s history looks safe for the foreseeable future, but if they show the same maturity and skill as the teenager, they might reconsider. Come November, he has been tipped as a future World Champion and seen as the shining light in a dull season for the sport, his memorable overtakes providing a lot of the action in an otherwise sterile season. It can’t be long before Red Bull lose out to Mercedes or Ferrari for his services, unless they and Renault or whoever supplies their engines get their act together again. Well done Max, representing Motorsport mad teenagers everywhere.

Felipe Nasr – 7/10

After his impressive fifth place on debut, the Brazilian has endured a quiet season in his Sauber. Solid, yet unspectacular, Nasr has impressed the paddock with his maturity and consistency, providing some joy for Sauber in a year that started with legal troubles and arguments. One to watch for 2016, if Sauber make improvements.

Pastor Maldonado – 5/10

He gets a lot of stick, Pastor, doesn’t he. Agreed, a lot of it is deserved, but every so often he can produce a great drive out of nowhere. Lest we forget, he’s a race winner. But his second season with Lotus has been just as error prone as ever, crashes and penalties aplenty. He keeps his seat, somewhat contentiously for next year, alongside Jolyon Palmer.

Carlos Sainz, Jr. – 6/10

It seems that all the attention has gone to his team mate Verstappen, but Sainz is just 21 and as had a promising first year in the sport. He may have been outscored comprehensively by Verstappen, but when his car hadn’t ceased to work, he generally sneaked into the points. His huge accident in Practice in Sochi left him hospitalised for Qualifying, but his come back drive caught the eye, running in the points until a similar but less spectacular brake failure ended his weekend. He retains his seat alongside Verstappen next year.

Jenson Button – 7/10

It almost seems unfair to give Jenson a score for this year, as he has gone as fast as his unreliable, slow, embarrassing McLaren has allowed him to go. Points finishes have been few and far between, just four races in the top 10 this season. Somehow, he’s still kept his sense of humour for the press in his worst season since 2008. His 6th place in Austin has undoubtedly been the highlight for the Brit, but at least he got on the podium – unofficially or not…

Fernando Alonso – 6/10

2015 marked the first time Alonso has been outscored by his team mate in F1. Not even Tarso Marques managed that, let that sink in. Just like Button, Fernando has spent more time mocking his employers over the team radio rather than delivering points. A frosty end to the year with Ron Dennis slipped out in Abu Dhabi, when Dennis said that the Spaniard will be taking a sabbatical for 2016, only to change tune two days later, confirming his services will be needed. But if Honda don’t improve, will he give them?

Marcus Ericsson – 5/10

There are still questions over Ericsson’s reputation as a Formula One driver, the Swede ending up classified as the lowest points scorer in 2015. Usually finishing in and around the points, he showed consistency, but was outperformed by debutante team mate Nasr.

Roberto Merhi – 5/10

A neutral score for Merhi, who slipped under the radar at the back end Manor team. He eased into the job over the year, ending up beating Stevens in most races, until he disappeared back to Formula 3 for a little while before returning for Abu Dhabi.

Alexander Rossi – 8/10

He’s waited for three odd years, but the American Rossi finally stepped out of the reserve driver and GP2 shadows to get a drive alongside Stevens when Merhi switched series. He did well, finishing ahead of Stevens in each of his five races bar Brazil. If Manor need a driver next year, he’ll probably get the gig full time.

Will Stevens – 5/10

Everyone’s favourite back marker, the Essex lad props up the field, due to alphabetical order. He has put in consistent performances, his best drive coming in his home race at Silverstone, before he aquaplaned into the gravel. A former Honda development driver, he probably won’t make the marginal step up to McLaren next year alongside Button and Alonso, but may retain his seat at Manor.



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