It’s been a controversial season.
From the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, F1 has never been far from the headlines. From the furore over the relative silence of the new 1.6-litre hybrid powertrains, to Bernie Ecclestone’s long court case, to the tensions between title contenders Rosberg and Hamilton, to nervousness over whether the ill-thought-out double points rule would decide the title, there’s always been plenty to talk about.
Thankfully, there has always been plenty of positives to discuss: some of the best racing we’ve seen in decades, the resurgence of the Williams team and the incredible performance of local hero Daniel Ricciardo.
The new cars may not be music to some peoples’ ears, but the combination of less downforce and enormous power has allowed drivers to race closer than they have for many years. There’s also the fact that F1 cars are now matching last year’s lap times using just 100kg of fuel, which of course was the point of the whole exercise in the first place.
Grab a cup of coffee, have a read and let us know where we’ve got it right and wrong. Until next year!
Mercedes-Benz – 1st 701 points
Crushing dominance a reward for mammoth spending and early focus on the new-for-2014 regulations. A record 16 wins, including 11 1-2 finishes, speaks of a superiority not seen since McLaren in 1988. Occasionally made it harder than it needed to be, with costly reliability niggles and intra-team fighting. With Mercedes’ car advantage set to continue in 2015, can the Rosberg-Hamilton relationship survive another world championship battle?
Lewis Hamilton – 1st 11 wins, five pole positions, 384 points 9.5/10
A deserving champion. Bore the brunt of Mercedes reliability niggles with DNFs in Australia and Canada and qualifying problems in Hungary and Germany, yet never finished off the podium in a race he finished and stood on the top step 11 times. Denied a perfect score by often failing to make the most of qualifying. Something to work on for next year.
Nico Rosberg – 2nd Five wins, 11 pole positions, 317 points 9.0/10
A brilliant season from a driver that few thought would offer a realistic challenge to Hamilton. Lack of driving genius (relatively speaking, of course) countered by incredible technical knowledge and ability to adapt – his drive to second in Canada with an ailing car was a masterpiece. Was frequently out-driven by his team-mate when it counted, though, and five wins from 11 pole positions is a poor return. Can he go one better next year?
Red Bull – 2nd 405 points
Given that following pre-season testing the reigning champions looked like they would be flat-out finishing a race, second in the constructors is a very impressive result. With aero wizard Adrian Newey taking a step back from F1 in 2015 and lingering questions over whether the Renault power unit can be brought up to scratch, Red Bull has plenty of work to do over the off-season to produce a front-running car.
Daniel Ricciardo – 3rd Three wins, 238 points 10/10
Patriotism aside, Dan was undoubtedly The Man of 2014. Surely even his most ardent supporters didn’t realise he was this good? Cruelly had a home podium stripped away, but wasted no time making amends with his first win at the Canadian Grand Prix. Maximised his machinery at every opportunity and established himself as the class overtaker of the field. If Red Bull provides the package, the Honey Badger will be a title contender next year.
Sebastian Vettel – 5th 167 points 7.0/10
How the mighty have fallen. With blown diffusers now outlawed, the driving style the Vettel used to blow his rivals into the weeds with devastating effectiveness in 2013 was now useless. Had more than his fair share of reliability problems, but never really got on top of his machinery and showed the odd sign of petulance. Off to chase a new challenge at Ferrari, but could need an awful lot of patience…
Williams – 3rd 320 points
Welcome resurgence in form a just reward for clever management, investing when times were tough and securing the all-important Mercedes powerplant. The decision to favour low drag over downforce often paid dividends in races, though left the car track-sensitive. Operational mistakes also cost some results, but that’s all part of learning to be a front-running team again. With the right drivers, right car, right people and a decent budget again, there’s no reason Williams can’t challenge for regular wins next year.
Valtteri Bottas – 4th 186 points 8.5/10
The latest in a long line of fast Finns, Bottas proved he is the real deal with six podiums, often establishing himself as Mercedes’ nearest challenger. Struggled to make the most of his tyres on some occasions, but crucially always kept his nose clean and very rarely made mistakes. Surely a first win will arrive in 2015.
Felipe Massa – 7th One pole position, 134 points 7.5/10
Fast but flawed, Massa splits opinion like few other drivers. Had a torrid middle of the season, when it seemed he couldn’t make it past the first corner without getting involved in an incident, culminating in turning upside down in Germany. Finished the season strongly, though, with five top-five finishes in the last seven races. The only non-Mercedes driver to score a pole position this year, on his day he’s brilliant – trouble is, on his off days he’s dreadful.
Ferrari – 4th 216 points
Oh dear. The Scuderia continue to slide into the midfield, with no indication that it knows what the problems are, let alone how to fix them. This year marked Ferrari’s first winless season since 1993; not only that, there were just two podiums courtesy of Alonso. Having two drivers that prefer totally opposite car setups didn’t help, but there is hope in the fact that next year’s car will be the work of James Allison, the extremely clever ex-Lotus Technical Director.
Fernando Alonso – 6th 161 points 10/10
Another year spent dragging an unwilling car into places of the grid it had no right being in. Made the most of every opportunity; if there was a result to be had, Alonso would grab it. After five fruitless years at Ferrari, he is presumably off to McLaren. While there are big question marks over the new Honda engine, he is unlikely to be any worse off.
Kimi Raikkonen – 12th 55 points 5.5/10
A dreadful season from Raikkonen. Excuses that the car doesn’t suit his driving style only hold water for so long, the best drivers will find a way of working around their machinery. Still, with Vettel joining the team for 2015 – Raikkonen’s best friend in F1 and a driver with a similar style – if the car is right there’s no reason Kimi won’t be troubling the front runners once again. At least he didn’t stay at Lotus.
McLaren – 5th 181 points
Another season of woeful underachievement for one of the best resourced and funded teams on the grid, marking 16 years since the last constructors’ championship win. The double podium (following Ricciardo’s disqualification) at the Australian Grand Prix was a false promise, though the team did show signs of improvement in the latter stages of the year. With a Honda engine (and money) and (presumably) Alonso at the helm, there will need to be race wins next year.
Jenson Button – 8th 126 points 8.0/10
If Button has driven his last F1 race, then there is no justice in the world. While there are signs that he perhaps no longer has the ultimate one-lap pace he once did, when the car is right, or in mixed conditions, he is still absolutely one of the finest drivers there is. Consider this: while similar on outright pace, Button scored 126 points to Magnussen’s 55 this year. If McLaren produce a good car, the combination of Alonso/Button would be the strongest pairing on the grid.
Kevin Magnussen – 11th 55 points 7.0/10
A solid debut season for the young Dane, who impressed mightily with second in his first ever F1 race. The rest of the season didn’t quite go as smoothly, with problems adjusting to the competitiveness of F1 and learning to extract the best from the tyres. There are signs of promise, but a year spent as a test driver learning the ropes from two of the best drivers in F1 wouldn’t do any harm.
Force India – 6th 155 points
While it may have finished in the same position as last year, Force India scored more than twice the amount of points in 2014. Apparently happy with their place as a midfield runner, occasionally snatching a podium from the big boys, retaining the same drivers for next year should give the team valuable continuity.
Nico Hulkenberg – 9th 96 points 7.5/10
Another solid season from the most overlooked man in F1. There was a strange dip in form mid-season, but he recovered with impressive performances in the last two races of the year. More often than not outscored his teammate, which is the most you can ask for at this end of the grid.
Sergio Perez – 10th 59 points 7.0/10
Recovered well from being cast aside by McLaren and some more time in the midfield has done him good. Still prone to getting involved in silly scuffles but has the pace and scored Force India’s only podium of the year in Bahrain.
Toro Rosso – 7th 30 points
The points difference between itself and Force India tells of the mountain Toro Rosso still has to climb. With Marussia and Caterham unlikely to be around next year, expect Red Bull’s B team to occupy the rear of the grid more often than not, along with Sauber. And who’s going to drive the second car alongside Max Verstappen?
Jean-Eric Vergne – 13th 22 points 7.5/10
Another driver in the Hulkenberg mould; appears quick, but perennially overlooked. Has to feel hard done by that Kvyat gets promoted to Red Bull ahead of him, particularly when he has outscored the young Russian almost three-to-one. Has improved markedly since news filtered through that Toro Rosso was going to release him, so maybe he needs to get angry more often. The irony is, he is looking likely to retain his seat after all as insurance against Verstappen.
Daniil Kvyat – 15th 8 points 7.5/10
Thrown in the deep end, but swam rather than sank. Kvyat quickly proved that while he still has plenty to learn, he definitely has the pace to be in F1. Had a troubled end to the season, often finishing behind Vergne, and moving up to the A-team so quickly will test his mental capacity, but hey, we had doubts about Ricciardo, too.
Lotus – 8th 10 points
A year to forget for Enstone. A slow, unreliable, difficult car was the perfect storm and Grosjean and Maldonado were often left fighting with one hand behind their backs. The team has lost a lot of key technical staff so whether it can recover to run again at the midfield, let alone the front, remains to be seen. Surely 2015 has to be better, though.
Romain Grosjean – 14th 8 points 7.0/10
Held out for as long as he could, but eventually the frustration of being saddled with an evil-handling, untrustworthy old shed of a car proved too much, Grosjean making his feelings known to the wider world via broadcast radio calls. One of F1’s most promising talents, risks falling off the radar of the bigger teams without a strong 2015 campaign.
Pastor Maldonado – 16th 2 points 5.0/10
One thing is certain, races are never dull when Moneybags is around. Even when he’s not bouncing off other drivers Maldonado is entertaining to watch thanks to his seeming determination to constantly drive the car over the limit, a trait exacerbated by this year’s unpredictable Lotus. A fast driver, but the jury’s out on whether he’ll ever win another grand prix.
Marussia – 9th 2 points
It was all going so well. With its first ever points finish in Monaco, Marussia was on track to finish in the top 10 for the constructors championship, guaranteeing it all sorts of travel bonuses and prize money. Sadly, then came Jules Bianchi’s tragic accident, followed by the swift demise of the team itself. It seems unlikely that the black and orange cars will be on the 2015 grid.
Jules Bianchi – 17th 2 points 7.0/10
Slowly being bred for a future Ferrari drive, the only thing of importance now is Bianchi’s full recovery from his awful head injuries following his accident at Suzuka. According to latest reports he is slowly recovering and now breathing on his own, but there’s a long road ahead. #forzajules
Max Chilton – 21st 5.0/10
While no-one gets to be an F1 driver without being extremely talented, Chilton never really showed that he had what it took to progress beyond the back of the grid. With the demise of Marussia, perhaps Chilton should follow the footsteps of his brother Tom, a successful BTCC driver?
Sauber – 10th
The first ever pointless season for the Swiss outfit. Traditionally able to score strong finishes by virtue of a solid, if unspectacular, car and alternative strategy, this year’s efforts were hampered by dreadful early season reliability, a slow car and the sub-standard Ferrari powertrain. Likely to be F1’s backmarker in 2015.
Adrian Sutil – 18th 5.0/10
Likely to be Sutil’s last season in F1, despite his protestations that he has a contract for next year. Possibility of a strong result in Austin ended by being torpedoed by Perez, but it’s unlikely a points finish would have made a difference. A solid driver who will no doubt be snapped up in the World Endurance Championship or Formula E.
Esteban Gutierrez – 20th 5.0/10
Not even the pockets of the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, could save Gutierrez’s seat. Outperformed Sutil in the last few grands prix of the year, but he makes way for Brazilian Felipe Nasr, which is going to be a commentator’s worst nightmare.
Caterham – 11th
Marcus Ericsson – 19th 6.0/10
Consistently slower than his team-mates (even the ring-in ones), nonetheless Ericsson is rated very highly in some circles and subsequently gets a second chance to impress with Sauber next year.
Kamui Kobayashi – 22nd 7.0/10
A strong, feisty racer, Kobayashi never gives less than 100%. Gave up a lucrative Ferrari GT deal for another shot at F1, but it’s fair to say the return hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Still, being a factory Ferrari driver isn’t a bad second choice.
Will Stevens – 23rd No Rating
Presented with a rare opportunity to race an F1 car, the young Englishman understandably took the chance, but will be remembered mostly for attracting the ire of Fernando Alonso during the Abu Dhabi GP. “Who is this guy?” the Spaniard yelled when Stevens wasn’t particularly quick to get out of his way.
Andre Lotterer – 24th No Rating
Did remarkably well given he slotted into a car he’d never driven before, at one of the world’s most daunting racetracks (Spa), with no testing. Sensibly decided against returning with Caterham at Abu Dhabi.