Today marks the end of another season of Formula One. To send you off into another long winter (111 days until the new season!), here’s a review of the 2015 Formula One season.
Not the greatest year in the sport in terms of racing. Some of the early race results were hopeful, with Sebastian Vettel winning his second race for Ferrari and answering doubts about anyone being able to beat the Mercedes, but on the whole, races have been forgettable.
We have seen sporadic brilliance, mainly from young guns Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen. Sergio Perez did well to finish on the podium in Texas, as did Romain Grosjean in Belgium after a difficult weekend for the team.
The Bottas-Raikkonen rivalry that developed in the latter stages of the year was phenomenal, and as they headed into the final race, both Finns had taken the other out once, and they were separated by a mere point in the Drivers’ Championship.
The fight for World Champion was won by Lewis Hamilton. Nico Rosberg found form a little too late, taking the final 6 pole positions and winning three of them.
Looking to 2016
Romain Grosjean leaves Lotus after 10 years with the team in its various outfits. He moves on to Gene Haas’s American outfit, with possibly a view to use those Ferrari connections to get a red cockpit for 2017.
He is replaced with GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer, who took over his cockpit in many FP1 sessions this year. However with the Renault take over still not confirmed, there is a very real danger the team will enter administration next week and not be on the grid next season.
Manor Marussia will now be powered by Mercedes, and are expected to jump up to the midfield, possibly leaving McLaren languishing at the back of the grid.
Esteban Gutierrez makes a surprising return to the grid with the Haas team; a second chance we’re not convinced he necessarily deserves.
Aufwiedersehen, Susie Wolff
And suddenly, it just got so much harder for a female to get a Formula One race seat.
In July 2014, Susie Wolff became the first woman in 22 years to take part in a Formula One weekend, driving in the British GP and German GP practice sessions.
Having done the same in Spain and Silverstone this year, Susie has decided to retire from competitive motorsport.
Over and out. Thank you. 🏁🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/bRiNt09g9v
— Susie Wolff (@Susie_Wolff) November 21, 2015
Some may argue she didn’t deserve a race seat, or even to occupy a role as development and then test driver, but her previous form in other series doesn’t matter. She made it, she sat in that cockpit, and she was able to match the times of her more experienced team-mate.
At the Australian GP, it looked as though all her hard work would pay off and she would be called upon to replace Valtteri Bottas at the Malaysian GP, should his back injury have continued to plague him. However, in a surprising move by the team, they immediately kiboshed the hopes of both Susie, and many fans who called for her to sit in the cockpit, and within the week they announced Adrian Sutil as their official reserve driver. It was a disappointing move by the team to opt for someone who probably hadn’t even laid eyes on the 2015 challenger over someone who had put blood, sweat and tears into testing, developing, and familiarising themselves with the car. In the end it was a moot point, as Bottas was deemed fit to race, but Williams sent out a clear signal to the world that, despite their successful partnership with Susie, they were highly unlikely to let her race.
With that, and a danger of no progression in her role for next year, Susie has announced she’s calling it a day. And now the struggle for a woman to break into a F1 cockpit is back to square one, as there are no real contenders knocking on the door of F1, and without an active presence like Susie in F1 to both inspire the next generation and make the teams sit up and take notice, it’s difficult to imagine another female taking part in the near-to-mid future.
Carmen Jorda was, of course, the Lotus development driver for this season, however it is unlikely she will progress to Jolyon Palmer’s vacant 3rd driver role for 2016. Simona de Silvestro was almost a Sauber driver until her funding fell through and she was dropped by the team; she is now competing in Formula E. There are a few women dotted about other junior formulae who could do well, but who are in danger of being overlooked by teams for a potential race seat.
Susie hopes to help inspire and campaign for more women to make it to Formula One: we wish her well and hope that our predictions are completely wide of the mark.
Who will be Drivers’ World Champion next year?
Something tells us Sebastian Vettel will be celebrating his 5th World Championship title next year.
Mercedes will undoubtably be dominant next year, however the jump in performance Ferrari has made from 2014 is astounding. If they were able to almost double their points haul from last season (and they were so close to doing so), then with Sebastian Vettel more confident and driven than ever before, they will be sure to take the fight to Mercedes.
Ferrari line-up change
It’s hard to imagine, barring an absolute cracking turnaround, that Kimi Raikkonnen will be occupying that Ferrari cockpit in 2017. Despite finishing the season on the podium, his performance, when not plagued by technical problems, has not been up to standard.
We suspect his surprise re-signing for 2016 was part Ferrari keeping their new German driver happy, as he and Raikonnen get on so well, while ensuring that Vettel’s second year in the team has continuity. A new upstart like Max Verstappen rocking the boat would be exciting for the fans, but not ideal for the team’s plans for Sebastian. Raikkonnen will be a fundamental part of Vettel’s title hunt and a safe pair of hands to help him to it.
But it’s difficult to imagine Ferrari justifying another contract extension if Raikkonnen’s form doesn’t improve. So who could Sebastian Vettel’s 2017 teammate be?
Much touted, but in our opinion unlikely. Max will only be the grand old age of 19 at the start of the 2017 season, and would do better, in our opinion, spending a few more years at Toro Rosso or Red Bull before making the leap to the prancing horse. It would be a shame to see him peak too soon – we want Max to stick around, and would favour a more steady career progression similar to that of Sebastian Vettel.
Perez’s contract with Force India is only for the 2016 season, and he is the first teammate since Reubens Barrichello to beat teammate Hulkenberg in the German’s six years in F1. His form this year has been great, possibly helped by a series of unfortunate events that his teammate experienced in the latter half of the year, and a surprise podium at the Russian GP. However if the Mexican were to take the seat at Ferrari, we fear it would be very much an interim role, and much like his season at McLaren, Perez would be replaced by 2018. We think Perez would do well to stay at Force India, and in a strong driver pairing, take the fight to the frontrunners, something he and Hulkenberg should be able to do in 2016.
Grosjean has left the Lotus team after 10 years to join Haas F1. The new American outfit has an extensive partnership with the scarlet red team, taking not only the engine but also various other parts, and one of their Acadamy drivers. Grosjean will be hoping to impress in the new team and capitalise on those close connections with Ferrari to try to get himself in that cockpit in 2017.
Hulkenberg renewed his contract with Force India for not one, but two more seasons. This would seemingly leave him out of contention for a potential seat at Ferrari for 2017. However, this move could strangely make him more desirable to Ferrari, as his commitment may make them want something they can’t have, and might try to buy him from Force India. Stranger things have happened, and he would be as strong a contender as Grosjean if given the chance in a top team.
Who deserves a seat in F1 in 2017?
Current GP2 champion and taking over Kevin Magnussen’s role at McLaren next year (and who knows, maybe even Fernando Alonso’s race seat if Ron Dennis’s confusing comments turn out to be true), Stoffel is a steady performer and would do well in a midfield team.
Also a victim of Ron Dennis’s motormouth this weekend, Kevin Magnussen is desperate to return to a cockpit having been demoted, and then dropped, by McLaren this year. He impressed last year and performed well against his teammate, Jenson Button, in 2014. If Sergio Perez can find a resurgence in form, then Kevin can too.
Formula One Class of 2015 Awards
Class Clown: Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian really enjoyed winding up the Mercedes drivers this year. Here is a nice collection of all of them, as well as a gem from way-back-when, when the infamous ‘Fernando is faster than you’ was uttered and team orders came to the fore.
(Cancelled) Saturday qualifying USGP
— Joe Saward (@joesaward) November 28, 2015
Most impressive: Max Verstappen
Best race start: Williams at British GP
I screamed really, really loudly.
Mr Grumpy award: Fernando Alonso
Notable mention: Nico Rosberg
Although to be fair, he did just lose a World Championship, and this was blown out of proportion…
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 26, 2015
The Pastor Maldanado award: Pastor Maldanado
I saved it! I saved it! Wait, I’m Maldonado… *full right steering lock* pic.twitter.com/Sf96rjzrnH
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) August 21, 2015
Best tweet: #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe
— McMike (@_McMike_) November 14, 2015
Notable mention: Red Bull Racing
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) October 30, 2015
Best Overtake: Runner up: Max Verstappen in Spa
Runner up 2: Max Verstappen in Monaco
Winner: Carlos Sainz Jr in Abu Dhabi
Three cars in two corners. Just wow.
Niki Lauda Moment
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 19, 2015
Race of the year: US GP
A world champion was crowned; a race was almost one by so many different people. Here’s hoping we have more of these in 2016.