The 2015 Formula 1 World Championship comes to a conclusion in Abu Dhabi and I don’t think anyone will put this season down to being an absolute classic. Mercedes continued where they left off in 2014, with the fastest car by a long shot and it became pretty apparent for anyone following the pre-season test sessions that the Anglo-German squad would be hard to beat.
Lewis Hamilton came in to this season with seemingly a much more relaxed outlook on life. His side of the Mercedes garage led by race engineer Pete Bonnington worked hard to correct the qualifying issues they sometimes had in 2014, which meant that from the opening race in Melbourne until Hamilton clinched the World Championship in Austin, he was a class act.
Amazingly, since that Austin weekend Nico Rosberg seemed to uncover a run of form which made all onlookers go “well why didn’t he do that six months ago?” but cest la vis, too little too late for the German. Hamilton totally deserved his third World Championship, which lifts him up into a very elite class of drivers. The manner in which he achieved it despite a hectic social life outside the paddock was pretty unique. He certainly did it his way.
Nico did a good job this season but there’s no question that Lewis has taken a step forward, relative to him. Nico made two key errors - in Budapest where he perhaps should have been more conservative and gone for points when battling with Daniel Ricciardo and in Austin when he was leading the race and went off all on his own. Reliability issues seemed to hamper him more than Lewis this season but all in all, he was a little bit shy on outright performance.
There was no real chink in the Mercedes armoury in terms of car performance. It was only strategic and set up blunders in Malaysia, Monaco Hungary and Singapore that allowed anyone a chance to slip ahead but even on their bad days, the Silver Arrows did enough to rack up some points towards the championship.
Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel were the ones to capitalise on all those occassions and the German re-established his reputation as one of F1’s elite after an underwhelming 2014. This season saw an energised and revitalised Vettel and he was back to his best. Kimi will end the year firmly as the number two driver in Scuderia’s line-up while Sebastian has endeared himself to the team and the tifosi in a very short space of time.
This was a year of stabilisation and rebuilding for Sebastian and Ferrari - in 2016, they will have to aim for the title. Kimi had his good and bad days but one does get the feeling that his time in F1 is numbered. Certainly you could argue that younger and hungrier drivers like Romain Grosjean, Ricciardo, Max Verstappen or Carlos Sainz would be more deserving of that seat in the long term.
Off the rest, Williams had a safe and steady year to build on their renaissance of 2014. The team finished comfortably in third place again, but I think that they will go in to the winter a little bit disappointed that the gap to Ferrari turned out to be so large.
The Red Bull-Renault saga proved to be the big talking point of the season. I really can’t recall a relationship between a team and engine supplier unravelling so quickly! Within 12 months, they had gone from kings of F1 winning four World Championships in a row, to a fairly extraordinary public mud-slinging battle. Yes, the Renault engine was lacking in performance and reliability when compared to the Mercedes but Red Bull’s approach of openly bashing their engine partners was something unseen in F1.
The fact that the two organisations are stuck together again for 2016 is amazing in itself, but for the sake of F1, I really do hope that we see them competitive again. Force India did a fantastic job this season to secure 5th place in the Constructors Championship. Andrew Green and his technical team in the UK deserve a huge pat on the back for succeeding despite financial constraints.
Torro Rosso uncovered two future stars of F1 with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, both earning their places on the grid for the long term. Max grabbed the headlines and was certainly the most impressive rookie F1 has seen since Lewis Hamilton but Carlos deserves praise as well. And finally, Mclaren Honda were the season’s biggest disappointment. The engine proved to be under-powered and unreliable beyond anybody’s imagination with Fernando Alonso alone going through 12 engines this season!
Scenes of other cars driving easily past the two former World Champions became a sadly familiar sight this year. Much like Red Bull and Renault, F1 needs Mclaren and Honda to be successful but they’ll need a massive step forward for that to happen in 2016!
Mexican Dream, German nightmare
The season was in the news way before it started with news breaking out that Mexico was set for a first GP in 24 years, while Germany was missing from the calendar after a whopping 55 years.
Alonso’s pre-season bust-up
Fernando Alonso was involved in a pre-season testing accident that saw the two-time World Drivers’ Champion hospitalised. On doctor’s advice, Alonso elected to sit out the opening round in Australia, prompting the team to replace him with Kevin Magnussen for the race, with the latter returning in the second race.
More Mercs than everyone
The season saw Mercedes dominate the track from start to finish. The only non-Mercedes driver to win a race was Sebastian Vettel and the Germans have managed 1-2 finishes in eleven of the seventeen races so far.
Midway through the season, a pall of gloom hung over the F1 paddocks when news emerged that former Marussia driver Jules Bianchi had succumbed to injuries that he had sustained in the Japanese GP the season before. Drivers cut across team divides to pay tribute to the Italian.
Keeping your enemies closer
With only two drivers realistically in contention for the title, the relationship between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were fraught with disputes and disagreements. After the US GP, Rosberg reacted indignantly when the Englishman nonchalantly tossed him his P2 cap, and threw it straight back at his teammate.
No catching Lewis
When all was said and done, it was Lewis Hamilton racing to the title. His third and arguable easiest title win, Hamilton broke a plethora of records on the way as well. Only four drivers - Vettel, Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher - have more titles than the Brit now.
Raging Bull, no more
The season was also punctuated by the failure of Red Bull, who had dominated the sport for the past five years, to put forth a car capable of challenging the top teams. Frustrated by the decline, Red Bull honchos briefly considered pulling out of the sports, before deciding to participate next year.