With the season run and won, there’s little news remaining for us to sink our teeth into, apart from speculating about who will fill the seat vacated by Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.
Reflecting on the longest season in the sport’s history, every observer has their own defining moments, but which of the drivers stood the tallest, and who failed to measure up to expectation?
You might be thinking, “Come on, Rodney. It’s hardly fair to reduce a season of 21 races and comparing drivers from teams with incomparable degrees of performance against one another just to label them as among the best/worst for the year!”
Well, you’re right. But I’m going to do it anyway.
I’m going to start with the drivers who had disappointing years. I’m also going to exclude both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, for a number of reasons. Apart from the fact that there have been countless articles written already about which is them was most deserving, at the end of the day they both had moments of brilliance and races they would regret.
So with that said, here’s my three picks for drivers that can’t wait for 2016 to be erased from our collective memories.
It might seem obvious to say that Daniil Kvyat had a poor year. As if being demoted from Red Bull to the junior squad one race after finishing on the podium wasn’t insulting enough, he was forced to continue racing despite his complete lack of confidence. At times it was gruesome to watch, almost as if he’d broken up with his fiancé while on a holiday and had to see out the time with her.
Although the braintrust at Toro Rosso have given Kvyat another year, it’s difficult to see him displacing Ricciardo or Verstappen at Red Bull in the short term, and with Pierre Gasly waiting in the wings he’ll need to regain some of his 2015 confidence and form to justify his place on the grid beyond next year, even outside of the Red Bull eco-system.
Renault have had a tough year as they re-enter Formula One, in fact it was a miracle that they could scramble onto the grid whatsoever. After taking over the Lotus team, the first round of summer testing was upon them in the blink of an eye. Despite his GP2 credentials, Jolyon Palmer’s rookie year raised more doubts about his pedigree than it answered. At times it even appeared that he wasn’t fully cognisant of where things had gone wrong while maintaining a blank yet somehow optimistic demeanour for the press.
Palmer’s spin in Hungary cost him his maiden points-scoring finish in F1, and pretty much sums up his year overall. Although he finally broke the shackles in Malaysia, a handful of clumsy errors saw him unintentionally trading paint with others more often than he’d like. He’ll be hoping for a pronounced reversal of fortune for himself and Renault in 2017.
Lastly, Esteban Gutierrez was one of only four drivers that failed to scored points this season, keeping company with Marcus Ericsson and the part-time Manor drivers Esteban Ocon and Rio Harayanto. Esteban’s return to Formula One after a stint with Sauber between 2013-2014 will mostly be remembered for his involvement in Fernando Alonso’s spectacular shunt in Melbourne in the opening round of the season.
In a year where teammate Romain Grosjean made it into the points on five separate occasions, it’s hard to find a driver in the paddock who had a more disappointing season. Clearly Esteban has driving talent, but he seems to lack any competitive instinct to fight wheel to wheel and leverage his speed for a competitive advantage.
While not among the worst offenders, it’s fair to say that Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button all underachieved compared to their teammates. The fact that two of those three guys have reached the end of their career doesn’t augur well for Nico, whose one saving grace is that he beat out Sergio Perez in the qualifying head to head 12 to 9.
But, enough of dwelling on the negatives. Coming up next week… the three over-achievers for Formula One season 2016.