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2015 Formula 1 Season Review: Part I - The Midfield

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by R.J. O'Connell, Dec 17, 2015.

  1. R.J. O'Connell

    R.J. O'Connell

    F1 Driver Lineup 2015.jpg
    This is the first part of the RaceDepartment Formula 1 Season Review, documenting the drivers who finished outside the top ten in the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship. This year's midfield performers included two former World Champions, and every one of the six outstanding first-year performers.

    Each driver in this series of reviews is rated on a 1-10 scale. Grades are given out based not only on results in the championship standings, but also factoring in intra-team performance, recent history of performance, and other extraneous factors. As a standard yet necessary disclaimer: The final grade scores at the end of each brief assessment are entirely subjective and may not reflect the criteria of the RaceDepartment editorial staff as a whole.

    The review begins with a look at 2016's highest-profile free agent signing, and the most outstanding young rookie in a generation.

    11th: Romain Grosjean - Lotus F1 Team

    Romain Grosjean continued to stamp his authority as the team leader at Enstone, securing a popular podium finish at the Belgian Grand Prix, site of his lowest career moment three years prior. He utterly thrashed teammate Pastor Maldonado on pace and performance, and even when Lotus' financial woes threatened to keep them down, Grosjean helped to pick them back up again, time after time. The Frenchman departs the Enstone team for the new Haas F1 Team next year, and if they've delivered the goods to compete out of the box, Grosjean can easily match or exceed in 2016 what he accomplished at Lotus in 2015. Grade: 8/10

    12th: Max Verstappen - Scuderia Toro Rosso

    A thousand metaphors and platitudes don't really do justice to what Max Verstappen achieved as a Formula 1 rookie in 2015. The Bandit (nicknamed in honor of several other famous number thirty-threes) showed more collected race savvy at age 17 than most twenty-year veterans of motorsport may ever aspire to, while still displaying the brazen fortitude to pull off more overtakes than any other driver on the grid - or go out spectacularly trying like he did in Monaco. His fourth-place finishes in Hungary and the United States were, fittingly, the best result for any Toro Rosso driver in the post-Vettel era, and his 49 points eclipsed any result that The Constructors Formerly Known as Minardi posted as a team since 2010. In one year, Verstappen surpassed his father's cumulative benchmark as the finest Dutch driver in F1 history, and immediately established himself as a future World Champion in waiting. Grade: 8.5/10

    13th: Felipe Nasr - Sauber F1 Team

    Felipe Nasr disproved the unfounded crticism of him as a fair-rated pay-driver and shocked the world with a sensational drive to fifth place on debut in Australia, and continued to grit out a handful of strong points finishes as the season went on to elevate the under-resourced Swiss team over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship. The Brazilian newcomer already has ambitions to move on after 2016, and even if he stands a good chance at regressing next year, he's proven worthy of a place in F1 based on ability. Grade: 7/10

    14th: Pastor Maldonado - Lotus F1 Team

    Everyone's favorite Venezuelan put together his most consistently productive campaign of his five-year F1 career, recorded his best result in the World Championship, and yet never looked less spectacular in doing so. Maldonado was demolished by Grosjean in every intra-team statistical category, and the clumsy errors that define Maldonado's F1 tenure never went away throughout the season. He seems to have lost the explosive raw pace that made him an honest-to-goodness Grand Prix winner in 2012. Somehow, he's cashed in enough Citgo Rewards points to become lead driver at a factory team in 2016, but this surely has to be his last shot at redemption in the year to come. Grade: 5.5/10

    15th: Carlos Sainz Jr. - Scuderia Toro Rosso

    For all the hype around Verstappen that was indeed delivered upon, teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., the first Red Bull junior to actually win the Formula Renault 3.5 title, was at times just as good if not better. Their head-to-head qualifying and race results were nearly even, and the disparity in points between them would have been much slimmer if not for a rash of untimely mechanical failures. Even if he ultimately can't ascend to becoming a World Champion, it doesn't do justice to Sainz to write him off as anything less than one of the finest rookie performers in recent F1 memory. Grade: 7.5/10

    16th: Jenson Button - McLaren Honda

    For a third consecutive season, Jenson Button was McLaren's higher scoring driver, but that accomplishment is mired in the doldrums of the team's worst season in thirty-five years. He picked up McLaren's first points in Monaco, and his best finish was a sixth place in the United States. Button continues to defy the notion that he's held on too long by being as steady and productive as possible - even under the lousy circumstances of 2015. And while it's quite slim, there's still a glimmer of hope that 2016 could offer the chance to send the former World Champion off the right way. Grade: 6.5/10

    17th: Fernando Alonso - McLaren Honda

    Oh golly. The season started with Alonso benched at Melbourne due to a concussion sustained in pre-season testing, and apart from a determined drive to fifth place in Budapest, it improved very little from there - with a genuine case to be made that it got even worse. Alonso was very seldom outraced by Button until the latter parts of the season, but the shoddy reliability in his "GP2 engine" seemed to hit him harder, and he had just eleven points (and one brilliant meme) to show for his efforts. For Alonso's fans the world over, they're hoping and praying for the two-time World Champion to return to the podium in 2016 and once again demonstrate his magic. Grade: 7/10

    18th: Marcus Ericsson - Sauber F1 Team

    2015 saw genuine improvement out of Ericsson, who at times was decisively quicker over a full Grand Prix weekend than Nasr and rattled off a three-race scoring streak in the summer season despite the car having lost tonnes of pace compared to the start of the season. Yet he only scored nine points to Nasr's 27, and not all of that was due to the car getting slower as the season went on. He stays on at Sauber in 2016, knowing he needs to improve to stay in F1 thereafter. Grade: 5.5/10

    19th: Roberto Merhi - Manor Marussia F1 Team

    Spaniard Roberto Merhi embodied Manor's fighting spirit throughout the season. Racing on a five-figure contract, he was well off Will Stevens' pace in qualifying for much of the year - a shock given their respective records in FR3.5 a year ago. But Merhi had the better outings in races, including a twelfth place finish at Silverstone, joint-best for Manor in 2015. Replaced by Alexander Rossi for five of the last seven rounds, it's unlikely that Merhi will stay in F1 next season - but he's already looking at opportunities in the WEC and Indycar, and him and his feathered and lethal hair deserve a quality drive somewhere in 2016. Grade: 6/10

    20th: Alexander Rossi - Manor Marussia F1 Team

    Nevada Hills, California's Alexander Rossi debuted in Singapore in the middle of his finest GP2 campaign that ultimately saw him become vice-champion to an utterly dominant Stoffel Vandoorne. He outqualified incumbent teammate Will Stevens 3-2 and outraced him 3-1 in his five F1 outings, and fittingly scored his best result in his first venture to the United States, finishing twelfth. Rossi immediately acclimated to F1 and brought a new energy to the Manor squad, and is deservedly on their short list to keep the drive into 2016. Grade: 6/10

    21st: Will Stevens - Manor Marussia F1 Team

    Considered the "best of the rest" in Formula Renault 3.5 for two seasons, Stevens came into the 2015 season as a low-rated quantity for the Manor team. To his credit, the diminutive Essaxon was quicker than Merhi for much of the season, but that battle became increasingly more even as the season progressed, and Rossi immediately matched and exceeded his pace. Stevens is in the frame to continue with Manor into 2016, but needs to improve next year if nominated. Grade: 5/10
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2015
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  2. Chris

    Administrator Staff Premium

    Surprised to see Mehri with a higher rating than Stevens when Mehri was largely beaten by the Brit for most of the season.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Nice article man, enjoyable read.

    Lets hope 2016 is a bit better and rekindles my interest in the sport. For a fan of Grand Prix racing for over 25 years, 2015 was hard to watch...

  4. Milos

    Had things gone my way, who knows..

    suprised to see Jenson and Fernando on such a low grade. It should be kept in mind both guys are driving a McLaren-Honda after all. I think they deserve better.
  5. Andrew

    Out of my mind ! Back in five minutes. Staff Premium

    Nice article man, very enjoyable read. :thumbsup:
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