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2017 F1 Season Review - Fantastic Fourth!

F1 turned over a new leaf in 2017. The ownership changed hands and Liberty Media added a freshness to the sport. Fan Interactions increased, Experiences were added and the future looks bright for a sport that aims at expanding its global footprint.

2017 also saw 3 rookies make it to the grid - Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly & WEC Champion Brendan Hartley ( replaced Daniil Kvyat towards the end of the season )

20 races made up the 2017 Season and pre-season tests suggested that Ferrari would be a formidable challenger. Red Bull seemed to be off the pace while Mercedes had another reliable run into 2017. Was Ferrari able to dethrone Mercedes from their perch? How did Red Bull fare with their new Tag Heuer branded engine? Bottas vs Hamilton? Hamilton vs Vettel? Bottas vs Raikkonen? Who reigned supreme in 2017? Well lets have a quick recap of the season gone by.

Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the most successful team and engine supplier in the turbo-era went into 2017 with a little bit of uncertainty. The W08, their 2017 challenger was fast but not the easiest to handle. Nico Rosberg the reigning World Champion retired from the sport and Mercedes had to hire Valtteri Bottas from Williams, so that wasn't ideal. Questions were raised about the worthiness of Valtteri Bottas. Doubts lingered about the kind of relation he would have with Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari seemed to have done their homework and the gap was considerably lower than in 2016. This was going to be one tough fight.

The season started off more as a boxing bout as the contenders to the crown traded punches taking victories in alternate rounds. Lewis Hamilton took the first win of the season for the team in China and Bottas responded with a win of his own in Russia. Hamilton then took victories in Spain ( a hard fought one ), Canada and Great Britain while Bottas notched up another win in Austria. The Finn kept his more experienced team-mate honest in the title fight. Hamilton went on a winning spree in Belgium, Italy and Singapore and became the Number 1 driver in the team. Japan and USA sealed the deal. P2 in Mexico saw him being crowned the Drivers' Champion for the 4th time! He also surpassed Michael Schumacher's record of the most pole positions in Italy and with the British Grand Prix win, he equalled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark, who also won the race five times each. Lewis made it happen when it mattered the most. He won the those little battles to win the war and a well deserved title it was. Kudos to the Englishman for his win. Hamilton had amassed 363 points with 9 wins and 4 podium finishes at the end of 2017. Bottas who played catchup with Vettel in the second half of the year eventually finished in P3 with 305 points, 3 race wins and 10 podium finishes under his belt.

Mercedes will still be the team to beat in 2018. Period.

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in F1 - A name synonymous with winning. A lot of hopes were pinned on the Maranello based outfit to take the fight to the Mercs . Many believed this was the year that Ferrari would finally deliver; after all it had been 10 years since they last won a Drivers' Championship! Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen a pair that gets along extremely well. The year started off on the right note for Vettel with 3 wins out of 6 and Lewis Hamilton having to play catchup. Going into the mid-season break, the German trailed by 3 points in the championship with 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary ) & 6 podium finishes. His championship hopes seemed to be on track after Lewis struggled in qualifying in Mercedes' bogey track ( Singapore ) and Vettel put it on pole. However an uncharacteristic error on the Sunday ( on a wet track ) took the top 3 qualifiers Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen out of the race. Verstappen got sandwiched with Vettel cutting across and Raikkonen, who had a blistering start overtaking him resulting in a mighty shunt for the 3. Lewis took the win and it dealt a heavy blow to the championship. Retirement in Japan proved to be the final nail in the coffin and Lewis took the championship in Mexico. Vettel finished P2 ( albeit just ) with 317 points and 5 wins under his belt.

Kimi Raikkonen on the other hand had a slower start to the year. He put his car on pole in Monaco and could have won but for Vettel to come out on top thanks to a better strategy. Kimi played second fiddle throughout the year ( inspite of constant denial by the team ). He finished P4 in the Championship with 7 podium finishes, his best being 2nd in Monaco and Hungary. Once again, the Iceman didn't have reliability and circumstances going his way, robbing him of more podium finishes and possible victories. Kimi was praised for being a team player on many occasions and Belgium is one instance that comes to mind. On his final run in qualifying, Kimi made an error and had to abort the lap. He managed to give Vettel the tow towards the end of the lap, that helped the German end up on the front row to challenge for the win. One thing is certain though, he might be the oldest driver on the grid but he hasn't lost his racing edge. On his day, the Iceman is still untouchable. Will we see him win again? ever? Well that is one question no one can answer.

Ferrari were on track in the first half of the season, then they lost the plot altogether. It isn't going to be easy beating Mercedes over a season but the team can take encouragement from the fact that their competitors aren't invincible.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing began their 2017 campaign with a Tag Heuer branded power unit. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen renewed their partnership and things didn't seem too promising at the start of the season. However the duo gave the works team a run for their money notching a victory each under their belt. Ricciardo won in a power dominated circuit in Baku ( thanks to Vettel and Hamilton bickering and incidents galore around him ). Verstappen after a slew of retirements ( thanks to mechanical failures ) finally won in Malaysia. A coming together in Hungary brought Ricciardo grief but the Australian prevailed over the Dutchman, finishing 5th in the Drivers' Championship with 1 win and 8 podium places. 3 retirements towards the end of the season denied him the chance to retain 4th place ( eventually taken by Raikkonen ). Verstappen too suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season and finished in 6th place with 2 wins ( Malaysia and Mexico ) and 2 podium finishes.

Red Bull must ensure that they lock down the duo for the future as they share a wonderful chemistry and have an abundance of talent. The chink in the armour was the reliability of the power units. The difference to Ferrari in 2nd seems big but it would have been a lot closer with more podiums and points finishes. They were perceived as the biggest threat towards the end of the season. Red Bull know how to win. They have been there, done that. Improving in 2018 is a given.

Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to go from strength to strength in the Turbo Era. The Best Mercedes Customer Team tag remained with them in 2017. Sergio Perez & Esteban Ocon pushed each other throughout the year. The push became a shove and the team had to ban them from racing each other in order to protect their position in the championship. Perez finished on 100 points in P7, 13 ahead of his team-mate Ocon with points finishes in every race barring 3. His best finish was P4 in Spain. Ocon went on a record run of race finishes until his retirement in the Brazilian GP. The Frenchmen scored 87 points with his best finishes of P5 in Spain and Mexico.

Force India were truly a force to reckon with in 2017. Finishing P4 in the championship was no mean feat. They even made the Big 3 sweat on a few occasions. 2018 wont be easy sailing as those trailing behind will have more powerful units under them.

Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams fielded a mix of experience and youth in Felipe Massa and Rookie Lance Stroll. Massa called it a day at the end of the 2016 season but had to return after Bottas switched to Mercedes AMG F1. Williams finished 5th in the Constructors' Championship and amazingly managed to bag a podium with Lance Stroll in Baku! The team's struggle continued in 2017 after the initial successes of 2014. Felipe Massa outscored Stroll but only just ( 3 points ), 6th being his best finish in Australia and Bahrain. Paul di Resta stepped into Massa's Seat for one race ( Hungary ), the Brazilian having to sit it out due to illness. Lance Stroll struggled in the initial rounds of the season but the 3rd place finish in Baku sent many doubters into silence. Stroll finished in the points in 7 races and suffered 4 retirements. His performances are bound to approve in 2018. The 19 year old still has a lot to learn in the world of motor racing and the team has played a big gamble by having another rookie join their ranks in 2018.

Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 finished the season in 6th in the Constructors' Championship, a marked improvement from their performances in 2016. They would not like to be where they are at but the only way forward is upwards and thankfully being a works team will ensure that funding never becomes an issue for R&D.

Nico Hulkenberg scored 43 points and finished 10th in the Drivers' Championship. He finished in the points in 8 races with 6th being his best finish on 4 occasions. Jolyon Palmer had a painful 2017 again, only 6th in Singapore being his finish in the points. He was eventually relieved of his services after Japan, a forgettable F1 Career for the former GP2 Champion. Carlos Sainz Jr. then joined the ranks and produced his best finish of 7th ( for the team ) in Austin, USA.

Renault will be a potent team in 2018. The dynamic duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz Jr. will be pushing each other and I see the team finishing at least P4 in 2018.

Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso began the 2017 campaign with Daniil Kvyat & Carlos Sainz Jr. Kyvat was then replaced by Pierre Gasly for Malaysia & Japan and left the team after the US Grand Prix. Red Bull Loaned Carlos Sainz Jr. to Renault F1 for a year ( for 2018 ) but Renault relieved Jolyon Palmer of his services after Japan so Sainz had to effect the switch earlier. LMP1 Porsche Driver and WEC Champion Brendon Hartley took his place for the final 4 rounds of the season. This merry-go-round didn't create the ideal situation for the team since they had to fight hard to retain their place against a resurgent Haas towards the business end of the season. The team also suffered from misfiring Renault Units on many occasions.

Carlos Sainz Jr. led the charge with a career best 4th in Singapore, who can forget the Radio Communication that night "Vamos Vamos Vamos!" Daniil Kvyat only managed 5 points, 9th being his best finish. Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley weren't able to open their accounts.

Toro Rosso won't have it easy in 2018 as they switch to Honda Power. Gasly and Hartley are supremely talented but will need a reliable car under them to help the team achieve the points that they need.

Haas F1 Team :

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen led the charge for Haas F1 in 2017 and the relatively new team continue to impress in their 2nd year. Finishing P8 in the championship, they narrowly missed beating Scuderia Toro Rosso ( 6 points ) to P7. Romain Grosjean bagged 28 points in 2017 inspite of having brake troubles throughout the year. His best finish was 6th in Austria. Kevin Magnussen's best finish was P7 in Azerbaijan and he finished the season on 19 points.

F1 is a demanding sport and Haas will have to maintain a steep development curve to stay in touch with those in front. Nevertheless they can take pride in the fact that they have fielded a more reliable car in 2017.

McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren's partnership with Honda has been one of its biggest fiascos. The Engine Manufacturer failed to make inroads even in 2017 and the team suffered massively from multiple engine penalties over different race weekends. There were silver linings but the news of a split developed through the year. The Team had both cars cross the chequered flag only on 7 occasions. They did reduce the deficit to Haas F1 towards the end but were unable to finish any better than P9 at the end of the year.

Fernando Alonso & Stoffel Vandoorne finished their season on 17 and 13 points respectively, their best finishes being 6th and 7th. Alonso also enjoyed the opportunity of racing in the Indy 500 in the US which coincided with the Monaco GP. Jenson Button was recalled out of retirement and got to race but had to retire after an incident with Wehrlein. There is no doubt in the ability of the duo and results will improve with a much faster and more reliable Renault power unit for 2018.

Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 finishes last in the standings, financial constraints limiting their progress in 2017. The team already had a power deficit with a 2016 Ferrari engine and their problems were compounded when the team principal Monisha Kaltenborn left mid-season. Marcus Ericsson drew a blank again while Pascal Wehrlein's P8 in Spain & P10 in Azerbaijan brought home the team's points. Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari's Reserve Driver also got 2 weekends under his belt in Australia & China after Wehrlein injured himself in the Race of Champions earlier in the year and felt under-prepared for the start of the season.

Its been a disappointing year again for Sauber F1 but with Alfa Romeo investing in them for 2018, a lot can change.

I had the privilege of attending the Spanish Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix in 2017. Planning to do 3 races in 2018, God Willing.

The 2018 season kicks off with pre-season testing in Barcelona in February. The much debated Halo makes its debut. The lineup for 2018 is complete and car launch dates are out too.

Mercedes won a hard fought battle in 2017. Ferrari were left wondering what could have been.

it was a Fantastic Fourth for the team from Brackley! Well Done Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team!

The Countdown to the 2018 season has begun. Can't wait!

2016 F1 Season Review - Like Father, Like Son

2016 was the longest F1 Season with 21 Races on the Calendar. Baku became the European Grand Prix and the Season also saw the arrival of a new customer team in Haas F1 powered by Ferrari. Red Bull became Red Bull - Tag Heuer ( Renault engines branded as Tag Heuer ), Renault became a works team hiring the Services of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, Romain Grosjean joined Esteban Gutierrez in Haas F1 while Pascal Wehrlein & Rio Haryanto got drives in Manor ( formerly Marussia ) Racing F1 Team.

I had the privilege of attending the Spanish GP and the Hungarian GP this year and both were amazing venues to watch a race. Spain was special since Ferrari achieved a double podium with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Experts predicted a close fight for supremacy in 2016. Lets do a quick recap of how it all unfolded in 2016.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

The Undisputed Kings of the new Turbo era continued their dominance winning 19 races in the season. Nico Rosberg continued where he left off in 2015, winning the first 4 races until a coming together in Spain ( with Lewis ). Lewis Hamilton rose up to the challenge after Spain winning the next 6 out of 7 races. Austria witnessed another incident between the two. Belgium, Italy, Singapore - Rosberg reigned supreme. The Big Twist in the tale came in Malaysia when Hamilton was comfortably leading only to see his engine blow up and hand the lead to RosbergThe difference stood at 23 points now! Rosberg won in Japan and the difference rose to 30 points. The victory meant that he had to only finish 2nd in the final 4 races ( should Hamilton win each of them ). Easier said than done. Lewis won in US & Mexico, Nico was 2nd. The Big Test came in Brazil. Hamilton was the master of Racing in Rain and was virtually untouched. Max Verstappen got the measure of Rosberg and passed him into P2. There were multiple stoppages, multiple crashes, treacherous conditions yet the Mercedes' strategists pulled off a master stroke to help Rosberg achieve P2. Then came the final round in Abu Dhabi! Lewis Hamilton pulled away from pole with Nico P2. Max pointed the wrong way at T1 but made up to P3 with a long stint on Medium Tyres. Nico was P4 after his pit stop and needed to pass Max to keep his championship hopes alive. The pass was 'critical'. Sebastian Vettel who led the race for a long time made up places in his final stint and was P3 with 6 laps left. Lewis, who regained the lead, went against team instructions and slowed down to back Nico into Vettel and Verstappen. He tried his best and by the time the race ended, the top 4 were separated by less than a second! Nico had done it. He was the 2016 F1 World Champion! Nico had been the more consistent of the two ( one retirement vs two of Lewis' ) although Lewis had won one more race. However the outgoing Champion can be proud of his season. One might say his tactics in the final race were unsporting but he did everything he could ( in his capacity ) to win the championship and its not easy to back anyone up into a chasing pack. It requires a lot of skill. Credit where credit is due, Hamilton is a born racer and there are very few like him in F1. There were a lot of conspiracy theories doing the rounds that Lewis' car was sabotaged to help Nico win the championship - a German champ for a German team. Its unfortunate to have mechanical issues which rob you of victories or precious points at pivotal moments in the championship. Kimi Raikkonen was robbed like this in 2003 and 2005 but that is how motorsport is. It can be pretty unforgiving.

Nico has announced his retirement from the sport as well. We won't see him defending his World Championship which is a shame but his priorities are different and we must respect that.

Mercedes will have a strong package and a strong pairing in 2017. Pace is not an issue, reliability still is and that will be focused upon in the 2017 development. What Mercedes would not want is to see Reliability dictate who wins and who loses. 

It will be difficult to beat them to the title!

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull parted ways with Renault at the end of 2015 but continued to use their power units, albeit with Tag Heuer branding. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat started the season together and the latter bagged 3rd place in China. However a mistake in Russia caused a crash and costed Kvyat his seat for the rest of the season. There was a lot of furore but experts believed that the Russian was already on borrowed time. Max Verstappen got promoted to the A team in Spain and won the race on debut for his new team! He also became the youngest F1 Race Winner silencing all critics and justifying Red Bull's decision. Ricciardo stepped up his performances too and a shambolic pit stop costed him victory at Monaco. He finally won in Malaysia, making it 2 wins in the season for the team, a marked improvement from their previous year. Red Bull brought in a lot of aero upgrades throughout the season and they eventually overtook Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo finished P3 in the standings with 256 points with 1 win & 7 podiums. Max Verstappen finished in P5 with 204 points with 1 win and 6 podiums, an incredible achievement considering that he raced for Toro Rosso in first 4 races. Max proved his worth again with a stellar drive in treacherous and rainy conditions in Brazil finishing P3 behind Lewis and Nico.

Red Bull should be extremely pleased with their season. They can gain a lot of encouragement from the fact that they have 2 young but incredibly talented drivers in a potent car for 2017. The added downforce might tip the advantage in their favour in the Constructors' battle. They will definitely have a more enjoyable winter compared to 2015. Onwards and Upwards for the team!

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari flattered to deceive, that is how I sum up their season. They had a strong start to the season but the challenge petered out over the course of the year. Strategic howlers robbed them of potential podiums and the car struggled to stay in touch with the top even after liberally using the upgrade tokens throughout the season. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were delegated with the task of keeping the tifosi happy and they did it to the best of their abilities. Kimi Raikkonen outqualified his team-mate ( 11-10 ) over the course of the season which was a pleasant surprise. The Iceman also managed to get 4 podiums finishing 6th in the Championship with 186 points. Sebastian achieved 6 podiums and P4 in the standings with 212 points.

The team failed to win a race this year, their main target at the start of 2016. Overall its been a disappointing performance. The Power Deficit couple with Aerodynamic deficiency hampered progress. The car was also slow in getting the tyres upto temperature. They also need to have more faith in their strategies and not react to what others are doing during a race.

The Result? Red Bull eventually caught up and overtook them, outscoring Ferrari by 70 points.

Kimi had a decent year but it could have been a lot better if Ferrari had not made strategic errors in a few races. He could have achieved some more podiums. Kimi should be strong in 2017.

Ferrari need a major overhaul if they need to challenge for the title in 2017. The learning curve is going to be steep but with the Financial Resources they have, progress should be faster.

Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India ended 2016 as the strongest Mercedes Customer Team. The team went from strength to strength each year and they are reaping the fruits of their hard work now. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg produced the goods again as the team clinched 4th place in the Constructors enabling them a strong base to start from in 2017.

Sergio Perez achieved 2 podiums in Monaco and Canada and finished in the points on 14 occasions. Hulkenberg's best finish came in Belgium ( 4th ) with 14 points finishes as well. Perez finished the season on 101 points with Hulkenberg scoring 72.

Force India should be proud of what they have achieved this year with the limited resources they had. The Drivers were consistent in bringing home results and although P3 will be a tough ask, finishing P4 again is achievable.

Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams had a strong 2014 and 2015. However 2016 saw a sharp drop in performances and results. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas teamed up for 2016. Bottas got a podium ( 3rd ) finish in Canada while Massa's best finish was 5th in Australia & Russia.

Bottas amassed 85 points while Massa finished 11th in the standings with 53 points. The team was overshadowed by Force India though. The Silverstone based outfit prevailed against them in a hard fought battle.

Felipe Massa announced his retirement from the sport and was given a fitting farewell by one and all in F1.

The Team dropped to 5th in the Constructors' standing as against 3rd last year. They never looked like challenging the works team in the 2nd half of the season. The team would be very displeased to lose another position to Force India, a team operating with a smaller budget than theirs. The saving grace for them was the power advantage of their Mercedes unit, else P5 would be a tough ask too.

Williams have work to do for 2017.

McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren continued with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for 2016. Alonso suffered a bad accident with Gutierrez in Australia and had to skip Bahrain GP. Stoffel Vandoorne, the reserve driver, finished 10th in Bahrain grabbing the first point of the season for McLaren. Alonso won the team-mate battle finishing 10th in the overall standings with 54 points. His best finish was 5th in Monaco and USA. Jenson Button who announced his retirement from the sport at the end of the season finished 15th with Austria yielding his best race finish ( 6th ).

McLaren improved considerably in their 2nd year with the Honda engine. They managed to put in a fair number of miles throughout the season. Results improved considerably but still they are nowhere near the performance levels that they should be. 2017 will be an interesting year. Hopefully Honda can concentrate on power rather than reliability over the winter break.

Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a torrid time with Renault powered engines in 2015 and reverted to Ferrari powertrains, albeit the 2015 one. Toro Rosso continued with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen for 2016 but the lineup changed post Russia after Kvyat caused a collision and was demoted to Toro Rosso, Verstappen moving up the order. Many questioned this move mid-season but Red Bull reiterated that this was necessary to help Kvyat develop into a better racer.

Toro Rosso had a very capable chassis and produced strong results throughout the season - 63 Points and 7th in the Constructors' Championship. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 46 points, Max scored in 3 races ( till Russia ) while Kvyat managed to score in only 3 races after his demotion. Sainz showcased his class again with 6th place finishes in 3 races and being consistent throughout the season. One has to feel for Kvyat, first the demotion, then the struggles and problems he faced during the season. He has another year to make things right but with Gasly breathing down his neck, I have my reservations.

Toro Rosso can take pride in the fact that they have given F1 world class drivers and Max ensured the tradition continues. Carlos too is waiting in the wings. Red Bull have their hands full.

Haas F1 Team :

Haas, the new boys in F1 garnered a lot of attention both in pre-season and through the season. Romain Grosjean left Lotus to join Haas with the plan of eventually stepping up into the Ferrari Works team ( should an opportunity arise ) while Esteban Gutierrez landed the 2nd seat, courtesy of Ferrari, the engine suppliers for the team. Gene Haas always had a presence in F1 but coming in as a full fledged team would pose a different challenge altogether.

Romain Grosjean scored all the points for the team. The Frenchman amassed 29 points which helped Haas finish 8th in the standings. His best finish was 5th in Bahrain. Esteban Gutierrez drew a blank but missed out on points on a few occasions. It was quite evident that having a more experienced driver helped the team considerably. Romain was retained for 2017 while Gutierrez has lost his seat to Magnussen. One does feel sympathy for Esteban but he was so comprehensively beaten by his team-mate that there would be very few people who would justify giving him another year.

It was a fantastic maiden year for Haas F1. Very few would predict an 8th place finish, one ahead of a works team. They have a strong platform to build from for 2017. I believe the teething issues of their maiden year will be addressed and Haas will be a force to contend with.

Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault broke off from Red Bull and purchased Lotus F1 to become a full-time Works Team in F1. It was a tough ask to turn it all around in 2016. Lotus had a better outing in 2015, even grabbing a podium but one must not forget that it was a Mercedes powered chassis. As informed to me by my friend, the 2016 Challenger was essentially a 2015 car with a lot of upgrades. The Delay in the takeover left little time in developing a new car. Renault however was here to stay and a roadmap to supremacy was laid up. Renault hired the services of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen after Grosjean left for Haas and Maldonado was relieved of his duties.

Progress, as expected was tough and Renault had to address issues throughout the season. Nevertheless, Kevin Magnussen managed to fetch 7 points for the team, finishing in the Points in Russia and Singapore. Jolyon Palmer on the other hand had a poor debut season with a solitary point in Malaysia. However he was also the victim of reliability issues and unfortunate incidents. His performances did improve in the latter half of the season which was enough to warrant him a seat for 2017. Renault finished the season in 9th with 8 points.

Renault will be working over the winter break. They were finding their feet in 2016. 2017 must produce a big step up in terms of results.

Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber had a horrid 2014, 2015 and 2016 was destined to be the same until Nasr clinched 9th place in Brazil. These 2 points elevated them to 10th place in the Constructors' Standings, the final place in receiving a financial bonus. Marcus Ericsson finished the season pointless, his best finish 11th in Mexico. The Chassis has been the main challenge for the team. The 2015 Ferrari powered unit was strong enough but poor chassis design and lack of aerodynamics hampered progress.

Sauber is a cash strapped team and one can empathize with where they are now. Hopefully they have a more decent outing next year and with a potential take-over doing the rounds, money might pour in to help them stay afloat and develop a stronger car.

Manor Racing F1 Team :

Manor, formerly Marussia hired the services of Rio Haryanto & Mercedes Protegee Pascal Wehrlein for 2016. However Haryanto lost his race seat ( after Germany ) after the sponsors failed to meet the financial obligations to the team. His best finish was 15th in Monaco.

Esteban Ocon replaced Rio for the second half of the season and was very impressive in his performances. His best finish was 12th in Brazil and his performances were good enough to land him a seat in Force India in 2017.

Pascal Wehrlein
had a fantastic debut year in F1. He Secured the team's solitary point in Austria, a Result that almost won them 10th place in the Constructors but for what conspired in Brazil.

Manor had a decent 2016 and should be proud of their performances. There is news of a takeover as well. Can they move up from where they are now? Time will tell.

Felipe Massa
said goodbye to F1 and its sad to see such a fantastic racer and human being leave the sport. Jenson Button, another gentleman and a former World Champion takes a one year sabbatical ( but I do feel he is retiring ). There will be a change of guard in 2017. Hope to see the new boys do well in 2017.

Nico Rosberg won the Championship. Mercedes retained the Constructors' title. Mercedes again exhibited their prowess in the new turbo era. Their Engine has been pretty reliable, their upgrades effective and both their drivers just flattened the opposition.

True Nico Rosberg has left the sport after fulfilling his childhood dream and we wont see him defend his title. However we must cherish the performances the man has produced to the title and we wish him all the best for the future. Keke Rosberg won it in 1982, Nico Rosberg wins it in 2016!

I wrote a short tribute on my blog a few days back :

Well, Like Father, Like Son!

2015 F1 Season Review - The Three Pointed Star!

2015 was the 2nd year in the new era of F1.

2015 saw teams ironing out issues from the previous year and even forming new partnerships. 

2014 Champions Mercedes AMG Petronas had high hopes for 2015, Ferrari were determined to take the fight to the Mercs while Red Bull were hoping to have a faster and a more reliable engine with Renault.

Lotus F1 saw it wise to switch to Mercedes power for 2015, Toro Rosso to Renault while Sauber & the new entrant Manor F1 ( formerly Marussia ) stuck to Ferrari Power.

McLaren welcomed the return of Honda to F1 and became the works team. Experts said the First year for Honda would be tough but McLaren had hopes of rolling back the years to Senna - Prost era.

Hamilton who became a Double World Champion in 2014 hoped to replicate his form in 2015 while Rosberg promised to leave no stone unturned in his challenge. Sebastian Vettel said goodbye to Red Bull and switched to Ferrari to partner the Iceman and his close friend Kimi Raikkonen.

Alonso moved onto a new challenge and rejoined McLaren to partner Button while Kvyat graduated to the Senior Red Bull Team and the Junior sported very young and inexperienced drivers.

The removal of double points for the final race was a welcome change.

Enough of the teasers, time to assess the performances of teams and drivers alike in 2015.

Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes flattened the opposition in 2014. The Constructors' Championship was like a "Walk in the Park". Lewis Hamilton prevailed against his team-mate in the final race to win the 2014 Drivers' Title. 2015 promised to be no different. The 2nd year of the V6 era would see the Works Team produce a faster and more refined version of its predecessor. Constructors' Championship was an easy feat to achieve. Barring a blip in Singapore alongwith a couple of retirements, the W06 was a highly reliable car. Lewis Hamilton sealed his 3rd Drivers' Title in United States while Nico Rosberg finished strongly in the 2nd half of the season. Lets take a quick look at the driver performances.

Lewis Hamilton had the measure of Rosberg right from the start. Once he won the Championship, it looked like he let his foot off the gas. Hamilton was on it right from the start of the season, notching up 5 wins, three 2nd places and one 3rd place in the first half of the season. Post the Mid-season break, Hamilton won 5 out of 6 races, Singapore a retirement for the Brit. Hamilton sealed the deal in United States matching the number of titles of his childhood hero and legend Ayrton Senna! Hamilton did lose some momentum finishing 2nd best to his team-mate in the last 3 races but he had performed when it mattered. He proved his mettle on the Sunday, more often than his team-mate making the most of the opportunities for the 2nd consecutive year. Hamilton scored 381 points.

Nico Rosberg hoped to take the battle to Hamilton and won 3 races in the first half of the season, besides 5 podium finishes. He didn't have an answer after the break unfortunately being beaten fair and square by his team-mate. 2 retirements, engine failure in Italy & throttle failure in Russia almost ended his title hopes. An uncharacteristic error in USA meant curtains. Rosberg found a gear in the final 3 races and turned the tables winning them all, too little too late though. The results should galvanize him for 2016, boost confidence and make him believe that his team-mate can be beaten. Rosberg worked hard but Hamilton just had that edge. Rosberg had a tough battle with Vettel for 2nd place in the Championship but sealed his place with his victories in the end. Rosberg scored 322 points.

Mercedes had the quickest car on the grid but Ferrari gave them a reality check in 2015. Mercedes had to dig deep to maintain their advantage and smashed the record for the points scored in a Constructors' Championship with a mammoth tally of 703 points! Mercedes remain favourites for 2016 but I do see them nervously looking over their shoulder hoping to keep the Scarlet Red cars at bay.

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari had a shocker in 2014. They had got everything wrong in the inaugural year of the V6s and a change of guard at the helm was brought about with the hope of restoring some order. Fernando Alonso chose a move to McLaren seeking a new challenge, which he might regret now. Raikkonen was joined by friend and neighbournot to mention a 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel. Hopes were high and Ferrari had a quiet confidence about themselves going into 2015. 2 race victories ( minimum ) was the target set. Ferrari clearly was the team that took the fight to Mercedes AMG F1 and were the "best of the rest" on the grid. Vettel won the team-mate battle comfortably.

Sebastian Vettel was in the title hunt for quite sometime until the engine penalty ( planned ) in USA ended his title hopes. Vettel was involved in a see-saw battle with Rosberg for 2nd place until the German got his act together to win the last 3 races and squash the challenge. Vettel gained the love and support of the team and the Tifosi fairly quickly with his stunning performances. Mistakes were sparse and Vettel had the joy of being on the top step of the podium in 3 races - Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore. Vettel suffered 2 retirements, one due to a dangerous tyre blowout denying him a 3rd place in Belgium and a crash in Mexico which followed a series of errors. Vettel had 10 podium finishes besides the 3 victories to finish 3rd in the Championship with 278 points.

Kimi Raikkonen, the Iceman had a better 2015 but not an ideal one in his own words. Raikkonen finished 4th after winning a hotly contested tie with Bottas, 138 points behind his team-mate. The points disparity was huge but the Flying Finn had his wings cut more often than not in races - A loose wheel in Australia, puncture in Malaysia, accident in Austria, Wrong tyre call in Britain, MGU-K Failure in Hungary, Gear-box Failure in Belgium GP Qualifying.

Raikkonen had committed mistakes too, the one in Russia on Bottas and the spin in Montreal handing the same man a podium. The Worst misfortune was when his car stalled on the grid at the start of the Italian Grand Prix. Raikkonen had qualified 2nd in front of the Tifosi and hopes were high for a Ferrari victory.

Many wanted the Finn sacked but Raikkonen showed his class and ability by finishing 2nd ( season best ) in Bahrain and  notching up two 3rd place finishes in Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Raikkonen eventually prevailed in his battle with Bottas to finish 4th in the Championship with 150 points.

James Allison, Ferrari's Technical Director praised Raikkonen and defended Ferrari's decision to retain him rightly pointing out that Raikkonen was faster than Vettel on many occasions, qualifying being the only gremlin that needed to be addressed. Raikkonen also had reliability issues that denied him better race results. 2016 should be a better year for the Finn.

Ferrari had a satisfactory 2015 but knowing Ferrari, the goals for 2016 will be much higher. The duo of Vettel and Raikkonen changed the atmosphere within the team. Retaining Raikkonen was the right decision and will maintain stability besides strengthening the challenge for 2016. As a Raikkonen Fan I dare to believe that he will be a close contender for the crown in 2016. Remember he belongs to the select few who won a Drivers' Championship in their debut year!

Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams was the quickest customer team of Mercedes in 2014. The duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa humbled the mighty Ferrari, a victory of sorts especially for Massa. Williams had their work cut out for 2015 and the benchmark was raised. Massa and Bottas would bear the load of carrying the team through in 2015. Williams however weren't able to replicate the form of 2014. Williams was always playing catchup with the Mercedes Works team and Ferrari. They were able to capitalize on the mistakes of their rivals in a few races but other than that they were the 3rd best team on the grid. Silverstone was their best chance at a double podium and possibly a victory. Tactical errors robbed them. Lets take a quick peek at how their drivers fared.

Bottas won the team-mate battle and the gap of 15 points is deceiving. The Finn wasn't able to start in Australia due to a mechanical failure but scored a chunk of points consistently from thereon. Two 3rd Place finishes in Canada and Mexico helped him keep pressure on Raikkonen for 4th place in the Championship. Bottas and Raikkonen came together in Russia and both were robbed of a potential 3rd place. Kimi was blamed for the incident and penalized. The duo came together again in Mexico with Kimi being the aggrieved party but Bottas escaping penalty. Bottas suffered just one other retirement in USA. A dismal final race in Abu Dhabi denied Bottas a shot for 4th place. Bottas scored 136 points to finish 5th in the Championship.

Massa had a roller coaster season in 2015. From the highs of finishing 3rd in Austria ( Thanks to Vettel's slow pit stop ) & Italy ( Thanks to Raikkonen stalling on the grid ) to the lows of 2 retirements in Singapore and USA and disqualification at his home race in Brazil due to discrepancies in tyre pressures, Massa has experienced it all. Massa had a good 2015 nonetheless and would hope for a better year in 2016. He scored a total of 121 points and finished 6th in the Championship.

2015 was somewhat of a step back for Williams and the team would be hoping to be a lot closer to their competitors in 2016. They have the funds and the people to accomplish this. 2016 will be interesting for them.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing, works team for Renault had a topsy-turvy 2014. The Team hoped for a change of fortunes in 2015 but it was worse than 2014. The Relationship that saw the team bring 4 Consecutive World Championships ( Drivers and Constructors ) was fractured and eventually destroyed over the course of 2015. Red Bull were not happy with the Renault power units which besides misfiring were extremely unreliable. Claims of improvement post upgrades produced next to nil results. The tie was severed for 2016 and 2015 just became a season that had to be "finished" for the team. The latter stages of the season featured being peppered by the media about the engine deals the Milton Keyes based outfit were exploring. Mercedes deal fell through, Ferrari refused 2016 spec engines from the fear of competition, Honda had no intentions and the threat of a withdrawal loomed for the team. It was sad to see the focus shifting from the performances of 2015. I must not repeat the mistake. So, returning to 2015, Daniil Kvyat joined forces with Daniel Ricciardo, the Russian replacing the highly decorated and loved Sebastian Vettel who jumped ship to switch to the red overalls of Ferrari. Ricciardo had beaten the outgoing Vettel in 2014 and it was interesting to see how he would cope with his quick and young team-mate. Ricciardo lost the battle this time, albeit a very closely contested one. Red Bull finished 4th in the Constructors' Championship with 187 points.

Kvyat finished 7th in the Drivers' Championship narrowly beating his team-mate Ricciardo. The Russian was at home in his car and didn't let the disappointment ( Did Not Start ) of his debut hamper his performances. Scoring consistently, his efforts were rewarded with a 2nd place finish in Hungary.  Kvyat finished with 95 points.

Ricciardo didn't lag behind in his performances and matched Kvyat in many races. He scored 2 podium finishes too ( 2nd in Singapore & 3rd in Hungary ) but 4 finishes outside the top 10 hurt him bad. 92 points and 8th place in the Championship for the Honey Badger. Ricciardo has his work cut out for 2016 now and I would like to see him get the upper hand this time.

"Oh how the mighty have fallen" summarizes the state of Red Bull Racing. The ruptured relationship with Renault almost left them without an engine supplier until an understanding was reached when they confirmed a deal to run TAG Heuer branded Renault engines in 2016. The travails of Red Bull don't end here though. The loss of revenue, their say in the future structure of the sport leaves their future in balance. All this could change if the team returns to the pedestal which would be really good for the sport!

Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India have been in F1 for a fairly long time. The aim to move up the grid never was a walk in the park but the team has kept at it and produced their best season in F1. 5th place in the Championship is a big thing considering the resources on offer. Force India had to wait for their B-Spec car and they greatly benefited post its introduction. Nico Hulkenberg & Sergio Perez form a quick pairing for Force India . There was a time when they had the more successful and moolah laden Red Bull Racing nervously looking over their shoulder and many believe the Mercedes powered team could have beaten them but for the lack of finances. Force India scored 136 points in 2015

Sergio Perez won the team-mate battle in 2015. Perez had almost a trouble-free 2015 with just one retirement. His 3rd Place Finish in Russia saw Force India return to the podium for the first time since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Perez finished in the points in 11 other races. Perez finished 9th with 78 points.

Nico Hulkenberg didn't have smooth sailing in 2015. 4 retirements and a "Did Not Start" in Belgium ( Engine Failure ) hurt his chances of a 9th place finish badly. Hulkenberg was a tough nut to crack and produced great results when he had a proper functioning car under him. Him best finish was 6th, thrice in the season - Austria, Japan & Brazil. Hulkenberg completed the top 10 with 58 points.

Force India, just like Lotus F1 show a lot of promise. Progress is slow and the battles get tougher higher up the grid. Force India dare to dream and I do see them challenge that elusive 4th place in the Constructors and the benefits that come with it. How much will they have in the wallet for 2016 remains the big question.

Lotus F1 Team :

Lotus F1 had a dismal 2014. 2015 saw them switch engine suppliers from Renault to Mercedes. Romain Grosjean & Pastor Maldonado continued their partnership & the team hopes to have a better outing. The Lack of finances meant that the frequency of upgrades was low and progress slow. The team also suffered from delayed arrival of freights on race weekends, not to mention being locked out of their Hospitality units due to non-payment of dues. This occurred more often than not in the second half of the season. However these off track issues didn't deter the team from producing stunning results come Sunday. The team displayed amazing grit and will power to keep fighting and finished a commendable 6th in the Constructors' Championship. How did the drivers fare?

Romain Grosjean, unsurprisingly was the more successful of the duo. Grosjean was on the edge of point scoring positions in many races but Belgium saw him score a fairy-tale 3rd, rewinding back the time to 2012 and 2013. Grosjean scored a total of 51 points and finished 11th in the Championship. His performances proved to be pivotal in the battle with the Toro Rossos.

Maldonado on other hand attracted the ire of Fans and Media alike with his reckless moves on co-drivers. 5 out of the first 6 races were retirements. The 2nd Half of the season yielded better results but the final tally still don't justify his place in the pinnacle of motorsport. 7th was the best Maldonado could conjure, albeit 3 times this year - Canada, Austria, Russia. He finished 14th in the Championship tied on 27 points with Nasr, the latter's better finishing position at Australia giving him the upper hand.

Lotus F1 is a team I shall always love and support. It was nice to see them recover from the shock of 2014. There isn't a team like them and I am so happy to know that Renault have taken over the reigns for 2016. This will not only address financial issues but also provide the bright minds at Enstone the much needed money to build a more than capable challenger. The Driver Lineup sees a change as well with Palmer partnering the misfiring Maldonado. Prospects will be explored in the 2016 Preview.

Scuderia Toro - Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso were at the centre of media attention throughout the season. The Team hired the services of two youngsters one a minor. Both had Fathers who raced in F1 and maybe that fast-tracked their entry into F1. Carlos Sainz Jr. made a name for himself in the lower categories and was soon justifying the backing of the Red Bull Driver program. Max Verstappen landed the 2nd seat after being the test driver in 2014. The Dutch Youngster completed only 47 races, Formula 3 being the only series he had raced in before F1. Experts and media alike were skeptical of this new pairing. Questions were raised about the inexperience of both drivers since Red Bull had drivers racing in GP2 the feeder series.
However the performances of both the drivers would leave everyone impressed.

Max Verstappen quickly developed a reputation of a fearless but not reckless rookie. He was fast all season, seriously fast! The youngster learned quickly and pulled off some sensational moves. He refused to abide by team orders on a few occasions too but these decisions helped him stay ahead of his team-mate and score 49 points with 4th being his best finish twice in the season ( Hungary & USA ). Max is young but has been on a rapid learning curve and 2016 will see him go from strength to strength. Respect to the Dutch Stallion for proving doubters ( including me ) wrong!

Carlos Sainz Jr. another Red Bull protegee and a fan of Alonso earned a name for himself in the lower categories and landed a seat in 2015. Sainz matched Verstappen in terms of pace but suffered from reliability issues more than his team-mate ( 7 to 4 ) and that hampered his 2015 campaign. Verstappen grabbed all the news but Sainz always managed to put in solid shifts and please his employers in his rookie season. Sainz best finish was 7th in USA and he scored a total of 18 points in the championship which was less than hald of what Verstappen achieved. Verstappen was the bolder one and was willing to take risks. Sainz was more calculative in his approach and I hope to see him do substantially better in 2016.

Toro Rosso have a talented lineup and 2015 saw them outperform the A-Team in some races too. Upwards is the only way for them for 2016.

Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber hired the services of Nasr & Ericsson for 2015. However Sauber's early season preparations were disrupted by a series of legal challenges from former Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde, who claimed that he had a contract to race that was signed in June 2014. Van der Garde went to court in an effort to force the team to replace one of their drivers with him at the opening round in Melbourne, with the court finding in his favour. Van der Garde later agreed to not participate in the event, with the driver and team settling the dispute for an undisclosed sum to terminate the contract following the first round.

Backed by Ferrari power, Sauber hoped for maximizing points all season long to bring in the much needed revenue for survival. However the team has seen contrasting performances at different race tracks. The car has dialed in pretty well on some and had been totally at sea in the others.

Nasr was the better of the 2 drivers at Sauber. 5th was his best finishing position with 5 other races in the points. Nasr finished 13th in the Standings with 27 points. Ericsson, a lot slower than his Brazilian Team-mate finished 18th in the Championship with just 9 points, 8th being his best finish in Australia.

Sauber suffered funding issues all season long and with Sahara Force India launched a formal complaint at the European Commission raising concerns about funds distribution in F1. The lack of funding meant that development was slow and I doubt this will change going into 2016. Sauber hopes to enjoy a better share of the pie in 2016 and I hope they do with their case at the Commission.

McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren reignited an old partnership with Honda as the engine supplier. Honda the new entrant in the Turbo Era had a mountain to climb. The Power Unit Allocation was reduced from 5 to 4 for 2015 but Honda being a new supplier, got the comfort of a 5th unit. However they would need many more! McLaren's longest continuous testing session lasting twelve laps in Barcelona and Problems started from the season opener in Australia. Alonso's injury gave Magnussen a race but an engine failure for him didn't allow him to even reach the grid. Both cars suffered multiple retirements, grid penalties all season long and Honda invited the ire of Alonso over team radio on a few occasions. Honda top brass remained adamant that they were making progress.

The Balance of Performance and Reliability had to be reached and the team were fortunate to score some points over the course of the season, thanks to the misfortune of others or rapid weather changes. Nevertheless it was a dismal year for McLaren. The Team also lost some valuable sponsorship to rivals Mercedes and Red Bull ( for 2016 ). McLaren finished only above Manor and suffered a huge loss in terms of revenue & performance in 2015. A team of McLaren's history and stature shouldn't be lingering in 9th in the Constructors' Championship.

Jenson Button & Fernando Alonso featured in the 2015 lineup. The Former World Champions struggled to get to grips with their cars all season long. Button prevailed in the team-mate battle scoring 16 points with 6th place in USA being his best finish. Alonso scored a meagre 11 points best being 5th in Hungary.

13 retirements combined for both the Drivers in 2015 and doubts prevail for 2016. It will be intriguing to see how patient McLaren & Co. are going to be in this new partnership.

Manor F1 Team :

Manor, the Old Marussia F1 under new ownership hired the services of newbie Roberto Merhi and Ex-Caterham Driver Will Stevens. GP2 driver Alexander Rossi also got to race in 5 events - Singapore, Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil. Although neither of the 3 scored points, Merhi & Rossi were classified above Stevens in the championship due to their best finishing positions of 12th ( Britain for Merhi, USA for Rossi ) to Stevens' 13th in Britain. 

The Team had a decent outing in 2015 with the resources they had. The team was unable to participate in the opening round in Australia but ensured their participation in all other rounds. 2015 had not been smooth sailing for them with top personnel leaving and new ones being added. The Drivers too were instrumental in bringing in some sponsorships to keep the team afloat all season long. 

I really hope to see Manor back on the grid in 2016 and in a much more competitive avatar.

2015 saw faster cars in the new era of F1. It was interesting to see the drivers finish in pairs ( two by twos ) in the first 10 places in the Drivers' Championship, some team-mate battles being hotly contested ones.

Mercedes reigned supreme again with Ferrari being the only challengers to the crown; Williams enjoyed being on the sharp end of the grid, Red Bull amazingly finished 4th despite their issues with the Renault Power Units, Force India had their best season in F1, Lotus recovered from a dismal 2014, Toro Rosso was the surprise package while Sauber, McLaren and Manor have a lot of catching up to do.

Lewis Hamilton now a 3 Time World Champion in his Three Pointed Star Machine
will hope for a repeat in 2016. Will Rosberg mount a bigger challenge? I definitely think so!

I hope to see Raikkonen in the mix in 2016 and notching up a few victories too.

2015 was a great year and I had the privilege of being in Austria and Belgium, 2 stunning race locations, highly recommended!

Plans for 2016 might feature Barcelona, Canada and Hungary...time will tell.

The 2016 Season Preview will follow post pre-season tests.

Congratulations to the Three Pointed Star - Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG F1 Team!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!