Your Dose of obsession from Formula 1, Flying, Travel, Football, Watches, Collectibles and everything inspirational everywhere in daily life

Posts for Tag: Season Review

2020 F1 Season Review - Still they Rise, for the Seventh Time!

Formula 1 celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2020. The pinnacle of motorsport had elaborate plans for the 2020 season with a record 22 races in 22 different countries, promising a memorable experience for the fans. Vietnam and Zandvoort were the newest entrants with the season kicking off in March and ending in November. 

However, the news of a new virus called COVID-19 threatened to put the schedule in disarray. The new virus eventually became a pandemic and hit some in the F1 fraternity on the Australian GP weekend. The start of the season got postponed, and soon enough, the world went into a state of lockdown. 13 races got subsequently cancelled.

The pandemic intensified, and there were doubts about whether the season would get underway, but the FOM had worked hard to ensure a sizeable season. The revised calendar got announced, featuring 17 races, majority of which were in Europe. Many venues hosted two race weekends, and there were double-headers and triple-headers in the revised calendar. It was a hectic schedule for the teams and their members. Classic tracks like Nurburgring, Imola and Istanbul got added while Mugello and Portimao ( Portugal ) hosted an F1 Grand Prix for the first time. A couple of races saw fans ( in limited attendance ), but the FOM ensured that fan engagement was at its best throughout the season.

How did the teams and drivers fare in this season like no other? Time for a recap!

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era, were untouchable in 2020 too. The team sported an "All Black Livery" to support their fight against racism with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas leading the charge. There were some challenges along the way, but none caused concern as Hamilton romped to his 7th World Title. Hamilton broke the record for the maximum number of poles and victories with 11 wins and three podiums in 2020. The only blip he suffered was when he contracted COVID-19 and missed the Sakhir GP weekend. George Russell, his replacement, was winner elect but for some misfortune that left him languishing down in 9th. Valtteri Bottas began his challenge in 2020 on the right note with a win in Austria. However, he had no answer to Hamilton, who found a new gear every time Bottas tried to bridge the deficit. His second win was at Russia besides eight podium finishes. The Finn ended the season second best, once again and would need to dig deeper to give Hamilton a semblance of a challenge.

Mercedes were relentless in their quest for the 7th title and amassed 573 points, comfortably clear of Red Bull in 2nd. 

Hamilton is yet to renew his contract for 2021, and this remains a concern for Mercedes. 

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing has been going from strength to strength after switching to Honda Power. The power unit was one of their biggest forte in 2020. Max Verstappen had a brilliant 2020, taking the fight to the Mercedes duo. The Dutchman won 2 races ( 70th Anniversary GP and Abu Dhabi ) and was on the podium on nine other occasions. Albon, meanwhile, managed only two podium finishes in Tuscany and Bahrain. Verstappen finished the season 3rd in the standings while Albon was 7th having scored less than half of Verstappen's haul. 

The absence of both their drivers at the sharp end of the grid ( regularly ) cost Red Bull dearly. There were a few gremlins and a couple of incidents which cost the team and drivers points, but Red Bull was the only challenger to Mercedes all season long. 

Red Bull finished the season with 319 points, well off the leaders Mercedes. 2021 is the final year for Honda and where Red Bull goes for their power unit needs will be interesting. The arrival of Sergio Perez to partner Verstappen for 2021 will help the team bring home consistent results.


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren has been on a resurgence since the past couple of seasons. The partnership of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr has augured well for the Woking-based outfit. The team was involved in an intense midfield battle throughout the 2020 season but emerged victorious thanks to its excellent chassis and parts reliability. They ended the season 3rd in the Constructors' Championship with 202 points, seven clear of Racing Point in 4th. 

Sainz won the intra-team battle. The Spaniard secured a podium ( 2nd ) in Monza besides 11 points finishes. Norris scored the first podium of his career at the opening race in Austria and finished in the points on 12 occasions. Sainz finished the season tied on points ( but ahead ) with Albon in 6th while Norris was 9th. 

Despite having a long term contract with McLaren, Sainz decided to switch to Ferrari to replace Vettel. Time will tell if it was the right decision or not. As for McLaren, they were delighted to have landed the services of Ricciardo for 2021 besides switching to Mercedes power. 2020 has given them the perfect launchpad to push for the sharp end of the grid in 2021.

Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point began its charge in 2020 by retaining its driver pairing in Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. While all was calm in the driver lineup, Racing Point's 2020 challenger, RP20 attracted the attention of one and all at the pre-season tests. The car had a striking resemblance to the Championship winning 2019 Mercedes and got named the "Pink Mercedes". The competition wasn't pleased with the designs and data getting shared between the Mercedes works team and its customer and a protest got lodged against Racing Point over the legality of its brake duct design. Subsequently, the team got fined 400,000 Euros besides the docking of 15 Constructors' Points before the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone. 

Nevertheless, they had their best season in F1 finishing 4th with 195 points in a hotly contested midfield. They were only 7 points shy of McLaren in 3rd and got relegated to 4th after a disappointing final race.

Perez had a strong start to the season but contracted COVID-19 before the British GP ruling him out of the double-header. Nico Hulkenberg got the call to replace Perez but didn't start the race due to a mechanical issue on his RP20. He got another shot at it a week later and finished a commendable 7th. 

Lance Stroll also caught the virus at the Eifel GP weekend, and Hulkenberg got called in again, coming home in 8th. 

Perez was a revelation in 2020 having finished 4th in the Drivers' Standings with 125 points to his name. The Mexican helped the team register their first win at the Sakhir GP with great racecraft. He also secured 2nd at Turkey besides points finishes in 11 other races. 

Perez had a contract till 2022, but the team decided to replace him with Vettel for 2021. The Mexican was without a drive until Red Bull came calling after the season ended. 

Stroll, his team-mate, also bagged two 3rd place finishes in Monza and Sakhir, but five retirements along the way cost him valuable points. The Canadian finished the season in 11th, tied with Gasly on 75 points. 

The team undergoes a makeover for 2021, becoming Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team, and with a four-time World Champion in Vettel coming in, the sky is the limit!

Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault has been an integral part of F1 for many years. The French marque returned to being a full works team in 2016 and have striven to return to winning ways in the Turbo era. The fight has been uphill with little to celebrate along the way. Daniel Ricciardo got a new team-mate in Esteban Ocon for 2020. The Frenchman who was the reserve driver for Mercedes in 2019 made a return to F1. 

Renault was involved in an intense midfield battle which saw them finish 5th in the Constructors' Standings, but they had moments to cheer about in 2020. 

Ricciardo scored two 3rd place finishes at Nurburgring and Imola while Ocon came home in 2nd at the Sakhir GP. Ricciardo was the more consistent of the two team-mates with points finishes in 12 ( other ) races to Ocon's 9. The Australian finished the season in 5th with 119 points while Ocon managed 62 and 12th place. The team suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season, costing it the chance to finish higher in the Constructors'. 

Reliability remains the biggest chink in Renault's armour. They would be disappointed about losing to a customer team in McLaren.

Despite the improvements seen in 2020, Ricciardo announced that he would switch to McLaren for 2021. Fernando Alonso, the Double World Champion who had retired in 2018 ( apparently ) makes a return with a two-year contract. The absence of a customer team in 2021 will pose an added challenge. Renault will become Alpine Racing F1 ( named after the brand's racing division ). Hopefully, the future is bright and blue!

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

The Ferrari works team had an interesting 2020. It wasn't smooth sailing between the new team-mates ( Vettel and Leclerc ) in 2019, but fans hoped to see one of them take the fight to Hamilton for the title in 2020. Ferrari worked hard over the winter to improve the downforce on their car. They had the most powerful engine on the grid which came under the scanner due to a dodgy fuel flow sensor. The FIA findings forced Ferrari to dial down the engine power. The result was devastating, and all Ferrari powered cars suffered from a lack of straight-line speed. 

There was more drama over the winter when an announcement broke out that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season with Carlos Sainz taking his place. Vettel later revealed that the team did not attempt to renew his contract, an experience that left him with a sour taste. The lack of trust set the tone for Vettel's season as the four-time World Champion struggled with multiple issues ( balance ) on his car. The 3rd place in Turkey was his best finish besides points finishes in 6 other races. He ended the season a lowly 13th with a mere 33 points to his name. 

Leclerc, on the other hand, yielded better results with two podiums in Austria and Silverstone. The Monegasque scored points in 8 more races, but the team failed to score a win for the first time since 2014. Leclerc finished the season in 8th with 98 points.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen" is synonymous with Ferrari's performance in 2020. Change is needed at multiple levels to stem the downturn, and 2021 is where the journey begins.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Red Bull's B-team, formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso got a new name for 2020. Named after Red Bull's fashion line, the Italian outfit got rechristened as Scuderia Alpha Tauri. 

The team had one of its best seasons in the sport. 

Pierre Gasly led the charge with an unlike victory at Monza, amassing 75 points and bagging 10th place in the Drivers' Standings. He scored points finishes in 9 other races while his team-mate Daniil Kvyat was able to bag only 32 points. Kvyat's best finish was 4th at Imola with points finishes in six more races. 

Alpha Tauri finished the season in 7th in the Constructors' Standings, only 24 points shy of the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. Honda Power was one of the reasons for its success in 2020. The Red Bull and Honda Protegee Yuki Tsunoda landed a drive alongside Gasly for 2021 and the only way forward is upwards for Alpha Tauri. 

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing had a great 2019 and hoped for an even better showing in 2020. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi renewed their partnership with Robert Kubica joining them from Williams as a reserve driver. However, like the Ferrari works team, Alfa Romeo too struggled with straight-line speed, unable to replicate their successes from 2019. They finished 8th in the Constructors' Championship with their drivers scoring 4 points apiece. Raikkonen's best finish was 9th at Mugello and Imola while Giovinazzi bagged 9th place at the season-opener in Austria and 10th in Nurburgring and Imola. Giovinazzi won the intra-team battle in Qualifying, but Raikkonen was more consistent on race day. 

Some race strategies adopted by the team were questionable and cost them more points finishes. 

The goal for 2021 would be to bridge the points gap to Alpha Tauri and build a car to counter the lack of outright speed from the Ferrari Power Unit.

Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for the 2020 season, a decision that attracted mixed reactions from the fans and experts. The Ferrari-powered Haas cars had a torrid 2020, the lack of straight-line speed combined with braking issues costing them dear in close racing. The team managed to score only 3 points over the year with Grojean's 9th place finish at the Eifel GP and Magnussen's 10th at Hungaroring. Gene Haas, the team owner, re-considered Haas' commitment to the sport citing its poor run over the recent years. However, the team decided to persist with this venture until 2025. 

Grosjean had a near-death experience when he collided with the barriers at the start of the Bahrain GP, emerging from a rising inferno, an image which became the flag-bearer for safety in the sport. The Frenchman who eventually won the intra-team battle was unfit for the final two rounds of the season. Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi, got the nod to take his seat. 17th was the best that Fittipaldi Jr could manage at the Sakhir GP. 

Haas needed to bring a change if they were to better their results in 2021, and announced an all-new driver lineup with Mick Schumacher ( Michael Schumacher's son ) teaming up with Nikita Mazepin ( F2 Driver ) for 2021. Returning to more points-scoring finishes is a priority, and it was time to choose youth over experience. 

Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams began its 2021 campaign with George Russell and rookie Nicolas Latifi with the hopes of reducing the deficit to the rest of the field. However, 2020 was another challenging year for the team. They failed to score a point despite coming close on a few occasions. The recurring costs and the challenges associated with running a team became too big a mountain for the Williams family to scale and Williams Racing got sold to a US-based investment firm Dorilton Capital in August. 

Russell had the rare opportunity of racing at Sakhir GP with Mercedes when Hamilton contracted COVID-19, but an unfortunate incident robbed him of what would have been a famous victory. Jack Aitken, the reserve driver, also got the opportunity to race and finished a commendable 16th. Russell's best finish was 11th at the Tuscan GP while Nicolas Latifi bagged three 11th place finishes in Austria, Italy and Emilia Romagna. The Canadian had an impressive debut year with Williams and will be pivotal in the team's plans to return to higher finishes in 2021.

The talented pairing in Russell and Latifi combined with the financial influx of new owners should make 2021 a different story for the Grove-based outfit. 

2020 was a memorable year for the sport despite the challenges that it posed. Fans got treated to great races throughout the year, and there was a lot done by the sport to improve fan engagement. 

Hopefully, 2021 would feature the full calendar with tracks opening their doors to fans again!

Mercedes and Hamilton were flawless in defence of their respective titles. Winning it for the 7th time was no easy feat, and it highlighted how the hunger for success never dies. Records got broken, and there will be more mountains to climb in 2021. Hamilton is now the most successful driver in the history of F1. Is he the "Greatest of all time?" is a discussion for another time.

The contenders for the titles in 2021 have work to do over the winter break, but for now, Hamilton and Mercedes keep rising.

2019 F1 Season Review - & That's A Six!

Formula 1, the Pinnacle of Motorsport has given its fans so many champions... Senna & Schumacher being the most popular. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas ( 5 Championships for each ) have broken a lot of records since the return of the Turbo Era in 2014. The competitors ran it close on many occasions but the three-pointed star prevailed. The 2018 season saw a close fight between Scuderia Ferrari F1 and Mercedes. The former would have a great base to mount their challenge in 2019. 

2019 also saw a lot of Personnel changes. Charles Leclerc moved to Ferrari while Kimi Raikkonen went the other way to Sauber F1, now known as Alfa Romeo Racing F1. Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault Sport F1 while Pierre Gasly got promoted to the Red Bull Racing Team. Robert Kubica made a return to the sport with Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team, a feat after his career-ending injury in rallying in 2011. George Russell ( 2018 F2 Champion ), Lando Norris and Alexander Albon were the rookies making their entry into the big league. 

2019 was also the year where drivers would also be awarded a point for the fastest lap in the race ( should they finish in the top 10 ), a great way to mix things up when it comes to strategies on track.

How did the season unfold for the champions and the contenders? Let us have a quick recap!

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes weren't the fastest team in 2019. However, they raced as a team, fought as a team and eventually won as a team! They made winning in 2019 seem so easy! Neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton put a foot wrong when it mattered. Germany and Brazil were their only blemish, although those races were a lottery due to changeable conditions. Valtteri started the season on a great note with a win in Australia, two 2nd places in Bahrain & China and another win in Baku. His next win, however, didn't come until Japan and then Austin but by then it was too late to sustain a challenge for the Championship. He eventually finished 2nd in the Standings with 326 points, 4 wins and 11 podiums.

Lewis Hamilton was in a class of his own again! It didn't take him much time to get up to speed and capitalized whenever the others slipped up. His team-mate was his only true competitor in the second half of the season and he sealed the Championship at the United States GP. Lewis amassed 413 points with 11 wins and 6 podiums! He suffered no retirements unlike Bottas who didn't finish Germany and Brazil and his worst finish was 9th in GermanyLewis deserves all the credit for being relentless in his quest to win and being consistent throughout the season. A 6 Time World Champion..surreal!

Mercedes AMG Petronas flattened their opponents in 2019. The Strategic calls throughout the season were on the money, they managed both drivers well and wrapped up their 6th Championship at the Japanese GP. The only disappointment of the season was at the German GP, a GP where the team celebrated 125 years in Motorsport and their 200th F1 Race Start ( oh the irony ). After locking out the front row in qualifying, a 1-2 was all but confirmed on Sunday. However, the weather played havoc and what unfolded was a chaotic race ( The Race of the decade for me ) with Bottas crashing out and Lewis finishing 9th after a couple of incidents on track. I am sure this disappointment would be long forgotten. The quest to win the 7th beckons!

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari roped in the services of their wunderkind Charles Leclerc who would partner the 4 times World Champion and Hamilton's closest contender in 2018, Sebastian Vettel. They had put up a valiant fight in 2018 and hopes were high after being the fastest car in pre-season. However, it was anything but that. The team was plagued with strategic errors, reliability issues ( Charles Leclerc should have won the Bahrain GP but for engine issues ) & even Driver errors ( Germany & Brazil ). Sebastian Vettel was denied victory in Canada after Marshalls penalized him for dangerously rejoining the track while leading the race. The team had a resurgence of sorts after back to back wins in Belgium & Italy for Charles Leclerc followed by victory in Singapore for Sebastian Vettel. They finished 2nd ( again ) in the Constructors' Championship with 504 points. Charles Leclerc won the intra-team battle, finishing 4th in the Championship with 264 points with wins in Belgium & Italy, podium finishes in Bahrain, Canada, France, Austria, Great Britain, Singapore, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel was 5th with 240 points with a solo victory in Singapore and podiums in China, Baku, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan & Mexico. The team had made it clear that Vettel would have a preference but over the year his younger team-mate challenged this claim and beat the veteran ( cause for friction between the 2 as well ). Vettel seemed to be a mere shadow of his former self amid the challenge mounted by his younger team-mate. The coming together of the two team-mates in Brazil summed up the season for Ferrari..a thorough disappointment after all that the pre-season had promised. 

It turned to be another year of "What could have been". Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal admitted that there was a fundamental flaw in the design and they were in damage limitation mode with their 2019 contender, something that didn't go down well with the Tifosi. Ferrari needs to get their act together both on track and off it if they want to mount a serious challenge against the Mercedes. Not much has changed in 2019..hopefully 2020 will be different.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing chose to switch to Honda Power ( a 2-year deal ) for 2019 and 2020. It was a big move because the Engine Supplier had struggled with Pace & Reliability Issues since its return to F1 in the Turbo Era. Red Bull also promoted their protegee Pierre Gasly from Scuderia Toro Rosso to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull wasn't the fastest but they pounced on every slip-up by their competitors. Max Verstappen was brilliant as ever, Gasly had a very mercurial start to the season. Eventually, the bosses decided that Gasly wasn't the best fit for the team and replaced him after Hungary. Rookie Alexander Albon got the nod ahead of Daniil Kvyat from the Toro Rosso team and performed very well in the second half. Max Verstappen finished 3rd in the Drivers' Championship, a great feat beating the Ferrari duo. He had 3 wins to his name - Austria, Germany & Brazil, Germany being the most memorable one. He also had podiums in Australia, Spain, Hungary, Singapore & USA. Gasly's best finish with Red Bull came at the British Grand Prix ( 4th ), along with 8 other points finishes. Alexander Albon matched Gasly's best finish in Japan and always finished in the top 6 ( except Brazil where he was robbed of a podium by Hamilton ) after his promotion to the A-Team. Gasly & Albon finished a close 7th and 8th with 95 and 92 points respectively. 

Red Bull can be immensely proud of their season gone by. Honda as an engine manufacturer has announced their return to the sharp end of the grid with the Victories and the podiums ( even with the sister Red Bull ). Its onwards and upwards from here for the Milton Keynes based outfit. Red Bull finished the season in 3rd with 417 points, comfortably clear of the 4th placed McLaren F1 Team. 

McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren sported a new lineup with Carlos Sainz Jr. & Rookie Lando Norris in 2019. They finished 4th in the Constructors' Championship with 145 points The Team had a slow start to the season and it wasn't smooth sailing after either. However upgrades kept trickling in throughout the season and the team were rewarded for their efforts when they bagged 3rd place with Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil, a podium after 5 years ( 2072 days to be precise )! Carlos Sainz Jr. was the best of the rest in 6th place ( winning the B Championship as many call it ) with 96 points. His best finish was 3rd at the Brazilian GP along with points finishes in 12 races. Lando Norris was 11th with 49 points to his name, 6th in Bahrain and Austria being his best finishes along with 9 other Points Finishes. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been a great asset for the team. He is the Driver of the Season for me. His consistency and ability to maximize results helped the team in 2019. Lando Norris had a decent first season but I wasn't expecting the deficit between the two to be this big. He needs to up his game, considering the talent that he is. A lot of credit must also go to Andreas Seidl who came onboard as the Team Principal this year. His experience in the world of motor-racing be it in WEC or Formula E has been extremely beneficial. This is a great base to build from for 2020 and the added financial benefit ( of finishing higher ) is the icing on the cake.

Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a good 2018 and were hoping for a better outing in 2019. Daniel Ricciardo joined forces with Nico Hulkenberg to help the team return to the sharp end of the grid. The arrival of Ricciardo was a big boost for the team but a bold move for the driver. He gave up his place in a race-winning car to be with a works team still coming up the ranks. Nico Hulkenberg was the experienced warhorse, consistent and dependable. Renault, however, had a very mercurial 2019 with reliability issues hampering their progress throughout the year. McLaren, their customer team were able to beat them to 4th while they only just managed to beat Scuderia Toro Rosso, who finished behind them in 6th place. Renault has work to do over the winter. 

Daniel Ricciardo outperformed his team-mate and finished on 54 points ( 9th in the Standings ), 4th in Italy being his best result. Nico Hulkenberg was 14th in the standings with 37 points, his best result coming at the Italian GP as well ( 5th ). Ricciardo finished in the points on 7 other occasions while Hulkenberg could manage 9. The Team also suffered disqualification after the Japanese GP ( 9 points lost ) after the discovery of an illegal breaking aid. Renault F1 are blessed with good personnel and infrastructure to turn things around but it is taking longer than anticipated. It also remains to be seen whether the parent company is willing to stay patient or sees this as a sport that is bleeding their finances. Ricciardo is in a really difficult position, hopefully, 2020 will be kinder. Hulkenberg bid adieu to the team at the end of 2019 and will be replaced by Esteban Ocon, Frenchman ( in a French-owned team ). I think 2020 will be their "make or break" year.

Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Scuderia Toro Rosso had quite an eventful 2019. They began their season with Daniil Kvyat ( who returned after a short stint as a reserve driver with Ferrari ) and rookie Alexander Albon. The latter was a sensation in F2 and it was time for his entry into F1. Albon's year got even better when Red Bull decided to promote him to the main team after Gasly couldn't meet the team's expectations. The announcement came just a week after the Hungarian GP during the mid-season break. It came as a surprise to many since Albon was still a rookie and being consistently beaten by his team-mate. Kvyat proved that he deserved to be in F1 after a stellar 3rd place in Germany. He also finished in the Points in 9 other races; ending the season in 13th with a total of 37 points. Albon, after a really slow first half, finished in the points in 6 races with 6th in Germany being his best finish. Gasly ( who replaced him ) stepped up his game in Toro Rosso and even bagged 2nd place in Brazil ( besides finishing in the points in 4 other races ). He finished the season in 7th with 95 points, 3 more than Albon. A statement had been sent out to the bosses of Red Bull. 

The performance of a more reliable Power Unit along with a balanced chassis played a big part in catapulting them to 6th in the standings at the end of the season. They were narrowly beaten by Renault ( who were 5th with 91 points ) but they can take great encouragement from the fact that they can beat even those with a larger financial kitty. Kvyat had a really strong return to the sport while Gasly has come into his own after his demotion. The future looks promising for both.

Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point, an old team with a new name & new ownership were in a rebuilding phase in 2019. Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father led the consortium of investors who completed the takeover of the team. Sergio Perez retained his drive while Lance came in from Williams replacing Esteban Ocon (despite intense pressure from Mercedes ). The former team-mates ( Perez and Ocon ) didn't enjoy a healthy relationship and the team lost a considerable number of points due to incidents on track in 2018. 

Racing Point ended the 2019 season with 73 Points ( 7th in the Constructors' standings ). Sergio Perez was 10th in the standings with 52 points while Lance Stroll was 15th with 21. Lance brought home the team's best finish with 4th in the highly entertaining German Grand Prix ( he even led the race for a few laps ). He finished in the points on 5 other occasions. Sergio Perez's best finish was 6th in Baku & Belgium with points finishes in 9 other races. He deserves all the praise for his performances and consistency throughout the year. Lance Stroll had a decent maiden year with the team but has a lot to learn from his team-mate. The Team will need both their drivers to perform at a consistent level if they are to challenge those in this extremely close midfield. There is a lot of scope for improvement..thankfully they have the finances to improve results on the field.

Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Sauber F1, rechristened as Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team ( thanks to Alfa Romeo becoming the title sponsor ) was another team to have a new driver lineup in 2019. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career within 2001 and he had the Italian Stallion Antonio Giovinazzi ( A Scuderia Ferrari Protegee ) partnering him. Charles Leclerc switched seats with Kimi while Marcus Ericsson took up the reserve driver role. It was a tale of 2 halves for the team. Kimi Raikkonen scored all points ( but one ) for the team and was 8th in the standings! Giovinazzi scored his first point of the season in Austria. However, the team struggled in the second half of the season. Giovinazzi managed a 9th and 10th in Italy and Singapore respectively but Raikkonen failed to be in the points up until the Brazilian GP. Brazil saw a big resurgence from the team, narrowly missing out on a podium with Kimi who was 4th and Giovinazzi who ended up 5th. Kimi Raikkonen eventually finished the season in 12th with 43 points on the board. A stronger second half helped Giovinazzi finish with 14 points and 17th in the Championship. Kimi is the seasoned campaigner and is an ace at turning things around. Giovinazzi came into his own in the second half of the season, one must remember that he has been away from competitive racing since the past 3 years.

Strategies and Outright race pace were the Achilles' heel for the team. The team struggled to keep up with the competitors ( in terms of R&D and funding ) but they had a much better outing compared to 2018. They will also have a bigger kitty to work within 2020, not to forget the sponsors coming onboard..they can be proud of the season gone by, not to forget the bouts they had with the bigger fish in the pond. 

Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with their lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2019, something that baffled everyone. Continuity can be the only plausible reason behind this decision. They finished the season in 9th with 28 points on the board. Kevin Magnussen won the team-mate battle, scoring 20 points ( 16th in the Championship ) to Grosjean's 8 ( 18th in Drivers' Standings ). Magnussen's best finish was 6th in Australia and finished in the points in Spain, Germany and Russia. Grosjean's best finish was 7th in Germany and scored a point each in Spain and Monaco. Another disappointing season for the Frenchman. 

It was a season to forget for Haas. They were flying high in 5th at the end of the 2018 season but 12 months later they are languishing in 9th. Flaws in Car Design is one of the major reasons, friction between the team-mates another. Team Principal Guenther Steiner had to play peace-maker often and I think this affected the performances of the team as a whole. They have a lot of work to do over the winter to make things right and they do have the personnel to accomplish it, even though they would have taken a considerable financial hit due to their final position in the standings. 

Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

2018 F2 Champion George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica for the 2019 season. It was a great achievement for Kubica to make a return to F1 after all that he has been through since 2011. The team did lose a considerable amount of investment after Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's ( Williams driver in 2018 ) father decided to direct his funds away from the team to Racing Point, his son's new ride in 2019. There was some consolation with PKN Orlen, Kubica's backer but Williams' woes on the track continued in 2019. They struggled to stay in touch with the rest of the field, lapping consistently slower all season long. Upgrades towards the end of the season did help performance to some extent but not enough to beat other back-markers. They scored a solitary point with Robert Kubica at the German GP ( thanks to a penalty to the Alfa Romeo Team ) but it meant nothing in the grander scheme of things. George Russell's best finish was also at the German GP in 11th. Both suffered a couple of retirements in the season, so reliability wasn't an issue. 

It is getting really difficult for the bosses at Williams to stem the tide. They require a complete overhaul, personnel at the top included..but will it happen??

2019 promised to be a close contest between the top 3 teams but it turned out to be a mauling. Mercedes once again proved to be the class of the field, emphasizing the fact that you win as a team and having the fastest car doesn't equate to being a championship-winning car. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were efficient and consistent, the former once again showing why he deserves to be a 6 time World Champion. Bottas will hope to offer a stronger fight in 2020; as for the competitors in Ferrari, they need to have a hard look at the way they operate on a race weekend and the strategies they devise from the Pit Wall. Red Bull capitalized on every opportunity and know they can mount a big challenge in 2020. Renault has a long winter ahead, so does Haas, Racing Point and Williams F1. McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo will be pleased with what they have achieved in 2019.  

Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team can bask in the glory of their 6th Championship..the 7th beckons next year..can't wait for the 2020 season to start!

2018 F1 Season Review - It's not how you begin, It's how you finish!

2018 was the equal-longest season in the history of F1. It was also the year when HALO was introduced ( a safety feature added for open cockpit racing ) not just for F1 but also for the feeder series. 2018 also saw a new alliance between McLaren F1 and Renault ( as engine suppliers for the team ). Sergei Sirotkin, Charles LeClerc were the new kids on the block. 

How did the season pan out? Was a New driver and team crowned Champions at the end of 2018 or was status quo maintained?

Lets have a quick look.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 

Mercedes AMG F1 are the best in the business since the Turbo Era. However the competitors are quickly catching up and creating a more level playing field. 2018 was a classic example of the same. Ferrari were the fastest in the Pre-season testing and had the upper hand in the first half of 2018. However uncharacteristic mistakes coupled with strategic errors allowed Mercedes to close in on them and eventually take the lead in both the Drivers' and the Constructors' Titles. The Team in Brackley worked round the clock to reduce the performance deficit over the season and their efforts did pay off. 

Lewis Hamilton's flawless drives got them the wins, his pole lap in Singapore ( the team's bogey track ) was one of the highlights of the season. Valtteri Bottas was presented with a couple of good opportunities for a victory but luck and team orders didn't go his way as he played 2nd fiddle for the majority of the season. Lewis Hamilton was playing catch up up until Germany, post which he simply moved into another gear. Hamilton won 11 races and 6 podiums on his way to the title. Bottas failed to win a race but finished on the podium in 8 races. Hamilton ended the season on a mammoth 408 points while Bottas finished in 5th with 247. Mercedes took home the Constructors' crown yet again! Lewis Hamilton was now a 5 Time World Champion!

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari was the team to beat in 2018. The year that promised a lot became yet another season of "what could have been". I have begun to think that the team has forgotten the way of winning championships, a drought that continues from 2007 ( Drivers' ) and 2008 ( Constructors' ). Incidents on track, Driver errors, Strategic howlers by the pit wall marred the performances and eventually cost the team top honours. Some updates introduced later in the year were a disaster, points were lost and this turned the tide in the Drivers' Title fight. 2018 revealed that Sebastian Vettel can also buckle under pressure and make mistakes. 

Vettel won 5 Races and bagged 7 podiums to finish P2 in the standings with 320 points. Kimi Raikkonen had a very strong 2018, as successful as his championship winning year in 2007. He finally won a race since Australia 2013 at the US GP in Austin in fine fashion. His 11 podiums helped him reach 251 points and P3 in the Championship. Scuderia Ferrari finished P2 in the Constructors' with 571 points. 

If Ferrari wants to pose a serious challenge to Mercedes in 2019 then they must ensure that everyone operates within their designated fields / professions and the decision making process must not be interfered with. The Power struggle within the team didn't help matters either. The passing away of the FCA CEO Mr. Sergio Marchionne was a big loss for the team as well. 

It was a much better year in terms of performances, however "yet so near..yet so far". Charles LeClerc steps in to partner Vettel in 2019. It will be interesting to see how they get along as team-mates and whether they can bring back the glory days or not.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing finished P3 in the Standings with 419 Points. It was like a lonely season for them with no competitor to challenge for P3 and the Top 2 teams in a league of their own. Red Bull attributed a lot of blame to Renault power for their performance deficit in 2018. Will it change after their switch to Honda in 2019? Lets see. 

Max Verstappen missed P3 in the Championship by 2 points. The Dutchman was the recipient of a lot of bad luck in the first half of the season but he won in Austria, benefiting from the retirements suffered by the Mercedes duo. He drove flawlessly to win in Mexico the cooler temperatures and higher altitude allowed the Renault to perform better. He also finished on the podium 9 times, a fantastic feat nonetheless. Daniel Ricciardo struggled on the other hand, specially after the announcement of his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault in 2019. The Australian bagged 170 points with wins in China and Monaco, the latter redemption for the Pit Stop fiasco that robbed him victory in 2016. He didn't finish on the podium in the other races, something he will be looking to improve in 2019. P6 in the Standings does not justify the talent of the man.

Red Bull will be backing Verstappen in 2019 as Gasly ( Ricciardo's replacement ) finds his feet. Hopefully we will have a great contest!

Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 was P4 in the Standings at the mid season break and they maintained their momentum till the end of the year. It wasn't smooth sailing with Haas F1 breathing down their necks but the Enstone based team prevailed.The disparity with the Top 3 Runners was huge but their ability to beat customer teams with faster engines will serve as good encouragement in 2019. 

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished P7 and P10 respectively. Hulkenberg finished in the points in 11 races, P5 in Germany being his best result. Sainz finished in the points on 13 occasions with P5 in Baku being his best result. Hulkenberg was the best of the rest or as the media terms it the B Championship. A Podium still eludes him. Sainz switches to McLaren with Renault roping in the services of Ricciardo. Renault has the funding as a works team and are expanding their R&D on war footing. 2019 will be fun. Go Renault!!

Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 once again proved to be the strongest Ferrari customer team. Achieving P5 in the Constructors' standings is a big achievement; a potent chassis coupled with a fantastic powertrain the main reasons. Gene Haas will be hoping to go one better next year. The Team finished on 93 points. The Team also have the FIA to thank who stripped Racing Point of their points up until the Hungarian GP, else they would have been leapfrogged. ( Elaborated later )

Kevin Magnussen scored the majority of the points for the team, finishing in the points in 11 races with P5 in Bahrain and Austria being his best results. He was P9 in the Championship with 56 points. Romain Grosjean's travails with the braking system didn't seem to end as he suffered from many non - finishes and struggled to find the right setups at most of the races. He only had 7 finishes in the points with P4 being his best effort at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Frenchmen scored a total of 37 points in P14, an underachiever in all honesty. A lot will be expected of him in 2019 considering the amount of experience he has racing in F1. 

The battle in the midfield is always a case of fine margins, the team has to iron out the issues and ensure both drivers finish well to bridge the gap above.

McLaren Renault F1 Team :

McLaren began 2018 with a lot of hope..a hope that their switch to Renault power would address their performance issues and put them on the road to recovery. Sadly it was anything but that. Renault power was the saving grace wherever it could be but the design flaws in the car were magnified on most tracks. McLaren were left red faced on most occasions as the car suffered from reliability and performance issues and failed to bring home the expected results. It became quite evident to the world that it wasn't Honda to blame entirely for McLaren's miseries but their chassis design. 

Fernando Alonso did what Fernando Alonso does best, extracting every ounce of performance out of the car. His best finish was P5 in the opening round in Australia. He finished in the points at 8 other races and P11 in the Championship with 50 points. The Spaniard made no secret of the criticism of the car over the course of the year. It also led him to the decision of taking a sabbatical from the sport. The Double World Champion had not seen a race victory since 2013 and a podium since 2014. We wish him the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him on the grid again! Stoffel Vandoorne had a mediocre 2018. He was unable to beat his team-mate in Qualifying and finished in the points in only 4 races. P16 with 12 points, a horrendous year for the Belgian

The team ended the season in P6 on 62 Points, better than where they were in 2017 but not where they hoped to be. 

They have a lot of work to do in 2019.

Racing Point Force India F1 Team :

Racing Point Force India, ( now Racing Point F1 saw a change in ownership over the mid-season break. The Team name changed from Sahara Force India to Racing Point with Vijay Mallya and the Sahara group selling their team assets to a consortium of businessmen lead by Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father. Perez even sued Force India, sending the team into administration before they were acquired by the investors. The consequence of the acquisition was that the team lost all the points scored up until the mid-season break i.e. up until Hungarian GP and had to enter the season as a new entrant. The team scored a total of 52 points from the Belgian Grand Prix and had their points been retained, they would have finished P5 in the Championship with 111 points ahead of Haas F1. The Drivers were allowed to retain their points. 

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon weren't the best of mates and there was a fair bit of rivalry between the two. Incidents between the duo on track also cost the team some valuable points, specially vs McLaren F1. There was even news about Ocon being replaced in season by Lance Stroll from Williams but better sense prevailed and the Frenchman was allowed to continue racing. Sergio Perez was P8 in the Championship with 62 points grabbing a P3 once again at Baku, Racing Point's favourite track. Esteban Ocon had 10 finishes in the Points with P6 being his best finish in Monaco, Austria, Belgium and Italy. He finished P12 in the Championship with 49 points. 

2019 promises a lot, will the investors be repaid for their efforts? We shall see.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 Team was on the rise since the start of 2018. Their results improved with each passing race and they finished on 48 points and P8 in the Constructors' at the end of the year. The Team has also benefited from a faster Ferrari engine in 2018. Charles LeClerc spearheaded their challenge with points finishes in 14 races and P6 was his best finish ( Baku ). He had 39 points to his name at the end of the year. Marcus Ericsson in comparison massively under-performed and finished in the points in only 6 races, P9 being his best finish. Sauber F1 will be thankful for LeClerc and for what he achieved since a better finish means more money to use for next year. 

Sauber is now Alfa Romeo F1, so hopefully they wont be as cash strapped as they were at the end of 2017.

Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a very mediocre 2018. Honda power and its reliability issues are to blame ( to some extent ). The team scored only 33 points in 2018 and finished P9 in the Championship, losing P8 to Sauber post the mid season break. The Red Bull B Team will have to pull up their socks if they want to bring any respectability to their tally in 2019. Pierre Gasly performed well enough to warrant a seat in the A Team for 2019. Brendon Hartley not so. The Frechman scored in 5 races and P4 was his best finish ( Bahrain ). Brendon Hartley struggled all year round with mechanical failures, incidents and setup issues. He only managed 4 points in 2018, 9th in the US GP and 10th in Baku and Germany. 

Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better outing in 2019.

Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams, a name that is well known in the annals of F1. The team is now a mere shadow of its former glory days. Its truly a sad situation within the team, be it the lack of finances, sponsors or direction in terms of development. The progress curve stagnated for the team in 2018. The results were poor, even though a top man like Paddy Lowe was added to the management. The team also said goodbye to Rob Smedley who decided to call it a day on his career and spend time with his young family ( for now at least ). Sergei Sirotkin and Lance Stroll were the drivers hired for 2018 ( pay drivers purely ) and the funding they carried helped the team last the year. 7 points was all they could conjure, best being 8th for Lance Stroll in Baku. 

Williams need a revamp for 2019. They need to become appealing again and ensure their driver portfolio boasts of that too. We wish them well.

A lot has happened over the course of 2018.  

I had the opportunity of attending 3 races - Germany, Belgium and Abu Dhabi and I must say that Liberty Media should be commended for revitalizing F1 as a sport and modernizing it. They also improved Fan interaction and involvement.

We said goodbye to Fernando Alonso, a legend of the sport, his absence will definitely leave a void. Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Sergei Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson will not be on the grid in 2019. Charles LeClerc was a revelation and the Tifosi will hope to see a new champion in Scarlet Red in 2019. 

Kimi Raikkonen finally won a race again and can bow out of Ferrari with his head held high! 

McLaren started strong hoping the trend would continue into the season..sadly it didn't, Sahara Force India were already in the red ( financially ) and hoped to weather the storm..the management couldn't; Ferrari was the fastest car on the grid and they hoped this would be the year of top honours..sadly it wasn't.

This season served as a good reminder for us, be it in life or doesn't matter how you begin, what matters is how you finish! Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton ran the race well and deserved to be on the top step. 

Other contenders have a lot to learn..still...

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!

2014 F1 Season Review - The Dawn of a New Era

2014 was not just another season in the history of F1.

F1 donned a new face and saw a huge changeover from the previous year.

Many avid fans had reservations about seeing F1 in its new avatar - 1.6 L V6 Turbo Charged Engines, Reduction to 5 Power Units from 8, Bigger Energy Recovery Systems, Reduced Downforce, 8 Gears ( from 7 last year ) to compensate for the Torque and reduced fuel usage to accommodate the new allocation of 100kgs ( of fuel ) over a race distance and most importantly double points in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

F1 was on a mission to bring down costs and the rule changes would be the first step in that endeavour. However towards the end of the season we saw the demise of 2 teams and questions being raised by one and all as to whether F1 really profited from these drastic steps. The engines also weren't loud enough for many fans and everyone remembered the days of old. F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone even hinted at a return to the noisier V8s but a switchback will not happen anytime soon.

2014 saw the introduction of a new track - Sochi in Russia and the return of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria.

How did the teams fare in 2014? Lets have a quick recap :

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes had started work on their power unit 2 years before its introduction into the sport and they reaped huge rewards on the racetrack. The Factory Team enjoyed a considerable advantage over its rivals and its customer teams. The duel between the team-mates was all that mattered and childhood mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg left no stone unturned as they battled for supremacy and the eventual crown.

The Team had the fastest car on the grid but they suffered with reliability issues throughout the season.

Lewis suffered retirements in Australia, Canada and Belgium while Nico in Britain and Singapore. 

Lewis and Nico battled hard and sparks were flying between the two. Nico captured pole and victory at Monaco albeit "unsportingly" according to some experts. Lewis on the other hand didn't let Nico pass him during the Hungarian GP. Nico was pretty discontent going into the summer break.

The Battle between the team mates reached a flashpoint when Nico hit Lewis while challenging for the lead in the 2nd lap at Belgium. The damage caused Lewis to retire and instigate an internal investigation which ended in Nico issuing an apology to Lewis and suffering a heavy fine.

Lewis then went on a 5 race winning spree and overturning the deficit to Nico whose retirement in Singapore due to another mechanical failure didn't do his chances any good. Nico was trailing by 17 points going into the final race in Abu Dhabi but electrical problems denied him from mounting a challenge. Lewis won the Championship on pure merit though.

The 2008 World Champion notched up 11 wins to Nico's 5. He also produced stellar drives from the back of the grid to end up on the podium on a few occasions and was the victim of unreliability more often than his team-mate.

The Team finished with 16 Wins in 19 races, 11 1-2s and a colossal 701 points! The Team had sealed the Constructors' Championship at the Inaugural Russian GP ( Round 16 ).

2014 truly saw the dawn of the "Silver Arrows and the 3 Pointed Star" era. 

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a torrid start to the 2014 campaign in testing and went into 2014 with a lot of uncertainty about them - most notably the reliability of the Renault Power Unit.

Sebastien Vettel who enjoyed 4 years of success struggled with the lack of downforce and the loss of considerable amount of aerodynamics on the new car. He suffered reliability issues and even exceeded the 5 Power Unit allocation for the season.The German however managed 4 podiums in the 2014 season - Malaysia, Canada, Singapore and Japan. Vettel decided it was time to move on and take on a new challenge. He will be joining Ferrari for the 2015 season. He finished the year in 5th.

Daniel Ricciardo the new graduate from Toro Rosso had a fantastic year and finished 2nd in his debut race for Red Bull on his home turf in Australia but Fuel Irregularity in his car meant that he was stripped of his 2nd place and disqualified.
Ricciardo produced stellar drives throughout the season and was the sole driver to capitalize on any mistake or reliability issues that the Mercedes duo faced. He notched up his First Win for Red Bull in Canada when both Hamilton and Rosberg suffered brake problems. Hungary and Belgium were 2 more victories that followed soon after and kept him in the title hunt. 5 podiums helped him top off a fine 2014 in 3rd place in the Drivers' Championship.

Red Bull relinquished their crown and finished in 2nd place, a resurgence after the uncertainties at the start of the season.

Williams - Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams have been living in the shadows for a long time and a return to the sharp end of the gird was overdue. Williams hired the services of Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley, the latter becoming the Head of Vehicle Perfomance. Williams were the most successful customer team amongst the Mercedes Engine buyers and the duo of Bottas and Massa showed everyone that Williams were back in business.

Bottas was a little slow off the blocks but soon gathered pace and started bagging podiums. He finished in the top 3 on six occasions. His consistent performance in other races ensured that he stayed ahead of rivals to finish 4th in the Championship.

Massa too enjoyed life with his new team and was a very different racer in 2014. He too took his time to start scoring good points for the team and even stole pole position at the Austrian GP. However he could only manage 3 podiums - Italy, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Massa was a handful in 2014 and will be a force to reckon with in 2015. He finished 7th in the Standings.

Williams had a slow start to 2014 but consistency from both drivers helped them gather points rapidly. They won the duel with Ferrari to take 3rd Place in the Constructors. This was a massive jump from 8th last year and the extra cash will definitely help them move closer to the top in 2015.

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari had the strongest driver lineup on the grid and all were eyes were on them to see how 2 drivers with 3 world championships between them would cope with the new season. Massa's Departure meant the return of the Iceman KIMI RAIKKONEN! Ferrari had last won the Drivers' Championship with Kimi in 2007. What Promised to be a battle royale between Alonso and Raikkonen eventually fizzled out. 

Alonso lead the charge for Ferrari and flattered to deceive in a car which was simply not good enough to challenge the Mercedes. Alonso managed 2 podiums - 3rd in China and 2nd in Hungary. He scored consistently throughout the season and managed to finish 6th in the Championship.

Kimi Raikkonen had a season to forget. The Iceman suffered all year long and his best finish in the year was 4th in Belgium.
could only muster 55 points and finished 12th in the Championship.

Ferrari was the most reliable car on the grid but not the quickest and they paid a heavy price for their lack of pace as they finished a disappointing 4th in the Constructors' Championship. The primary reason for failure has been attributed to the Pushrod Suspension Design. The Design is better aerodynamically but makes the front end unresponsive. Kimi really struggled with the lack of front end grip and also the new "Brake by wire" system. These simply don't suit his driving style. Ferrari have been working all year to address these issues and progress is visible. Alonso suffered 2 retirements due to mechanical failures and the Spaniard has struggled during his time at Ferrari. He announced that he would leave the team at the end of the season and has returned to McLaren for 2015.

McLaren Mercedes F1 Team :

McLaren brought in a Driver Program graduate Kevin Magnussen to partner Jenson Button for 2014. McLaren and Mercedes have enjoyed a great partnership down the years but the partnership would come to an end at the end of 2014 as McLaren switched to Honda with the hope of restoring the days of Prost and Senna.

Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button had an amazing start to the Season when they finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. ( Australia )

However post that none could manage any more podiums. Button was more consistent and his experience shone on track. His future at McLaren was uncertain but some stellar drives towards the end helped his cause as well as McLaren's who were locked in a heated battle with Force India and even trailing them for a certain period. Button finished 8th in the standings with 126 points.

Magnussen's rookie year in F1 was a promising one. He made a few mistakes and struggled to score big post his podium in the first race. Magnussen finished 11th with 55 points.

McLaren were the weakest of the Mercedes' Customer teams but improved towards the end of the season to narrowly beat Sahara Force India F1 Team to 5th position and save themselves the blushes.

Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India saw the return of Nico Hulkenberg who partnered Sergio Perez, the latter removed by McLaren for not fulfilling expectations and being vocal about the lack of performance of the 2013 contender. Force India is slowly clawing their way up the grid and 2014 was a really rewarding one for the team.

Nico Hulkenberg performed well for the team, scoring good points consistently and making a strong case for himself. He truly deserves to be driving for a team higher up the grid and Force India would be really thankful for this acquisition. Hulkenberg's best finish was 5th on 4 occasions and he finished the season in 9th with 96 points.

Sergio Perez had a mercurial 2014. Some heroic driving helped him earn a podium for the team ( 3rd place ) ( Belgium 2009 being Force India's last ). He was robbed of another 3rd place in Canada after his coming together with Massa on the last lap.
He was unable to make heavy inroads in the rest of the races and finished 2014 in 10th place with 59 points.

Force India can take encouragement from a much better 2014 and build from here. Their association with Mercedes will definitely help them in 2015 too.

Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso acquired the services of young Daniil Kvyat, another graduate from the Red Bull Driver Program while Jean-Eric Vergne retained his seat for 2015. Toro Rosso switched to Renault from Ferrari in 2014 to become the 4th Customer team for the French Engine Manufacturer.

Jean-Eric Vergne had a rough start to 2014 with retirements and questions being raised about his calibre.However a couple of strong performances helped him reinstate his authority within the team.He managed to finish 7 times in the points. Vergne finished 13th with 22 points. Vergne is only 24 and deserved another year of racing to make a strong case for himself but Red Bull ( Toro Rosso's Main Sponsor ) thought otherwise. Toro Rosso relieved him of his services allowing him to become a reserve driver for Ferrari in 2015.

Daniil Kvyat made his F1 Debut at a tender age of 19. Some suggested that it was too early to bring the Russian into F1. I second that opinion but one musn't forget the turnout he generated at the Inaugural Russian GP. Kvyat showed brilliance in parts and only managed 5 points finishes. Kvyat should have spent another year with Toro Rosso but Vettel's Departure to Ferrari has given him the rare privilege of driving for the A Team in 2015.

Toro Rosso didn't have the best year in F1 and the rising costs also troubled them in 2014. They finished a disappointing 7th in the Constructors' Championship.

Lotus F1 Team :

Lotus F1 saw an exodus of  talented people at the end of 2013. The Team had been brilliant in 2012 and 2013 and hired the services of Pastor Maldonado who replaced Kimi Raikkonen for 2014. Maldonado also brought in a big sponsor in PDVSA and expectations were high going into 2014. However pre-season testing revealed that the team was nowhere near ready for the season opener. The 2014 car had done minimum running and was plagued with Renault Power Unit problems.

The team had a very rough 2014 with both drivers qualifying at the back of the grid on more occasions than one. Reliability issues didn't help their cause either. Romain Grosjean finished in the points only on 2 occasions and Maldonado's best finish was 8th ( only once ). Grosjean finished in 14th on 8 points while Maldonado was 16th on 2.

Lotus F1 scored 10 points ( 8th in Constructors ) and the loss of talented people at the top hurt them bad. Lotus have parted ways with Renault and will work with a Mercedes engine in 2015.

Marussia F1 Team :

Marussia continued with Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton for 2014. The Team was locked in a heated battle with Caterham and Sauber Ferrari all season long and they earned their first points in Monaco when Jules Bianchi finished 9th. 

The 2 points turned out to be vital in the Constructors' Championship. Max Chilton too continued to finish races until a retirement in Canada ended his record run of 25 consecutive classified race finishes.

However rising costs and lack of funds were threatening the very existence of the team. The F1 world was rattled when Jules Bianchi suffered a horrific crash ( on Sunday ) in Suzuka on a rainy day and in fading light. The Car went under a tractor which was trying to extricate the stricken Sauber of Adrian Sutil from the gravel. Bianchi has been in induced coma since and was recently shifted to Europe to continue treatment. The F1 Fraternity has rallied around the Frenchman and we all hope to see him hale and hearty and racing ontrack soon. Flag Rules, Race Timings and Safety for drivers has become the centre of discussions again in the aftermath of the incident.

Marussia set up Bianchi's car ( to honour him ) and raced only one car during the Russian GP weekend. The mood was sombre in the paddock.

Marussia and Caterham F1 became the victims of rising costs in F1. Marussia went into administration and didn't make a return to F1. The Team's higher finishing position had no value now.

Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber, powered by Ferrari acquired the services of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez. Sauber struggled with the balance of the car as well as its weight in pre-season testing and was never able to address the issue. Sauber was another team feeling the pinch of rising costs and certain sources even suggested that the team was searching for a new investor to continue racing in F1. Adrian Sutil took the team's best result by qualifying in 9th in the United States, but his performance was short-lived, as he was hit from behind by Sergio Perez and the team endured their first pointless season in their 22 year history.

Caterham F1 Team :

Caterham had a torrid 2014. Rising costs, lack of funds coupled with an unreliable Renault engine left the team in complete disarray. Team Principal Tony Fernandes didn't see F1 as profitable anymore and sold the team to a consortium of Swiss - Middle Eastern investors in July. The Team hired the services of ex-F1 driver Christijan Albers for Team Principal but he too stepped down at the end of the Italian GP in September citing "Personal reasons".

Marcus Ericcson and Kamui Kobayashi drove for the team until the latter was replaced by three time Le Mans winner and FIA WEC Champion champion Andre Lotterer for the Belgian GP. He outqualified Ericcson but retired after his power unit failed on the first lap.

The deal with the investors however fell through and the Team went into administration post the Russian GP. They were unable to return for the US GP and the Brazilian GP. The team started an online campaign to raise funds to return for the Final race in Abu Dhabi and were able to make it happen. The Team replaced Ericsson with 23 year old rookie Will Stevens for the Final Race.

The existence of the team was always in question and the chances of survival were few and far between. Will Caterham be on the grid in 2015? I certainly hope so.

2014 wasn't a great year for Kimi and neither for me. I hope 2015 brings a change in fortunes for both of us. Mercedes AMG Petronas deserve to be Champions and we must give credit where its due.

2014 was nonetheless a brilliant season in terms of racing and showcased the sheer dominance of One Engine manufacturer over its competitors.

The 2015 Season is almost upon us.. Watch this space..the preview is coming soon!! God Bless everyone and enjoy the holidays!!