2015 F1 Rookie Watch – China


Rookie of the Race

#33 – Max Verstappen – Netherlands – Scuderia Toro Rosso

For the first time in 2015, the rookie of the race award does not go to the driver who finished higher up, but instead goes to a driver who was denied a top eight result by an engine failure with less than four laps to go.

Max Verstappen continues to belie his age and his apparent lack of experience with another strong drive in China, with the seventeen-year-old Dutchman climbing into the top eight from thirteenth on the grid.

Verstappen has shown good speed all year, but his overtaking has been excellent as well, and it was no different in Shanghai. It was just unfortunate that the talented teenager had an ICE failure on his Renault power unit, else he would have secured his second points finish on the bounce.

There is no doubt now that Max Verstappen deserves his place in Formula 1. Surely even the harshest critics can now ease their worries about his age and experience level being a factor in his driving.


 

Felipe Nasr took the best result of the rookies in China, finishing eighth (Credit: Sauber Motorsports AG)
Felipe Nasr took the best result of the rookies in China, finishing eighth (Credit: Sauber Motorsports AG)

#12 – Felipe Nasr – Brazil – Sauber F1 Team

The Brazilian returned to the points in China with an eighth place finish and put the disappointments of the Malaysian Grand Prix well and truly behind him.

Nasr and his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson were on form pretty much all weekend as the team found a good workable set-up with their C34, and saw Nasr make it through to the top ten shoot out for the first time in his short F1 career.

Only briefly during the pit stop cycle did Nasr drop outside the top ten, and was rewarded with an eighth place finish when the chequered flag fell, inheriting the place after fellow rookie Verstappen retired.

Nasr now has fourteen points in the championship, fourteen more than Sauber achieved in the whole of 2014. The Brazilian still has to prove his consistency but is certainly proving his speed.

Carlos Sainz suffered a spin and gearbox gremlins in China (Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Carlos Sainz suffered a spin and gearbox gremlins in China (Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

#55 – Carlos Sainz Jr – Spain – Scuderia Toro Rosso

For the first time in 2015, the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion was unable to finish the race inside the points, with the Spaniard ending a disappointing thirteenth after an early spin.

Whilst attempting to pass one of the Force India drivers, Sainz spun, and lost valuable time and track position, and was compromised further later in the race when his gearbox decided to go into neutral.

Despite his lack of a decent result, Sainz still showed a good turn of speed, and like team-mate Verstappen is proving that his promotion to the team was warranted.

Roberto Merhi remains with a 100% finishing record in Formula 1 (Credit: Manor F1 Team)
Roberto Merhi remains with a 100% finishing record in Formula 1 (Credit: Manor F1 Team)

#98 – Roberto Merhi – Spain – Manor F1 Team

The third Spaniard in the field (after Sainz and Fernando Alonso) continues to find his feet in Formula 1, and in the Manor it is hard to assess his results when his only on track opposition is his team-mate Will Stevens.

Yet he has a 100% finishing record in Formula 1. After qualifying within the 107% time for the first time in China, he kept himself out of trouble in the race, and saw the chequered flag once more, albeit two laps down and the last of those to see the flag waved.

His only blemish was a five-second penalty post-race for failing to stick to the correct safety car time, but ultimately Merhi will be longing for the day when the team can unload its true 2015 car with a 2015 power unit.

Rookie of Race Winners:

2 – Max Verstappen

1- Felipe Nasr

0 – Carlos Sainz Jr, Roberto Merhi