TCF Picks: Competitor of the year 2016


TCF Picks - Competitor of the year 2016
TCF Picks - Competitor of the year 2016

In no particular order, we start the 2016 TCF Picks with…

Max Coates

2016 was a huge season for Max Coates. After four years of part-campaigns and one-off outings, the Yorkshireman finally returned to full-time racing in the Renault UK Clio Cup with Ciceley Motorsport, an opportunity he grabbed with both hands. Not only was he in a new championship with a new team, but it was also a first season racing front-wheel drive machinery. If that wasn’t a big enough challenge already, he had to tackle it on a budget much lower than many of his rivals. Despite the subsequent limitations on testing and tyres, Coates pieced together a truly remarkable year with seven podium finishes, an emotional first win at his home circuit Croft, two pole positions, a top three championship finish and the Graduates Cup class title. Few drivers in Clio Cup history have produced better ‘rookie’ seasons, and it was a joy to see Coates finally get the chance to show everybody what he can do. Hopefully this is just the start for him. – Simon Paice

Nigel Moore

Nigel Moore has had a fantastic season. He has done impressive things in both the Michelin GT3 Challenge and in the ELMS LMP3 class but its his season in Britcar which has ensured his place in the Picks. With the exception of one small mistake at Oulton Park, Moore has dominated in superb fashion the class 1 battle in Britcar. On more than one weekend he has claimed the fastest lap in every session, at Snetterton both he and co-driver Phil Hanson fought back from a fire that would have ended most other team’s weekends to claim a podium finish. At Brands Hatch he fought back in the dying moments of a 3 hour into the night race to fight door to door with Javier Morcillo’s Mosler for ten thrilling minutes and claim second place in the race and the overall championship win. – Nick Smith

Johnny Adam – Credit: Nick Smith

Jonny Adam

At the start of the 2016 season, a more conservative person would have thought that Adam would need time to settle into life at a new team and develop a relationship with a new co-driver as the Scot moved to TF Sport and partnered Derek Johnston, as well as balancing FIA WEC commitments in the Aston Martin Racing factory team. However, Adam is a man who instantly looks settled no matter the location or other circumstances and that showed as the new pairing stormed to a somewhat bizarre British GT victory at Brands Hatch which was dogged by a rather excessive full course yellow period including a speed limit many couldn’t stick at…

Come Rockingham though, and Adam was at his rapid best as the TF Sport crew showed their rivals no mercy – the eventual five second margin of victory more comfortable than it would appear from reading the timing sheets. A lean spell, where they still managed to pick up enough points to hold their strong position for much of the season, before decent results at Snetterton and Donington allowed Adam to become the first driver to claim two GT3 titles in a row. In the WEC, a podium finish at Spa was complemented with a decent sixth at Le Mans just behind the dominant Ford GTs cementing his position as one of the best GT drivers in the world right now. – Joe Hudson

Nicolas Lapierre

After losing his Toyota LMP1 seat midway through 2014, Nico Lapierre’s sportscar career took a dramatic upturn with his move to the LMP2 category. Buoyed by driving opportunities in the World Endurance Championship, the European Le Mans Series, and at Daytona and Sebring, the experienced Frenchman has established himself as the best LMP2 driver in the world right now – and possibly one of the best in sportscar racing. His accolades in 2016 included dominating one of the most competitive WEC fields ever with Signatech Alpine team-mates Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi, and a brilliant season with DragonSpeed in Europe which included three podiums and a win at Spa.

Retirements at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring might have curtailed DragonSpeed’s championship hopes in the ELMS, but Lapierre’s penchant for dominating a stint against a grid of super-quick prototype drivers (including Harry Tincknell, Mathias Beche and Tristan Gommendy, to name a few) made the American team one of the stand-outs this season. Add to that his role as a test driver for the new ORECA 07 LMP2 car which debuts next season, and Lapierre is clearly one of the hottest names to have behind the wheel of a prototype right now. – Daniel Lloyd

Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne

This is tough decision for me to make but I’m going to have to stick to my series and choose Shane Byrne. Byrne made history by overcoming the mighty challenge of Leon Haslam and taking his fifth British Superbike title. Not only was Byrne pushed all the way, but he also won the title on a brand-new Ducati machine that was still going through development in the early stages of the year. – Josh Close

Brad Binder – Photo Credit: MotoGP.com

Brad Binder

It’s astonishing to think that before the 2016 season started, this man hadn’t won a single Grand Prix in his career, but Brad Binder certainly made up for lost time this year. The South African broke his duck in spectacular fashion at Jerez, going from 35th on the grid to win after a post-qualifying penalty, and never looked back from there.

Six more wins followed, including another stunning comeback from 22nd on the second lap in Valencia, and when the dust settled on the Moto3 season, Binder was champion by a staggering 142 points. Moto3 is a championship known for its competitiveness and close racing. It’s not a championship set up for one rider or manufacturer to dominate. Brad Binder did that, and then some this year. Louis Suddaby

Stefano Comini

It’s not easy defending a championship after you have moved to a different team and you have to learn a different car. However the 2015 TCR International Series Champion gelled with the WRT run Leopard Racing and went into the last weekend of racing at Macau with a chance of retaining the title in the Volkswagen Golf. His joy was evident on the slow down lap as he realised he’d retained the title. – Phil Kinch

Matheus Leist

2016 proved to be a real coming of age year for the Brazilian. From his humble roots in South America, the 18-year-old beat his rivals from the year before in a BRDC Formula 3 car he’d not driven prior to this season. For me, Leist’s win wasn’t just a feat of pure consistency, but a march to prove that you don’t have to have the support of the media or the front-running teams to win a title.

It’s no lie that he lost to Lando Norris, Ricky Collard and Colton Herta last year, but unlike his Carlin rivals he was never truly considered a title challenger to the 2015 MSA Formula crown. Many will talk of how Collard crumbled in the final round, but it’s worth remembering that Leist only ever qualified on pole once, yet won on four occasions, whilst Collard won four of his five races from the front. – Connor Jackson

Lucas di Grassi – Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT/Formula E

Lucas Di Grassi

Despite just missing out on the title, Lucas di Grassi’s efforts this year were brilliant. He often outperformed his machinery, as demonstrated by the huge advantage he held throughout the season over his team-mate, and he seemed like the only man capable of challenging the Renault’s. Before the final round in London he’d shown phenomenal consistency in finishing on the podium in every race, including in Mexico when he cruelly had a win taken away from him after the team forgot to add enough ballast. The mistake would end up costing him the championship, and although his crash into Buemi in the last race was questionable, no one would have said he wouldn’t have been a deserving winner. – Scott Douglas

Lance Stroll

The teenage Canadian converted what he learned in 2015 into a dominant display against strong opposition in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2016. Stroll was often THE guy to beat, taking fourteen victories across the year, including the last five in succession as he won the championship by almost 200 points. Only at the Hungaroring and around the streets of Pau did he fail to win at least one race, but at both venues he did find himself on the podium, but all year long he was in superb form.

Yes he was with Prema Powerteam, a team unbeaten in the championship since it restarted in 2012, but then again so were Maximilian Gunther, Nick Cassidy and Ralf Aron, who between them took six wins between them. Stroll was just on a different level, and as a reward will make the jump up into Formula 1 with the Williams Martini Racing team in 2017, the first driver to make the F3 to F1 jump since one Max Verstappen… – Paul Hensby

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo has had his good moments and bad moments this season, but during these a smile has never failed to cross his face. He lost crucial time during his pit stop in Monaco, where his mechanics were not ready for him, this ultimately lost him first. From here though, he hasn’t let this down, with a further six podium positions and of course, the top step in Malaysia. – Gemma Bray

Fernando Alonso

Considering the machinery he has, the Spaniard has put in some fantastic performances throughout the year. Amassing eight top ten finishes in the MP4-31 is no mean feat, and his seventh place in Malaysia, having started from the back of the grid was pure genius! – Rachel Hack

Max Verstappen

Yes, he may not be world champion and, yes, he may have divided opinions within the Formula 1 paddock at times in 2016, but it has been hard not to be transfixed by the performances of Max Verstappen after his Red Bull promotion. From sustaining pressure to claim a first grand prix victory with the ‘first team’ in Spain to a storming wet weather drive in Brazil that drew comparisons to Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, the teenage sensation shouted his name loud and clear for championship success in the near future. Overtaking has been a highlight, but his raw pace and car control shown has been equally sublime. – Dan Mason

Nico Rosberg – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Nico Rosberg

Having been faced with losing the title in America last year, before going on a run of seven victories Nico Rosberg certainly upped his game in 2016. Winning the first four races in a row, as well as taking five further victories Rosberg was full of confidence within the car and himself for the 2016 season. Despite taking less victories than his team-mate over the course of the year, Rosberg managed to claim the title by five points demonstrating that wins are not always everything and consistency is the key. – Chloe Hewitt

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Whilst luck may have played to his advantage this year, it is impossible to say that he is not a worthy champion. He has withstood the pressure and raced well all season, with some brilliant driving at races such as Singapore and Suzuka. He has beaten one of the most talented drivers of the modern era fairly, and has retired on a high to spend time with his family. He has displayed sportsmanship and been a gentleman throughout – and that is why he is my pick for Competitor of the Year. – Megan Cantle

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Nico Rosberg’s utter sheer resilience in the face of the immoveable force that Lewis Hamilton became during the dying laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would make a fascinating study for any sports psychologist. Rosberg delivered his most complete season as a Formula 1 competitor in 2016, taking each opportunity and maximising it. His increased aggression witnessed at both the Spanish Grand Prix and Austrian Grand Prix were a reflection of a man who had learnt from burns accrued in previous bouts with his team-mate and title-rival.

Yes Hamilton suffered with a glut of Mercedes mechanical issues and yes the British driver was the out-and-out quicker on a level playing field. However, Rosberg combined his speed (devastating on his day – witness the Singapore GP), intelligence and yes his luck to put together an almost faultless championship campaign. Extra kudos for bowing out having achieved all he desired to. – Lee Bonham