With the 2015 season looming into view, TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk have taken some time out to reflect on the best of 2014 with our annual TCF Picks series, the first part of which focuses on the best performers on two and four wheels.
While a two-time F1 world champion, a couple of touring car champions and a young single-seater talent with a very famous surname get mentions, there’s one man who leads the way as we pick our star competitors from the 2014 season.
Louis Suddaby: Marc Marquez
Well it wasn’t going to be anyone else was it? Marc Marquez was utterly dominant in 2014 and quite frankly, no-one else comes close in the running for competitor of the year.
It’s easy to forget that Marquez had a turbulent build-up to his championship defence, the Spaniard breaking his right leg in a training accident, but despite missing the final couple of pre-season tests, he hit the ground running in Qatar.
Marc fended off a fired-up Valentino Rossi and proceeded to string together ten straight victories which virtually wrapped up a second title by the summer. The guy really has everything. Blistering pace, tactical nous, a ruthless streak in wheel-to-wheel combat, all combined with a wonderful personality which makes him instantly adored across the world.
A true showman, a true champion, the future of MotoGP is in safe hands.
Matt Bristow: Petter Solberg
This is pretty much a no brainer, it absolutely has to be Petter Solberg. If clinching the inaugural world rallycross title wasn’t enough, he’s also the first driver to secure two world crowns in separate FIA disciplines.
Alex Goldschmidt: Marco Wittmann
There are so many to choose from, but I’d have to say that Marco Wittmann’s efforts to go from BMW Motorsport test driver to DTM champion in just three short seasons is pretty impressive. His consistency echoed the triumph of outgoing champ Mike Rockenfeller, and the 25 year old is going to be even busier defending his title next year with 18 races.
His manner as a professional race driver is nothing short of exemplary, especially with the fact that he will make sure every fan gets a photo or autograph, even walking to the BMW suite in Hockenheim at the season finale. He’s a sign of the possible changing of the guard that is soon to pass, especially with the drivers that currently compete in the DTM that have bright futures ahead.
Joe Diamond: Marc Marquez
I’m not sure about ‘hard’, but I feel it’s impossible to give this title to anyone other than the 21 year old who won thirteen out of eighteen races in the pinnacle class of motorcycle racing to clinch his second world title. Marquez was simply uncatchable in the opening ten rounds, in a display of dominance greater even than that of Casey Stoner & Ducati in 2007 and Valentino Rossi & Honda in 2002. In all fairness, the sport could well be in-line for more of the same in 2015 and beyond, as the match made in heaven looks for its trio of titles.
Joe Hudson: Jack Hawksworth
For me it has to be Jack Hawksworth, coming into IndyCar as a rookie after climbing the Road to Indy Ladder, he showed that Englishmen and IndyCars really do mix. A podium in Houston was his best result in a season that featured a lot of solid finishes in the top ten. Even in the first race at St Pete he was in a strong position before Will Power decided to slowly pull away after a safety car and Hawksworth was caught out in the pile up.
Nick Smith: Pietro Fittipaldi
The driver of the year for me is a champion. He dominated his formula in 2014 and proved himself to be the superior in a battle between team mates. He was a deserving champion. Yes, the man I have selected as my driver of the year is… Pietro Fittipaldi.
The reigning Protyre Formula Renault Champion gets my vote because of his skill and determination. The fact that in the closing rounds of a tight championship battle with his team mate Matteo Ferrer he claimed a run of ten successive race wins is just amazing. Especially in a spec series with such a competitive driver line up.
Paul Hensby: Esteban Ocon
While all eyes were on future F1 recruit Max Verstappen, Frenchman Esteban Ocon was confidently taking the FIA European Formula 3 title in 2014.
Driving for Prema Powerteam, Ocon was on the top of his game from the beginning of the season until the end. He won races at each of the first four events of the year, and then took an impressive hat trick of wins at the tricky Moscow Raceway later in the year to put him well clear of the chasing pack in the championship.
In the first twenty-one races of the year, he only finished off the podium three times, and won the title with three races to spare despite having one of the impressive line-ups in European Formula 3 championship history. In my eyes, a deserving champion and my driver of 2014.
Aaron Rook: Marc Marquez
I don’t really think I need to explain my decision here I will just hit you with some stats instead.
Marquez won a record thirteen out of eighteen races, he won a record ten consecutive races. He is the youngest rider to win back-to-back championships, he is the only rider to take thirteen poles in a season.
I could go on and on about the records Marquez has broken but I would be here all day. Quite simply Marquez is unrivalled, untouchable and unbeatable.
Tom Errington: Lewis Hamilton
I’ve been critical of Lewis Hamilton in the past but my concerns over attitude and temperament, especially when things aren’t going his way, were shown to be false this year. Overcoming the obstacle of Rosberg’s superior qualifying and the setbacks at Monaco for example showed he had the temperament.
The more measured and controlled driving late in the season, the patient drive as he pressured Rosberg into a mistake at Austin before his controlled drive to the title in Abu Dhabi showed this is a driver who has finally come of age. It would be hard to disagree that there should be more titles heading his way.
Pete Allen: Jose Maria Lopez
Citroen absolutely dominated the WTCC in their first season, but unlike at Mercedes in Formula 1, one driver took command of the championship race. That was a particularly impressive achievement when the driver in question came into the season in the shadows of his illustrious team-mates Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb.
After winning on his WTCC debut on home soil in Argentina last year, Jose Maria Lopez continued to notch up wins at the start of his first full campaign and he just got better as the year went on, firmly putting Muller in the shade as he wrapped up the title with a round to spare, and then even won on his first trip to Macau.
To outclass such opposition as Muller and Loeb was a superb achievement. It was a great reward for a driver who, after a stint on the Renault F1 development programme in GP2, returned home to ply his trade and got over a USF1 deal that came to naught to go on to become a world champion at the first attempt.
Simon Paice: Charlie Robertson
Charlie Robertson has emerged as one of the brightest young talents in UK motorsport over the last few years and his stature rose further with a stunning title success in this year’s Ginetta GT4 Supercup with HHC Motorsport
Returning from single-seaters to the Ginetta fold, Robertson was exemplary in his first Supercup campaign. Twenty podium finishes in 27 races with eight wins showed his consistent class and a bright future beckons.
Jake Handley: Marc Marquez
Competitor of the year has to be Marc Marquez. The kid has been absolutely fantastic this year and no one has matched him. The record’s he’s beaten, from race wins in a row to poles, is something we’re unlikely to see again for a long time.
Lee Bonham: Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne took to GP2 like a duck to water in 2014. His composure during his first ever event in Bahrain allowed him to take a stunning debut victory and he was only outperformed over the course of the series by the vastly more experienced Jolyon Palmer. His rivals should be very scared indeed as 2015 approaches.
Dan Mason: Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton was the deserving champion, but it’s hard to overlook just how superb Daniel Ricciardo was this season against the odds stacked on him in pre-season. While Mercedes dominated, three races did not go their way, those all won by the likeable smiling Aussie who showed in 2014 that he is one feisty racing driver. Ricciardo not only outscored four-time champion team-mate Vettel this season by 71 points, but he made mincemeat of the German for much of the year.
The new technical regulations suited him more, but some of his overtaking efforts were mightily clinical. Take the two decisive moves on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at Hungary as his finest hour, coupled with the wheel-to-wheel dive inside Kimi Raikkonen at Monza’s turn one and the late lunge on Alonso again at Austin, all of whom are seen as arguably the best racers in Formula 1’s modern era.
Kudos must also go out to Colin Turkington who, in the rough-and-tumble world of BTCC, was at times in a league of his own while remaining calm and one of the cleanest racers the sport currently owns. Let’s hope that the reigning champion can find his place on the 2015 grid to carry the #1 he earned so proudly.
Do you agree with our writers? Who were your standout competitors of 2014? Let us know on Twitter, @thecheckerflag with #TCFPicks, or comment below.