The 2016 Formula 1 championship season saw another Mercedes dominated season, with sixteen of the nineteen Grand Prix seeing either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg taking the chequered flag first, while Sebastian Vettel proved best of the rest by taking the other three victories on offer.
Ten drivers visited the podium; both Mercedes drivers, Vettel and Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa of Williams, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, Romain Grosjean of Lotus and Sergio Perez of Force India.
In total twenty-two drivers took part in the nineteen-race season for the ten teams, eighteen of which secured points.
2015 Race by Race
Reigning champion Hamilton took his and his Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team’s first victory of the season in Australia, leading home team-mate Rosberg for the first of twelve 1-2 finishes throughout the year, while Vettel secured a podium on his first race with the Scuderia Ferrari team following his move from Red Bull.
Vettel surprised many by making a one-stop strategy work in Malaysia to beat Hamilton to victory, with Rosberg once again completing the podium. Hamilton returned to winning ways in China, with Rosberg and Vettel once again joining him for the podium ceremonies.
Hamilton took win number three of the season in Bahrain, while Kimi Raikkonen drove well on an alternative tyre strategy to claim second place in his Ferrari ahead of Rosberg.
Rosberg secured his first victory of the season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain ahead of Hamilton and Vettel, and then followed that up with another victory around the streets of Monaco, although Hamilton blew his opportunity for the win by making an unnecessary second pit stop behind the safety car that saw him drop from the lead down to third behind Vettel.
Hamilton returned to winning ways in Canada, leading home Rosberg for another 1-2 finish for Mercedes, while the Williams Martini Racing team secured their first podium finish of the year, with Valtteri Bottas third.
Rosberg secured his third victory of the year in Austria after making a great start to pass his team-mate into the first corner, while the Briton was able to secure second despite a penalty for crossing the white line at pit exit. Felipe Massa secured his first podium of the season in third, while Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were involved in a scary-looking first lap crash that saw the McLaren-Honda driver’s car end up on top of the Ferrari.
The Williams drivers jumped into the lead from the second row of the grid at Silverstone, but neither were able to finish on the podium, with Hamilton securing a home victory by pitting for intermediate tyres just as the rain arrived, while on-track leader Rosberg was forced to settle for second after being forced to run another lap on a wet track. Vettel was also able to jump the Williams duo during the final pit stop window when the rain fell to complete the podium.
Vettel secured his second victory of the season in an exciting Hungarian Grand Prix, but the pre-race activities were overshadowed by the sad passing of Jules Bianchi, who lost his nine-month fight for his life following his horror crash during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. The drivers paid tribute to him before the race with a moment of silence at the front of the grid, and then paid tribute still further by putting on a great show.
Vettel jumped into the lead at the start ahead of team-mate Raikkonen, while the Mercedes duo had troubled afternoons. Raikkonen retired while running a comfortable second with mechanical issues, allowing Infiniti Red Bull Racing duo Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo to finish on the podium, while teenage sensation Max Verstappen drove brilliantly to finish fourth for Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Hamilton returned to the top step of the podium in Belgium ahead of Rosberg, while Vettel lost out on a podium finish in the closing stages with a puncture that allowed an ecstatic Romain Grosjean finish third for the Lotus F1 Team, the team’s first podium since 2013.
Hamilton also triumphed in Italy, leading home new Ferrari hero Vettel and former Ferrari star Massa, while Rosberg saw his chances of a good result end with an engine failure a few laps from the end, one of only a small number of blips seen by the Mercedes team throughout the season.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the season came in Singapore when Vettel secured his third victory of the year with Mercedes seemingly nowhere. Neither Hamilton nor Rosberg qualified on the front two rows of the grid, and neither finished on the podium for only the second time during the season. Ricciardo secured his best result of the season in second, while Raikkonen finished third.
Japan saw Hamilton return to winning ways, while Rosberg battled past Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen to claim second after being pushed wide at the first corner by his team-mate. Vettel completes the podium, while Alonso is heard saying how poor the Honda power unit is on his McLaren after being repeatedly passed with ease down the front straight, comparing the engine to a GP2 engine.
Mercedes secured the constructor’s championship in Russia where Hamilton secured his ninth victory of the season ahead of Vettel, while Sergio Perez inherits the final place on the podium for the Sahara Force India team after Raikkonen and Bottas collided. Raikkonen crossed the line in fifth behind Massa but was penalised post-race that relegated him to eighth, gifting Mercedes the championship.
Hamilton secured his third drivers’ title in the United States after capitalising on a mistake late on from team-mate Rosberg, who was on course to take the championship battle onwards to another Grand Prix, while Vettel completed the podium despite taking a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change ahead of Verstappen.
Hamilton made another robust move on Rosberg heading into turn one, forcing the German driver to back off and lose ground and position, while the early wet running allowed Ricciardo to lead for Red Bull, before they dropped back when the circuit dried.
The weekend at the Circuit of the Americas however was pretty much a wash-out, with qualifying taking place on Sunday morning following heavy rain throughout Saturday. The race started in the wet but finished in the dry, the first time any dry running was possible.
Rosberg took a commanding victory in Mexico, with the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit hosting its first Formula 1 race since 1992, while Hamilton was forced to settle for second ahead of Bottas, who survived another incident with Raikkonen while the two Finn’s were battling for position, while Vettel crashed out before the end, finishing off what had been a disappointing afternoon.
Rosberg won again in Brazil, proving he can make the robust moves at the first corner as well as his team-mate, while Hamilton was forced to settle for second ahead of Vettel. Massa was disqualified from eighth place in his home Grand Prix following a tyre temperature irregularity at the start.
Rosberg secured a hat trick of victories in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, leading home Hamilton once more, while Raikkonen secured only his third trip to the podium of the season with one of his strongest drives of the season. Vettel finished fourth despite starting towards the back of the field following a misjudgement during qualifying that saw him eliminated from Q1.
2015 Team by Team
P1 – Mercedes AMG PETRONAS – 703 Points
For the second season running, the Mercedes team were the ones to beat, securing sixteen of the nineteen victories on offer, twelve of which came as part of a 1-2 finish, with the team comfortably securing both titles.
The constructors championship was secured at the Russian Grand Prix, while the drivers’ title went to Lewis Hamilton in the following race in the United States, where he capitalised on a late race error from team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton started the defence of his championship with victory in Australia, and took ten victories during the year, while Rosberg took six of his own, including the final three races of the year in dominant fashion.
Hamilton had the upper hand for much of the season, with the relationship between the two drivers seemingly breaking down once more, especially after robust first corner moves by the Briton in Suzuka and Austin.
The only race where the team looked uneasy was in Singapore, for, whatever reason, neither Hamilton nor Rosberg looked to be in contention for victory. Hamilton suffered his only retirement of the season there, while Rosberg retired in both Italy and Russia, the latter while leading.
The team continue to be the ones to beat, and will be looking for a hat trick of titles in 2016, where Hamilton will be looking to join a short list of legendary drivers in becoming a four-time World Champion, though Rosberg will want to have a say in the matter.
P2 – Scuderia Ferrari – 428 Points
After a disappointing 2014 where Ferrari went winless for the first time since 1993, 2015 was a year of rebuilding for the Italian team, and they were rewarded with a trio of victories for their new German superstar driver Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel came into replace the departing Fernando Alonso alongside Kimi Raikkonen, and was immediately able to finish on the podium in Australia, before defeating the Mercedes duo fair and square in the Malaysian heat for his first victory in the Ferrari red.
Vettel was also able to secure terrific victories in Hungary and Singapore, taking advantage of Mercedes slip-ups, but the German stood on the podium a remarkable fourteen times, and missed out on a fifteenth on the final lap in Belgium to Romain Grosjean and Lotus when he suffered a puncture.
Raikkonen on the other hand was not up to his best, being outqualified and outraced by Vettel throughout the year, finishing on the podium only three times, and ended the year 128 points shy of his team-mate. He also was involved in a few incidents during the season, most notably with fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas in both Russia and Mexico.
The SF15-T was obviously a much better car than its predecessor, and Vettel surely got the most from it more often than not, with the engine in particular being stronger, especially in the Energy Recover System department, meaning its straight-line speed deficit was not as vast this season.
However, progress still needs to be made to be able to genuinely challenge Mercedes in 2016, but with Vettel in particular, they have the driver to be able to do it should they bring the improvements necessary.
P3 – Williams Martini Racing – 257 Points
Much like in 2014, the Williams Martini Racing squad confirmed themselves as the third best time in Formula 1, but unlike last year, the team can probably look at the season with mixed feelings.
Towards the back end of 2014, the team were undoubtedly on the rise, often being the closest challengers to Mercedes, but in 2015, only at Silverstone were they really able to give Mercedes a fight, and they also fell behind Ferrari in the pecking order.
Claire Williams insisted the year was to consolidate their achievements in 2014, but Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa could only take two podiums apiece in 2015, with the Finn securing third places in both Canada and Mexico, while his Brazilian team-mate did the same in Austria and Italy.
The car was generally quick throughout the year, with the exceptions being around the slower tracks of Monaco and Hungary. They were able to take the fight to Ferrari on occasion, and were good value for their third place in the championship ahead of Red Bull Racing.
The team still need to work on its consistency however, with too many mistakes being made in the strategy department, while errors in the pit stops, for example in Belgium when they sent Bottas out on track with two different compounds of tyre, need to be eradicated for the team to be considered genuine contenders.
P4 – Infiniti Red Bull Racing – 187 Points
No one could have forecast the kind of season the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team endured in 2015, with the team falling down to fourth place in the championship and failing to win a race for the first time since 2008, and included a dramatic falling out with Renault.
Daniel Ricciardo had gone into the season hoping to build on his excellent 2014 season, when the popular Australian took three race victories, but neither he nor new team-mate Daniil Kvyat, in the team when Sebastian Vettel jumped to Ferrari, were able to challenge at the front, with the two drivers taking just three podium finishes between them.
Part of the problem was the Renault power unit, which was both down on power and for the most part unreliable; Ricciardo was forced to use eight, four more than the number allowed, while Kvyat was not far behind. But it was not all down to the engine; the RB11 was perhaps one of the least effective chassis Red Bull has developed in recent times.
It’s not to say that the team didn’t have its moments, with the slower tracks of Hungary and Singapore offering the team their best results, with Kvyat taking his maiden podium with a runners-up spot at the Hungaroring with Ricciardo third, while Ricciardo secured his best result in Singapore.
The team fell out with Renault during the year, lambasting them for their under-performing, but with neither Mercedes nor Ferrari willing to come in to replace them for 2016, the team were forced to backtrack and re-sign with the French engine manufacturer for another year, albeit with the engine being re-branded.
P5 – Sahara Force India – 136 Points
The introduction of the b-specification VJM08 at the British Grand Prix was the turning point of the Sahara Force India team’s season, with the Silverstone-based team enjoying their best ever season as a result.
Prior to Silverstone, the team had been verging on the top ten during races, but once the b-spec car was unleashed and developed, the team were constantly inside the top ten, with a podium finish in the Russian Grand Prix for Sergio Perez the highlight.
Towards the end of the season, Perez and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg were regularly qualifying inside the top ten, and one or either driver finished inside the top seven in every race from the Belgian Grand Prix, and were proving more than a match for the better-financed Red Bull team.
Perez even took the lead at Spa-Francorchamps, albeit for a handful of yards before Lewis Hamilton reclaimed the spot, but the signs were all positive.
While it can be said that other team’s issues allowed Force India the opportunity to claim fifth in the championship for the first time, the team still had to perform, and were one of the success stories of the season.
P6 – Lotus F1 Team – 78 Points
There were times during the 2015 season where the future of the Lotus F1 Team looked precarious, especially in the later rounds where embargos and court cases occurred, but the team survived the year and finished sixth in the championship.
After the extreme disappointments of the 2014 season and its awful twin-tusk E22, Lotus switched from Renault to Mercedes power in 2015, and had a much more competitive season, even if the comparative budget compared to most of their rivals was seriously lacking.
The highlight undoubtedly was Romain Grosjean’s podium finish in the Belgian Grand Prix against all the odds, with the delight on the Frenchman’s face proving just how much it meant to both him and the team.
Despite missing the majority of the FP1 sessions in 2016, to allow reserve driver Jolyon Palmer the opportunity to run, Grosjean just missed out on a top ten finish in the championship in the final race of the year – which was his last for the team before moving to the Haas F1 Team in 2016.
Pastor Maldonado continued in the second car, finishing the season fourteenth in the championship, with a trio of seventh place finishes – in Canada, Austria and Russia – his best results of the year. Unfortunately he retired nine times, four of which were on the opening lap as a result of collisions not necessarily of his doing.
Palmer steps up to the race seat alongside Maldonado in 2015 when the team returns to manufacturer status with the recent announcement of Renault returning to the sport full-time, meaning the financial problems that have blighted the Enstone team for the past couple of seasons should be a thing of the past.
P7 – Scuderia Toro Rosso – 67 Points
If Formula 1 needed a pick-me-up in 2015, it was usually one of the two Scuderia Toro Rosso rookies that provided it, with a number of strong performances from both teenager Max Verstappen and fellow rookie Carlos Sainz Jr.
Verstappen in particular was superb for the majority of the season, making daring overtakes, including around the outside of Felipe Nasr at Blanchimont during the Belgian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman breaking all kinds of records on his way to twelfth place in the standings.
He became the youngest ever Formula 1 driver when he made his debut in Australia, and also added the youngest points scorer title when he finished seventh in Malaysia. His two best results came later in the season, with fourth place finishes in Hungary and the United States.
Sainz also enjoyed a positive debut season, but suffered more with reliability issues than his younger team-mate, meaning he could only muster a best finish of seventh, also in the United States, on his way to fifteenth in the standings.
The STR10 was a strong enough car to allow both rookies to shine, with James Key proving once more his capability in the design department.
After a season of unreliability, the two-year partnership with Renault concluded at the end of the season, with a return to Ferrari power, albeit with a year-old power unit, on the cards for 2016. A lot of eyes will still be on the two drivers to see how can than learn from their debut season.
P8 – Sauber F1 Team – 36 Points
After a pointless campaign in 2014, the Sauber F1 Team changed their driver line-up for 2015, replacing Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez with Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, but the first race of the season in Australia was to be overshadowed by another driver claiming he had a contract to race this season.
The team’s best result came in the season opening Grand Prix, but a court case brought by Giedo van der Garde threatened to unsettle the team, with the Dutchman insisting he had a race seat guaranteed to him after being the test driver in 2014.
Luckily the team and driver sorted out the issues between them out of court to allow Nasr and Ericsson to concentrate on the racing and secure a fifth and eighth place finish respectively, taking fourteen points in the process.
Money continued to be an issue for the team during the year, meaning they were unable to stay ahead of the development race, meaning points finishes became less and less frequent as the season went on, but Nasr in particular had strong drivers during the year, including a strong sixth place finish in Russia.
The drivers will remain in place for 2016, with the team hoping for a positive off-season and a year where they can build on the foundations laid in 2015.
P9 – McLaren-Honda – 27 Points
Expectations at McLaren with the reformation of its legendary partnership with Honda were dealt a crushing blow in 2015, with the team enduring one of its toughest and least competitive seasons in its illustrious history.
With two World Champion drivers aboard their MP4/30’s in the form of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, the predictions of what was going to happen in 2016 could not have been as wild as what did transpire.
Alonso missed the Australian Grand Prix due to complications from a testing crash in Spain, but replacement Kevin Magnussen did not make the start due to technical problems, which was a sign of things to come as they plagued the team throughout the season.
The team were beleaguered by engine problem after engine problem, with the team exceeding the four allotted engines before the Austrian Grand Prix, with grid penalties mounting up to ridiculous numbers towards the end of the season, often resulting in both drivers starting the race on the back row of the grid.
Button ultimately finished ahead in the points, with Alonso securing the best finish of the season for the team with fifth place at the Hungaroring, but both drivers should take credit for seeing out the season in a car that was both unreliable and uncompetitive.
P10 – Manor F1 Team – 0 points
The fact that the Manor F1 Team made the grid at all was a minor miracle, but to secure fourteen two-car finishes in what was effectively a modified 2014 Marussia with a 2014 Ferrari power unit made the season quite respectable, even if the drivers were never in a position to fight, often finding themselves four to five seconds a lap adrift of the ultimate pace.
Briton Will Stevens and Spaniard Roberto Merhi began the season, with Alexander Rossi becoming the first American racer since 2007 with a five-race spell late in the year, with twelfth place finishes for Merhi (at Silverstone) and Rossi (in his home Grand Prix) the highlights.
The team can also be praised for the way they dealt with the crushing news in August of Jules Bianchi passing away from the injuries he suffered during the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014.
For 2016, the team will have a new car and a Mercedes power unit, so ambitions for the team should be higher, although they will have to do it without the two stalwarts of the team, John Booth and Graeme Lowdon, who have departed Manor after a disagreement with owner Stephen Fitzpatrick.