Nineteen races and nine months since the lights went out in Australia, the sun has set on the 2015 Formula 1 season. It hasn’t been a classic, but neither has it been a lost cause.
Are we as fans entitled to better racing? Of course we are, but we got what we were given so let’s just look at the positives.
Although Lewis Hamilton wasn’t flawless in the end, he was dominant enough when it mattered. That sounds like an odd thing to say considering he led the championship after every race this season, but his early qualifying domination made his race days easier, a time when he was already so strong. Add in a couple of DNFs for Nico Rosberg and the title was always going to go Lewis’s way. He was in the right place and the right mindset at the right time.
What’s happened since Austin, in terms of winning races, we might never know. Lewis hasn’t had a pole position since the Italian Grand Prix or, as others have alluded to, since the Mercedes tyre pressure investigation, in which they were of course found not guilty. Mercedes says nothing has changed on the car.
After Nico’s off-track excursion in Austin, which lost him the race and any title chance he had left, he was angry, embarrassed, even despondent. I wonder how much that shocked and spurred him into this newfound form. It’s a real shame that he couldn’t do it when it mattered, but let’s hope this strength and supremacy gives him the belief that he can challenge from the start next year.
Sebastian Vettel found his mojo once again at Ferrari. Those in Maranello have described the four-time world champion as a great team leader and someone who’s brought so much energy and life to the Scuderia. Even Kimi Räikkönen was quoted as saying how much better the atmosphere is within the team. If Ferrari can make the same amount of progress this winter as they did last, then Mercedes could be on for an almighty battle next year. Toto Wolff always says how much the team would welcome a fight – so would we!
McLaren was making headlines again, but this time for all the wrong reasons. Even pre-season testing was dramatic, with barely any running prior to Fernando Alonso’s mysterious accident, which sent him to hospital and kept him out of the race in Australia. Fans waited and watched while the team worked tirelessly for progress, but to little avail. Alonso had his worst season in terms of points scoring since he came into the sport with Minardi in 2001. He also totaled 165 grid penalties for engine issues, which basically means that Honda has gone through so many it’s already on to its 2018 allocation! Just to embarrass further, no Mercedes-powered car exceeded the four-engine allowance for the season.
We need McLaren to be strong. I don’t think anyone is enjoying its pain, particularly when it has two world champions who can fight, overtake and win races in cars that don’t have to be the best. These are drivers who are capable of mixing things up at the front and a good McLaren-Honda would mean better racing for us all to enjoy.
I know I’ve talked about the rookies in my columns here before but that is the most heartening thing for me this season. So often people come into the sport with so much hype and promise and just aren’t able to show their talent, whether it’s as a result of pressure or an under-performing car.
There’s not much more to say about Max Verstappen; his attitude is wonderful, his overtaking sublime. The belief and execution he exhibits when passing another car is on another level for a driver with so little experience. He said to me that his crash in Monaco with Romain Grosjean – the one time he did get things spectacularly wrong while overtaking – made him a better driver as he realised the limits of his car… and also how strong it is. With that big crash ticked off, at Spa we saw the overtake of the year when he passed Marcus Ericsson around the outside of Blanchimont.
Team-mate Carlos Sainz had a rough run of reliability, without many clean weekends in that respect. He won the qualifying battle 10-9 against Verstappen, without running in Russia after a big crash in FP3. He’s undoubtedly a talent and needed that strong race Abu Dhabi to finish his season on a high.
Also impressive was Felipe Nasr, who started with an amazing fifth place in Australia. The performance of the Sauber has been patchy since then, but I hope he can show us more of what he’s capable of next season as he’s a good driver with impressive pace when the car is on-side.
I do think, while we all wanted more wheel-to-wheel racing until the last lap of every grand prix, there were definitely some positives if you choose to see them. With just over 100 days to go until the Australian Grand Prix let’s appreciate what good points there were this year. We can still hope for many more in 2016.