THE CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 117 points) Mercedes 7.5/10
Before the season even kicked off, Hamilton was attracting controversy over use of a phone to take a selfie whilst on a motorcycle in Auckland. On-track, the Briton has been hampered by reliability issues, as well as clutch issues at start of races. However, his many collisions with other drivers has tainted his 2016 thus far and his radio outbursts in Baku will not aid his bid for a fourth WDC.
Nico Rosberg (1st, 141 points) Mercedes 8.5/10
The elegant German has had an exemplary start to what is his eleventh season in F1. Despite claims of nepotism, Rosberg has done what has been asked of him. However, his troubled run in Monaco, where his brakes were unresponsive, and his error-strewn performance in Canada, have left his critics doubting his true WDC credentials.
Sebastian Vettel (3rd, 96 points) Ferrari 8.0/10
The effervescent German has performed consistently, but has had a deeper struggle in his start to his second season at Maranello. Most of issues have stemmed from strategic decisions from the Ferrari pit crew, who need to up their game. Otherwise, 2016 will be a wasted season for the four-time world champion.
Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 81 points) Ferrari 6.5/10
In a season where the Iceman needed to counter his doubters, he has justified their scepticism. Strong runs to 2nd, 3rd and 2nd in Bahrain, Russia & Spain suggested a return to form, only for his crash in Monaco followed by anonymous performances in Canada & Baku, where tyre degradation and fuel consumption issues affected Kimi more than Seb, have left many calling for his retirement form F1.
Daniel Ricciardo (5th, 78 points) Red Bull 7.5/10
Oh Daniel, what could it have been? Three consecutive fourth places in the first three races was testament to the perseverance of the Honey Badger, but a lack of foresight into Red Bull’s pit decisions at Barcelona & Monaco costed him almost certain victories. The past two races have seen a dip in form, but the Perth driver’s solid racecraft and aggression will surely see him succeed big time soon.
Max Verstappen (6th, 54 points) Red Bull 7.0/10
At the tender age of 18, the flying Dutchboy became F1’s youngest race victor at Barcelona, albeit thanks to the Turn 4 incident between Hamilton and Rosberg. It fully justified his surprise promotion to the senior Red Bull team, but the pressure to deliver is firmly on his shoulders. His defence of 4th place at Montreal, ahead of an impatient Rosberg, was a wonder to marvel. However, he needs to cut out sloppy inconsistencies, such as his willingness to run too close to the barriers at Monaco.
Valtteri Bottas (7th, 52 points) Williams 6.5/10
Hmmm. Two seasons ago, everyone was raving about the tenacity of this young Finn, who impressed with solid runs to second places at Silverstone & Hockenheim. The past eighteen months, however, have seen glimpses of Bottas’s potential, but nothing exciting. The first eight races of 2016 have seen the Williams pit crew struggle with pit strategy, but one is left wanting more when analysing Bottas’ performances thus far.
Sergio Perez (8th, 39 points) Force India 7.5/10
The mercurial Mexican has often left pundits urging more of him throughout his F1 career, but it appears a change of attitude is finally reaping rewards. Previously maligned by his bosses at McLaren, Perez has shown a cool head and intelligence in the chaos at Monaco & Baku to deliver two more podiums to his resume. Rumours of a seat at Ferrari have abounded and it would be tough to rule him if his form continues.
Felipe Massa (9th, 38 points) Williams (6.0/10)
The Brazilian veteran blows hot and cold in tandem to the manner of his overall F1 career. Despite beating Bottas in the first three races, the best days of Massa are beginning to leave him behind and he has recently admitted this season is likely to be his last at Williams.
Daniil Kvyat (10th, 22 points) Toro Rosso 5.5/10
The reticent Russian has not recovered since his shock demotion from the senior team. Kvyat impressed many with his run to 3rd at Shanghai and his subsequent refusal to be intimidated by a disgruntled Vettel, but his double collision with the illustrious German provided amble reason for the trigger happy Helmut Marko to ditch him immediately. Kyvat has struggled to combat Carlos Sainz’s raw pace and commitment, leaving many to doubt whether the Ufa born driver has a future in F1.
Romain Grosjean (11th, 22 points) Haas 7.5/10
In a move which some saw as career-threatening, but others applauded for its audacity, Grosjean has made his decision to join Haas to pay off to huge plaudits. It may be a cliche, but the Frenchman and America’s new F1 team pulled off the dream start with 6th and 5th places in Australia and Bahrain. They further consolidated their championship position with 8th place in Russia, enabling Haas to sit in an impressive 8th place in the WCC. However, a slight dip of form lately has hindered Grosjean, but his struggles are vindictive of an experienced driver helping a new team to learn the ropes of F1.
Nico Hulkenberg (12th, 20 points) Force India 7.0/10
It is difficult to assess Hulkenberg’s start to 2016 in lieu of mechanical problems and bad luck, which have become a pattern of the German’s results recently. Many are astonished to think that Nico has not still not achieved a podium result to date in F1, but a few are growing sceptical of his true credentials.
Fernando Alonso (13th, 18 points) McLaren 7.5/10
“The Jacques Villeneuve of his generation” may be harsh to describe who many consider to be pound-for-pound F1’s best driver, but his results are mirroring a similar flow to the outspoken French-Canadian later F1 career results: frequent non-points finishes with an occasional top five result. Is his motivation still there? Does he still enjoy F1? Judging from his performances at Sochi & Monaco, it appears the answer to those questions is almost yes.
Carlos Sainz, Jr. (14th, 18 points) Toro Rosso 7.0/10
Emerging out of Verstappen’s shadow, the son of his eponymous former World Rally Champion father is finally making a name for himself. It is no surprise of journalists circulating rumours of a Ferrari move, but it is perhaps too soon for this radiant 21 year old hotshot. Five point finishes is solid start thus far and his beating of more experienced Kvyat is further enhancing his status of Spain’s next World Champion.
Kevin Magnussen (15th, 6 points) Renault 6.5/10
It’s tough to judge a driver who is driving in a solidly lower-midfield car, but it’s even tougher to judge his true credentials in comparison to other youngsters when it is indisputable that Magnussen’s teammate Jolyon Palmer is a dud. The Dane’s drive to 7th at Sochi was a great calling card of his defensive skills, but Renault’s focus on 2017 will leave many uncertain of what he can achieve when given a fully developed car.
Jenson Button (16th, 5 points) McLaren 6.0/10
The Frome veteran remains an ever-present in the midfield of F1’s grid, but it is hard to judge how good or bad Button has been when he is driving such an underpowered car. The truth is that his performances suggest Button to be performing at an acceptable but not particularly outstanding level. Three points finishes is okay, but when a young Belgian hotshot is eyeing your seat, it’s not or never.
Stoffel Vandoorne (17th, 1 point) McLaren N/A
Deputising for a stricken Alonso, who was still recovering from his Melbourne horror crash, Vandoorne displayed an awe-inspiring performance at Bahrain, even overtaking Perez without DRS (!). Alas, a few rookie errors costed him a higher finish, but much is expected of him. No marks have been awarded due to no other race appearances, so Stoffel will be focusing on Super Formula in Japan.
THE NON POINT SCORERS (Thus far)
Esteban Gutierrez (18th, 0 points) Haas 4.0/10
Why has this driver been awarded a THIRD season in F1? It begs belief to see such a lacklustre “talent” persist so long in the top tier of single seater racing, especially when real diamonds such as Vandoorne are forced to watch from the sidelines. However, the Mexican has outqualified Grosjean of late, but it remains to be seen whether this is a changing trend or a blip. Most likely the latter.
Jolyon Palmer (19th, 0 points) Renault 2.5/10
Many GP2 fans have lamented the exclusion of previous champions such as Davide Valsecchi & Fabio Leimer from F1, with many believing such an achievement automatically merits a seat in Grand Prix racing. Unfortunately, the most recent British GP2 champion is doing everything to undermine their argument. Rarely ever close to Kevin Magnussen’s pace, Palmer’s race performances have been erratic, none more so than his cringeworthy crash at Monaco whilst circulating behind the safety car. This added insult to his already tarnished record, where at Shanghai, Palmer joined Hans Hermann and Narain Kerthikeyan on the list of drivers to finish last in races where all starters saw the chequered flag. A serious improvement is needed, because only a Herculean amount of sponsorship could lend a second season for this struggling rookie.
Marcus Ericsson (20th, 0 points) Sauber 5.0/10
The heavily remunerated Swede has turned the tables on his Brazilian teammate Nasr, but their relationship is souring rapidly. That comical collision at Monaco, which was a culmination of Ericsson’s frustration over Nasr’s refusal to allow him past, has been a harbinger of Sauber’s accumulating financial issues, which threatens the careers of their drivers and their existence as a team.
Felipe Nasr (21st, 0 points) Sauber 3.0/10
This time last year, everyone was speaking highly of this Brazilian’s performances, where he was lying in 10th in the WDC and Sauber flying high in 7th in the WCC post-Canada. Fortunes have turned dramatically this year and talk of Nasr taking his sponsors elsewhere have already begun.
Pascal Wehrlein (22nd, 0 points) Manor 5.5/10
The prognosis of Wehrlein’s true potential will be displayed as this season progresses, but he has been at the end of his less-than-well-regarded teammate Haryanto outqualifying him. His run to 13th at Bahrain promised much, but it appears the learning game was very much on with his embarrassing crash in qualifying at China being proof of the German’s lack of experience. At Baku, however, launching his car into 9th albeit by running longer than others, is vindictive of a giant-killing he may pull off later in his career.
Rio Haryanto (23rd, 0 points) Manor 3.5/10
Has he impressed? No. Has he performed above expectations? Yes, but only marginally. The perpetual state of austerity is a never-ending theme for backmarkers in F1, so the inclusion of drivers of this quality is mandatory. It is rumoured that the Indonesian’s sponsorship money only stretches as far as Hungary, so it is likely a new teammate for Wehrlein will appear at Germany. At least Haryanto can point to his qualifying lap to start 16th at Baku as a highlight of what is likely to be a heavily-truncated F1 career.