17. Marcus Ericsson (0 points- 22nd in WDC, Sauber C35-Ferrari) 5.0
It was never going to be an easy season at Sauber for the Swede, who needed sponsor Ikea to bail out the Hinwil-based squad early this year when wage payments to employees were defaulted for two months. Ericsson had the upper hand on Nasr until Canada, who was stricken by an ill-handling chassis. Their relationship deteriorated when the Brazilian’s refusal to obey orders at Monaco infuriated the Swede, causing Ericsson to take matters into his hands and wallop Nasr at Rascasse.
From thereon, Nasr regained his impetus in race performances, although Ericsson won the qualifying battles 13-8. Neither Sauber driver dominated each other much; Ericsson took an excellent P11 in Mexico, beating both McLarens and his team-mate, but Nasr scored two vital points in Brazil which elevated Sauber to P10 in WCC and $20 million in prize money.
18. Kevin Magnussen (7 points- 16th in WDC, Renault RS16) 4.5
With considerable experience and success behind him, it’s safe to say 2016 was underwhelming for the Dane. He was impeded by the Enstone squad divesting resources into their 2017 challenger, however, more was expected. K-Mag started brightly when he finished close behind Jolyon Palmer after losing a lap due to stalling and his P7 in Russia promised occasional points. However, he scored only once more in Singapore and news of his departure to Haas was announced. Palmer outperformed him in the last few races, perhaps a sign of Magnussen struggling for motivation and consistency. He beat Palmer 12-9 in the qualifying battle.
19. Daniil Kvyat (25 points- 14th in WDC, Toro Rosso STR11-Ferrari/Red Bull RB12-TAG Heuer) 4.5
In yesteryear, the Torpedo’s career would be currently spoken in past tense, but Helmut Marko’s reluctance to promote GP2 champion Pierre Gasly to F1 means the Russian will drive in 2017. Time will tell if Kvyat really has what it takes to carve out a long career in F1, as his feisty dice with Verstappen in Singapore was his only highlight of a depressing season. His first corner move on Vettel at China raised eyebrows, but his clumsy misjudgement on lap 1 at Russia proved expensive, as Dany suffered the ignominy of demotion to the junior team from Catalunya onwards. Losing the qualifying battle 11-6 to Sainz, Kvyat has a crucial winter of rebuilding.
20. Jolyon Palmer (1 point- 18th in WDC, Renault RS16) 4.0
The heavily-panned Horsham driver can count his lucky stars that there is indeed one driver who embarrassed more than he did, as Palmer appeared out of his depth against a developing talent in Magnussen during his early outings. Finishing bog last out of 22 finishers in China granted him the dubious honour of joining illustrious names such as Hermann & Karthikeyan, in being the last man to greet the chequered flag in races where all starters finished. His untimely spin in Hungary costed Palmer his first ever point, but he would make amends in Malaysia. His performances improved steadily, but Magnussen was never going to be a benchmark of his talent. Come 2017, Nico Hulkenberg will prove where Palmer truly stands in the F1 pecking order.
REJECT OF THE YEAR
21. Esteban Gutierrez (o points- 21st in WDC, Haas VF-16-Ferrari) 3.5
Five P11 finishes and a bucketful of excuses later, my bewilderment in Gene Haas’ selection of the 25-year-old Mexican has been proven correct. Considering a much worthier talent in Jean-Eric Vergne was up for grabs, it always appeared the choice of Gutierrez was a commercial one. Losing the qualifying battle 12-9 to Romain Grosjean, faring better than what Pastor Maldonado achieved against the Frenchman at Lotus last year (17-2). However, the Mexican struggled for consistency in races and his observation of blue flags bordered upon non-existent. Was he stunned to have been given a third stab at the highest tier of motorsport? Most of us, including his countrymen, would agree.
At least Maldonado scored 27 points to Grosjean’s 51 in 2015.
N/A Esteban Ocon (0 points- 23rd in WDC, Manor-Mercedes MRT05)
The 20-year-old Frenchman’s Grand Prix career may only be nine races old, but he has landed a prize seat at Force India as acknowledgement of his determined drives. He threw away P10 in Brazil, but his subtle style impressed insiders and his ability to learn quick will prove useful. He did lose the qualifying battle 7-2 to Pascal Wehrlein, though.
N/A Rio Haryanto (0 points- 24th in WDC, Manor-Mercedes MRT05)
Never deserved a chance in F1, but out-qualifying highly-lauded Wehrlein five times in twelve races is either credit to the Indonesian’s will or something the German improved upon when paired with Haryanto’s replacement Ocon. Haryanto harbours wishes of a return in 2017.
N/A Stoffel Vandoorne (1 point- 20th in WDC, McLaren-Honda MP4-31)
The 24-year-old GP2 extraordinaire finally made his belated F1 debut in Bahrain thanks to Alonso’s rib injury, thrilling viewers with precise moves on Perez and others in machinery powered by more grunt than his feeble Honda. He outqualified Button in their sole outing as team-mates, so let that be a warning to his grizzled two-time champion team-mate.