2017 Bahrain Grand Prix Team Mate Wars/Winners & Losers

In F1 the first driver you must beat is your team-mate.

FERRARI

Sebastian Vettel (P1) 3-0 DRIVER OF THE DAY

Brilliant performance. Pitted on lap 11 to avoid losing more time behind a sedate Valtteri Bottas and never relinquished for his second win of 2017. WINNER 10/10

Kimi Raikkonen (P4) 0-3

With persistent understeer issues and a poor start, it was always going to be another uphill battle. For a second consecutive week, Ferrari refused to pit him sooner for his second pitstop. P4 was the best Kimi could hope for (again). LOSER 7/10

MERCEDES

Lewis Hamilton (P2) 3-0

Lost too much time behind Bottas. WINNER 8/10

Valtteri Bottas (P3) 0-3

Won his first pole and lead the first stint, but struggled with constant overheating issues. LOSER 7/10

RED BULL

Daniel Ricciardo (P5) 2-1

Did well to recover from his earlier tyre issues, despite seeing his team-mate crash with brake failure. WINNER 7/10

Max Verstappen (RET, Brakes) 1-2

Did well to launch himself into P4 before brake failure. WINNER 7/10

FORCE INDIA

Sergio Perez (P7) 3-0

A great drive from his lowly starting slot of P18 WINNER 8/10

Esteban Ocon (P10) 0-3

Progressing well. At least he’s doing better than other youngsters in the field. WINNER 7/10

WILLIAMS

Felipe Massa (P6) 3-0

Great performance. Did well to hold off Kimi in the earlier stages. WINNER 8/10

Lance Stroll (RET, Collision) 0-3

Not at fault for the Turn 1 collision between himself and Carlos Sainz. LOSER 5/10

MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso (P14, Power Unit) 3-0

Difficult to gauge his performance with once again more issues with Honda. WINNER 7/10

Stoffel Vandoorne (RET, Power Unit) 0-3

LOL. N/A

TORO ROSSO

Carlos Sainz (RET, Collision) 2-2 REJECT OF THE DAY

Unlucky to break down in qualifying. Exacerbated his woes with a foolish divebomb on Lance Stroll on lap 13, which was 100% avoidable on the Spaniard’s part. LOSER 2/10

Daniil Kvyat (P12) 2-2

A rather average display, where the Russian struggled to dispose of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault & Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. LOSER 5/10

HAAS

Romain Grosjean (P8) 2-1

A return to form. WINNER 7/10

Kevin Magnussen (RET, Electrics)

A return to mediocrity. LOSER 3/10

RENAULT

Nico Hulkenberg (P9) 3-0

A strong performance all-weekend, but it’s tough to gauge how well the German is doing against his shambles of a team-mate. WINNER 7/10

Jolyon Palmer (P13) 0-3

Consistently a second slower per lap than his illustrious team-mate. Yes, his fastest lap was just two-tenths slower than Hulkenberg’s, but it remains a mystery how the Briton was retained for a second season at Enstone. LOSER 4/10

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson (RET, Gearbox) 0-1

A steady race ended by mechanical failure. LOSER 5/10

Pascal Wehrlein (P11) 1-0

In a backdrop of speculation over his mindset relating his injury-related absence, the 22-year-old German silenced his critics. WINNER 7/10

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2017 Chinese Grand Prix Team-Mates Wars/ Winners & Losers

In F1 the first driver you must beat is your team-mate.

FERRARI

Sebastian Vettel (P2) 2-0

Drove as well as ever, although might have had a realistic chance to win if Ferrari had called Kimi to pull over earlier. WINNER 9/10

Kimi Raikkonen (P5) 0-2 DRIVER OF THE DAY

Screwed over by his strategists, who should have pitted him at least five laps earlier for his 2nd pit stop. Drove valiantly under the circumstances. WINNER 9/10

MERCEDES

Lewis Hamilton (P1) 2-0

Won pole and won the race easily. WINNER 9/10

Valtteri Bottas (P6) 0-2 REJECT OF THE DAY

A poor start was exacerbated by the Finn embarrassingly spinning during a safety car period. His fightback was staunch, but his race was one of damage limitation. LOSER 3/10

RED BULL

Daniel Ricciardo (P4) 2-0

After two tricky initial stints, a tweak to his front wing allowed the Aussie to catch his young team-mate, but to no avail. WINNER 7/10

Max Verstappen (P3) 0-2

A wet start saw the Dutchman fly through the field in the opening laps, so his starting spot of P16 proved irrelevant. WINNER 7/10

FORCE INDIA

Sergio Perez (P9) 2-0 WINNER 7/10

Esteban Ocon (P10) 0-2 WINNER 7/10

WILLIAMS

Felipe Massa (P14) 2-0

In spite of a strong qualifying position of P6, the veteran struggled for pace. Williams appear to have a chassis that has raw pace, but is lacking drivability. LOSER 4/10

Lance Stroll (RET, Collision) 0-2

The young French-Canadian has a lot to learn in F1 and it showed on lap 1, when he collided with Sergio Perez. His immediate retirement left him plenty to reflect on weekend where despite breaking Q3 for the first time, his qualifying pace eroded over the hour paradoxically. Remains half a second slower than Massa. LOSER 3/10

MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso (RET, Driveshaft) 2-0

Retaining a sunny disposition, the grizzled Spaniard drove in his words, “Even better than Melbourne”, but once again his tools failed him. WINNER 9/10

Stoffel Vandoorne (RET, Fuel Pressure) 0-2

Wasn’t able to show his full potential with an early departure from the race. With an ill-handling chassis and unresponsive power unit, the young Belgian still trails Alonso half a second per lap. LOSER 4/10

TORO ROSSO

Carlos Sainz (P7) 2-1

A dodgy start on slicks was exacerbated by a spin, where his recovery saw him tag the outer barrier. Luckily his suspension remained intact, so his determined drive to P7 proved his status as a star of the future. WINNER 8/10

Daniil Kvyat (RET, Hydraulics) 1-2

Early retirement meant the Russian had no chance. Outqualifying Sainz and breaking Q3 is move in the right direction. LOSER 5/10

HAAS

Romain Grosjean (P11) 1-1

Never looked comfortable all weekend. LOSER 4.5/10

Kevin Magnussen (P8) 1-1

An exemplary performance from the mercurial Dane. WINNER 7.5/10

RENAULT

Nico Hulkenberg (P12) 2-0

A brilliant performance in qualifying was scuppered by poor strategy. LOSER 5/10

Jolyon Palmer (P13) 0-2

Considering the fact that the Briton is almost a second slower per lap than Hulkenberg, it can be viewed as a positive he finished one positioned behind the German. LOSER 5/10

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson (P15) (1-1 vs. GIO)

Meh. LOSER 4/10

Antonio Giovinazzi (RET, Crash) (1-1 vs. ERI)

Crash once and you’ve made a mistake, but crash twice and you’re careless. Not a good way to entice opportunities for a race seat in the coming future. LOSER 3/10

2017 Australian GP Winners & Losers/Team Mate Wars

In F1 the first driver you must beat is your team-mate.

FERRARI 

*Sebastian Vettel (P1) DRIVER OF THE DAY 1-0

Drove brilliantly all weekend to silence his critics, who denigrated him severely during his disappointing 2016. A definite championship contender. WINNER 10/10

Kimi Raikkonen (P4) 0-1

A tough weekend, where he blamed set-up and understeer issues. The Finn will hurting over his lacklustre showing, where familiar foe Max Verstappen threatened to pounce in the closing stages. LOSER 6/10

MERCEDES

Lewis Hamilton (P2) 1-0

Like last year, the Englishman stormed to pole (his 62nd of his career), but again race day saw his hopes of a winning start thwarted. Whilst last year was lost through a poor start, this year was lost due to his Mercedes pit crew committing a blunder in the timing of his only pit stop. With a car which still suffers in the wake of leading opposition, Hamilton openly admitted the race was lost there and then. LOSER 8/10

Valtteri Bottas (P3) 0-1

The Finn proved steady, if not spectacular. His opening stint was rather sedate, but his second stint proved he was capable of being more dynamic, if not rather obedient. WINNER 7.5/10

RED BULL

Daniel Ricciardo (Ret, Fuel Pressure) 0-1

Did anything go right? Crashed on his first flying lap in Q3, broke down on the formation lap with a jammed sensor and parked up adjacent to Turn 4 on lap 26. Although it’s not clear whether his qualifying crash affected any surrounding hardware within his chassis, Ricciardo is already ten points behind his highly-regarded Dutch team-mate. LOSER 4/10

Max Verstappen (P5) 1-0

A very solid drive from the prodigy hailing from Maaseik. WINNER 7.5/10

FORCE INDIA

Sergio Perez (P7) 1-0

A good performance considering the weight issues affecting the chassis. WINNER 8/10

Esteban Ocon (P10) 0-1

A decent debut outing, topped by his marvellous manoeuvre on Fernando Alonso, which saw him three-wide alongside Hulkenberg. WINNER 7/10 

WILLIAMS

Felipe Massa (P6) 1-0

After what appeared to be unremarkable final season in 2016, the returning Brazilian proved he’s still as good as ever, albeit assisted by the higher downforce levels he thrives upon. WINNER 7.5/10

Lance Stroll (Ret, Brakes) 0-1

An arduous introduction to the top tier of motorsport. Many believe he should be preparing for a season in Formula 2 and the 18-year-old French-Canadian did nothing prove his doubters wrong. A heavy crash during practice was followed by a cautious performance in qualifying, where his aim thereafter was to complete the race distance. If there is solace, former world champion Jenson Button qualified in the penultimate grid position on his debut for the Grove-based team. It’s a long journey to the top. LOSER 3/10

MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso (Ret, Broken Floor) 1-0

The wily Spaniard made no secret of his disgruntlement of the apparent decline in the team’s progress over the winter, but his race pace was as phenomenal as ever. P10 was looming until damage to his suspension saw him swamped by Ocon & Hulkenberg. WINNER 9/10

Stoffel Vandoorne (P13) 0-1

Finishing last was not what the 2015 GP2 champion had in mind for his full-time F1 debut. Appears to be unable to invoke enough temperature in this year’s Pirelli compounds, allied by a defective MCL32 chassis and oscillating Honda power unit. A laborious season awaits. LOSER 4/10 

TORO ROSSO

Carlos Sainz (P8) 1-1

Another promising drive of the Spaniard’s blossoming career. WINNER 7/10

Daniil Kvyat (P9) 1-1

Easily his beat drive since returning to the Faenza-based outfit. WINNER 7/10

HAAS

Romain Grosjean (Ret, Water Leak) 1-0

Decimated his new team-mate for pace and consistency all weekend, pulled off a fabulous qualifying result (P6), but saw his car crippled by all-too-commonly occurring mechanical gremlins. LOSER 6/10

Kevin Magnussen (Ret, Suspension) 0-1

Gunther Steiner signed the 24-year-old Dane because he felt K-Mag would be a more reliable bet for points than the heavily-maligned Esteban Gutierrez. However, Magnussen spent the weekend still learning how to adapt to VF-17’s brakes. His collision with Marcus Ericsson saw him lucky to escape a penalty in the race, before his failing suspension truncate a disappointing outing in the Dane’s debut for Haas. LOSER 2/10

RENAULT

Nico Hulkenberg (P11) 1-0

With an extremely weak team-mate, it will be excruciatingly tough to track the German’s progress this season (unless Palmer beats him, then it will be clear that Hulkenberg is struggling). A solid debut for his new Renault, he will be disappointed that the thick turbulence in the wake of Ocon’s Force India prevented a points finish. WINNER 7/10

*Jolyon Palmer REJECT OF THE DAY 0-1

Palmer is clearly only in F1 because Magnussen accepted Haas’ offer to join them for 2017. Crashed in practice, blamed anyone but himself for an abysmal qualifying display and overheating brakes was the tale of the Briton’s sorry Melbourne weekend. LOSER 1/10

SAUBER

Marcus Ericsson (Ret, Hydraulics) (0-1 vs. GIO)

A reasonable qualifying result of P14 was scuppered when Kevin Magnussen smashed into Ericsson’s right sidepod at Turn 3 on lap 1. The consequent hydraulics-related damage meant the Swede retired on lap 21. LOSER 4/10

Antonio Giovinazzi (P12) (1-0 vs. ERI)

A sensational debut GP2 season, where the Italian narrowly missed the title to Pierre Gasly, was richly rewarded with a stand-in drive for the stricken Pascal Wehrlein. It was a performance where he proved his selection was richly deserved. WINNER 7/10

2017 Australian Grand Prix: A Measured Response

The new regulations presented themselves with a few pros, but some deeply stark cons. It was great to see the drivers enjoying the grip and sensation of pushing every lap, but agonisingly discouraging to see the cars struggle in dirty air once they reached within 2.5 seconds of cars in front of them. The new, wider, harder tyre compounds witnessed cars on the limit through every corner on every lap, but it meant the race was restricted to one stoppers, so strategy was indistinguishable throughout the field. Fernando Alonso stated the drivers had to be incredibly sharp in their responses to any tank slappers or slides, “So you have half a tenth of a second to react. Last year you had four seconds – in the corner you could take a coffee in those cars!”

Whilst last year’s narrow track chassis combined with fragile Pirelli compounds proved monotonous and frustrating for the drivers, at least spectators were treated to close racing with opportunity for passes albeit at corner speeds adjacent to Formula 2. This cars have not only seen dramatic rise in corner speeds, but also drastically reduced braking distances, much more aggressive steering lock approaches, earlier re-application of throttle responses on corner exits, increased acceleration out of braking zones and heavily multiplied drag levels.

So what is the solution? It would be egregious to return to last year’s slower regulations, that was dismissed by fans, drivers and personnel alike as mickey mouse-like and regressive. However, a number of options for 2018 need to be considered and these include:

  • An increased power unit capacity, with a switch to either 2.0L- 2.4L V6/V8 turbo hybrids or 3.5L- 4.0L V10 naturally-aspirated internal combustion engines (although the latter option has been ruled void by FIA president Jean Todt)
  • A removal of the multiple elements on the front wings, with a rule mandating that only two separate elements with a single slot gap separating them. This is highly recommended, as this is a probable solution to the issue of the dramatically increased turbulence the cars have been suffering in the 2017 specs
  • A narrowing of the chassis from 2 metres to 1.8 metres, in order to decrease drag and force the size of the wings to be reduced by 10%.

Some fans heavily bemoaned the durable tyre compounds reducing the number of pit stops to just one during this year’s Australian GP, but the sight of Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg having confidence in their tyres to endure moving offline to overtake an ailing Fernando Alonso without last year’s worries of regular flat-spotting was very promising.

However, there also needs to be a technical change which can adversely affect the balance of the cars. Of course, some may argue that the sight of drivers losing the rear end of the cars may occur more commonly, as seen by Jolyon Palmer’s and Daniel Ricciardo’s crashes last weekend. However, others have argued drivers will eventually become familiarised with the handling and the limits in which they can extend the boundaries of their machinery. With that in mind, it is highly likely the necessity for the drivers to attack to maximum will see the margins between the top drivers and the merely good extend to much wider in comparison to last year: the time gaps between Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, Renault’s Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer & Williams’ Felipe Massa and rookie Lance Stroll are proof of how much talent and experience will count this year. This is something that will be welcomed by certain fans, who have admonished cars of the past five years as little better than souped up GP2 cars.

The sight of at least a dozen elements on the front wings has had some fans criticising the technical aspect of the sport having become esoteric. Former prominent F1 supremos such as Flavio Briatore have been openly scathing in their criticisms about these issues, stating clearly that the sport should prioritise entertainment for viewers over what he saw as a self-indulgent pet project for engineers. The loss of downforce through the removal of elements and narrowing of cars and wings could be compensated with the return of ground-effects, albeit with a FIA-standardised venturi-shaped floor which every team must fit to the underneath of their chassis.

Practice on Friday saw Mercedes domination, which many saw as sad harbinger of what may follow this season. Non-Mercedes fans’ worst fears of a fourth consecutive seasons appeared depressingly real, but Saturday displayed the hallmarks of a Ferrari challenge. Although Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 62nd pole position in his 189th attempt, Sebastian Vettel hauled his scarlet Ferrari within 0.268 seconds of the Mercedes. It proved to be a miracle as qualifying was ran in mild conditions, with a sprinkle of rain appearing in the early minutes of Q3, which had threatened to kill off competition for pole ten minutes early.

Sunday saw Daniel Ricciardo ominously break down in front of his home crowd on a warm-up lap, thanks to an electronic sensor locking his transmission in sixth gear. He was fortunate the rescue crew extricated his stricken Red Bull and returned it back to the pits, but when he re-ignited his Renault power unit, his car had already been lapped twice. Toro Rosso stablemate Daniil Kvyat faced the threat of an extraordinary third consecutive DNS in-as-many-events at Melbourne due to a fire extinguisher emptying itself, but his mechanics saved his bacon in prompt manner. Nico Hulkenberg embarrassingly parking his Renault two inches ahead of his demarcated grid slot, enforcing a second formation lap, which may have frayed a few anticipatory nerves. The race start was clean, but the collision between Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson at Turn 3 was the result of the Dane clipping his rear right tyre over the kerb, causing a sudden tank-slapper that left him nowhere to go but clobber the startled Sauber driver.

The race for the lead was a cat-and-mouse affair between Hamilton and Vettel. Taking a cue out of the 2016 strategy book, the Briton pitted early on lap 17, as the Mercedes tacticians naively believed the undercut would work like last year despite Hamilton still having 30% tread remaining on his first stint compounds. With clean air to scythe through, Vettel duly capitalised, whilst Hamilton emerged behind a beguiled Max Verstappen, who made his struggling Red Bull as wide as possible for five laps before the Briton inevitably used DRS to speed past. Unfortunately for Mercedes, Vettel pulled enough of a margin so that when he cleared a confused Lance Stroll and pitted, he had a comfortable enough margin which he never relinquished. Hamilton would spend the remainder of the race complaining of dirty air, something which his Mercedes cars of previous years undoubtedly proved inferior in terms of dealing with in comparison to the opposition (but rarely mattered due to its absolute domination). With the improvements Ferrari have made intertwined with the new regulations, this is an issue which will provide many headaches at Brackley during breaks between races.

Valtteri Bottas fell progressively behind in the initial stint, but his second stint proved more productive, where he eventually finished less than 1.5 seconds behind his illustrious team-mate. Kimi Raikkonen, sadly, seemed to flounder as the race progressed, as fifteen laps from the race’s end his arch-nemesis of last year, Max Verstappen, closed in ominously, but could not even attempt to facilitate a consideration to overtake the embattled Finn due to the excessive turbulence in following the wake of the rejuvenated Ferrari package. The Iceman’s P4 is a solid start, but already his critics were condemning his performance, slamming it as half-arsed, lazy and other slurs which have become all-too-commonly aimed at the 2007 world champion.

An “un-retired” Felipe Massa drove as if he’d never retired, as he brought home a vital 8 points. Motivation will be key for the 35-year-old Brazilian, as Williams cannot be sure his dilettante team-mate Lance Stroll is capable of scoring points whatsoever judging by his underwhelming Grand Prix debut. Running 13th, the young French-Canadian eventually parked his car in the pits with failing brakes, but whether this was a genuine mechanical gremlin or a result of his inexperience with handling carbon F1 brake discs remains to be seen.

Despite an overweight new VJM10 chassis, where drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were forced to lose weight before the race, they respectively finished 7th & 10th, proving the Silverstone squad had not regressed on last year’s remarkable results. Toro Rosso debuted their STR11s with drivers Carlos Sainz & Daniil Kvyat finishing eighth & ninth, however both questioned the handling and balance of their chassis throughout the weekend, so tweaks could be forthcoming.

Stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi drove an impressive Grand Prix debut, admitting he had pace to spare after finishing P12 due to lack of experience with this year’s durable Pirelli compounds. Hulkenberg tried to overtake Ocon in the closing laps, but yet proved an umpteenth driver unimpressed with the dirty air produced in the wake of a fellow competitor. Stoffel Vandoorne finished P13 and last, clearly unable to adapt to his MCL32’s dreadful package, as his far smoother driving style could not correct the understeering tendencies which his illustrious team-mate Alonso has famously combated with stunning success thanks to an infamously aggressive initial turn-in. The Spaniard had been running an awe-inspiring P10 before debris caught under his car’s floor would leave him as a sitting duck for the advances of Ocon & Hulkenberg. A resultant broken floor would force an unsurprising retirement from Alonso, who made no secret of his frustration at McLaren & Honda’s apparent regression in development over the winter.

The Turn 3 incident between Magnussen & Ericsson would see the Dane retire 11 laps from the end with suspension damage, whilst the Swede would soldier on with hydraulics damaged in the incident that failed after 21 laps. Daniel Ricciardo would see his car retire after 25 laps, thanks to a fuel pressure issue unrelated to his pre-race electronic sensor failure or his crash in qualifying the previous day.

Jolyon Palmer, who had the weekend from hell, retired with his brake-by-wire system failing to register his car’s electronics and hydraulics together properly after 15 laps. Star of qualifying Grosjean saw a water leak end his day with just 13 laps completed, having started 6th, an all-time best for Haas.

2016 F1 Teams’ Review of the Season: 1-10

  1. Mercedes (1st, 765 points- Nico Rosberg (1st, 385pts)/Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 380pts)) 10.0

A third consecutive season of processional dominance for the boys from Brackley. Out of 59 Grands Prix since the start of 2014, they have won 51 races, 56 poles and 34 fastest laps.  Out of an accumulated total of 3,551 laps, they have led 2,969 of them- a whopping 83.6%. They have consistently maintained a qualifying lap average of 0.7 seconds over their rivals, so there have a few conspiracy theorists, who have suggested that the Mercedes hierarchy secretly harboured to see a Nico Rosberg WDC victory to prove their accomplishments stemmed from the engineering solely. No team has sustained such dominance within such a time frame- not even Ferrari succeeded in doing this between 1999-01 and 2002-04, when they won an unprecedented six consecutive constructors’ world championships.

From 1999-2001, Ferrari won 25 races, 24 poles & 14 fastest laps out of 50 Grands Prix. Out of 3,139 laps, the Scuderia led 1,531 of them (48.8%). From 2002-2004, Ferrari won 38 races, 30 poles & 34 fastest laps (66.6%) (this is the only statistic higher than Mercedes’) out of 51 Grands Prix. Out of 3,230 laps, the Maranello boys led 2,033 of them (62.9%). During these years, F2002 & F2004 were their two most prominent cars, which were praised for their excellent mechanical grip, neutral handling and near bullet-proof reliability- F2002 recording just one mechanical failure, whilst F2004 clocked up none.

Red Bull, from 2011-13, won 32 races, 37 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 58 Grands Prix. Out of 3,456 laps, they led 1,985 of those laps (57.4%). During these years, RB11 & RB13 were their two most prominent cars, which were estimated by aerodynamicists as producing the most amount of downforce seen in any F1 cars before or since.

Williams, from 1992-1994, won 27 races, 36 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,127 laps, they led 1,829 of them (58.5%). During these cars, FW14B & FW15C were their two most prominent cars, acknowledged by experts to be the most technologically complex machinery- active suspension, ABS brakes, traction control plus numerous other gizmos, leading Alain Prost to describe FW15c as a “mini Airbus”.

McLaren, from 1988-1990, won 31 races, 42 poles & 23 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,122 laps, they led 2,376 of them (76.1%). In qualifying, their two prominent cars MP4-4 & MP4-5 blew their rivals away, capable of defeating the fastest non-McLaren car by up to three seconds in the hands of one-lap master Ayrton Senna. If the relationship between Prost and Senna hadn’t been so acrimonious and reliability wasn’t such a prevalent issue, it is possible the statistics in this period would match or even beat what Mercedes have achieved.

In terms of what Mercedes have achieved compared to rival teams in the modern era, it is similar to the astounding dominance achieved by individual drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. It is unlikely we’ll ever see such supremacy from a team on such a totalitarian scale, so that should be a welcome sigh of relief for fans.

Of course, the 10.0 mark was not only awarded for their car’s third consecutive year of crushing superiority, but also the team’s management. Despite controversy in Spain, Canada & Austria, relations remained stable between their star drivers, allowing them to seal the WCC at Suzuka with four races to spare.

2. Red Bull-TAG Heuer (2nd, 468 points- Daniel Ricciardo (3rd, 256 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)) 9.0

After last year’s debacle, which led to Red Bull badging their Renault engines after their new sponsor, 2016 showed a huge leap forward. 2017 should present a permissible opportunity to return to the front, with Ricciardo and Verstappen hogging the headlines. It is expected star designer Adrian Newey will pen a chassis to exploit the aggressively increased downforce and tyres regulations to the absolute maximum, whilst Renault provide a power unit with ample grunt.

3. Force India-Mercedes (4th, 173 points- Sergio Perez (7th, 101 points)/Nico Hulkenberg (9th, 72 points)) 8.5

The Silverstone-based team’s gradual ascent through F1’s hierarchy was richly rewarded with their best-ever WCC finish of 4th. It is unlikely such a result will be achieved in 2017, but credit where credit is due. The designers exploited the current regulations’ need for drag reduction and straight-line speed, which permitted the chassis to lap quickly thanks to the invaluablely-endowed Mercedes power unit. It is debatable that in the hands of the best drivers (i.e. Alonso, Hamilton & Verstappen), the VJM09 could have pushed Ferrari for 3rd in the WCC. Loyal stalwart Hulkenberg will leave for Renault, so for 2017, promising talent Esteban Ocon takes his place.

4. Toro Rosso-Ferrari (7th, 63 points- Carlos Sainz (12th, 46 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)) 8.0

A second consecutive season of progress for Faenza boys was rewarded with another 7th in the WCC. If Verstappen had remained at the team for the entirety of the season, they might have caught McLaren for 6th, but their 2015-spec Ferrari power unit proved their Achilles’ Heel. It is expected for Toro Rosso to move up in 2017, with the excellent Carlos Sainz spearheading their challenge.

5. McLaren-Honda (6th, 76 points- Fernando Alonso (10th, 54 pts)/Jenson Button (15th, 21 pts)/Stoffel Vandoorne (20th, 1 pt)) 7.5

A steady, if unspectacular, second season of the reunited fabled McLaren-Honda partnership. The car still suffered from a fair degree of understeer and the Honda power unit underwhelming in its overall output, but reliability was a welcome boost. Alonso did his usual miracle job, whilst Button floundered, scoring just five more points than last year. In his place for 2017 will be Vandoorne, who lit the paddock with illuminating reviews with his dazzling performance at his sole outing at Bahrain, whilst deputising for Alonso. The Spaniard will be not be feeling too comfortable, though, as memories of a particular rookie tearing his reputation to shreds will see its tenth anniversary.

6. Haas-Ferrari (8th, 29 points- Romain Grosjean (13th, 29 pts)/Esteban Gutierrez (21st, o pts)) 7.0

In their first two races, America’s newest team became the first team since Toyota in their debut consecutive Grands Prix to score points. What’s more, Grosjean finished P6 in Melbourne, then P5 in Bahrain thanks to excellent pit calls. As the season progressed, though, Haas ran through the typical stumbling blocks every new team encounters in their early hurdles of the unforgiving environment of F1. Lack of experience of set-ups and the narrow operating windows of the Pirellis, as well as dubious feedback from their drivers exacerbated their acute struggles at certain races, with Mexico being their nadir with P19 & P20. Gutierrez finished P11 five times and did well to beat his French team-mate during mid-season, but he never appeared to have the spark to produce a vital points finish. In his place for 2017 will be Kevin Magnussen, who will be hoping to improve upon his lacklustre 2016.

7. Williams-Mercedes (5th, 138 points- Valtteri Bottas (8th, 85 pts)/Felipe Massa (11th, 53 pts)) 6.5

After two years of enjoying the fruits of a remarkable revival with two consecutive 3rds in the WCC, my prediction of a third consecutive P3 was pathetically wrong. Strategic errors remained prevalent, which were exacerbated further by lack of development and critics slamming their low-drag, low-downforce design philosophy as one-dimensional. Lance Stroll will be a welcome addition with exorbitant funding by his billionaire tycoon father, but with Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement, the second seat is a major conundrum. Will Bottas go to Mercedes? And if he does, will Felipe Massa postpone his retirement for one more season?

8. Renault (9th, 8 points- Kevin Magnussen (16th, 7 pts)/Jolyon Palmer (18th, 1 pt)) 5.5

Were they racing in 2016? It was a poor return to F1 for the double WCC-winning French marque, who insisted upon using a revised 2015 Lotus chassis as their challenger this season. It is understandable that due to cash flow issues Lotus suffered, as well as time constraints linked with their late buyout, that the car was hurried, but development did not produce desired improvements. Cyril Abitedoul stated an intent to sign a “charismatic” lead driver, so it remains to be seen if Nico Hulkenberg can live up to such a lofty position.

9. Manor-Mercedes (11th, 1 point (Pascal Wehrlein (19th, 1 pt)/Esteban Ocon (23rd, 0 pts)/Rio Haryanto (24th, 0 pts) 5.0

A decent season for the Banbury-based squad. In spite of a car that lacked downforce, it topped top speed sheets regularly thanks to drawing inspiration from technical partners Williams, who sourced out their suspension and transmission. Wehrlein impressed in parts, whilst Pertamina-backed Haryanto lost his drive when the dollars dried up, as his race performances were inadequately under par. Ocon took his place, producing a great drive in Brazil before he spun. The point he lost for P10 proved academic as Sauber’s Felipe Nasr scored two vital points in P9, thrusting the Hinwil squad into 10th in the WCC. So that left Manor languishing in 11th for a second consecutive year. As ever with the backmarkers, their driver line-up will announced at the last minute before next year’s much anticipated tests.

10. Sauber-Ferrari (10th, 2 points- Felipe Nasr (17th, 2 pts)/Marcus Ericsson (22nd, o pts)) 4.0

In a season of mounting financial pressures, further burdened by two mediocre pay drivers and a bland corporate image, it was a miracle Sauber escaped the wooden spoon in the WCC and on this list. To be frankly honest, Monisha Kaltenborn clearly has a lucky charm somewhere. The car was rehash of last year’s decent contender, so it was inevitably predictable how poor this season was going to be.  All year, the Hinwil team appeared destined to see a 11th finish to darken their worries over the long-term existence of Sauber, but the heavens opened in Interlagos and the rest is history. Marcus Ericsson is confirmed in one of their seats for 2017, but it remains to seen whether Nasr has the funding to continue.

The next article will focus on this year’s Reject Team of the Year. Don’t miss it!

Pole and fastest lap records per decade

POLE POSITIONS

2010s poles (until 2016)

1) Lewis Hamilton 44
2) Sebastian Vettel 41
3) Nico Rosberg 30
4) Mark Webber 12
5) Fernando Alonso 4
6) Jenson Button 1
= Nico Hulkenberg 1
= Felipe Massa 1
= Pastor Maldonado 1
= Daniel Ricciardo 1

2000s poles

1) Michael Schumacher 45
2) Fernando Alonso 18
3) Lewis Hamilton 17
4) Kimi Raikkonen 16
5) Felipe Massa 15
6) Juan Pablo Montoya 13
7) Rubens Barrichello 12
8) Jenson Button 7
9) Ralf Schumacher 6
10) Mika Hakkinen 5
= Sebastian Vettel 5
12) David Coulthard 4
= Jarno Trulli 4
14) Giancarlo Fisichella 3
15) Nick Heidfeld 1
= Mark Webber 1
= Robert Kubica 1
= Heikki Kovalainen 1

1990s poles

1) Ayrton Senna 23
= Michael Schumacher 23
3) Mika Hakkinen 21
4) Nigel Mansell 20
= Damon Hill 20
6) Alain Prost 13
= Jacques Villeneuve 13
8) Gerhard Berger 8
= David Coulthard 8
10) Riccardo Patrese 5
11) Jean Alesi 2
= Rubens Barrichello 2
= Heinz-Harald Frentzen 2
14) Thierry Boutsen 1
= Giancarlo Fisichella 1

1980s poles

1) Ayrton Senna 42
2) Nelson Piquet 24
3) Alain Prost 20
4) Rene Arnoux 16
5) Nigel Mansell 12
6) Keke Rosberg 5
= Patrick Tambay 5
8) Didier Pironi 4
= Gerhard Berger 4
10) Alan Jones 3
= Riccardo Patrese 3
= Elio de Angelis 3
= Teo Fabi 3
14) Jean-Pierre Jabouille 2
= Jacques Laffite 2
= Carlos Reutemann 2
= Michele Alboreto 2
18) Bruno Giacomelli 1
= Gilles Villeneuve 1
= Andrea de Cesaris 1
= Mario Andretti 1

1970s poles

1) Niki Lauda 24
2) Mario Andretti 16
3) Jackie Stewart 15
4) Ronnie Peterson 14
= James Hunt 14
6) Jacky Ickx 10
7) Emerson Fittipaldi 6
8) Clay Regazzoni 5
= Jacques Laffite 5
10) Carlos Reutemann 4
= Jean-Pierre Jabouille 4
12) Jochen Rindt 3
= Jean-Pierre Jarier 3
= Jody Scheckter 3
= Alan Jones 3
16) Chris Amon 2
= Rene Arnoux 2
18) Jo Siffert 1
= Peter Revson 1
= Denny Hulme 1
= Patrick Depailler 1
= Tom Pryce 1
= Vittorio Brambilla 1
= Carlos Pace 1
= John Watson 1
= Gilles Villeneuve 1
= Jack Brabham 1

1960s poles

1) Jim Clark 33
2) Graham Hill 13
3) Jack Brabham 12
4) John Surtees 8
5) Jochen Rindt 7
6) Phil Hill 6
7) Stirling Moss 5
8) Dan Gurney 3
= Chris Amon 3
= Jacky Ickx 3
11) Jackie Stewart 2
12) Mike Parkes 1
= Wolfgang von Trips 1
= Lorenzo Bandini 1
= Jo Siffert 1
= Mario Andretti 1
= Eddie Sachs 1 (INDY 500)

1950s poles

1) Juan Manuel Fangio 29
2) Alberto Ascari 14
3) Stirling Moss 11
4) Giuseppe Farina 5
5) Mike Hawthorn 4
6) Jose Froilan Gonzalez 3
= Tony Brooks 3
8) Eugenio Castellotti 1
= Stuart Lewis-Evans 1
= Joakim Bonner 1

INDY 500 poles
1950- Walt Faulkner
1951- Duke Nalon
1952- Fred Agabashian
1953- Bill Vukovich
1954- Jack McGrath
1955- Jerry Hoyt
1956- Pat Flaherty
1957- Pat O’Connor
1958- Dick Rathmann
1959- Johnny Thomson

FASTEST LAPS

2010s F1 fastest laps (until 2016)

1) Lewis Hamilton 28
2) Sebastian Vettel 25
3) Nico Rosberg 18
4) Mark Webber 16
5) Fernando Alonso 9
6) Kimi Raikkonen 8
= Daniel Ricciardo 8
8) Jenson Button 6
9) Felipe Massa 3
= Sergio Perez 3
11) Nico Hulkenberg 2
12) Bruno Senna 1
= Romain Grosjean 1
= Kamui Kobayashi 1
= Robert Kubica 1
= Vitaly Petrov 1
= Esteban Gutierrez 1
= Valtteri Bottas 1
= Daniil Kvyat 1
= Max Verstappen 1
= Michael Schumacher 1

2000s F1 fastest laps

1) M. Schumacher 37
2) Kimi Raikkonen 35
3) Rubens Barrichello 17
4) Fernando Alonso 13
5) Mika Hakkinen 12
= Juan Pablo Montoya 12
= Felipe Massa 12
8) Ralf Schumacher 7
= David Coulthard 7
10) Lewis Hamilton 3
= Sebastian Vettel 3
= Mark Webber 3
13) Giancarlo Fisichella 2
= Jenson Button 2
= Nico Rosberg 2
= Heikki Kovalainen 2
= Nick Heidfeld 2
18) Jarno Trulli 1
= Pedro de la Rosa 1
= Adrian Sutil 1
= Timo Glock 1

1990s F1 fastest laps

1) M. Schumacher 39
2) Damon Hill 19
3) Nigel Mansell 17
4) Mika Hakkinen 13
5) Gerhard Berger 12
6) David Coulthard 11
7) Alain Prost 9
= Riccardo Patrese 9
= Jacques Villeneuve 9
10) Ayrton Senna 6
= Heinz-Harald Frentzen 6
12) Jean Alesi 4
13) Thierry Boutsen 1
= Roberto Moreno 1
= Bertrand Gachot 1
= Giancarlo Fisichella 1
= Eddie Irvine 1
= Alex Wurz 1
= Alessandro Nannini 1

1980s F1 fastest laps

1) Alain Prost 32
2) Nelson Piquet 22
3) Ayrton Senna 13
4) Nigel Mansell 13
5) Alan Jones 10
= Rene Arnoux 10
7) Gerhard Berger 9
8) Niki Lauda 8
9) Didier Pironi 5
= Michele Alboreto 5
11) Riccardo Patrese 4
12) Jacques Laffite 3
= Carlos Reutemann 3
= John Watson 3
= Keke Rosberg 3
16) Derek Warwick 2
= Patrick Tambay 2
= Teo Fabi 2
19) Gilles Villeneuve 1
= Marc Surer 1
= Brian Henton 1
= Andrea de Cesaris 1
= Alessandro Nannini 1
= Satoru Nakajima 1
= Mauricio Gugelmin 1
= Jonathan Palmer 1

1970s fastest laps

1) Niki Lauda 16
2) Clay Regazzoni 15
3) Jacky Ickx 10
= Mario Andretti 10
5) Ronnie Peterson 9
6) James Hunt 8
= Jackie Stewart 8
8) Gilles Villeneuve 7
9) Denny Hulme 6
= Emerson Fittipaldi 6
11) Carlos Pace 5
= Jody Scheckter 5
13) Jack Brabham 4
= Patrick Depailler 4
= Jacques Lafitte 4
16) Chris Amon 3
= Carlos Reutemann 3
= Jean-Pierre Jarier 3
= Alan Jones 3
20) Francois Cevert 2
= Jochen Mass 2
= John Watson 2
= Rene Arnoux 2
24) Henri Pescarolo 1
= Jo Siffert 1
= John Surtees 1
= Jochen Rindt 1
= Mike Hailwood 1
= Jean-Pierre Beltoise 1
= Gunnar Nilsson 1
= Vittorio Brambilla 1
= Nelson Piquet 1

1960s fastest laps

1) Jim Clark 28
2) Graham Hill 10
= John Surtees 10
4) Jack Brabham 7
= Jackie Stewart 7
6) Dan Gurney 6
7) Phil Hill 4
= Jacky Ickx 4
9) Richie Ginther 3
= Stirling Moss 3
= Denny Hulme 3
= Jean-Pierre Beltoise 3
= Jo Siffert 3
14) Bruce McLaren 2
= Lorenzo Bandini 2
= Jochen Rindt 2
17) Ludovico Scarfiotti 1
= Tony Brooks 1
= Giancarlo Baghetti 1
= Richard Attwood 1
= Pedro Rodriguez 1
= Jackie Oliver 1
= Jim Rathmann 1 (INDY 500)

1950s fastest laps

1) Juan Manuel Fangio 23
2) Stirling Moss 16
3) Alberto Ascari 12
4) Jose Frolian Gonzalez 6
= Mike Hawthorn 6
6) Giuseppe Farina 5
7) Bill Vukovich 3 (INDY 500)
8) Tony Brooks 2
= Phil Hill 2
10) Piero Taruffi 1
= Luigi Villoresi 1
= Hans Hermann 1
= Jean Behra 1
= Onofre Marimon 1
= Karl Kling 1
= Roberto Mieres 1
= Luigi Musso 1
= Bruce McLaren 1
= Maurice Trintignant 1

INDY 500:
Johnnie Parsons (1950)
Lee Wallard (1951)
Jack McGrath (1954)
Paul Russo (1956)
Jim Rathmann (1957)
Tony Bettenhausen (1958)
Johnny Thomson (1959)

2016 F1 Driver Review of the Season: 9-16: Stars, Sloggers and Sayonaras

9. Sergio Perez (7th, 101 points- Force India VJM09-Mercedes) 7.5

A rather mixed season for the mercurial Mexican. One moment, he looked ordinary, but at venues such as Monte Carlo and Baku, he seized his opportunity. However, even at Baku, with two minutes of FP3 to go, he pursued a faster lap where there was no need and landed his car in the barriers. The extensive damage forced his mechanics to fix his car within only two hours before the qualifying session, which leaves a question mark over his mental forecasting and restraint as a driver. Perez is a more complete driver than he was during his miserable season at McLaren, but plotting his potential is tricky for predictors.

He outperformed Hulkenberg in the races, but he lost the qualifying battle 12-9.

10. Valtteri Bottas (8th, 85 points- Williams FW38-Mercedes) 7.0

Before Nico Rosberg’s retirement announcement, I thought I would be writing a standard end-of-season for every driver involved this season. However, with such a huge bombshell dropped, one of his potential replacements has come under scrutiny. This affable Finn drove as well as he could, but fiscal restraints limited his results. He picked up his and Williams’ only podium at Canada, where he maximised the FW38’s straightline speed, but the chassis philosophy showed its age. Winning the qualifying battle 17-4 over retiring Felipe Massa will do his chances of a Mercedes seat no harm, though.

11. Romain Grosjean (13th- 29 points- Haas VF-16-Ferrari) 7.0

The erratic Frenchman had his typical dips-and-troughs over the course of the season; when the car was fine, he exploited it to score great results, but when it had problems, he was nowhere. Come mid-season, he was being beaten for pace by his much-maligned team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, whom he beat 12-9 in the qualifying battle. In many ways, this season proved Grosjean is destined to be a nearly-man of his generation; too good to be running in midfield, but not quite complete enough to be a front-runner. His team-leadership skills were heavily criticised, too, as he allowed his short temper to be his worst enemy, as seen at Lotus. Whatever floats your boat, Romain.

12. Felipe Nasr (17th- 2 points- Sauber C35- Ferrari) 6.5

The sturdy Brazilian had  a rather quiet second season of his fledgling F1 career, however when car issues were not an issue, he smashed Marcus Ericsson to a pulp. His qualifying performance in Q1 at Baku saw him outpace Ericsson by almost 0.7 seconds, whilst Q1 at Hungary saw him ranked 7th in wet conditions. His adept wet-weather driving rewarded with two points in Brazil, but his sponsor Banco do Brasil had already called it quits, so his future may rely upon Bottas vacating a seat at Williams. He lost 13-8 in the qualifying battle against Ericsson, although a prevalent handling issue in the early part of the season played a factor in this.

13. Felipe Massa (11th- 53 points- Williams FW38-Mercedes) 6.5

The popular Brazilian had a consistent, if unspectacular final season of F1. Massa will be remembered for his brilliant 2008 season, where won six races and possibly two more in Hungary and Singapore, if it was not for engine failure and a trapped fuel rig. World champion for 20 seconds until Lewis Hamilton crept passed a dry tyre-shod Timo Glock, an emotive Felipe stood on the podium with courage and grace. A good sportsman will be missed.

14. Jenson Button (15th, 21 points- McLaren MP4-31-Honda) 6.0

Like Massa, Button will be missed sorely, but he arguably had an even more disappointing farewell year. Only scoring five points than he did in last year’s shambles of a car, the Frome veteran intermittently showed his old spark in Austria and Germany, but his peak years are past. Once derided as a playboy, Jenson matured into a heavily-feared hard-charger, who used his brain and guile to compensate for his lack of raw pace. From 2009-12, his wins displayed a verve for fluid thinking under pressure and ability to judge adverse conditions better than anyone else. Sadly, his team-mate Fernando Alonso demolished him 14-5 in the qualifying battle, so it is perhaps best to allow Stoffel Vandoorne his belated full-time debut.

15. Nico Hulkenberg (9th, 72 points, Force India VJM09-Mercedes) 6.0

Year after year, the lanky German is rated as one of the best midfielders in the sport, but this season has been underwhelming. Outraced and outscored by his diminutive team-mate Perez, Hulkenberg will need to up his game to deliver the goods for Renault. It’s becoming a cliche to say Hulkenberg drove well despite narrowly missing out on a podium. His dreadful start from P3 on the grid at Austria sums up the mishaps which have become alarmingly prevalent in the 29-year-old’s driving. For a driver so highly-regarded, winning the qualifying battle 12-9 over a driver not renowned for raw pace is lamentable.

16. Pascal Wehrlein (19th, 1 point- Manor MRT05-Mercedes) 5.5

As you’re well aware, if this year’s world champion hadn’t shocked everyone with his intention to depart the sport immediately, last year’s DTM champion would probably be seeking a second season at Manor or a move to Sauber. With extensive testing experience with Mercedes and Force India, the golden child of Silver Arrows has a satisfactory debut season. His sole point at Spielberg underlined his talent, but he won the qualifying battle by just 7-5 over his paying team-mate Rio Haryanto. He raised his game to beat 7-2 in the qualifying war against replacement Esteban Ocon, but his race performances became static and concerning. Thanks to Rosberg’s announcement, Wehrlein may land the hot seat at Mercedes, but that is hypothetical and many feel his confidence could be destroyed by being paired with a ruthless Hamilton. Due to the dire financial circumstances Sauber and Manor find themselves in, and how Mercedes have admitted dismay over his perceived self-centred and stubborn personality, the starlet may find himself dedicated to solely testing next season.

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix Review: Amazing Max

DRIVER OF THE DAY 

Max Verstappen (P3, Red Bull)

On a day of superlative drives from so many drivers in adverse conditions, Verstappen shone above the rest yet again. I’ll personally admit to being biased against the young Dutchman, but his save on the start-finish straight and quickfire overtakes will stick in the memories of those who witnessed them.

WINNERS

Nico Rosberg (P2, Mercedes)

Despite being obliterated by his illustrious triple world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg’s championship lead was only cut to twelve points. Some may see the 31-year-old German as a mediocre world champion, but his consistency and persistence has paid dividends. If Rosberg becomes world champion, he will be thoroughly deserving of it.

Sergio Perez (P4, Force India)

Mexico’s brightest hope toppled his outgoing Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Silverstone-based team further consolidated their P4 status in the constructors’ standings.

Carlos Sainz (P6, Toro Rosso)

Another outstanding performance from Spain’s next superstar.

Felipe Nasr (P9, Sauber)

Finally! After a disastrous season with lack of finances and development, Nasr produced a coruscating race as the heavens opened. With numerous retirements and spins from his rivals, the Brazilian was elevated to an inconceivable P6 in the latter stages. Inevitably, Sainz and Hulkenberg overtook him, but those valuable prize money dollars will alleviate Sauber’s ailing fiscal woes.

Fernando Alonso (P10, McLaren)

Not the greatest performance of his career, yet the manner in which he opened a 37 second lap between himself and team-mate Jenson Button in the last 20 laps was spellbinding.

Esteban Ocon (P12, MRT)

Despite throwing away P10, which would have not costed Manor P10 in the constructors’ standings, the 20 year old Frenchman wowed onlookers and destroyed equally highly-touted team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, who struggled in the torrential conditions. His early transition in F1 has proven tricky, but he proving his backers right.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Romain Grosjean (DNS, Haas)

Crashed out whilst driving to the starting grid. Leadership material he is not.

SPECIAL MENTION

Felipe Massa (RET, Williams)

He may have ended his race in disappointing circumstances, but his guard of honour proves how special and unique he is.

Post-Japanese GP review & news: Perez, Sainz & Vandoorne to Ferrari for 2018?

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari, P5)

Another race, another lost cause. It may seem bizarre Kimi bothers with F1 anymore, but his majestic overtakes reminded everyone of his passion and resolve. The Finn proved he has unfinished business and his double overtake on Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer is proof that the fire continues to flicker in the Iceman’s belly.

Winners

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes, P1)

33 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s world championship.

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, P2)

Underlined his credentials of a future F1 legend once again. A peerless drive was illuminated by his feisty defence in the closing laps, where his block move against Lewis Hamilton out of 130R into the Casino Triangle chicane raised eyebrows again from critics. However, his perfect exploitation of the regulations showed: the Dutchman used the racing line to go wide on the exit of 130R, but swerved left to position himself onto the orthodox line for the run to Casino. The rules state a driver is allowed one move on the straight leading to a corner; therefore Max cunningly utilised the regulations to his advantage by promptly interpreting his exit line out of 130R as entirely separate from his defensive manoeuvre on the run-up to Casino. Hamilton took the inside line, but FIA regulations deemed Verstappen eligible to chop him off and cover the inside line. The most splendid aspect of Max’s move was how subtle and graceful it was: unlike his hasty, abrasive defensive manoeuvres on Raikkonen on the run-up to Les Combes in Spa, the Dutchman has adapted his defence technique in a very short space of time.

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, P4)

Ignoring his foul-mouthed performance on his radio, the 29 year-old German drove as well as could. The decision to gamble on softs in the final stint was, however, yet another example of Ferrari’s never-ending incompetence regarding pit strategy. Relationship breakdowns rumours are escalating and opinions within the Italian media of Vettel are rapidly deteriorating.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull, P6)

Not one of his finest races, but his outside chances of winning this year’s drivers’ championship have extinguished. The Australian struggled with car balance and tyre degradation in a race where his team-mate illuminated the headlines again.

Sergio Perez & Nico Hulkenberg (Force India, P7 & P8)

The Mexican continued his domination over his highly-touted German team-mate with another narrow finish in front of him, as Force India collected ten points to extend their advantage over Williams in their quest for P4 the constructors’ standings with just four races remaining. Hulkenberg confirmed his move to Renault this Friday, whilst Perez continues at Silverstone-based squad for 2017. Some feel Perez is occupying his seat for one more year in the hopes of a seat at Ferrari for 2018, as the contracts of Raikkonen and Vettel end next season. Other believe he has an eye on a seat at McLaren, but his relationship with the Woking-based squad was tarnished by his poor 2013 season with them.

Felipe Massa & Valtteri Bottas (Williams, P9 & P10)

An average season continues for this Banbury-squad, as retiring veteran Massa finally got one over his fledgling tam-mate Bottas. The Finn is rumoured to be lined up for the second seat at Renault, who are looking to revamp their team after a dismal 2016. Rumours of Lance Stroll & Felipe Nasr continue unabated, but outsiders such as Daniil Kvyat, Romain Grosjean & Pascal Wehrlein remain in the frame for seats at Williams.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Esteban Gutierrez (Haas, P20)

The 25 year-old Mexican’s hopes of a seat for 2017 continue to plummet by each passing race. Despite vowing to end his hoodoo of continually finishing P11, Gutierrez succeeded to outsmart himself and limp home in P20, a staggering ten places lower than where he started. The Haas car may be difficult to drive in race conditions, but he surely isn’t going to attract any suitors after this farcical performance.

Losers

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, P3)

The Englishman went into Japan ill-affording more points conceded to his arch-nemesis Rosberg, but once again Hamilton was completely trumped. There may be 100 points still available, but Rosberg can now finish P2 in the remaining four Grands Prix and win his first drivers’ championship, so Hamilton is in dire need of divine intervention. Speculation over what caused his poor starts left conspiracy theorists raging again, ranging from the damp surface on his particular gird slot of P2, where FIA had explicitly banned any drying of the start-finish straight 30 minutes before the race’s start, to his clutch slipping again. There was consternation over Verstappen’s defensive manoeuvre on the penultimate lap, however in hindsight, Hamilton could have chosen the outside line to avoid such a hoodwink. This will prove academic if Rosberg wins just one more race and seal this year’s title emphatically.

McLaren Honda (P-Nowhere)

In the space of just one Grand Prix weekend, McLaren swing from a double-points finish at Sepang to a horror return to the atrocious displays of their annus horribilis of 2015. Somehow, they failed to find a suitable set-up for Suzuka and this time they could not blame Honda; their chassis never achieved an optimum level of grip and handling required for the elevation changes in the fast corners, leaving Alonso and Button to perform even more abjectly in front of the “home” crowd than they did last year.

Blue Flags

On the tight, twisty confines of Suzuka, traffic was always going to be a major gremlin for front-runners, but the non-existent attrition rate of this year’s display left the big boys fuming in disgust. Depending on your criteria, this year’s Japanese Grand Prix is only the fifth in F1 history (and second race this season after Chinese Grand Prix) to have all starters finish past the chequered flag and classified, whereas if you include last year’s race (where Felipe Nasr’s Sauber was classified despite retiring two laps shy of the full distance) and the dubious 2005 US Grand Prix (where only six cars started and finished after the Michelin-shod cars withdrew before the start), this is the seventh race in F1 history to have all starters classified.

Pascal Wehrlein (Manor, P22)

The German joins Hans Hermann, Narain Karthikeyan and Jolyon Palmer on the ignoble list of drivers who finished last in races where starters finished. Of course, Patrick Friesacher and Felipe Nasr join the list if you include the classification of the actual starters and retired cars classified having completed at least 90% of the race distance.

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Review: Up In Smoke

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DRIVER OF THE DAY

Nico Rosberg (P3)

A superb comeback after having been tapped around at Turn 1 on the first lap by Sebastian Vettel, thus being dropped to 21st. He may have been lucky in regards to Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure, which extended his championship lead to 23 points, but his tenacious overtakes were a sight to behold. His final pass of the race on Kimi Raikkonen was awe-inspiring in its execution, which was greeted by tumultuous approval from spectators. The stewards strangely decided to punished him with ten seconds added to his race time, but this was rendered academic by the German’s finishing margin of 13 seconds over the Finn. It was a performance of an increasingly probable world champion.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Lewis Hamilton (Ret, Engine)

Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up.

We have so many engines, but mine are the only ones failing. Someone needs to give me some answers.

A plethora of conspiracy theorists returned when the Briton appeared to insinuate accusations of sabotage within his Mercedes team. Hamilton is once again playing the victim card in the vein of his idol Ayrton Senna, leaving neutrals perturbed. The race result leaves the Briton requiring him to win all five remaining Grands Prix in order to win the WDC as a minimum requirement, barring any misfortunes for his embittered team-mate.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Red Bull secured their first 1-2 since 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, with a thrilling tussle through turns 5-8 on lap 39, but the Virtual Safety Car summoned on lap 41 due to Hamilton’s engine denotation saw team orders enforce a processional finish. Daniel Ricciardo took a well-deserved first victory since 2014, whilst Max Verstappen was content with a strong display. Kimi Raikkonen had an average race with P4, whilst Valtteri Bottas brought cheer to his beleaguered Williams team, finishing P5 after starting P11. Sergio Perez again toppled team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Force India achieved P6 and P8, which consolidated P4 in the constructors’ standings and stretched their lead over Williams by three points. McLaren highlighted their immerse progress once again, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button securing P7 and P9. Button’s qualifying lap of 1:34.518 was a staggering seven seconds faster than his 2015 qualifying lap at Sepang of 1:41.636. Alonso started P22 thanks to an egregious 45-place grid penalty, but pounced at the chaos at turn 1 in order to elevate himself to P12 when the Virtual Safety Car was enforced on lap 1. Jolyon Palmer finally scored his first ever point in F1, which atoned for his lamentable spin in Hungary where he had been running P10 likewise. The lack of horsepower of 2015-spec Ferrari engines proved a major nuisance for Toro Rosso, whose drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat coasted home in P11 and P14. Marcus Ericsson drove a composed race to P12 for Sauber, but Felipe Massa suffered a hellish race, where his car’s throttle failed temporarily on the parade laps and his race was littered by tyre punctures and various maladies, finishing P13. The Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon had a feisty dice throughout the race, finishing P15 and P16, last of the classified finishers. Haas had a calamitous day, with Romain Grosjean’s brakes failing on lap 8 whilst running P10 and Esteban Gutierrez forced to park up after his insufficiently secured wheel came loose on lap 40. Sebastian Vettel was eliminated with his overzealous lunge on Verstappen at turn 1, where contact with Rosberg wedged his front-left wheel askewed. The stewards punished the 29 year old German with a three grid penalty retrospectively for the next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr were the two other retirees, with power loss and brake failures respectively.

DOFD

Grosjean (2) Rosberg (3) Magnussen (1) Verstappen (3) Ricciardo (2) Bottas (1) Perez (1) Raikkonen (1) Alonso (1) Vettel (1)

ROFD

F1 Authorities X2 Williams X1 Vettel X1 Kvyat X1  Rosberg X2 Hamilton X3 Hulkenberg X1 Gutierrez X1 Palmer X1 Verstappen X2 Nasr X2 Ericsson X1