As 2014 draws to a close and we can begin to get excited for the start of the 2015 Formula One World Championship, Formula One went through a year of transition in 2014 and perhaps has left us with an uncertain future. Here are my highlights and thoughts...
Driver of the Year
3rd Place - Valtteri Bottas: The promise we were given that Bottas was a potential future world champion came to the fore this year with six podiums and only two non-point scoring finishes. Consistency and maturity in driving saw a great 2014 for Finnish driver.
2nd Place - Lewis Hamilton: The first British driver to claim a second title since Jackie Stewart in 1971. Eleven wins and seven pole positions, many will see Lewis Hamilton as being the driver of the year. But despite a titanic battle with teammate Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes car was the class act of the field.
1st Place - Daniel Ricciardo: He literally drove Sebastian Vettel out of his own team. Three wins, a strong third place in the championship, some amazing overtaking through races and an outside bet at the title until the closing few races of the season. If Renault can provide Red Bull Racing with a better engine in the coming years, Ricciardo will be a World Champion. Well done mate!
Race of the Year
3rd Place - Canadian GP: Canada saw the first chink in the armour for Mercedes who prior to coming here had won the opening six races. A driver's first win is always memorable but when the same problem occurred on both Mercedes cars, it was Daniel Ricciardo who was ready to pounce.
2nd Place - Hungarian GP: An unusually wet Hungary set the scene for an interesting battle, especially with Hamilton's Mercedes setting on fire in Qualifying meaning he started from the pitlane. A battle through the field by the Brit and refusing team orders to let Rosberg through saw him reach the podium. Meanwhile Ricciardo obtained his second win of the season, overtaking Hamilton and Alonso in the final laps.
1st Place - Bahrain GP: It was the first time in 2014 we saw the true pace of the Mercedes cars and both drivers battling for honours. Great defending and attacking driving by Hamilton and Rosberg respectively but fair nonetheless. Hamilton came out on top at the chequered flag and set the tone for the remainder of the year.
Team of the Year
3rd Place - Marussia: A fantastic ninth-place finish by Jules Bianchi at Monaco would see the team finish the championship in ninth place in the standings and a circa $35m prize fund for 2015. With joy came bitter sadness with Jules Bianchi's horrific accident at Suzuka and questions raised on whether the team will make the grid in 2015 - if so, they will be very much missed.
2nd Place - Williams: After too many years of mid-field anonymity the Martini clad Williams F1 team have hauled themselves back into the elite of the sport they dominated 20 years ago. Regular podium finishes, a pole position in Austria and points scored in every race in 2014 - including 66 points scored at the double-points scoring finale in Abu Dhabi rounded out an impressive return to form.
1st Place - Mercedes: 16 wins in one season and utter domination of the likes even Red Bull Racing would be envious of. Mercedes took the bold decision in 2011 to limit development of their cars in 2012 and 2013 to focus on the rule changes due in 2014. That decision along with the signing of Lewis Hamilton resulted in a season beyond their own expectations and head into 2015 as the clear team to beat.
Disappointment of the Year
3rd Place - Lotus: Sometimes referred to as Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious, sums up their 2014 season. Only three point-scoring races, and 12 retirements was simply not good enough. At least Pastor Maldonado's millions is keeping the team afloat. Just. A switch to Mercedes power in 2015 will help, but simply put, they must do better.
2nd Place - Kimi Raikkonen & Fernando Alonso: What an utter damp squib. Not helped by a poor car in 2014, but the prospect going into 2014 of the Kimi vs. Fernando intra-team battle just never came to fruition. Alonso now heads to McLaren and Kimi has a new teammate (and close friend) in Vettel in 2015.
1st Place - FIA: The technical expertise required to deliver on ambitious goals for 2014 engine design has been incredible to get so much power from 1.6 litre V6 units. The result is a very different sound which you will either love or hate. The FIA who signed off on this change went incredibly quiet when the commercial rights holder, fans and circuit owners complained about the "sound of F1" disappearing. The FIA need to be the voice and to support changes - very disappointing.
Bernie's Quote of the Year
These are all winners:
"Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can't afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS -- these kids don't care about banking. They haven't got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway. I'd rather get to the 70-year-old guy who's got plenty of cash. So, there's no point trying to reach these kids because they won't buy any of the products here."
On Double Points:
In December 2013: "Personally my preference would be for the final three races to be worth double points. [It] would mean the championship is kept interesting for everyone - fans, press and television - right until the end."
In October 2014: "[It is] probably not fair that somebody's done all that work early on and got so many points and somebody could just pop in and do a couple of races."
In December 2014: "One race is stupid but imagine if it was the last three races. I'm not going to propose the three races again. I'm going to let them get on with it. I don't know what we're going to do next year."
*Sigh* This man has too much control on the sport and we live in a world which has outgrown how he thinks. It is time for F1 to be managed, commercially, by a new representative.
WTF Moments of F1 in 2014
3rd Place - Daniil Kvyat signs with Red Bull Racing in 2015: With the announcement of four-time champion moving to Ferrari for next year, Red Bull Racing announced that Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat will be promoted to the premier Red Bull outfit as his replacement. People report that Kvyat had an impressive first season, yet only four points finishes with a total of eight points compared to teammate Jean-Eric Vergne's results of seven points finishes and a total of 22 points tells a different story. F1 needs personalities in the sport and certainly in the top tier teams - Kvyat needs to work on this as his placement at Red Bull Racing next year does nothing to excite at all.
2nd Place - Max Verstappen gets a fast track to F1 with Toro Rosso in 2015: at 17-years of age Max will become the youngest F1-driver of all time. He is simply too young. As said above, F1 needs personalities and needs to be the place drivers go to when they reach the pinnacle of their career. Time spent in junior categories learning your race craft is vital. When you see the battles this year with Ricciardo on Alonso, Vettel on Alonso, Hamilton on Rosberg - all close battles but fair. They have been able to get to do this through years of learning. I genuinely fear for Max Verstappen next year and hope he proves the critics wrong, but feel strongly that a year spent in GP3, GP2 and a race drive for 2017/2018 would put him in a much better shape for racing in F1. If he is that good, those extra years will be worth the investment.
1st Place - The Finances of F1: We all know F1 is grossly expensive to put two cars on a track to go racing. The truth is that the sport generates enough money to allow 13 teams to go racing, but the division of income is not fair. The rich get richer and the poor go into administration. Three-car teams are not the answer, we need new teams coming into the sport, and ensuring that once they have proven their financial worth they are protected and supported. When the likes of Sauber (entered F1 in 1993), Lotus (under the Toleman brand, entered F1 in 1981) and Force India (under the Jordan brand, entered F1 in 1991) are facing going out of business the whole infrastructure of Formula One comes under scrutiny. Much more should be done to ensure the foundations of this sport do not come undone.
We end this review with our thoughts firmly with Jules Bianchi and Michael Schumacher. Everyone at TeamVVV look forward to seeing both in the F1 paddock again and wish them the best for 2015 and beyond.