2014 has been a year of ups and down, swings and roundabouts, triumphs and tragedies. Here we can take a look at each driver and analyse their seasons individually, based on their relative performances.
22nd: Max Chilton
21st: Marcus Ericsson
The Swedish rookie has spent the majority of his season behind his teammate. Ericsson’s lowest point must surely have featured at the Belgian Grand Prix, where he was embarrassingly outqualified by a stand-in driver who was making his competitive F1 debut. If it wasn’t for a strong financial package, his spot at Sauber next year would have undoubtedly gone to a more deserving driver.
20th: Kamui Kobayashi
The returning Japanese driver’s season has been restricted enormously by Caterham’s atrocious CT05. Whilst Kobayashi has at least outperformed his teammate, it is difficult to elevate him any higher up this list.
19th: Esteban Gutierrez
A simply forgettable season for Guttierez – who has failed to achieve a single result of note. Whilst his Sauber has been far from a good car, there is no doubt their driver lineup played a key role in amassing their worst haul of results in the team’s history.
18th: Pastor Maldonado
After leaving Williams a race winner, Maldonado’s inaugural Lotus campaign has been more memorable for Friday practice crashes that eye-opening results. His eventual points finish in Austin means he did at least manage to get off the mark before the season’s end. Like Ericsson, strong sponsorship ensures his underserved place at his team next year.
17th: Adrian Sutil
A dull but unproblematic season for Sutil has given Sauber just enough to lead their team through a simply dreadful season. His aggressive approach to Texas’ qualifying saw him take 10th on the grid, and undoubtedly provided Sauber with their lone highlight in an otherwise low-lit year.
16th: Daniil Kvyat
After being hurriedly drafted in to replace the promoted Ricciardo, Toro Rosso’s new boy was able to catch a few important eyes with his early performances. Though his results have slumped a bit since, the Russian rookie rose to the occasion overall and promises to make a decent second driver in Red Bull’s reshuffled team.
15th: Romain Grosjean
Following Kimi Raikkonen’s exit, Romain Grosjean was forced to assume the role of team leader for Lotus, in what has proven to be one of the worst seasons of any team this year. The Frenchman was able to eek out two admirable points finishes from his generally dismal Lotus E22, and has spent almost the entire year demonstrating just how poor Maldonado is. Whilst his third season with the Enstone outfit could have been a lot more colourful, it seems unfair to criticise Grosjean’s efforts, given the fact that he quadrupled his teammate’s tally of points.
14th: Jean-Eric Vergne
Vergne has yet again finished the season ahead of his teammate, and has yet again been overlooked by Red Bull – deemed not quite good enough. It was likely his performance throughout the first half of the season that decided his fate; being outshone by a rookie never does you any good. However, performances since then have been more on the positive side. Red Bull’s announcement to promote Kvyat over him appears to have reignited the flame within Vergne – who finishes the season with six points finishes. Whilst it doesn’t look like it will be enough to keep him on the grid, whispers of a reserve driver position with Williams does at least evidence some appreciation for the Toro Rosso reject.
13th: Kevin Magnussen
After finishing on the podium in his debut down under, Magnussen had a lot of hype placed on his shoulders. Whilst this could have weighed him down, the young Dane has raced through a steep learning curve to give McLaren a number of impressive performances. Finishing eleventh in the championship with 55 points, the McLaren’s first rookie since Lewis Hamilton has probably done enough to force Jenson Button out of the door.
12th: Sergio Perez
2014 has been a typically Perez-esque season for the Mexican, with a number of great performances being balanced out with his fair share of clumsy mishaps. His podium finish in Bahrain was a standout drive not only for Force India, but in general. Whilst Perez has been unable eclipse Hulkenberg, he has been able to consistently challenge the German prodigy.
11th: Kimi Raikkonen
Undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments of 2014 has been the duel between Ferrari’s star lineup. Fans hoped for a close fight as Alonso and Raikkonen matched each other blow for blow and drove one another to boiling point. Instead, it would appear as though The Iceman has delivered a lukewarm performance. Whilst Raikkonen’s Ferrari return should have been a whole lot more ceremonious that it has been, the blame cannot be solely placed on the Finn – rather the team, for providing their driver with a car that simply does not flatter his abilities. Raikkonen has done well to drive around these problems at times, and has raced to somewhat impressive results; notably his fourth place at Spa – a track the 2007 Champion usually excels at.
10th: Sebastian Vettel
Whilst Ricciardo’s routine trouncing of Vettel was unforeseen by most, it cannot be said that the defending world champion has raised eyebrows for negative nor positive reasons. In a season dominated by the Mercedes cars, Vettel did well to finish the championship in fifth and score points on all but three occasions – especially considering how much he has struggled to adapt to the new regulations. 4 podiums for a defending four-time champion is however unacceptable if your younger, new teammate has featured regularly on the podium and even taken 3 wins. Perhaps his arrival at Ferrari will reinvigorate both team and driver.
9th: Jules Bianchi
It is a profound and tragic irony that even in his absence, the Frenchman’s standout Monaco performance offered Marussia their one lifeline when in financial need. Whilst Bianchi’s sensational second season was cut short in Suzuka, whispers of his excellence still remain. Had it not been for his accident, the Ferrari prodigy would be looking at a very real possibility of a promotion to the Scuderia’s senior team of all places in the immediate future. Words cannot express just how much of an achievement a points finish is to a backmarker, particularly in modern Formula 1.
8th: Felipe Massa
2014 has been a turbulent but uplifting year for Massa; a string of incidents and mishaps through no fault of his own contrasts perfectly with his fantastic blast to pole position in Austria and his trio of podiums. Some of Massa’s highlights have been somewhat overshadowed by teammate Bottas’ consistently phenomenal displays, but the ex-Ferrari driver has definitely been able to demonstrate a bridge in experience between the two at key moments in the season. Whilst his first year at Williams has been a bittersweet one, he has set the foundations for a symphony of success in 2015.
7th: Jenson Button
For the second season in succession, the 2009 world champion has held McLaren’s hand as they have weathered the storm together. Although he only has a single podium to show for his efforts, Button has been able to consistently bring his modest McLaren home to collect valuable points and eventually finish eighth in the championship with 126 points. His 22 year old teammate has pushed Button at times, but in this case experience has shone through. Jenson Button is the only man who can finish the season with potentially no drive, and still come out smelling of roses.
6th: Nico Hulkenberg
‘Hulk’ has been typically robust this season. Whilst the hotshot’s campaign did briefly go off the boil after making contact with the sister car in Hungary, he has outperformed Perez with relative ease for the most part of the season and finishes the year with nearly double the points of his teammate. Despite the constant stream of good results, it is clear that Hulkenberg does not drive with the same flair that carved his teammate’s way onto the Bahrain podium.
5th: Valtteri Bottas
Six podiums and countless standout performances have seen Bottas breeze his way to fourth in the championship, in what is remarkably only his second season in F1. The Finn has approached every race with the perfect balance of raw aggression and maturity – and it shows. Bottas’ list of appreciators has grown from what was once a one man club in Frank Williams, to level of near-universal critical acclaim. At the age of just 25, Valtteri Bottas has shown this year that he has the potential to become the next big thing.
4th: Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso is like a fine wine – he only gets better with age. Despite celebrating his 33rd birthday, the Spaniard has once again single handedly carried another utterly woeful Ferrari through race after race, and even claim the occasional podium – not to mention routinely demolish Kimi Raikkonen and reduce the ex-World Champion to an apparent state of sheer mediocrity. After half a decade though, however good you are, your patience will wear thin. Alonso’s voluntary departure from Ferrari registered a 10 on the Richter scale and set up what is predicted to be the biggest deal in Formula 1 history, with McLaren – and with good reason. Though his results on paper don’t show it, Fernando Alonso is the best driver the current era has to offer – it is just a crying shame the magical Spaniard’s capabilities have been constantly strangled by dreadful machinery.
3rd: Nico Rosberg
His season-opening victory in Melbourne was, at the time, credited almost solely as a gift whilst the unreliability of Hamilton’s sister car was blasted. The German has, however, continued to put up a fight as he stood toe-to-toe with Hamilton throughout the entire season. 15 podiums in 19 races is amazing, but 11 pole positions against Lewis Hamilton is ludicrous. Rosberg has driven clinically throughout the season, and at times has perhaps sat back slightly as he hoped for consistency to be his greatest ally. It is remarkable to think that somebody with no title-fighting experience at the top level has remained so composed. Ultimately, though, Hamilton had the edge on Sundays. However, Rosberg’s admirable drives in Canada and Abu Dhabi demonstrated that the second generation star does indeed have the heart of a champion, and will be back even stronger next year.
2nd: Lewis Hamilton
With 11 race wins to his name, Lewis Hamilton had to take the championship. He has driven the entire season with dedication, conviction and – most importantly – determination. The Briton’s ability to bounce back from every technical blunder and microscopic but catastrophic error to eventually overturn his title rival’s 29-point post-Spa gap has been simply astonishing. However, Hamilton’s already established world class ability, coupled with the insanely dominant equipment he had at his disposal means in reality, the World Championship was nothing more than an expectation.
1st: Daniel Ricciardo
To take 3 wins in his debut season at the sport’s pinnacle is one thing, but to have snatched them from the jaws of the relentlessly dominant Mercedes duo, alongside the defending four-time world champion is entirely another. Daniel Ricciardo has finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel in 11 out of the 14 races they have both finished. Ricciardo’s giant-killing performances have to be enough to justify his position atop the mountain of talent that F1 has to offer. Should Red Bull provide the Aussie ace with a competent car next year, it would not be unreasonable to consider him a genuine title contender.