As the embers of the 2015 season start to fade and thoughts turn towards the challenges of a new year, take some time to festively indulge in the memories of the best races of the year as voted by you, the jury.
5) Bahrain – 6.96
The “duel in the desert” of 2014 was a hard act to follow, but this year’s race was a decent effort. The spectacle of a night race was retained for the second time and the sparks flying from under the cars gave a dynamism often bemoaned as lost in the new-era of motor racing.
The Ferrari team gave the Mercedes a headache as they struggled to keep the Scuderia at arms-length. Hamilton brought home the top honours but Rosberg had a tougher day at the office, losing out to both the red cars off the line.
Nico had studied his fight with Hamilton in 2014 and had clearly learned valuable lessons from it. He pulled off some excellent overtaking moves; firstly to pass Raikkonen into the first corner on the fourth lap, then a carbon copy move on Vettel on lap nine. He completed the passes by eliminating the threat of a counter attack, forcing his opponent to the outside and cleverly blocking the switchback move on both occasions.
Vettel’s race crumbled with an uncharacteristic error, sliding wide over the final kerb breaking his front wing. Raikkonen however drove an excellent race on an alternative strategy to the Mercedes. By bolting on the softer, faster tyres in the final stint he was able to fight for the podium positions. He made huge gains and the pressure was too much for Rosberg, who made it easy for him to pass as he ran wide, opening the door for the Finn to chase down Hamilton’s lead. In the end the gap to the lead was just too much and Hamilton held on for the victory.
It was fantastic to see Ferrari employing a good strategy in an attempt to take the fight to the Silver Arrows, hopefully we will see a lot more of this in 2016.
4) Great Britain – 7.84
There a home victory for Lewis Hamilton, but it was no easy feat for the Briton. Both Mercedes were out-dragged off the line by the Williams duo. The spectacle of a fight between Bottas and Massa was neutered by dithering and poor strategic decisions from the Williams pitwall, which in turn allowed Hamilton to take advantage of the undercut to pass them both in the stops. The final nail in the Williams’ coffin was the late race rain that saw them fall down the order.
Rosberg seemed much more adept at keeping temperature and pressure in his tyres in the cool damp conditions as he sailed past the Williams drivers and cruised up to the back of Hamilton by almost two seconds a lap. Lewis, clearly about to lose the lead, dove into the pits and gambled on a set of intermediate tyres. This choice looked foolish, for all of ten seconds as the heavens suddenly opened and made him look a genius. The result was Lewis’s third win on home soil.
3) Malaysia – 8.25
After the predictable outcome and disappointment of the season opening Australian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel put on a masterful display and beat the Mercedes pair, demonstrating to everybody once and for all that he can win without having the best car on the grid.
Vettel’s first task was to keep Rosberg behind him at the start. After a slightly sluggish getaway, he defended the position very aggressively (but fairly), causing Nico to concede through the tight hairpin corners.
Ferrari had made strides both on pace and tyre longevity since 2014 and the Mercedes was less comfortable on the medium compound tyres in the Malaysian tropical heat, being unable to make them last through the practice race simulations. When the safety car came out on lap 4 both Mercedes dived for the pits to switch to the hard compound. Vettel did not follow suit and a queue of slower cars gave him some padding back to Lewis Hamilton when he emerged from the pitlane. The gap he built whilst Hamilton fought back through the pack was enough to protect all the way to the flag, taking his first victory for the Prancing Horse.
2) USA – 8.87
The World Championship was decided in stunning fashion at the Circuit of the Americas with one of the best races of the season. The race started on intermediate tyres in mildly moist conditions. Lewis signaled his intention at the first corner by taking the inside line and forcing Nico wide on the exit, just like he did in Japan. The variable conditions made for some great racing, daring passes and crashes. Vettel attempted an alternative strategy and looked on course to challenge the Mercedes until two safety car periods negated his advantage.
Nico Rosberg needed to finish ahead of Lewis to keep the title alive, but he made a rare unforced error (unless you believe the “gust of wind” excuse). His title hopes slipped away as he lit up the rear tyres on the exit of turn 15, skidding wide and allowing Hamilton to regain the lead and take the championship.
1) Hungary – 8.91
The Formula One world was reeling from the news of Jules Bianchi’s sad passing in the run up to the Hungarian Grand Prix. Thankfully the race provided a fantastic spectacle to help heal the broken hearts of the racing community. There were plenty of overtaking moves, penalties and as many twists to the plot as there are on the circuit.
The two Mercedes bogged down off the line (again) and found themselves four abreast into the first corner, emerging third and fourth behind the Ferraris. Hamilton, clearly frustrated at being behind his team-mate, almost immediately tried to make amends, which went horribly wrong and sent him skipping across the gravel and tumbling down the order.
The two Ferarris looked very strong at the front and both pulled away from Rosberg, who could not match their impressive pace. Raikkonen was looking strong but his race slowly crumbled, first the front mounted camera fell off the car and then he lost the use of his MGU-K hybrid system.
The race came alive again once the safety car was deployed after the very dramatic failure of Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing that rendered him a passenger on the way to the barriers. The field bunched up behind the leader and set up a thrilling conclusion. Rosberg passed the handicapped Raikkonen, and Hamilton tried to fend off Ricciardo but slid into the side of the Red Bull, once again demoting Lewis down the order and earning him a penalty to really stick the boot into his torrid race.
Rosberg and Ricciardo then set off in pursuit of Vettel, who had opened up a small gap as is his trademark after a safety car period. Once in the dirty air Rosberg failed to make an impression on the Ferrari ahead and Daniel saw his chance. Knowing he could not match the Mercedes straight line speed, he knew the only move that would stick would be a lunge into turn one.
Unfortunately he misjudged his braking by a matter of a meter and slid past the apex. Rosberg switched back and sliced back past the Red Bull, but decided to squeeze him on the exit to teach him some manners. This was a big mistake as Ricciardo’s front wing sliced into Rosberg’s rear tyre, causing him a puncture. He lost so much time limping back to the pits that when he rejoined, he was once again behind his recovering teammate.
In the end it was another classy performance from Sebastian Vettel sealing the victory. He was able to keep rear-gunner Kimi at bay through the first part of the race and did not crack under a lot of pressure towards the end from Rosberg and Ricciardo. It is a shame that the final battle that was brewing was neutralised when the two behind, somewhat clumsily, took each other out of the running.
1) Hungary – 8.91
2) USA – 8.87
3) Malaysia – 8.25
4) Britain – 7.84
5) Bahrain – 6.96
6) Singapore – 6.56
7) Belgium – 6.38
8) Russia – 5.85
9) Monaco – 5.69
10) Austria – 5.23
11) China – 5.22
12) Canada – 5.12
13) Spain – 5.11
14) Japan – 5.1
15) Italy – 4.77
16) Mexico – 4.72
17) Abu Dhabi – 4.42
18) Brazil – 3.92
19) Australia – 3.38
The opening race of the season proved to be the worst of the year. Most likely the despair at the prospect of another year of Mercedes domination made you score pessimistically. Lewis had the measure of Nico all weekend. There were some interesting battles behind and Felipe Nasr was the star of the race finishing in an excellent 5th position. The race may not have been stellar, but the most entertaining podium interview of the year was between the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger and star struck Lewis Hamilton. Classic.