As the fireworks marked the end of the 2015 F1 World Championship, Nico Rosberg crossed the finish line to secure a hat-trick of victories for the first time in his career and ensured he heads into 2016 with his head held high. Abu Dhabi provided a stunning backdrop for a season finale and whilst the on track action on Sunday wasn’t the most thrilling we’ve seen this season the setting, floodlights and spectacle more than made up for the on track action (or lack of it). It’s with a tinge of sadness that we bring you the final report card of 2015, winter is a always dark time for Motorsport fans as we long for the action to kick off again at the Clipsal 500 on March 3rd, but here are our driver ratings for the final race of 2015.
We’ve graded each drivers performance over the weekend from A* – D, so read on and see if you agree.
- Nico Rosberg – A*. Rosberg did everything any team could ask for over the course of the whole race weekend, including beating his teammate to pole by over three tenths of a second. Virtually untouchable since Austin, Rosberg has reached a whole new level in the closing leg of 2015 and by his own admission, he’d be happy to see 2016 start tomorrow. A perfect weekend the German who’ll be looking to hit the ground running in Melbourne. Hamtilon had no answer to his pace from FP2 onwards and from the moment he exited turn one in first place the race was his to lose.
- Lewis Hamilton, B-. This was a rare weekend in which Hamilton just wasn’t able to match Rosberg’s pace. Only Mercedes will ever know the real truth behind the strategy calls made during Lewis’s second stint but another loss to his teammate was not how he wanted 2015 to end. The only real highlight for Hamilton this weekend was his stunning pace during the start of the second stint where he was catching Rosberg at a rapid rate.
- Kimi Raikkonen, A-. Raikkonen ended 2015 with an assured and confident drive to his third podium finish of the year. As soon as Vettel failed to make it out of Q1 Ferrari’s hopes for a successful weekend rested on Raikkonen’s shoulders and for once, Kimi delivered. He kept Mercedes honest in the opening stint and although he couldn’t stay on Hamilton’s heels for the whole race, he finished comfortably ahead of his teammate who we predicted would beat the Finn to 3rd place. His podium finish also confirmed 4th place in the championship, moving above fellow countryman Bottas.
- Sebastian Vettel, B+. Fourth was probably the best Vettel could have hoped for given Ferrari’s error in qualifying which left him in 16th on the grid. A long opening stint on the harder tyre helped Vettel leapfrog the latter half of the top ten and he ended a strong season with a very solid drive indeed.
- Sergio Perez, A*. Congratulations Sergio Perez and Force India on an outstanding 2015. By his own admission, Perez is in the best form of his career and his strong drive to 5th at Yas Marina helped him to finish 20 points above his highly rated teammate Hulkenberg in the championship table. Comfortably best of the rest all weekend long, Perez didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and hopes will be high for a continuation of his, and Force India’s fine form in 2016.
- Daniel Ricciardo, B+. The smiling Aussie capped off a difficult year with a strong drive to 6th place. In a year dogged by reliability problems for the number 3 Red Bull, Ricciardo can be considered unlucky to finish below Kvyat in the championship table. These two were closely matched from Monaco onwards and Ricciardo will be hoping Renault can produce a competitive engine over the winter if he is to challenge for race wins in 2016.
- Nico Hulkenberg, B. The final weekend of the season was a quiet one for the Le Mans winner. Unable to match his teammates pace, Hulkenberg had a lonely evening in Abu Dhabi but drove a calm and incident free race to bring the second Force India home with more solid points.
- Felipe Massa, B. Surprisingly Williams struggled for pace all weekend. There would be no repeat of last seasons podium for Massa this time round, instead a race he would go on to describe as “boring” in an interview with Sky. Not the end to the season he and Williams would have hoped for, but they can still go into the winter with their heads held high after retaining third place in the constructors championship.
- Romain Grosjean, A. Grosjean’s final race with Lotus highlighted exactly what the Enstone squad will be miss next season. With Maldonado out of the race, Grosjean led Lotus by example and battled through the midfield to secure 6th place in the constructors table for Lotus in his final race. Grosjean has matured into one of the most complete drivers on the grid and all eyes will be on Haas F1 next season to see if he repeat his achievements in another team.
- Danil Kvyat, B-. Problems with his ERS on the second Red Bull left Kvyat scrapping for the final points paying position with Sainz. His performance over the course of the season has more than justified his position as Vettel’s replacement and we’re eager to see just what Kvyat can do when given a competitive car. The intra team battle at Red Bull has been one of the closest on the grid and Kvyat just edged out his highly regarded teammate by three points. A feat not many would have expected at the start of the year.
- Carlos Sainz, B. Unfortunate to miss out on scoring a point, Sainz has enjoyed a great debut season in F1. Poor reliability has undoubtedly cost Sainz the chance to finish closer to Verstappen in the championship table but just like his younger teammate, the Spaniard has incredible potential, and hopefully a long future in Formula One. Bonus points for an incredible first few corners of the race.
- Jenson Button, A-. In may ways, McLaren enjoyed a positive final weekend in Abu Dhabi. Button fought hard and drove a strong race to finish an unspectacular 12th place and his post race team radio message showed just what an important figure and leader he is at Woking. Still at the top of his game, McLaren will be desperate to provide him (and Alonso) with a much improved car next season to ensure his incredible talent does not go to waste.
- Valteri Bottas, C. Bottas enjoyed a weekend to forget in Abu Dhabi. A poor start and tentative opening last cost him numerous positions and a time costly front wing replacement, and subsequent penalty ruined any chance of beating Raikkonen to 4th in the table. Bottas was out of sorts and off the pace all weekend, however this was merely a blip in an otherwise very strong 2015 for him and Williams.
- Fernando Alonso, C. Like Bottas, Alonso had another weekend to forget under the floodlights at Yas Marina. An unfortunate puncture during qualifying immediately put the two time champ on the back foot and Fernando was unable to match Button’s pace come race day. Alonso and Button have held the PR ship exceptionally steady at McLaren this year, but under no circumstances can the team, sponsors and drivers survive another season as torrid as 2015.
- Marcus Ericsson, B. Ericsson had a quiet race to 15th, finishing just ahead of teammate Nasr. Bar a miracle, Sauber had 8th in the table sewn up in the table before the race even started and Ericsson will go into winter wondering what could have been. The 2015 Sauber was a very well built car, and the lack of development work for the Swiss squad severely hampered their efforts this season.
- Felipe Nasr, B. Like his teammate, apart from pride, Nasr had very little to race for come Sunday and was often on the periphery of the action. A strong 2015 none the less, Nasr will be hoping his chance to shine comes next season.
- Max Verstappen, B-. 12th on the road at the finish, Verstappen was handed a 20 second penalty for failing to move over under blue flags. Out qualified by Sainz on Saturday, Verstappen looked to be having a strong afternoon until flatspotting his tyres attempting to pass Kvyat. Still, this was just one messy afternoon in a remarkable debut season from the youngster, who looks to be a champion in the waiting.
- Will Stevens, B. Finished ahead of Merhi which is about the only way you can measure any form of success at Manor this season. With no drivers confirmed yet for next season, Stevens will be hoping to stay on and prove his worth in what should be a much more competitive package for the plucky Manor team.
- Roberto Merhi, C. Merhi hasn’t quite matched Stevens all season, and Abu Dhabi was just another reminder of how superior his teammate has been all season. The jury is out on whether he’s done enough to remain at the team for a second year.
- DNF Pastor Maldonado – For once his race was ended by someone else crashing into him!
Do you agree with our driver ratings? Let us know what you think in the comments below!