12. Max Verstappen. 49 points. Grade A* . Much like Grosjean, Perez and Vettel, there isn’t much more Verstappen could have done in his debut season at Toro Rosso. His eye catching, brave and downright audacious overtaking moves were one of the highlights of the season and young Max is most certainly destined to achieve great things in Formula One. In a drastically under-powered Toro Rosso Verstappen showed a true champions grit and it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself in a championship winning car. Much like Vettel a few years back, and Raikonnen and Alonso before him, every few seasons a new star gets unearthed and Max Verstappen will be the latest in that long line of illustrious names.
13. Felipe Nasr. 27 points. Grade A- . Scoring three times as many points as your more experienced teammate is a surefire way of measuring your performance over the course of a season, and by that logic Nasr enjoyed a very successful year indeed. The young Brazilian rookie was often left on the media sidelines as journalists, pundits and reporters swooned over Max Verstappen but in a car which saw very little development all season long, Nasr consistently fought in and around the top ten and finished as high as fifth in his debut race in Melbourne. A solid beating of his more experienced teammate won’t have done him any harm at all and another solid season in 2016 will surely see him move to a team further up the grid.
14. Pastor Maldonado. 27 points. Grade D+. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to find that Pastor Maldonado scored the lowest grade out of all the drivers on the grid. Maldonado was soundly thrashed by his teammate Grosjean in all departments and astoundingly failed to finish 47% of the races he started fishing in the top ten on just six occasions. His highlight of the year, three consecutive points scoring finishes (Suzuka, Sochi, Austin) helped close his enormous points gulf to Grosjean to just 24 points, but in a midfield as competitive as this, it still remains a massive margin. Renault must be having serious doubts as to whether Maldonado is the man capable of leading their full time return to Formula One and the timer is surely ticking on Pastor’s flagging F1 career.
15. Carlos Sainz Jnr. 18 points. Grade A- . In all the hype about his teammate Verstappen, Sainz was often overlook in 2015 however the rookie Spaniard out qualified his teammate over the course of the season and would have finished much closer to him in the final championship table had it not been for the shocking reliability problems which seemed to haunt his Toro Rosso. Whilst Verstappen seemed to just have the edge on race day, Sainz’s single lap form made him a formidable foe for Max to overcome and the two were much more evenly matched than the final championship table suggests. Bonus points for his drive in Russia the day after his huge accident left him in hospital.
16. Jenson Button. 16 points. Grade A- . Jenson just edges out Alonso both in the final championship table and our report purely because of the better PR job he did for his team, and Honda over the course of the year. Whilst Alonso publicly berated Honda over the radio at their home race in Japan, Jenson was the epitome of professionalism and kept a cool head on occasions where his illustrious teammate did not. Media duties aside, Jenson was more than a match for Alonso and was arguably the better driver at McLaren throughout 2015, although the final points tallies are skewed by reliability problems for the Spaniard.
17. Fernando Alonso. 11 points. Grade B+ . Oh how the mighty have fallen. 2015 must be written off as an anus horribilis for the two time champion. Plagued by a car and engine with chronic reliability problems Alonso suffered his worst season in F1 since his debut over 10 years ago with Minardi. Bonus marks go to his valiant effort trying to get his McLaren back to the garage in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix however he looses out to Button in our ranking for his public outbursts and wanting to retire the car early in Abu Dhabi.
18. Marcus Ericsson. 9 points. Grade C . 2015 wasn’t a great season for Ericsson and although Sauber’s development work was heavily restricted by funds, Ericsson failed to extract the most from what was a very good car at the start of the season. Having your points total tripled by your rookie teammate can’t be good either…… Ericsson has been retained by Sauber for 2016 and surely is running out of time to justify his position at motorsport’s top table.
19. Roberto Merhi. 0 points. Grade C+ . It’s difficult to measure Merhi’s success this season but over the course of the year, he just about had the measure on his teammate. Unlucky to miss out on five races towards the season’s close, Merhi did exactly what was expected of him in what is effectively a year old car. His seat in 2016, and future in F1 have yet to be confirmed, we may have seen the last of the young Spaniard.
20. Will Stevens. 0 points. Grade C. Stevens was outperformed by Merhi in the races they drove together and for that reason he scores slightly lower in our ranking. With Pascal Werhlein waiting in the wings, Steven’s seat at Manor is under threat and like Merhi, his F1 future is uncertain. The jury is out on whether he has done enough to keep his place in F1 for another season, and his presence on the 2016 grid may ultimately come down to financial issues.
21. Alexander Rossi. 0 points. Grade B- . Despite competiting in only five races towards the tail end of the season, Rossi was arguably Manor’s stand out driver in 2015. Finishing ahead of Stevens on his debut in Singapore with not team radio was one of his highlights. You’d have to say, based solely on performances this year, Rossi is the man most likely to get the nod at Manor Mercedes next season.
Do you agree with our driver ratings? Stay tuned for our teams end of term analysis early next week!