December 2, 2015

2015 Formula One end of season rant and ratings

Formula 1's longest ever championship came to a close in Abu Dhabi, for many it was accompanied by sighs of relief.

It was a history making, record braking season for Mercedes,  the culmination of a project started with Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher at the end of the last decade.
The Mercedes W06 produced astounding numbers in terms of pole positions, 1-2 finishes, wins, points scored and reliability.    Lewis Hamilton was able to cruise to his championship win with relative ease,  capitalizing on the early season advantage over teammate Rosberg.

Bit of a shame the season ended with controversy between the three time champion and his team.    Hamilton made public comments saying F1is boring because teams are focused on 1-2 finishes rather than individual results.   He was referring to Mercedes' practice of giving both drivers the same strategy in the race.
While we might agree teams should let drivers choose their fate, as they did for Lewis in Monaco, it's a bit of a sour note for Hamilton to bring this up as he was facing the downside of that policy,  not when he was the beneficiary of it.

That said, hats off to everyone at Mercedes,  well played!

Standouts of the season?

Ferrari's resurgence has to be one.   With the epic shake up last summer, that 2015 would turn out as it did was a huge surprise.   It was a bold, brave move by the Scuderia that paid off with a driver in red on the podium in sixteen of the nineteen races, three times on the top step.  Expectations for 2016 are huge,  everyone is looking at Ferrari to break the inevitable monotony a Silver Arrow domination has given the sport.

Vettel has taken to the Scuderia like a fish to water, I'm sure he enjoyed this season tremendously but going forward the pressure will be much higher. Mayor talking points for the coming season will be Vettel's a ability to raise his career to the next level by winning in an "underdog" car and  Lewis Hamilton finding the motivation to keep his driving at top level.    Hopefully the cars will be close enough in performance for real sparks to fly.

Best crop of "young guns" in a long time.  Sainz, Kyat, Nasr and  Verstappen.

Verstappen had the added pressure of relentless hype.  First year in and already he's "Son of Senna", smart move to keep him at Toro Rosso a bit longer, hopefully he will mature into the driver his promise hint at.  It will not be easy for "17 year old" Max Verstappen to keep his head in the right place with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes all in a bidding war for his services in 2017 and beyond.

Sainz was  in the media shadow of Verstappen and unlucky with DNF's but he showed some real speed.  Nasr too did very well considering what he had to work with.

Kvyat dealt with pressure incredibly well.  at one point in the season he had Helmut Marko telling everyone he would be fired yet he ended up beating a previous "Son of Senna", his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.  Unexpected.

the Negatives

McLaren and Red Bull.  Their debacles will surely be case studies for bad management in future textbooks.
How two, hyper competitive, front of the pack teams with huge budgets could fail so spectacularly is almost incomprehensible,

McLaren was  honorable:  convinced Mercedes would never furnish them with a winning engine, they decided to jump into the Honda boat only to sink, Titanic like, to the bottom of  ocean.

To his credit,  Ron Dennis has mostly avoided taking shots at Honda in public but it's hard to imagine how things might progress at Woking (and at Honda's engine department) without a Ferrari style "night of the long knives".

Red Bull is a team that prided itself on great organization and management and frequently mocked their competitors for not being clever and responsive enough with new solutions.   How they moved so awkwardly with their engine supplier is amazing.  How their management structure is still in place unaltered is baffling.

A quick recap: As soon as it became clear the 2016 engine was not up to the  task, Red Bull started to  dump on Renault in public.  They courted Mercedes and, based on a verbal understanding, announced they would break the  contract they had with the French.   When Mercedes turned them down and Ferrari said they would not be able to provide another team with 2016 spec engines Red Bull thought the best strategy would be mocking their competitors for being afraid of their awesome Taurine Power...

When that did not work, they threatened to pull out of the sport.  This got the attention of Bernie and then Jean Todt  who were pushing the "alternate engine" idea.  This creates the ironic situation where the team that had outspent its rivals for years, that had pioneered creative accounting to get around budget caps was now pushing  for a poor man's power solution.  Only in F1
Mateschitz and the boys are aligned with Bernie and Todt against the Mercedes-Ferrari axis for control of the sport.    Will this strategy pay off for the Austrians long term?  We will find out was we move closer to the next schedule rules shakeup in 2017 but for sure it did not win them any good will on pit lane or with the fans.

What else do we have to look to in 16?

Will Rosberg come out swinging?
Will Renault really buy Lotus?
How will Haas F1 do?
How will Pirelli's new tires choices influence races?
Will Alonso quit half way through the season if McLaren is still a dog?
Why is Will Stevens in F1?

We'll have to wait at least until the end of February when the new cars will start to break cover.   In the mean time please feel free to leave your own rants in the comments below.  It will be a long couple of months!

A video posted by Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) on

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