If we’re honest, the 2015 Formula One World Championship won’t go down as a classic. Far from it, in fact, with Lewis Hamilton serving up a crushing title defence in the face of teammate Nico Rosberg, while the rest of the grid bickered over ‘best of the rest’.
One thing 2015 did have in its armoury however was an exceptional turnout from the rookie brigade, with the six new boys often showing the more established drivers the way across the 19-race season. With the lid off the red marker pen, Badger dishes out the grades in the rookies’ end-of-term report.
Standings: 12th (49 points)
Best Finish: 4th (Hungary & Austin)
Where else do we start? Max Verstappen’s introduction to F1 at just 17 years of age split opinion in the paddock, with some citing his inexperience as ludicrous, while others invested in his raw talent behind the wheel.
Without a doubt, it’s the latter crowd with the smug smile, following a debut season in which V-Max racked up 49 overtakes, 49 points, and a best finish of 4th in Hungary and Austin. But, back to the overtakes, and it’s that ballsy move around the outside of Felipe Nasr at Blanchimont in Spa that many will remember as not only Max’s best moment of the season, but perhaps the season’s itself.
Standings: 13th (27 points)
Best Finish: 5th (Australia)
Felipe Nasr’s appointment at Sauber ahead of 2015 was earmarked by many as purely finance driven, however the Brazilian soon proved that notion to be wrong.
On the back his titanic GP2 title battle with Jolyon Palmer in 2014, Nasr arrived at Albert Park in March with a point to prove. Come the end of the weekend, Nasr had done, coming home an impressive 5th on debut.
The man-with-the-irritatingly-similar-name-to-Felipe-Massa never bettered that result, predominantly because of an underdeveloped car, however Nasr continued to have the edge over the more experienced Marcus Ericsson in the other half of the garage, and as a result will remain with the team in 2016.
Standings: 15th (18 points)
Best Finish: 7th (United States)
Despite entering the fray as reigning Formula Renault 3.5 Series Champion, and the son of two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz Snr, and being devilishly good-looking, Carlos Sainz had arguably the hardest job of all the rookies in 2016, going up against the chosen one in the other side of the garage.
Not deterred by the Dutch Luke Skywalker however, Obi-Wan Kenobi was more than a match throughout the season, showing a turn of pace in qualifying and race consistency on-par, if not superior to that of his teammate. The gods of reliability did Sainz no favours, with seven retirements to Max’s four, however a long and prosperous career in F1 seems a certainty for who, as of December 2015, is Spain’s best racing driver.
Standings: 19th (0 points)
Best Finish: 12th (Silverstone)
Roberto Merhi’s 2015 campaign was never going to be one filled with success, with the Spaniard linking up with the troubled Manor squad for his maiden assault on the big league.
With that in mind, the best barometer of Merhi’s season was always going to lie in the match-up with his teammate Will Stevens, however a 10kg weight difference between the drivers made even that assessment one fraught with inaccuracy.
Despite being beaten early-doors by Stevens, Merhi did register wins over the Brit in Monaco and Spa – tracks both drivers were familiar with owing to their Formula Renault 3.5 days. Merhi was replaced for five of the last seven races in 2015 by Alexander Rossi. Sadly, Merhi’s involvement in the sport doesn’t look to be extended into 2016.
Standings: 20th (0 points)
Best Finish: 12th (United States)
With the whole of ‘MURICA on his side, Alexander Rossi made his long-awaited F1 race debut in the Singapore Grand Prix. In hardly the easiest race to start your F1 career in, Rossi excelled from the off, getting the better of Stevens in the sister Manor, finishing 14th.
Further victories over Stevens in Japan and Mexico followed, before the 2015 GP2 runner-up crossed the line an impressive 12th on home turf in Austin. With his potential justified, Rossi looks set for another crack at the big-time in 2016, most probably with Manor.
Standings: 21st (0 points)
Best Finish: 13th (Great Britain)
After going toe-to-toe with Fernando Alonso in his race debut at Abu Dhabi the year previous, Will Stevens entered 2015 with Manor as a man tipped to lead the struggling team.
The Essex lad indeed did emerge as the lead driver in the team (after he FINALLY got to start a race in China), beating Mehri in China, Bahrain and Spain, before a rocky mid-season spell featured spins in Austria and Silverstone.
With Rossi in for five of the last seven races, Stevens had to up his game, and after following the Yank home in Singapore and Japan, he duly did, getting the better of Rossi in Brazil, and brushing Merhi aside in Abu Dhabi – one year on from his impressive debut.
The signs of a quickly maturing driver are there with Stevens, however with Mercedes junior Pascal Werhlein and Rossi to contend with for a 2016 seat with Manor, Stevens faces a nail-biting off-season.