With the ending of one year and the beginning of a fresh new one, it’s only right that we take a retrospective look at a Formula One season, including a look at just who stood out from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
Badger’s writers were asked to rank their drivers of 2016 from 1st to 5th, with points handed out, from 5 for 1st to 1 for 5th, and with the reasons for their decisions
The scores were then tallied up, and here are the top 5 for your consideration – and a Happy New Year to all our readers!
7 points (2015 – 4th)
Adam Le Feuvre: Perez, the quietly “imperezive” driver consistently scored points, greatly contributing to force India’s incredible season and 4th place WCC. Outshone his often hyped team mate and dumped a sponsor via Twitter for their shockingly bad taste tweets.
Laura Leslie: Once again the tyre whisperer was back. Two podiums, Monaco and Baku, helped give Force India their best season in F1 yet and helped Perez grab the attention of the works teams once again. He turned Renault down to stay with Force India, a brave choice but it shows his loyalty. He had the upper hand on Nico Hulkenberg for much of the year too.
Ben Briscoe: Two fantastic podiums, a highest season finish and points haul in F1 along with guiding his Force India team to 4th in the Constructors’ title, the Mexican continues to mature in F1 and a wise-decision to stay put in 2018 may yet result in another shot at the big time in 2017. Perez deserves it and it is lovely to see him enjoying his driving.
9 points (2015 – 5th)
Laura Leslie: This was Sainz’s coming of age year. He started off by rattling Verstappen prior to the latter’s move to Red Bull, then he absolutely trounced Kvyat. His pace was relentless in a manner reminiscent of his hero, Fernando Alonso. In the first eleven races he scored points on eight occasions. That was seriously impressive given he had a year old Ferrari engine to play with. After that points were more sparse, just two sixth places in the remaining ten races, but he never gave up. Someone get that boy a top car!
Ben Briscoe: Chaos erupted around the Spanish driver in the early part of 2016 as he saw his younger teammate leave for greener pastures. However, there can be little doubt that Sainz has emerged from Verstappen’s shadow with aplomb, embarrassing the more experienced Kvyat in the process and finishing 21 points clear of the Russian despite the latter’s early season podium with Red Bull. There is little doubt the next step forward will be the hardest for Sainz but it certainly isn’t an impossible leap.
Rob Cureton: Overlooked for the big team in favour of Verstappen, Carlos could’ve imploded. He didn’t and instead put in some stunning performances to prove to Red Bull that he is definitely worthy of a seat.
17 points (2015 – N/A)
Laura Leslie: Rosberg reached new career highs in 2016. His performance in Singapore was beyond sublime and it swung the championship firmly back into his court. He had some below par races unfortunately, Canada and that incident in Austria, and that’s why I can’t put him in my top three.
Rob Watts: Rosberg has had a superb season – and I do actually think some people overestimate the effect that Hamilton’s failures had on the outcome of the championship. Yes, he had some luck, but also Rosberg outsmarted and outperformed Hamilton during some other race weekends. He won races through strategy and intellect when he knew his raw pace alone was not enough and has developed a mental strength that we’ve not seen from him before. He deserves respect for his performance this year.
Sarah Merritt: A well-deserved world champion in my eyes. Cool, calm, collected, methodical, and he never took it for granted. He achieved a championship through hard work. Focussing on each race, one at a time, was clearly an approach that worked well for him. Although initially shocked by his retirement announcement, I now see it differently – Nico goes out on a high, and gets to spend the times he treasures with his family.
Rob Cureton: Drove better than he’s ever driven to finally win the world championship. Would have been higher on my list were it not for a few messy, avoidable, and petulant contacts while defending.
22 points (2015 – N/A)
Adam Le Feuvre: Riccardo is the perfect F1 driver. Bags of character, a personality everyone likes, up for a laugh but crazy quick on track and not phased by his headline-grabbing teammate. His smile keeps F1 fans smiling across the planet. Solid year, best of the rest after the silver cars. And he has made the shoey a thing. Globally.
Rob Watts: Ricciardo was the more consistent of the Red Bull drivers this season, and despite suffering some harsh luck in China and Monaco, he did enough overall to finish 29 points clear of Verstappen. He’s made the ‘shoey’ as much a part of F1 as champagne and checkered flags and seems to be enjoying his racing more than ever right now. I personally can’t wait to see him in a car capable of challenging for the championship because I actually think there’s more to come from him.
Sarah Merritt: Who doesn’t love Danny Ric? Here’s a man with an infectious smile who drives his heart out, shows us he is happy to be there, AND is a talent. Oh, how I felt for him in Monaco! But that was all forgotten in Malaysia when he spoke into the camera and said “Told you I’d win one!” Yes, Dan, you did. And I’ll raise a shoey to you – there’s plenty more to come!
Rob Cureton: Wasn’t phased by young gun Verstappen being crowbarred into the neighbouring garage in the slightest and put in some strong drives to be best of the non-Mercedes.
BREAKING – two drivers share the top spot in 2016!
29 points (2015 – 1st)
Adam Le Feuvre: Lewis Hamilton drove some superior qualifying laps, took some flawless victories and kept fighting to the end. Loved the last ditch attempt in the final laps of Abu Dhabi. A trying year for the triple champion.
Laura Leslie: He won the most races, took the most poles and led the most laps. Yet he didn’t win the title. Hamilton has every right to feel a tad hard done by in 2016, but as ever it’s points that win the ultimate prize in F1. His form for much of the year was as good, if not better, than ever. However, some sub-par performances in Baku and Singapore cost him dearly.
Rob Watts: The stats don’t lie – he had more poles and wins than anyone else and I think (I could be wrong) also the most laps led, so it’s difficult to argue that he hasn’t been the best driver this season. He had one or two poor races, and he’s had a much tougher battle with his teammate, but overall I think he was the quickest on raw pace at least. Twice this season he put together a run of four consecutive wins, and some of them – such as those in the wet at Silverstone and Interlagos, were amongst his very best. Lewis may have lost out on this occasion, but there’s definitely more championships in him and he’ll move on from the disappointment pretty quickly.
Ben Briscoe: I’m torn on this one and I could have easily ranked the British star outside the top five or put him top of my list! At his best this season, he was untouchable and the quickest on the grid. However, a slow start to 2016 and a mid-season lapse in concentration ultimately cost him his third world title in successive years. Ten wins speak for themselves though and he remains my driver of choice from the peerless Mercedes outfit.
Sarah Merritt: So close…but not close enough. Lewis is world class, no-one can deny that, but I have felt that Nico had the edge on him all through this year. His stalwart fans will say he only lost the championship due to reliability, but I think even he himself will admit that it wasn’t just that. I felt for him in Malaysia, that moment when the flames were coming from his car and he held his head in his hands – but Lewis has gone on record saying he knows the team did everything they could for him this year, and has now been magnanimous in defeat, and acknowledged Nico’s achievement. I have no doubt that he will be back on it next year.
Rob Cureton: Never gave up in an against the odds fight with his team mate to narrowly miss out on a fourth title in the final round, winning more races than Rosberg in the process
29 points (2015 – 3rd)
Adam Le Feuvre: Driver of the day, weekend, month, year. Whatever poll you want to run, this young lad will top it and rightly so; he’s exciting to watch, he’s already clever at dealing with a positive and negative press and like his teammate, knows how to have a laugh. I find it tricky to admire an F1 driver who’s only a teenager, but he’s impressed me more than enough this year.
Laura Leslie: He had a tough start to the year with Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz looked to have him in his pocket in the early rounds. However, Red Bull’s demotion of Daniil Kvyat handed Verstappen the chance of a lifetime and boy did he take it! He won first time out for them in Spain and then went on to challenge, then eventually begin to get the upper hand on his highly rated team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. That drive in Brazil was one we’ll talk about for decades.
Rob Watts: Max Verstappen really announced his emergence as a top line F1 driver this year, and has given many of his rivals food for thought. Even though he finished behind Ricciardo in the championship, I think his performances have been remarkable this year – especially when you consider hiss age and the fact that he is new to this team. He fears absolutely no one and his imaginative overtaking moves are a breath of fresh air. Max still has some maturing to do, but his potential is frightening.
Ben Briscoe: I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’m the biggest fan of the young Dutch starlet. Something about his attitude doesn’t always sit happily with me. However, ultimately he is just what F1 needs right now and was possibly the only shining light in the last half of 2016. Verstappen took his move to Red Bull in his stride, stretched himself further and that drive at Interlagos showed him learning to control his undoubted talent in the very best way. There is no doubt he’ll be in the headlines again in 2017!
Sarah Merritt: Well…who can fail to be excited by the exuberance of the young, exciting talent that is Max? No doubt, he is a future world champion, and has broken records this year – the youngest race winner, the most overtakes – 78 – since records began in 1983. His overtakes are a joy to behold – round the outside, in the wet in Brazil, for example. Yes, the other drivers may have complained, but to us watching at home, it was pure excitement! I have to pick him out as my driver of the year, and having been at races where his fans are there in droves, can see how much they want him to be a champion too.
Rob Cureton: Thrown in at the deep end to replace Daniil Kvyat, Max immediately impressed with a stunning first victory. Continued to provide some well needed excitement throughout the year but was let down but some questionable defensive tactics. And that drive in Brazil!