Formula One: Tops and Flops in 2015
The highs and lows, the tops and the flops of the 2015 Formula One season.
Driver - Max Verstappen: the Dutch teenager was only 17 at the start of the year, but such was his impact that he ended it as one of the most popular and respected men on the grid. He did not pass his driving test for public roads until October, but by then he had already demonstrated a potential and a raw speed in his modest Toro Rosso car that has caught the eye of the top teams. His courage and imagination enabled him to make some of the season's most audacious passing moves and, along with world champion Lewis Hamilton, he has given F1 a chance to reach into a new and younger fan base. Seasoned judges have suggested he has the talent to emulate Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Ferrari are tipped to swoop and sign him for 2017. (Nico Rosberg Wins Season-Ending Abu Dhabi GP)
Race - Mexico: Back on the calendar after an absence of two decades, the Latin American race was the most enthusiastically-supported and animated event of the year with huge crowds and emotional greetings giving it an unmatched atmosphere. The return to the circuit that commemorates the Rodriguez brothers in the sprawling capital city with an upgraded stadium section delivered an intimacy and energy that showed great support for F1 and motor racing and delivered a tumultuous race. Welcome back, Mexico.
Team - Mercedes: It is impossible to argue for any other team after a season of near-perfection again from the silver arrows. Hamilton won the championship, his second in a row and third in all, with a month to spare, leaving team-mate Nico Rosberg to steal the limelight in the final three races. That consistency proved the durability, speed and efficiency of the team in a season when they provided the main spectacle and managed to keep their drivers under control. The re-emergence of Ferrari as a threat, notably in Singapore, with Sebastian Vettel at the forefront of their revival, proved Mercedes are only human - a failing seen often enough in Hamilton's transparent moods. To allow both men to express their personalities in their cars was another Mercedes success.
Driver - Nico Rosberg: His end-of-season form must have rubbed salt into his own wounds, proving as it did that he has the speed and technical ability to match, and beat, the world champion Hamilton, but he has yet to prove it under truly stressful conditions that matter when a championship is on the line. The jury is out on his glorious end-of-year hat-trick after Hamilton went partying and if, by proving he has the talent to win so consistently, he and others believe he can build a true title challenge in 2016, it must mean he failed to do so this year. Above all, his appetite for a fight will be watched very closely when the real thing resumes again next season. Whatever he does, however, he failed to deliver the speed, race craft and determination needed to mount a proper challenge to Hamilton this year when it counted.
Race - Monaco: This year's showpiece event in the Mediterranean Principality produced the wrong winner and the wrong result due to a tactical pit-stop blunder by the Mercedes team, turning what should have been a consummate Hamilton triumph into a victory gifted to Rosberg. On a circuit not suited to modern wheel-to-wheel racing, where Saturday's qualifying session is the most meaningful track action unless it rains, and where the corporate fat cats take the sun and pay the bills, this race looks ever more anachronistic, retained only to supply some much needed showbiz glamour and keep up a tradition for dull processional contests. It is time to consider how this race can be overhauled.
Team - McLaren-Honda: Once the kings of the sport and a home for multiple world champions, McLaren survived a year in which they became the laughing stock of the paddock, the Japanese power-units failing in all respects to leave drivers, 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, powerless and often relegated to the back of the grid with a penalty total that would not have disgraced a cricket team. It was a joke, but it was too serious to be taken lightly for a team than rarely laughs unselfconsciously. The serial winners hinted at an improvement in the closing weeks, but a return to the victory podium looks to be a distant prospect.