The 2016 Formula One field ranked from best to worst.
With the season over and Rosberg celebrating his title triumph by retiring, I take a look back over the year and rank the field from best to worst. From a season that went down to the wire, led to the shock retirement of its newly crowned champ and bid farewell to two great drivers. But who came out on top in the class of 2016?
- Nico Rosberg 9/10
Rosberg went into the season on the back of an end-of-season flourish that he seemed to lack throughout 2015. That form then carried him on to victory in the opening four rounds while Hamilton hit mechanical and start problems. A controlled beginning to a controlled year that saw Nico regularly demonstrate his ability to get the better of Hamilton to claim his maiden title. Before calling time on his career to spend time with his young family after putting his title pursuit before anything else. The only things holding Nico back from a perfect 10 were his wet-race abilities and fighting through the field in Canada and Germany.
- Lewis Hamilton 8.5/10
Lewis narrowly missed out on a hat-trick of titles as Nico crossed the line in Abu Dhabi in second place to snatch the crown away from Hamilton’s grasp. But despite the five-point deficit, Lewis ended the year with more wins, more poles and laps led than the champ. Completing 566 laps in the lead, taking 12 poles and 10 victories compared to Rosberg’s 489 laps led (nearly 400 more than third-placed Vettel), 9 victories and eight pole positions. But Lewis’ regular poor starts played as key a part in his title loss as his mechanical failures.
- Max Verstappen 8/10
Starting the season in a Toro Rosso and ending in a Red Bull, Max Verstappen was once again a star of the season. Claiming his maiden Grand Prix victory in his first race for Red Bull, outscoring all bar Ricciardo and the Silver Arrows from Spain-onwards and picking up more driver of the day awards so much that the award may as well be renamed the ‘Max Verstappen award’. Particularly aided by storming drives like in the storming Brazilian weather.
- Daniel Ricciardo 7/10
Red Bull went into 2016 anticipating a much harder task than the one that unfolded. But Daniel Riccardo kicked off the year with four fourth-placed finishes in five rounds – the only blip being Russia when Kvyat’s chaotic start caused havoc for the team. Daniel also missed out on victory on the streets of Monaco when Hamilton went straight from wets to slicks rather than taking on the inters. Costing Ricciardo the glamour of victory despite being faster and taking pole.
- Sergio Perez 7/10
When Perez took the McLaren drive when Hamilton fled the nest for Mercedes, it appeared the Mexican’s career could be in danger. But his Force India resurgence continued to build in 2016. Picking up podium finishes in Monaco and Baku, ending the year with over-100 points and guiding the plucky Silverstone team to fourth place in the constructors’’ championship. Now with Ocon coming onboard for 2017, Perez will have to lead the team on to bigger and better things.
- Fernando Alonso 7/10
Another year of progress for McLaren as their Honda partnership continues to build. But a power disadvantage and breaking a few ribs in his airborne Australia crash failed to stop Alonso dragging his car regularly into Q3 and the points. Keeping his name firmly on the lips of those selecting Rosberg’s replacement. Although another year on his McLaren contract may put an end to his chances…
- Kimi Raikkonen 6/10
Kimi’s form at Ferrari had dipped over the past few years to leave him nothing more than second fiddle to Vettel. But a mid-season turn around saw Kimi out-qualify Vettel in nine of the 11 rounds post-Austria. The races, however, is where Raikkonen still needs to improve as Vettel had the better of him in all but three of the 11 post-Austria rounds.
- Nico Hulkenberg 6/10
While Perez put his Force India on the podium twice, Hulkenberg’s best finish was fourth place in Belgium. Regularly coming home between sixth and eighth place and ending the year out-qualified by his team-mate once more than he could return. A move to Renault for 2017 may prove not to return podium finishes, but should cast a shadow over the inexperienced Palmer.
- Sebastian Vettel 6/10
Ferrari, and Vettel, went into the year believed to be the best challengers to Mercedes. But that challenge failed to come and Ferrari threw away their best chances of picking up wins. A wrong tyre call while under a red flag in Australia could be put down to the team, but the lead driver believed to be throwing his weight around at the factory may have been able to affect the call more. And may have been able to split the Mercedes, or win, in Abu Dhabi rather than catching but not passing either in the desert.
- Carlos Sainz 6/10
Another strong year for Sainz saw the Spaniard pick up 46-points in the 21-races. With three best finishes of sixth place and regularly scoring at the start of the season meant Sainz’s contract was a target for Renault before Red Bull retained the driver. His long run ability to stretch the Pirelli tyres may hand greater rewards next year when wider tyres return.
- Jenson Button 6/10
In what is likely to be his final year in Formula One, Jenson regularly drove as well as ever to show what the sport will soon miss. But for everything he did, Alonso often matched or bettered it. Out-qualifying Button 15 to 5.
- Pascal Wehrlein 6/10
For his debut year in Formula One and having never driven on most of the tracks, Pascal’s season can only go down as a remarkably good job. Reaching Q2 in probably the worst car on the grid six times, scoring points for the Manor team in his ninth race – just the team’s second ever points finish – and often making up places off the line as if the 2015 DTM champion and Mercedes protégé was playing a video game. And now with Rosberg calling time on his Formula One career, got Toto on speed dial Pascal?
- Stoffel Vandoorne 6/10
He may have only participated in one round of the 2016 championship, when he stepped in for the injured Fernando Alonso back in Bahrain. But in that single race, Stoffel showed he could help push McLaren on as he scored their first point of the season. And now heads into the new year with a McLaren race drive firmly secured.
- Valtteri Bottas 6/10
A disappointing year for Williams with the constructor going backwards in the standings. But also a disappointing year for Bottas, dipping in and out of the lower points finish. Yet still securing the team’s only podium of the year in Canada.
- Felipe Massa 5/10
The 2008-championship runner-up announced he would be calling time on his career come the end of the season. And oddly, crashing out of his final home Grand Prix will go down as a highlight of his season as the pits rose to applaud him back with a guard of honour. His other results, however, rarely garnered the same response.
- Romain Grosjean 5/10
Scoring points for Haas in the American constructor’s first two Grand Prix in the sport will go down as a historic accomplishment for Grosjean and the team. But maybe if the Frenchman spent less time moaning over the radio – and then trying to hold back from moaning on the radio – he could have helped Haas overcome their first season problems a tad quicker.
- Esteban Ocon 5/10
Stepping in mid-season and switching from German touring cars to Formula One single seaters failed to stop Ocon from flourishing in the pinnacle of motorsport. Taking the challenge to the embedded Wehrlein on multiple occasions and ending the year ahead of the season-long racer if you took the season from when Esteban joined the Manor team.
- Daniil Kvyat 4/10
A podium in China was a great result for the Russian. But next time out at his home Grand Prix, an awful start saw Daniil end Vettel’s race and ruin his team’s. Potentially costing him his seat as Red Bull shipped him out in favour of Verstappen, and sending Kvyat back to Toro Rosso – the team’s training ground for their young drivers. A move that clearly knocked the wind from Kvyat’s sails as form failed to return until well into the season.
- Kevin Magnussen 4/10
With the Renault car far from competitive, a return to Formula One after a year out following his McLaren sacking did not go as well for Magnussen as many expected. Seeing Kevin only score points twice but come close on three other occasions. Before signing a 2017 contract with Haas as Renault shopped around for their drivers.
- Jolyon Palmer 4/10
Jolyon’s debut year in the sport can only really go down as a starting point for the Briton. Nothing all that standout for most of the season, before picking up his maiden points in Malaysia. Yet Jolyon was still able to regularly get the better of his now former team-mate, Magnussen. Before signing on for another year at the French Manufacturer who now has a home Grand Prix to look forward to in 2018.
- Esteban Gutierrez 3/10
Close but no cigar. The tagline to Gutierrez’s season as the Mexican regularly came close to scoring points for Haas, but never quite making it home in the top 10. Five times in 11th, twice in 12th and three 13th placed finishes the best for the out-of-contract driver dropped in favour of Magnussen. But will it be a return to Sauber that keeps him on the grid. Or will Manor cash in on the driver Ricciardo dubbed “one of my favourites” when Gutierrez ignored blue flags in Germany.
- Felipe Nasr 2/10
He may have scored Sauber’s only points of the season in Brazil to move the team ahead of Manor in the Constructor’s championship and earn them millions of pounds. But Nasr’s season was far from great. Often finishing behind Ericsson and rarely looking competitive.
- Marcus Ericsson 2/10
While Manor probably had the worst car on the grid, the Sauber wasn’t much better. Leading to a season of blue flags for the blue-liveried car. And ending the year with Gutierrez as the only drivers to not score a point while driving the entire season.
- Rio Haryanto 2/10
He came into the sport off the money of his country, but when his funding dried up his race suits were hung up. Yet despite losing the drive due to a lack of cash, Haryanto’s performances weren’t all that bad. Nonetheless, he was never able to finish ahead of Wehrlein when both finished the race despite occasionally out-qualifying the German.