Here is the first half of the top ten drivers of 2014. Join us next week as we count down the top five – and vote for your driver of the year.
10. Sergio Perez
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/19|
|Beat team mate in race||7/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||370/883|
|Sergio Perez 2014 form guide|
Key stat: Gave Force India their first podium finish since 2009
Cast out by McLaren after a single season, Sergio Perez needed to remind everyone what got them interested in the first place, and he did that in his third race with Force India. A battling drive in Bahrain gave the team their single podium appearance of the season – and only the second in their history.
Perez had been expected by many to have a tough time up against the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg, who was returning to the team he raced for in 2012. But while Perez’s delicate touch with his tyres often left him lagging behind in qualifying – such as in Spain where he abandoned his last attempt at a flying lap – it proved his trump card in the races, helping him finish ahead of Hulkenberg several times.
However Perez’s key weakness remains a tendency to get involved in unnecessary incidents. Canada was the most spectacular example: having run second at one stage he was trying to hold Felipe Massa off for fourth place when an unwise defensive moved triggered a major crash which both were lucky to walk away from. An over-ambitious attmpted pass at the Circuit of the Americas also ended his race early.
In Hungary he spun into the pit wall. But following that he went on a five-race points-scoring streak, four of which saw him come home ahead of Hulkenberg. Force India seem to have a pair of drivers who complement each other well, and it bodes well for them that both have been retained for 2015.
Was better against Hulkenberg than I expected. Still has his bad weekends, but the speed is there and I expect him to give Hulk a good run for his money next season.
9. Felipe Massa
|Beat team mate in qualifying||6/19|
|Beat team mate in race||8/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||488/931|
|Felipe Massa 2014 form guide|
Key stat: Scored over 70% of his total points in the final seven races
It wasn’t looking good for Massa at mid-season. Going into the summer break he was yet to appear on the podium while team mate Valtteri Bottas had done so three times – and had more than twice Massa’s points total.
While this was partly down to misfortune – Massa was hit by Caterhams in Australia and during qualifying in Monaco – he’d also caused problems for himself with over-aggressive moves at the start in China and Germany. The latter, which flipped him onto his roll hoop, was his second big accident of the year following the collision with Perez in Canada.
But it’s been a feature of Massa’s recent campaigns that he tends to come good in the second half of the year, and once again he looked a better driver after the summer break. He got the podium monkey off his back in Italy, and would have finished all the remaining races in the points but for a technical problems during qualifying in Russia.
Bottas was always the driver you’d bet on to wring the last tenth out of the FW36 in qualifying, and he scored the bulk of Williams’ points, but Massa narrowly finished ahead of him more often than not. However it turned out his refusal to let Bottas pass when he was ordered to in Malaysia was decisive.
The change of scenery has obviously done Massa some good, delivered the only non-Mercedes pole position of the year and has been fairly consistent in both race and qualifying all year, poor results usually attributable to poor strategy or pit stops.
Did however have arguably the second fastest car and only finished seventh in the points.
8. Nico Hulkenberg
|Beat team mate in qualifying||12/19|
|Beat team mate in race||8/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||513/883|
|Nico Hulkenberg 2014 form guide|
Key stat: Scored points in the first ten consecutive races
Though widely regarded for the past few years as a driver who deserves promotion to a top F1 seat, the shine came off Hulkenberg a little bit in 2014. It’s perhaps a sign of the esteem he is held in that many thought he would easily have the beating of Perez.
Hulkenberg was clearly the quicker and more successful of the two Force India drivers, but their strongest showings were courtesy of Perez: the podium finish in Bahrain, the fight at the front in Canada and his spell in the lead in Austria.
But Hulkenberg was the team’s bedrock, bringing points home in all of the first ten races. The streak ended in a moment of over-exuberance in Hungary: he had just passed Vettel at the restart in slippery conditions, and perhaps sensing an opportunity to pull off a shock result he ran wide later on the lap and soon after that collided with Perez.
Hulkenberg went off the boil for the next couple of races, a development which coincided with the team losing their way with the car. His usual feel for damp conditions deserted him in qualifying in Belgium, where he was knocked out in Q1, and in Italy he was anonymous. Japan marked a return to what we expect from Hulkenberg in wet weather, and had it not been for a technical problem he would have been classified higher than eighth. That left him with a gearbox change penalty which spoiled his next weekend at the Sochi Autodrom overtaking-free zone.
As Force India got back on top of their car, Hulkenberg reverted to being a sharp midfield combatant. Sixth place in Abu Dhabi drew a line under his mid-season wobble. But after several races where late-race degradation on his Pirellis cost him points places, it’s telling he has now discovered the appeal of the World Endurance Championship.
His form dropped off compared to his team-mate after an impressive first half of the season, but the last two races he seemed to be back to his best which was nice to see.
7. Sebastian Vettel
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/19|
|Beat team mate in race||3/14|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||448/931|
|Sebastian Vettel 2014 form guide|
The four-times champion endured a difficult 2014 season, though nowhere near as bad as was claimed by his gleeful detractors, who would have us believe it was as poor as Kimi Raikkonen’s.
Vettel’s new team mate at Ferrari makes for a useful point of comparison, as both struggled to gel with their new machinery, but Vettel coped considerably better than Raikkonen did. Even so, there’s no denying he was soundly beaten by Daniel Ricciardo this year.
Although Ricciardo came out ahead in the qualifying scoreline, in terms of lap time they were actually quite closely matched – the average difference between them less than a tenth of a second. Vettel’s weakness was that he couldn’t keep the tyres going at the same pace as Ricciardo for as long as his team mate could. That goes some way to explain why Ricciardo jumped his team mate in the pits on more than one occasion – and why he won three races while Vettel endured his first full season without a victory.
The final points difference between the two of them was inflated by Vettel having a greater share of technical problems, which sidelined him in Australia, Austria and Monaco. But he also threw points away with needless mistakes – such as the two at Spa which meant Ricciardo was once again in the best position to capitalise on Mercedes’ problems.
He always struggled with the car but still drove very well, just not as well as Ricciardo.
6. Jenson Button
|Beat team mate in qualifying||10/19|
|Beat team mate in race||14/17|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||733/1102|
|Jenson Button 2014 form guide|
Key stat: Completed the most racing laps of any driver this season
It was always hard to fathom why the team which prides itself on hiring the best two drivers available should consider dropping Button instead of the driver he comfortably beat in 2014. Granted, Kevin Magnussen was participating in his first season of F1 and driving many tracks for the first time, but Button took almost 70% of McLaren’s points this season.
Button’s habitual weakness in qualifying didn’t prevent him from being the first of the two McLarens on the grid more often than not. But his experience of coaxing the best out of the Pirelli tyres over a race stint – something Magnussen lacked having not raced in GP2 – was where he really pressed home his advantage.
Although Magnussen gave the team its single best result of the season in somewhat fortuitous circumstances in Australia, their five next best results were all supplied by Button. They featured a quartet of fourth places, including one in Canada following an opportunistic double-pass on Alonso and Hulkenberg, and a podium near-miss after a superb weekend at Silverstone.
Ill-timed problems potentially cost Button further high-scoring finishes in Bahrain and Singapore. And in Hungary the team blundered by putting him on intermediate tyres during an early pit stop while he was ahead of eventual race winner Ricciardo. A steering wheel change in Japan dropped him from third to fifth.
At the end of a difficult year for Button, which began with the loss of his father in January, it was clear he still deserves a place at the top in F1.
Easily the most improved driver on the second half. He basically did everything right since Belgium. He’s had one of those seasons that proves that he absolutely deserves to stay. His performances over the season have all been, for the most part, very very good in that Jenson Button way.
How the rankings are produced
All the data I refer to while producing the rankings can be found on the site. They include notes on each driver’s performance at each race weekend, compiled data on car performance, direct comparisons between team mates and each driver’s form guide.
Over to you
What’s your verdict on how these five drivers performed in 2014? Have your say in the comments.
2014 F1 season review
- The Complete F1 Fanatic 2014 season review
- F1 Fanatic’s must-read articles of 2014
- F1’s most popular drivers and teams of 2014 revealed
- F1 defies critics as fans praise 2014 racing
- The Stats and Facts highlights of 2014