Drivers, Sepang International Circuit, 2015

Your alternative 2015 F1 grid revealed

2015 F1 season

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The competition to find a place in Formula One just keeps getting more intense.

While the F1 grid has slumped to a mere 20 cars in 2015, championships like GP2, Formula Renault 3.5 and European Formula Three are packed with likely-looking talent, many of which enjoy support and mentoring from Formula One teams and regional initiatives like Britain’s Racing Steps Foundation.

And then there are the stars of sports cars and the American racing scene who never had a crack at F1 to begin with – or those who did but were arguably rejected too hastily.

Which of those deserve a place on the grid this year? That question was put to F1 Fanatic readers in a poll before the season began. Here’s who you chose.

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1. Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015F1 Fanatic readers are a prescient bunch, it seems. Kevin Magnussen, the driver who most of you voted deserves a place on the F1 grid for 2015, did get the chance to race as a substitute for Fernando Alonso. Unfortunately for him, his car failed on the reconnaissance lap and he failed to start. Worse, in order to do the race he’d given up a chance to emulate his father by racing in IndyCar. He showed much promise in his debut F1 season, and probably he won’t be out of the cockpit for too long.

2. Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne, Formula E, Punta del Este, 2014Twice passed over by Red Bull for a promotion from Toro Rosso to the top team, Vergne’s hopes of staying on the F1 grid this year were finally dashed when Carlos Sainz Jnr took his place. But his shown his class with a successful switch to Formula E – he was pushing Sebastien Buemi hard for victory on his debut when his car failed and has taken two pole positions and a podium in four races.

3. Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne, ART, GP2, Bahrain, 2014Another McLaren junior, Stoffel Vandoorne was a rookie runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2013 and repeated the feat in GP2 last year. The Belgian driver is a hot tip for this year’s GP2 title, but McLaren must be wondering where to place all the talent they’ve signed, especially with Nyck de Vries also waiting in the wings.

4. Kamui Kobayashi

Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, Hockenheimring, 2014Kamui Kobayashi is a firm fan favourite, so much so that he made a crowdfunded return to F1 last year at Caterham. He has Toyota power behind him again this year: in Japanese Super Formula Team Le Mans and as a test driver in the World Endurance Championship.

5. Robin Frijns

Robin Frijns, Caterham, Silverstone, 2014Surely one of the most successful junior drivers of recent seasons to be overlooked by F1. Frijns won the European Formula BMW championship, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and Formula Renault 3.5 titles in successive seasons, the latter two in his rookie years. He dabbled in GP2 as well, winning his third start. But aside from two practice outings for Caterham last year the F1 world has disappointingly ignored his potential.

6. Antonio Felix da Costa

Antonio Felix da Costa, DTM, 2014Antonio Felix da Costa looked like a shoo-in for a Red Bull seat in 2012 as he ended the Formula Renault 3.5 season with four wins from five races, impressed in GP3 and won the Macau Grand Prix. But Red Bull had no place for him in their line-up, and by the time they did at the end of 2013 a difficult season for da Costa meant Daniil Kvyat was their top choice. Da Costa had a modest first year in the DTM, but his Formula E success surely proves single-seaters is where this talent belongs.

7. Sebastien Loeb

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, World Rally Championship, 2012Virtually unbeatable in a rally car, besides his nine WRC titles Loeb has beaten F1 drivers in the Race of Champions, raced Porsches on the F1 support bill, obliterated the Pikes Peak hillclimb record and is now trying to win the World Touring Car Championship. In 2009 he tested a GP2 car in the hope of making a one-off F1 start but was unable to obtain the necessary superlicence, something which would still be an obstacle for him today.

8. Andre Lotterer

Andre Lotterer, Audi, Fuji, 2014Lotterer’s one-off F1 appearance for Caterham last year left you wondering what might have been: he out-qualified regular driver Marcus Ericsson by the best part of a second but retired with a technical glitch after a single lap. The Le Mans 24 Hour-winner, World Endurance Champion and Super Formula champion deserves a place on any team’s shopping list. He began this year’s Super Formula campaign with another win.

9. Sam Bird

Sam Bird, Formula E, Beijing, 2014Racked up thousands of testing kilometres for Mercedes but the chance to start a race in an F1 car has eluded him. Beaten to the 2013 GP2 title to Fabio Leimer, he is now a race winner in Formula E.

10. Sebastien Buemi

Sebastien Buemi, Toyota, 2012Dropped by Toro Rosso but remains part of the Red Bull stable and tested the team’s car last year. He also shared championship honours with Anthony Davidson in the World Endurance Championship after four wins in Toyota’s superb TS040. He’s in contention for the Formula E title too following his win in Uruguay.

11. Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2015Nine years since he stormed out of Formula One, there are clearly still many of you who would relish seeing him return. Montoya spent seven years racing in NASCAR before returning to single-seaters in IndyCar last year. He got his second season off to a winning start in St Petersburg. An F1 return is highly unlikely, and not just because of his disdain for DRS.

12. Mark Webber

Mark Webber (1), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2014Another popular ex-F1 driver known for speaking his mind who is unlikely to return any time soon. Webber has been scathing about F1’s switch to Pirelli’s ‘design to degrade’ tyres and seems much happier with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.

13. Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta, DTM, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2014The DTM and Formula Three Euroseries champion spent three years with Force India before being dropped at the end of 2013. He faced a challenging time on his return to the DTM last season.

14. Jolyon Palmer

Jolyon Palmer, Force India, Yas Marina, 2014The days of GP2 champions immediately finding a race seat in F1 are long behind us. Palmer, son of eighties F1 racer Jonathan, is the third in a row to fail to do so, though he at least gets to drive an F1 car at race weekends in his capacity as a test driver for Lotus.

15. Will Power

Will Power, IndyCar, 2015Three times runner-up in IndyCar, Power finally delivered the championship last year. His strong form on road courses marks him out as one of the IndyCar drivers best-equipped to make a switch to grand prix racing.

16. Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon, Lotus, Yas Marina, 2014Just a year older than Max Verstappen, he beat his rival to the European Formula Three title last year. Lotus gave him an F1 test and ran him in practice in Abu Dhabi last year, praising the “exceptional” 18-year-old, but five months later he has stepped sideways into GP3 and Lotus has the unpromising Carmen Jorda as a development driver.

17. Anthony Davidson

Anthony Davidson, Toyota, 2014It’s doubtful anyone has driven a better lap for 11th on the grid of an F1 race than Davidson did in his Super Aguri at Istanbul in 2007. He’s been out of an F1 drive since the team collapsed in 2008 but has contributed to Mercedes’ success as a test driver and shared the WEC crown with Buemi last year.

18. Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi, Caterham, Circuit of the Americas, 2013Almost made his F1 debut for Marussia at Spa last year following a contractual dispute between the team and regular driver Max Chilton. Rossi has run in several F1 practice sessions but tended to flit between different junior categories. A full-time GP2 seat with Racing Engineering this year could be his chance.

Bonus back row

Only nine teams looked likely to start the season when F1 Fanatic ran its poll, so only 18 drivers could be picked. The arrival of Manor means there are 20 seats available now, so here’s who claimed the final two places in your alternative 2015 field.

19. Susie Wolff

Susie Wolff, Williams, Silverstone, 2014Williams ran Wolff in two practice sessions last year and will do so again this year. But she hasn’t started a single-seater race in ten years, and it became clear after Valtteri Bottas was injured in Melbourne a grand prix start is not on the cards for her any time soon. Barring the unforeseen, the FIA’s Superlicence points system will make it impossible for her next year.

20. Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, Interlagos, 2012Since making a two-race comeback with Lotus in 2013, in which he was unable to add to their points tally, Kovalainen had a quiet 2014. Having spent two years with McLaren in 2008-09 which yielded a single lucky win, he’s had a better chance at F1 than most, and is now racing in Japan’s competitive Super GT series.

Over to you

Retired sports car ace Tom Kristensen, GP2 driver Alex Lynn and IndyCar racers Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves are among those who came close to making the top 20.

How well does the current grid reflect the talent available compared to these 20? Who in today’s field would you replace with which of these drivers?

Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 59 comments on “Your alternative 2015 F1 grid revealed”

    1. And where is NIck Heidfeld? :)

      1. and where is the ever popular Adrian Sutil?

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          29th April 2015, 13:03

          He name is Jennifer

          1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
            29th April 2015, 13:04

            My kingdom for an edit button

            1. And mine for an upvote button.

    2. I’d probably stick Vergne in place of Kvyat, and Magnussen and Vandoorne in place of the Manor boys. Esteban Ocon would certainly be a pick over Pastor Maldonado for me whilst Robin Frijns would get the nod over Sergio Perez, although I’ll give Perez his due – he hasn’t been too bad this year. I’d also stick both Sam Bird and Jolyon Palmer in at Sauber. I’d love to stick Power and Montoya (and several other IndyCar drivers, most notably Josef Newgarden who won last weekend) in, but there is not the room and I believe the majority of them are just too old now.

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        29th April 2015, 13:03

        Newgarden was solid. They had touted in the race about a possible spot for him at HAAS as the ‘young American’ over Rossi. It would have been nice to see, if FIA hadnt given indy the ‘FR3.5 treatment’ in relation to superlicence points. Perhaps a step down to GP2 for Jo next year?

        Buemi has been really impressive since leaving F1, and seems to be due another chance on merit.
        Am I right in saying he is still the RB 3rd Driver? (It still says RB on his helmet)

        Its probably a moot point however, as I think if an RB injury did occur they would shove Verstappen in, and let Gasly have a start in the Toro Rosso.

        1. Quite a lot of drivers have RB sponsoring on their helmet, even if they are not directly related to the F1 on junior projects – but yes, Buemi is the 3rd/test/reserve/whatever driver alongside da Costa.

        2. Buemi is still part of the Red Bull programme as far as I know. Whether he would race for Red Bull would also depend on his WEC duties. I would expect a Toro Rosso driver to jump in if need be.

    3. I think all of the drivers overlooked by Redbull are more talented than Kyviat. Vergne handily beat him last year but somehow Kyviat has found himself in a prime seat. And his season has not started great either.

    4. Robert Kubica… he could drive in f1 again if the FIA allowed a wider cockpit for his right arm to rotate (about 10-15cm more he said). The FIA approved a car modification for him in WRC (gear shift), but in f1 it is unlikely to happen, and with Kubica commiting to Rallying, and 30 years old, we are unlikely to see him again. but there is another arm surgery he is considering which could fix his rotation issues also, but he would need a long break and it is risky and could make things worse.

    5. Simona is much better than Susie :)

      1. My thoughts exactly.

      2. I can’t believe Wolff was picked over anybody- a driver who has apparently never won a race.

        1. Wolff, the MB Motorsports boss. That’s the only reason she drove some race cars and she drove a F1 car. She never raced.

          1. She raced for years in DTM and single seaters.

      3. Carmen is better than both. Ok ok, I meant prettier. :)

    6. I’m wondering if it’s that “multiple world champion” talent is simply not there at the moment, or if opportunities are so lacking that they can’t break through.

      It feels like all that “KMag-Button is it him or him” drama was so long ago. I feel that though if Mclaren felt that Magnussen was the real deal he’d driving beside Alonso. Then again I remember reading rumours that Mclaren was asking Magnussen to bring in some sponsorship himself – showing that even Ron’s team isn’t immune to the financial crunch.

      For a young aspiring driver, the opportunities seems so limited they either need to follow the Red Bull program (Ricciardo, Sainz, Kyvat, Verstappen) or have strong financial backers from their country (Maldonado, Perez, Nasr). For established teams, their drivers either need to bring in money or be so recognised by major sponsors (Button, Alonso, Hamilton) that they print money through presence alone.

      1. I think that Ron was in Denmark visiting some Danish companies to try to get some sponsorship for Kevin. It didn’t succeed, sadly. As long as Honda isn’t delivering it seems an incredible waste of money they pay Alonso.

    7. Suprised Will Power wasn’t #1 on this list. In another era, it would have already happened.

    8. I couldn’t disagree more.
      Vandoorne, Frijns, Lotterer, Buemi, Di Resta, Power and Ocon would be the only ones I would’ve picked.

      1. I’m disappointed there are so few promising GP2 drivers on the list, especially Pierre Gasly, Alex Lynn and Dean Stoneman should be on the list.

        It’s a bit lame to vote for people like Webber, Wolff or Kovaleinen IMHO.

    9. Surprised to see Webber so high on the list – Personally I thought RB kept him way too long and they should’ve dumped him after 2011 season.

      I would really like to see Justin Wilson have another chance in F1. At times he was exceptional during his short stint in F1. Timo Glock is another driver not on this list who definitely deserves another chance.

    10. Alan (@mightymurph11)
      29th April 2015, 15:30

      No Mitch Evans?

    11. As an American, and a fan of NASCAR, Indy, CART, and F1, I’ve always wondered why F1 hasn’t adopted the model of American racing, whereby an owner may have 2, 3, or 4 teams under their umbrella. NASCAR is a great example for F1. An owner like Penske might have 3 different teams under his banner, who are autonomous to a high degree, but also work together. In a big race they might work as a team strategically, and if they find themselves in good position, the gloves come off and they race each other hard. In addition, it opens the field up to many more drivers. A field of 35-40 drivers would HUGELY benefit F1 in terms of both variety and spectacle. F1 is stuck in its old ways and there doesn’t seem any change in sight… not until Bernie dies and FIA (hopefully) wrangles back control of the series.

      1. I am also a American and I’d to chime in on this one without even getting a chance to discuss benefits. Money. No one can afford to own multiple teams except for billion dollar corps like Red Bull, and only makes sense for Red Bull ( not to me, I put it all into one team). A competitive car in Indy is about $20m per season from what I’ve read, Manor is probably paying that much for last years engines. It’s hard enough to have one team as we seen these last few years. I always said to myself if I could afford an F1 team, until Bernie is gone, I’d either just start a good 2-4 car team in Indy or even start my own single-seater series with a more simple car and tons of horsepower, 1000+.

    12. Valentino Rossi is missing :)

      1. Lewisham Milton
        29th April 2015, 17:29

        +46

    13. Robert Wickens is missing.

    14. I would change the sauber pay drivers for Frijns and Vandoorne. Personally I think that Button his time in F1 is over. McLaren should have put Magnussen in their car for this season.

      1. Totally agree with you @godius. I am so angry at Button for not realising that his time in F1 is now over and to hand over his seat for a new driver (KevMag).

        1. He gets along with Vandoorne very well, maybe there more to that.

    15. I would watch this alternative F1 grid.

      8 or 10 of them I’d love to stick on the actual F1 grid (actually I only have a problem merely with all the ex f1 drivers except JEV, which I’d love to see alongside RIC again).

    16. That overcrowded pool of young talents at McLaren is really a problem. As a Vandoorne fan I wonder if he will be able to jump to F1 one day.

      1. Well, maybe McLaren could make their own racing series, a bit like the Renault 3.5 racing series. The problem with such an idea is you end up with a racing series champion and still no F1 seat to give them at the end of the year. Look at Jolyon Palmer: GP2 champion + Superlicence and still hasn’t got a racing seat.
        Maybe there should be a relegation system, where poorly performing drivers have to race off against the elite of the different feeder series’, and the top performers get the F1 drives.

        1. @drycrust Ha, that would be entertaining!
          But more simply a full grid would allow most deserving drivers to be on it (at least the top six from this alternative grid).

    17. @keithcollantine Sorry for nitpicking, but Kovalainen’s McLaren seasons were ’08 and ’09.

    18. My pick :
      Robin Frijns : this guy really reserves a race seat in a top team, I hope he lands in one of those, Marussia or caterham like teams will kill his carrer.
      JEV : had to better his qualy performance, too bad he could not during his three years contract.
      Sebastien Buemi : good driver, bad luck

    19. Is it just me or Lucas di Grassi definitely MUST be there? Really? Oh well… :/

    20. I raced against sam bird a couple of weeks ago in a rental kart championship. I out qualified him, but he beat me in both races. His skill in the wet on slicks shone through and in the second race I was unceremoniusly wiped out of the running. He is a top bloke, really nice guy. Hope I get the chance to race with him again. Ive got video on youtube if anyone is interested.

      1. @mike-e Hehe cool, let’s see!

        1. @fastiesty

          Here you go. You can probably pick sam bird out in his mercedes gp racesuit and his virgin racing helmet Lol. I was so jelous of how nice his helmet was compared to mine!


    21. I think Vandoorne deserves this.

    22. Sebastian Loeb!
      He is a machine, love to see him in a decent F1 car.

    23. Vergne, Vandoorne, maybe Magnussen.

    24. I think Nelson Piquet Jr, is way better than everyone on this list except Loeb.

    25. I’d like to see an F1 grid with the following 20 (10 current, 10 outside of F1)

      1. Lewis Hamilton
      2. Sebastian Vettel
      3. Kimi Raikkonen
      4. Nico Rosberg
      5. Nico Hülkenberg
      6. Romain Grosjean
      7. Felipe Massa
      8. Valtteri Bottas
      9. Max Verstappen
      10. Carlos Sainz Jr
      11. Stoffel Vandoorne
      12. Robin Frijns
      13. Felix Rosenqvist
      14. Jean-Eric Vergne
      15. Kevin Magnussen
      16. Jolyon Palmer
      17. Alex Lynn
      18. Tom Blomqvist
      19. Raffaele Marciello
      20. Antonio Felix da Costa

      How about that for a mix of current + future drivers?

      1. Right, edit button.

        I forgot to mention why none of the McLaren drivers are on the list:
        I can’t help but think something fishy is up with the Alonso incident. Call me crazy but I think he had some sort of stroke and I’m not very happy having him in Formula 1. Jenson Button? This is almost certainly his last year and we have seen the best of him.

        I forgot to add Daniel Ricciardo. I will put him in, kicking.. Felipe Massa out (because his best is also behind him) or Romain Grosjean (fast but unreliable). Not sure. Help me out here!

        1. @chrischrill Curious how you bow out a driver who just wiped the floor with the third driver on your list, my list would be quite different :)

          1. In terms of performance, Alonso definitely should be on my list (I am assuming you are referring to the Spaniard). I’m feeling a bit uneasy with him after the Barcelona incident. It’s a gut feeling, hard to explain.

            1. @chrischrill I also can’t shake an uneasy feeling about Alonso, very strange, think there is something in his eyes lately that says everything is not quite right.

              As for the list, I would add Alguersuari, I always thought he showed promise and was discarded by Red Bull way too soon and he is still young.

    26. Davidson and Rossi but not Lynn?

      1. @countrygent True, Lynn is the ‘first reserve’.. but if we drop those who wouldn’t return to F1, we have behind: Calado, Valsecchi, (di Grassi), Evans, (Van der Garde), Marciello, (Pagenaud), Wehrlein, Gasly, Stoneman, (Sutil) with picks from at least 10%. Adding another team.. I could well see Lynn, Evans, Marcielli, Wehrlein and Gasly ‘making the list’, with Stoneman as ‘first reserve’.

        1. *Marciello.. also Rossi did impress me in the Bahrain GP2 race.. maybe now is his time to claim a place at Haas F1 for 2016.. even if it’s third driver once more :) behind two handily placed current Ferrari drivers..

        2. And if Wehrlein and Gasly need a year in GP2, I’m sure Calado and Valsecchi wouldn’t turn down ‘a free year of F1’ :P

    27. Jamie Green and Gary Paffett were once promising young talents. They got an opportunity in DTM and stayed there ever since. I guess there is some good money in this (rather boring?) series, that takes away the ambition to pursue an uncertain career in F1. Robert Wickens and Antonio Felix da Costa should be on the shopping list of F1 teams, but apparently aren’t. I fear they will be in DTM for a long time.

      Sebastien Loeb is on this list, but last year he was covincingly beaten by a bloke called Jose Maria Lopez. He was once called a second rate pay driver when he signed with the still-born USF1 team. Maybe he is a little better than that, an entertaining driver to watch at least.

      And if F1 really needs a character to shake up the anks, why not stick Petter Solberg in the 2nd Ferrari?

    28. Charlie Kimball had experience in Europe. And yes: I have to agree with Leo. Jose Maria Lopez would have been a perfect selection. I wished they would have selected 2009 Indy Lights champ JR Hildebrand. He had a small stint with Force India. He would have gotten more training.

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