Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Monza, 2016

Who won the team mate battles of 2016: The midfield

2016 F1 season review

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For drivers in the midfield, seeking promotion to a front-line outfit, beating your team mate is essential.

There were some absorbing battles between these teams during 2016. Here’s who came out on top.

The graphs and tables below show which driver had the greater share of the better results within their teams and who came out on top in every qualifying session and race this year.

Force India

Sergio Perez, Force India, Monte-Carlo, 2016
Perez beat Hulkenberg to the podium
Nico Hulkenberg has ended his three-year spell as Sergio Perez’s team mate at Force India having once again been the better qualifier over the year but come up short by other marks.

Seeing Perez notch up a pair of podium finishes this year will have been especially galling as Hulkenberg still doesn’t have one to his name. That Monaco rostrum appearance really should have been his but for so ill luck with the strategy, and a puncture potentially cost him one in Brazil, too.

But with his improving race craft and dependably excellent way with his tyres, Perez took another victory this year. He even edged past the symbolic 100 points threshold.

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However Force India should be satisfied with the job both of their drivers have done in the team’s best-ever season. Big things are expected of Hulkenberg’s replacement Esteban Ocon in 2017.

AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Nico HulkenbergQ
R
AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Sergio PerezQ
R

Williams

In his final season of Formula One, Felipe Massa could no longer conjure up the one-lap pace he needed to be a consistent threat to his team mate. Valtteri Bottas dominated that score-line more than any other driver on the grid this year.

The veteran driver gave a much better account of himself on Sundays, often taking advantage of his team mate’s slightly hesitant first lap tactics.

The final scoreline was therefore much kinder to Massa than it might have been. Still it’s hard not to look at this and agree he’s chosen a good time to step down.

AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Felipe MassaQ
R
AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Valtteri BottasQ
R

McLaren

In much the same vein, Jenson Button’s decision to hang up his helmet also looks like a timely call. He’s had arguably the toughest team mate in the pit lane to measure himself against this season and the contest has been rather one-sided.

Last year’s McLaren broke down so often it was hard to read too much into how well its drivers performed. Button had a slight edge over Fernando Alonso on results.

This year Alonso ended the season with more than twice as many points as his team mate. Following his performance alongside Kimi Raikkonen in 2014, Alonso’s record against world champions who have the same equipment of him is underlining his status as one of the sport’s greats even if he isn’t getting the victories which should go along with it.

AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Fernando AlonsoQ
R
AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Jenson ButtonQ
R

NB. Button’s team mate in Bahrain was Stoffel Vandoorne

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2016
Life after Red Bull didn’t get easier for Kvyat
Being relegated from the top team to the junior squad was a serious test of Daniil Kvyat’s mental strength. He was clearly on a low heading into the off-season having taken a battering from new team mate (though one he knows very well) Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Kvyat returned in better shape and was able to put some of the disappointments of the first half of the season behind him. Nonetheless Sainz dominated the contest between the two – the season finale at Yas Marina was one of few occasions when he looked like finishing behind Kvyat until the pair retired.

Red Bull locked down Sainz’s contact early in the season. They then surprised some late in the year by doing the same with Kvyat. This may seem generous under the circumstances and it also doesn’t reflect well on the driver who was expected to replace him, GP2 champion Pierre Gasly.

Red Bull have already indicated Gasly’s chance of driving an F1 car next year isn’t over. Five years ago the team introduced Daniel Ricciardo to F1 via the HRT outfit. Is a similar plan in the works for Gasly? Kvyat would be forgiven for feeling edgy about his prospects of seeing out 2017 in the STR12.

AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Daniil KvyatQ
R
AUSBAHCHIRUSSPAMONCANEURAUTGBRHUNGERBELITASINMALJAPUNIMEXBRAABU
Carlos Sainz JnrQ
R

NB. Daniil Kvyat’s team mate for the first four races was Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jnr’s team mate for the first four races was Max Verstappen. See here for Sainz’s performances versus Verstappen

Over to you

Which of these drivers had the best or most surprising performances against their team mates? Have your say in the comments.

You can also contribute to F1 Fanatic’s end-of-season driver rankings here:

2016 F1 season review

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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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  • 32 comments on “Who won the team mate battles of 2016: The midfield”

    1. I still struggle to understand why Kvyat has been retained unless it’s political behind the scenes dealings. 2014 he was really impressive as a rookie, last year get himself in the hunt to sneak ahead on reliability. But this year I think we saw a clear plateau of his talent. Ricciardo had him pegged well and truly and seeing Verstappen give him more of a challenge than Kvyat ever did clearly vindicates the swap. Then seeing him measured against Sainz it’s clear either Sainz is another truly special talent or Kvyat is just not up to scratch. And either way what use do they have for him?

      1. @philipgb – I suppose as Red Bull is full and will be for some time, there isn’t much point in bring youngsters through for a couple of years and then having no space to give them a seat. Even if someone new came in a did a really good job, I doubt they’d want to replace Ricciardo or Verstappen.

      2. Surely insurance just in case Gasly ended up baulking his GP2 campaign?

        1. If Gasly would’ve been more consistent he would’ve been driving next season for Toro Rosso. With him it’s a bit like with Kvyat, they can be good some races but at others they are underwhelming. Those types of drivers need a decent amount of time and some will become more consistent, so rushing Gasly might not be in the best interest of him.

      3. I’m maybe being a little optimistic here, but I think Kvyat could well be just as good as Sainz next year. He has proved he can be very decent but it really has been a miserable season for him. I think he’s quite easily had the most mechanical DNFs this season out of every driver. It also isn’t easy going from a top car to a car that is much worse. Even Horner said it would probably be much harder for Kvyat going backwards than Verstappen moving up. Personally, I didn’t think he should have got kicked out of Red Bull when he did. That should either have been decided at the start or the end of the season in my view. I am sure Kvyat will have performed much better this year if he’d started at the beginning of the year in the car that he’d ended the season in. I must say that Verstappen has handled the change really well though.

        I didn’t even think Kvyat had had a particularly bad start to the season. He couldn’t start in Austrailia. That wasn’t his fault at all. In Bahrain, I’d say that was just an average race for him but certainly not bad. China was very good although Ricciardo would easily have finished ahead if it wasn’t for his bad luck. Russia was a very messy one but to me it was a bit unfair to kick him out the team after being the only one on his team to have a podium finish within the first few races when he couldn’t even take part in the first race. Although Verstappen has settled in perfectly and has been performing very well, I still would have much rather the decision was made at the start of the season to move Verstappen in or allow Kvyat to stay all season. To me, it sort of messes things up. If Verstappen was in Red Bull from the start, he’d have had a much bigger opportunity to bring more points to the team. And If Kvyat started in Toro Rosso, I also pretty sure he’ll have also scored far more points than he has done with that team. I actually think that is does seem to be the disappointment of changing from a good team to a worse team part way through that has affected Kvyat’s performance all season.

        I’m hopeful though that his good performance will come back. He’ll have a fresh start next year and hopefully be at the same team all season!

      4. Kvyat could’ve scored big points at Baku and at Monaco but technical failures…

    2. I believe Daniil Kvyat has a lot more to show us and I’m looking forward to him coming back next year as a thick-skinned, ultra-motivated individual. I hope so; I really feel for this kid. Something tells me Kvyat may grow into something quite special, like Grosjean did.

      Maybe it’s just hope talking! What do you think?

      1. @philipgb Funny how we both posted about Kvyat at the same time – with quite opposing views!

      2. He’s there or there abouts on pace and a very opportunistic driver which with good luck can see him score a podium, and with bad luck see him cause a bunch of crashes ruining several drivers races. Ranking drivers across the field is always tough, maybe he’s in the top half. But he’s not on Hamilton, Alono’s, Vettel’s, Riccardo’s, Verstappen’s or Sainz’s level so what use is he to Red Bull?

        1. He was on podium this year. Despite technical issues in all 4 qualifications with Red Bull. Toro Rosso isn’t type of car you can get to podium. Not talking about second half of the season. Rest were getting improved engines. Toro Rosso was still with 2015 engine. And, as said, he was the driver with most technical and mechanical failures this year in both qualifications and races. He doesn’t need to prove himself being fast. He proved it already. In many other championships and in F1.

      3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        1st December 2016, 13:21

        @shimks Next year will be Kvyat’s test and Sainz’s test.

        If Sainz beats him commandingly, he might get a ride at a constructor (the red car most likely but seats could get shuffled – Daniel might depart, Lewis or Nico could jump ship)
        If Kvyat comes close to Sainz, their careers are both done
        If Kvyat beats Sainz, his F1 career is pretty much done.

        1. Daniel has a contract till the end of ’18, so Carlos can get forget going to Red Bull in ’18.

        2. @freelittlebirds We will see. Another interesting element of the 2017 season. I think it’s going to be such an interesting year in F1!

    3. I love to see that from Alonso. A year in an off-colour car looked to turn him into an off-colour driver. He told us he was in “economy mode” in 2015, but we all thought his focus and performance level was on the slide. But given a car that puts him once again in the fight and that gritted teeth intensity is back better than ever. In qualifying trim especially, I think he may have just had his most competitive year of Saturdays since 2010. But it is his feel for Sundays that makes him one of greatest performers of this generation.

      I know the midfield is more about maximizing opportunities than absolute performance, but the fact that he scored more than twice the points of Jenson is telling versus the inordinate margins he outscored Raikkonen and Massa by. With the exception of one, Alonso has an uncanny knack of making immensely respectable teammates look decidedly average…

    4. Last season JB only looked okay up to Alonso because of the mysterious crash, ALo lost a couple rounds. In qualifying JB was little more unlucky than ALonso, that said it doesn’t change the picture that much.

      1. I’m a fan of both ALO and BUT and although the stats show ALO beat him handily, I feel Jenson had a lot of bad luck this year.

    5. It’s crazy how evenly matched Hulkenberg and Perez have been over the past 3 seasons. They’ve always been very close in quali and the race, generally finishing one behind another. I think Hulkenberg has been unlucky not to get a couple of podiums.

      The rest of the teammate battles very pretty one sided. Bottas beat Massa convincingly, Sainz destroyed Kvyat and Alonso crushed Button

      1. @todfod
        Going one season without a podium could be classed as unlucky, going your entire F1 career without one, especially when your team mate manages to get at least one, is not. The guy just isn’t that good, doesn’t make the most of situations, and will be lucky to get another few seasons before he’s replaced by someone younger.
        Classic journeyman racer, good in other series, but not good enough for a big team to give a drive in F1.
        If I was running Force India, I’d already have his replacement ready for next season.

        1. He was unlucky to miss out on the podium in Monaco and Brazil, if you watched those races.

          Perez lucked into the Monaco Podium because the team pitted him late.

          Hulk got a puncture in Brazil while leading Perez and his laptimes were faster than Perez’s throughout. Maybe he could have held on for the podium? It’s a possibility.

          The only opportunity Hulkenberg was guilty of missing out on was Azerbaijan, where he was atrocious in qualifying and anonymous in the race.

          I believe he has done a good job this season with the highlight being that fantastic qualifying in Mexico…but it also goes without saying that at races like Malaysia, Italy, Japan and Baku he should have done a better job.

          1. He’s choked when it comes to podiums in the past though, he made a mistake and clattered into Hamilton in Brazil 2012, made a mistake in qualifying and was overtaken by Pérez in the racein Bahrain 2014. He also crashed out in Russia 2015 on lap one and as mentioned had an atrotcious weekend in Baku aswell as dropping like a stone from the front row down to nineneenth in Austria 2016.

            1. As a Hulkenberg fan, Austria was very painful to watch.

              That being said, you are right…he has choked before but the original comment had compared Hulkenberg’s and Perez’s perfomances in 2016…and this year he really has been unlucky to miss out on one certain and another highly possible podium finishes.

          2. Don’t forget that in Monaco Perez was also called to the pits when they called Hulk, but he convinced the team that it was the wrong call. Those are little details but at the end Perez usually takes better advantage of circumstances than Hulk.

        2. Partially true. The podium in Monaco should have been his, but for the idiotic strategy that gave it to Perez. My view is that Hulk never has figured out how to manage the Pirellis, while Perez has always been easy on the tires. On tires that last, I think Hulkenberg has a clear pace advantage over Perez, but looks like we’ll never know

          1. In qualifying, until the last four races Perez was leading in quali-battle which shows he has the raw speed too. He delivers on opportunities and Perez says that it was his call to pit late in Monaco because he saw Vettel and Hulk stuck behind Massa on the big screens so he got himself ahead of them. @neutronstar

            1. Yes, but that still makes Perez fortunate by comparison, right? The team called Hulkenberg early, unaware of the troubles he would have to face getting stuck behind Massa. Perez saw that and capitalized on the opportunity, kudos to him for that…but Hulkenberg’s only “crime” was qualifying, running and pitting ahead of his teammate, making him unlucky to miss out on the podium.

      2. @todfod
        Yeah it’s a pity that partnership is coming to an end, I like both of the drivers and the team (my opinion of Perez has improved hugely over the years). I do feel Force India have reached their peak this year though, I expect the bigger teams to improve next year, so maybe it’s a good time to split up.

        Probably the biggest surprise for me is that Perez has been the more reliable of the two, it’s generally been Hulkenberg making driving errors. I wouldn’t have guessed that at the start of their F1 careers.

    6. Alonso mopped up the floor with Button this year.

      1. I don’t think so and I am an Alonso admirer. Jenson had a lot of bad luck or it would been much closer.

        The McHonda’s suck so bad it”s fruitless to even compare the two although Alonso is obviously the better driver.

    7. So Fernando beat the guy who beat the guy who beat him. Interesting.

      1. While Hamilton was ranked above Alonso in 2007, ‘beat’ is a strong word:

        Fernando qualified ahead of Hamilton 8 times, while Hamilton qualified ahead of him 9 times. Fernando had a gearbox failure during qualifying in France, so it could be counted as 8 to 8. Regardless, pretty close.

        Fernando finished ahead of Hamilton 9 times, and Hamilton finished ahead of him 6 times.

        …and of course they were tied for points at 109 each.

        While Fernando finished ahead 9:6, I’d say they were pretty damn evenly matched. Fernando was new to the team, Hamilton was a rookie. Hamilton did have a lot of experience with the car coming into the seaon, and Fernando was the reigning world champ.

        All in all, one of them should have won the WDC. I actually blame Ron for this. If he had managed both of them better, one of them would have won it.

        1. Oh, and if Ron had managed them better, I don’t think Spygate would have been brought to Mosely’s attention.

    8. Tough, but Button and Massa not scoring well was quite predictable. Maybe ‘likeableness’ of a driver ultimately hurts a team as it delays or prevents the boot coming out when it really should.

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