Formula One 2016 Driver Ratings – Part II

Following the end of the 2016 Formula 1 Season, Craig Woollard provides the second part of the Formula One 2016 driver ratings - looking at the Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India, Williams and McLaren teams.

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Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda and Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams at the F1 Drivers Class of 2016 group photo during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Formula One has produced a season with seemingly more intrigue and drama off the track, than on it in 2016. A change of ownership, as well as some huge stories around the paddock affecting some of the bigger teams on the grid has often dominated the headlines in what has been a fairly stale season in terms of on-track action. Nevertheless, there were some fairly interesting team mate battles to be decided and a few shocks arose. Some drivers were unlucky to be on the wrong end of the points battle, whilst some drivers found form which was missing from their game in 2014, 2015 and the first half of 2016. The first person you have to beat in F1 is your team mate, but with all things considered, who really did that in 2016? As always, ratings and rankings will be awarded to each driver as well.

Formula One 2016 Driver Ratings – Part II

Mercedes AMG

Mercedes

No. 6 Nico Rosberg
Position: 1st
Highest Grid Position: 1st
Highest Race Position: 1st

Rosberg very much played the numbers game as he would take his first World Championship in 2016. He was immense when he had to be immense, and capitalised on mistakes and issues on the car belonging to his team mate. He was happy enough to settle for a second place finish when he needed to just pick up the points, and ultimately it was that conservatism which helped him take the championship. Rosberg would also suffer from his own share of misfortunes – notably being nerfed around at the start at Malaysia. However, whilst Rosberg did not perform quite as well as his team mate across the season, any claims that he is an unworthy champion are simply unfair on a driver who has performed very well this year. Some of his drives, such as the ones at Singapore and at Suzuka, as well as his superb recovery from last at Malaysia were absolute driving masterclasses.

Rating: 7.5/10

No. 44 Lewis Hamilton
Position: 2nd
Highest Grid Position: 1st
Highest Race Position: 1st

Many will point to races such as Malaysia, China, Belgium and Russia as excuses for Hamilton failing to win a third successive championship but there were times when the Briton was sub-par by his incredibly high standards. It was true that he had worse reliability this year compared to Rosberg (with roles reversed over the previous three years) but he also could have won the title despite his reliability problems. He quite simply did not perform at Singapore or Japan and those two races combined gave Rosberg a 20 point advantage alone. Hamilton will want to look at what went wrong over the winter, and not just with the clutch pedal or with the Mercedes power unit which has guided him to his massive successes in this era of Formula One.

Rating: 8/10

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer

Red Bull

No. 3 Daniel Ricciardo
Position: 3rd
Highest Grid Position: 1st
Highest Race Position: 1st

Of all the drivers to race in every Grand Prix in 2016, Daniel Ricciardo was the only one to finish every single one. Had he not been caught up in the mess caused by his then-team mate at Russia, he probably would have finished each one in the points as well. Ricciardo’s second half of the season was at times supreme; at times a touch lacklustre but still he produced some absolutely stunning drives. His defence against his team mate at Malaysia for what turned out to be the race win was absolutely immaculate and was sweet redemption for what happened at Spain and Monaco. Other podiums such as second places at Spa and Singapore were again vintage Ricciardo drives.

Rating: 9/10

No. 33 Max Verstappen
Position: 5th
Highest Grid Position: 2nd
Highest Race Position: 1st

If there was anybody who somehow questioned the talent this young man has before this year, then they have almost certainly been quietened now. It is clear that Verstappen is still far from being the complete package – his qualifying performances are occasionally patchy and his defensive driving continues to be questionable, but the skill and judgement shown this year is on another level. If he can control his aggression, and find a bit more consistency in qualifying, then there is no limit to what he will achieve in the future. The way he made Ricciardo look average in the rain at Interlagos was mind-blowing, and his Abu Dhabi recovery was spectacular.

Rating: 8/10

Ferrari

Ferrari

No. 5 Sebastian Vettel
Position: 4th
Highest Grid Position: 3rd
Highest Race Position: 2nd

A solid podium at Monza and a strong recovery from last to fifth at Singapore aside, the second half of Sebastian Vettel’s season was relatively poor for a four-time champion. The frustration is clearly showing both in and out of the car from both Vettel and Ferrari and it is clear to see just from his driving, as well as his radio rants. Ironically the first to fall foul of the “Verstappen Chop” and carelessly taking himself out at Malaysia were highly uncharacteristic manoeuvres from Vettel. To add, he was often anonymous in qualifying, which is very rare to see from the German. He has been warned – he needs to earn his place at Ferrari for 2018 and beyond.

Rating: 7.5/10

No. 7 Kimi Raikkonen
Position: 6th
Highest Grid Position: 3rd
Highest Race Position: 2nd

After two dismal seasons at Ferrari following his successful Lotus stint, things have finally started to click back into place for the popular Finn, and started delivering the sort of performances he delivered in his championship year. Like his team mate, a win eluded him in 2016, but there were times he was often quicker than a frustrated Vettel. He was running well at Texas before he suffered a wheel problem, and was unfortunate to be one of many victims to aquaplane at Interlagos in the treacherous conditions. Across the season, he has still been beaten by Vettel, but he looks a lot stronger than he did in the previous few seasons.

Rating: 7/10

Force India-Mercedes

Force India

No. 11 Sergio Perez
Position: 7th
Highest Grid Position: 5th
Highest Race Position: 3rd

2015 was the season where Perez showed a massive amount of improvement in terms of delivering consistent results, and 2016 was the season where Perez would deliver his strongest season yet. Best of the rest in the championship only behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, and he did this by consistently scoring good points. He used improved qualifying form as a platform to help achieve such strong race finishes. He did not add to his podium tally in the second half of the year, but his strong season will surely put him on the wishlist of some bigger teams for 2018 potentially.

Rating: 8/10

No. 27 Nico Hulkenberg
Position: 9th
Highest Grid Position: 2nd
Highest Race Position: 4th

The most experienced driver without a podium continues to wonder where things have gone so wrong for him. Nico Hulkenberg has somewhat become stagnant in his time at Force India, and whilst he still performs to a very high standard, he has been beaten by a team mate for the first time since his rookie campaign. He had a very good shot at having a podium finish at Interlagos before a puncture hampered his chances (he still finished a more than credible seventh) and he finished fourth at Spa. First lap collisions did not help Hulkenberg at all, and he will be looking for a fresh start at Renault in 2017.

Rating: 7/10

Williams-Mercedes

Williams

No. 19 Felipe Massa
Position: 11th
Highest Grid Position: 4th
Highest Race Position: 5th

The time is right for Felipe Massa to retire from Formula One. He has had a brilliant career, made some great friends and his resilience has earned him the respect of his peers. His 2016 has been far from ideal – a number of issues hampering him and lacking the extra couple of tenths to beat his younger team mate, most notably in qualifying. However on his day, he was still very much able to perform to a very high level and this will help him wherever he may choose to go in the future. The pace was sometimes missing from Massa and this will have contributed in part to Williams’ failure to finish ahead of Force India in the championship, and a few issues beyond his control such at races such as Canada, Austria and Germany also did not help. The guard of honour given to him by teams both familiar and unfamiliar to him at his final home Grand Prix will go down as one of the most surreal yet most human parts of the season. Lance Stroll has big shoes to fill.

Rating: 6/10

No. 77 Valtteri Bottas
Position: 8th
Highest Grid Position: 2nd
Highest Race Position: 3rd

The cool, quiet Finn has quietly delivered another strong campaign with Williams, despite the pace of the previous two seasons not being there. A third place at Canada aside, he has rarely featured this season but has frequently brought home some very solid results and the points table shows that. He has also been outstanding in qualifying – beating his team mate on Saturdays more often than any other driver on the grid. For next year, we will need to see further development from Bottas as he will adopt the role of outright team leader, and absolutely must outperform his rookie team mate.

Rating: 7.5/10

McLaren-Honda

McLaren

No. 14 Fernando Alonso
Position: 10th
Highest Grid Position: 7th
Highest Race Position: 5th

It is incredibly refreshing to see the Fernando Alonso of old return, after a season last year where Fernando Alonso rarely turned up. The car has not always been a contender for a points finish, but when the opportunity arose, Alonso brought the car home often well into the points. He only had one more points finish than his team mate, yet still accumulated well over double the amount of points. Alonso showed his ability in both the wet and the dry and finished fifth on the road in both conditions. This was by no means his greatest season to date, but still delivering the bacon. Next year will be ten years since Alonso’s infamous first stint at McLaren, and he has a hot rookie team mate to contend with.

Rating: 7.5/10

No. 22 Jenson Button
Position: 15th
Highest Grid Position: 3rd
Highest Race Position: 6th

The 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was more than likely the final race for Jenson Button, who has had more than a good innings, having reached his 300th Grand Prix start. What could well be Button’s last season has not been one to really remember bar the brilliant third on the grid at Austria. There has been a bit of bad luck for Button as well, with being taken out at Spa, brake issues at Singapore and a bizarre suspension failure at his (presumed) swansong hampering him in the second half of the season. He will be finally replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne for next season.

Rating: 5/10

No. 47 Stoffel Vandoorne
Position: 20th
Highest Grid Position: 12th
Highest Race Position: 10th

Vandoorne did not add to his one-off appearance at Bahrain at all in 2016 as he fought for the Super Formula title, but will be on the grid next year.

Rating: N/A/10

Driver Ranking (1-24)

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Max Verstappen
  3. Carlos Sainz
  4. Sergio Perez
  5. Lewis Hamilton
  6. Nico Rosberg
  7. Sebastian Vettel
  8. Fernando Alonso
  9. Valtteri Bottas
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Romain Grosjean
  12. Nico Hulkenberg
  13. Kevin Magnussen
  14. Felipe Massa
  15. Pascal Wehrlein
  16. Esteban Gutierrez
  17. Marcus Ericsson
  18. Jolyon Palmer
  19. Daniil Kvyat
  20. Jenson Button
  21. Felipe Nasr
  22. Esteban Ocon
  23. Rio Haryanto
  24. (N/A) Stoffel Vandoorne

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