With the exhilarating Hungarian Grand Prix over and with the 2015 F1 season now more than 50% run, I feel it a good opportunity to compare what I predicted would happen, with the story of the season so far.
Am I even remotely close, or am I way, way out?
Lewis Hamilton – Prediction 1st, currently 1st
I originally predicted Hamilton would win the title, and after ten races, he’s leading by 21 points – nearly a race win – but I suspect he’s a little disappointed to not have a bigger lead. A tactical blunder led to points dropped at Monaco, whilst Hamilton had no answer to Rosberg’s race pace in Spain or Austria. That said, he controlled the races in Australia, China, Bahrain and Canada, and came through to win in Britain. Hungary was a terrible race for Hamilton that never the less saw him emerge with a greater lead than at the start of the race.
Nico Rosberg – Prediction 2nd, currently 2nd
Rosberg has been pretty consistent (a strong trait of his) whilst not quite being able to match his teammate for the most part. At times he’s looked somewhat rattled by Hamilton’s pace and has more often than not had no answer to it. Nevertheless, he has at times looked quick, such as in Austria, where he was untouchable. I would expect Hamilton to extend his championship lead, but Rosberg will not let him leap away.
Sebastian Vettel – Prediction 7th, currently 3rd
The first incorrect prediction of mine! Vettel has gone some way toward enhancing his reputation since switching to Ferrari, having previously faced accusations that he was only good in the best car. Opportunistic driving and solid performances have seen Vettel take two wins (Malaysia and Hungary) and a number of podiums that have seen him not only consolidate third place, but keep him in a shout for the championship.
Valtteri Bottas – Prediction 3rd, currently 4th
Well I wasn’t too far off this one! Bottas has been pretty cool under pressure this season, not getting flustered by pursuing Ferraris (or Mercedes), and might have even won at Silverstone if not for Williams team orders (or lack thereof). He could yet win a race this year on a track that suits the quick Williams car.
Kimi Raikkonen – Prediction 10th, currently 5th
Raikkonen is enjoying a better season relative to last year, but the Iceman has been anything but cool compared to his teammate Vettel, who has generally outperformed him. Yes, Raikkonen has had some bad luck, but he has not acquitted himself especially well either, with growing rumbles that Ferrari are looking to recruit Finnish compatriot Bottas to replace him next year. A good performance in Hungary until engine trouble might give Raikkonen a platform to build on.
Felipe Massa – Prediction 5th, currently 6th
The likeable Massa is only just outside of where I predicted him to be, and only a few points behind Raikkonen. He has generally been consistent, but had a poor race in Hungary. Nevertheless, his experience could serve him in good stead as the season enters the crunch phase. I’m not sure if he will catch Raikkonen (or for that matter Bottas, who isn’t too much further up the road).
Daniel Ricciardo – Prediction 4th, currently 7th
Seemingly perpetually happy, Ricciardo must nevertheless be feeling frustrated at Red Bull’s (or rather, Renault’s) backward steps this season. Whilst last season wasn’t exactly stellar for Red Bull, they at least had a race-winning car – so far, Ricciardo has not had the chance to shine, though Hungary did see him have a realistic crack at a win. He is beating his teammate (so far), which is the first aim of any driver.
Daniil Kvyat – Prediction 6th, currently 8th
Kvyat must be feeling the same frustration as Ricciardo. Chosen to join the ‘A’ team, then unable to be competitive with the front-runners, he has nevertheless been quietly getting on with his job in trying circumstances. He is not too far behind Ricciardo, and his second place in Hungary was a good example of an astute, mature drive.
Nico Hulkenberg – Prediction 12th, currently 9th
After a slow start to the season, Hulkenberg has hit a purple patch. Some good recent races (along with winning the Le Mans 24 hour race in between his F1 commitments) have enhanced his profile and could yet keep him on the radar of bigger teams. A timely upgrade to the Force India car has certainly helped him.
Romain Grosjean – Prediction 11th, currently 10th
Grosjean and his teammate Maldonaldo have been unlucky. The early phase of the season saw them struggle to reach the finish line, though with Mercedes power and a better overall car design, points have begun to come. Grosjean was at one point looking to be a talented but highly erratic driver – so far he’s been knuckling down and getting on with it in 2015. He is not far behind Hulkenberg (only a point separates them).
Max Verstappen – Prediction 16th, currently 11th
Whilst a lot of attention has been focused on the title fight, it has to be said that so far, the performances of 17 year old Verstappen have been defying his age. He is doing a lot better than I thought he would, and is only two points off Hulkenberg after a very impressive Hungarian Grand Prix where he took an excellent fourth for Toro Rosso. He’s been touted as a future world champion and it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
Felipe Nasr – Prediction 17th, currently 12th
Another F1 debutant, Nasr has been another to quietly impress, particularly early on. He has tailed off a little over the last few races, but has not disgraced himself for Sauber. The car is nevertheless some way off competing for regular points, so I wouldn’t expect too much from Nasr.
Sergio Perez – Prediction 14th, currently 13th
Perez is a hard one to figure out. At times in his career he has been pretty quick, but some erratic performances have not helped his image. So far this season, Perez has been roundly outperformed by his teammate Hulkenberg, and I don’t see that changing. The Force India car has improved steadily all season, so Perez almost certainly will pick up more points, but I would still expect Hulkenberg to finish ahead of him.
Pastor Maldonado – Prediction 15th, currently 14th
It’s perhaps a testament to Maldonado that the first image of him I tried to upload returned an error message! He has a reputation for being the most error-prone driver on the grid and 2015 has so far done nothing to dispel that reputation. He’s had moments of bad luck for sure, but his performance in Hungary was enough to earn him three separate penalties, and concerns remain that he is in Formula 1 because of the money he brings, as opposed to ability. He is well behind teammate Grosjean, both in the standings and in points, and I would not expect him to close that gap.
Fernando Alonso – Prediction 8th, currently 15th
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially in Formula 1, and Alonso must look back at former team Ferrari with increasing envy. A tremendous salary is no compensation for trundling around at the back of the pack (assuming you can even start races, let alone finish them), and Alonso must be feeling frustrated at the lack of performance from his McLaren-Honda car. It was always going to be a tough season, but I for one had expected better things from McLaren – how wrong I have been! Nevertheless, Alonso has been plugging away, taking an unexpected fifth place in Hungary by keeping his nose clean when everyone else was getting into tangles. If the car can get even remotely close to the frontrunners in terms of performance, Alonso has the skill to challenge.
Carlos Sainz Jr – Prediction 15th, currently 16th
In many respects, the pressure is off Sainz Jr in his debut season – the teammate of Verstappen, no one has been particularly focused on him, and thus he’s been able to get on with it. So far Sainz has acquitted himself quite well – he doesn’t have the quickest of cars, and hasn’t underperformed relative to Verstappen (whose fourth place finish in Hungary wasn’t so much about raw pace, rather than taking advantage of the chaos). He might well be one to watch in years to come.
Jenson Button – Prediction 9th, currently 17th
The amiable Button has tried to keep a smile on his face during this challenging season, but it’s clear that he’s as frustrated as Alonso. It’s hard to imagine Button wanting to stay in F1 much longer without a competitive car, and rumours are starting to float around that Williams might poach him as a replacement for Bottas (should Bottas leave). At this point, with the McLaren car struggling, Button might be tempted to look at a team that’s taken regular podiums over the past year and a half.
Marcus Ericsson – Prediction 18th, currently 18th
I didn’t expect too much from Ericsson this year and so far he hasn’t set the world alight – but then again, the Sauber is far from the quickest car and to have six points on the board in what he’s got isn’t too bad. He may yet scrape here and there for a few more – he will want to close up on teammate Nasr.
Robert Merhi – Prediction 20th, currently 19th
To be honest, I’d earmarked Merhi for 20th place, but both he and teammate Stevens will end up in the bottom two spots (barring a race with barely any finishers!), and who ends up where will depend entirely upon who gets more 19th place finishes than the other. It’s nearly impossible to gauge the success or failure of a season spent entirely at the back, but Merhi has not embarrassed himself and so can be pretty pleased.
Will Stevens – Prediction 19th, currently 20th
For the evaluation of Stevens’ season so far, you might as well look above to Merhi’s entry – it’s been the same story. He has not dishonoured himself through poor racing or causing trouble, and has been quietly getting on with trying to beat Merhi – they will continue their private battle until the end of the season.
So there you have it! How do my predictions stack up to the season so far? Well, I have only three correct predictions at this stage (denoted by purple text) – Hamilton, Rosberg and Ericsson are where I thought they would be – but I am pretty close with a lot of others. In the cases of Bottas, Massa, Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Sainz, Merhi and Stevens I am out by only one place – which is not too bad!
It goes to show how hard predicting F1 can be. Nothing is certain in a sport where everything can change at any given moment – it will be interesting to see where I stand come the season’s end.