Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2015 Formula One Predictions: Revisited

The final predictions to revisit come from the world of Formula One. The season ended Sunday under the lights from Abu Dhabi and now it's time to go back and see what was predicted last December. There were some terrible predictions and there were a few good ones. Take a look for yourself.

1. Mercedes Stays in Control
Correct! Lewis Hamilton won ten races. Nico Rosberg won six. For the second consecutive season, Mercedes won all but three races. They won 18 of 19 pole positions. The Constructors' Championship was locked up in Russia. Hamilton clinched the World Drivers' Championship in the United States. They had twelve 1-2 finishes and put two cars on the podium 15 times. There were moments when we all wondered if the team was losing it's grasp (Malaysia, Singapore) but they rebounded each time.

2. Daniel Ricciardo and Williams Give Mercedes a Little More Run For Their Money
Wrong! Ferrari jumped both Red Bull and Williams and Sebastian Vettel won three races and the lone pole position not to go to Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished fourth and fifth in the championship and Ricciardo dropped to seventh with Daniil Kvyat jumping him in the championship by finishing sixth. We all know about Red Bull's saga with Renault. The fact that each Red Bull driver had a runner-up finish (both to Vettel) is impressive enough. Neither Williams driver scored a runner-up finish. Williams wasn't able to build on their 2014 success. Bottas and Massa each had a good season but did not improve.

3. Fernando Alonso Finishes Ahead of Sebastian Vettel
Wrong! This was the dumbest prediction of them all. McLaren was smoked. I thought the turmoil at Ferrari would spill over to 2015 and Vettel would struggle and I thought the McLaren was bound to come around and be competitive by the middle of the season. Neither happened. Vettel won his second start with Ferrari. Alonso called the Honda engine a GP2 engine. 

4. There Will Not Be 20 Cars on the Grid in Australia
Correct! Neither Manor made it to the grid but just to add a cherry on top to the prediction, Valtteri Bottas missed the race due to a back injury suffered in qualifying, Kevin Magnussen's engine went sour before making it to the grid, ending the Dane's substitution role in place of a concussed Fernando Alonso and Daniil Kvyat had a gearbox issue on the grid. Only 15 cars started the race. 

5. There Will Not Be 21 Races in 2015
Correct! The Korean Grand Prix didn't happen and the German Grand Prix fell apart. Nineteen rounds. Formula One will go for 21 in 2016 as Germany is set to return with the race at Hockenheim and the European Grand Prix returns as Azerbaijan is set to host its first Formula One race. However, with the future of the United States Grand Prix in doubt, 21 races might not happen in 2016 either. 

6. Neither Toro Rosso Driver Scores More Than 22 Points
Wrong! Max Verstappen scored 49 points by himself. Carlos Sainz, Jr. managed only 18 points. Verstappen was impressive this year. Two fourth-place finishes, he scored in six consecutive races at one point and he also stepped on some toes along the way. Toro Rosso got it right at the start of the season while the senior team, championship winning Red Bull Racing, struggled. No one saw that coming. 

7. Sauber Scores at Least One Point
Correct! They scored 14 points in the first race alone with Felipe Nasr getting 10 points and Marcus Ericsson picking up four. Nasr ended his rookie season with 27 points and Ericsson only picked up nine but the team beat McLaren in the Constructors' Championship. Nasr had a respectable season but we didn't hear much from Ericsson and the Swede will be entering his third season next year. He will need to start showing better results.

8. At Least One Lotus Driver Finishes Ahead of a Force India Driver
Wrong! Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg finished ninth and tenth in the championship and Romain Grosjean finished 11th, seven points behind the German. Pérez had a much better season than I expected. Hülkenberg started well but after he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he leveled off and dipped somewhat in performance. Grosjean had a good season and took a surprise podium in Belgium after Sebastian Vettel suffered a tire failure on the final lap. 

9. Virtual Safety Car is Used At Least Nine Times in 2015
Wrong! I counted seven and if I stayed with my original gut instinct to say six, I would have been correct. Formula One seem hesitant to use VSC. They tried it at Monaco and then started using it for extended periods at Silverstone. It was used in Hungary, Belgium, Singapore and the United States twice. I think it went really well and I expect VSC to become more of a norm in 2016. 

10. A Team on the 2015 Grid Announces Their Intention to Leave F1 or is Sold Prior to the end of the Calendar Year
Correct... kind of. Renault signed a letter of intent to buy a controlling stake of Lotus F1 on September 30th. It hasn't gone through yet but I am counting it.

11. A Team Principal and/or Technical Director is Fired During the Season
Uh... technically no but Manor's team principal John Booth and technical director Graeme Lowdon announced their resignation in Mexico City citing difference with team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick. They weren't "fired" but their resignations seem to have come before they could be sacked.

12. We Hear Rumors of at Least Two Countries that Have Never Hosted F1 Before, Getting a Race in the Near Future
Wrong! We heard about Qatar at the start of the calendar year but haven't heard much since. I wonder if it is because the uncertain future of Formula One, as it appears to be up for sale.

Five-for-twelve. Definitely could have done better.