Formula One 2016 Driver Ratings – Part I

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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 I

Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Toro Rosso

No. 26 Daniil Kvyat
Position: 14th
Highest Grid Position: 6th
Highest Race Position: 3rd (with Red Bull, 9th with Toro Rosso)

The young Russian will be well and truly glad that 2016 is over with. From the highs of the podium at China to the lows of being demoted back to Red Bull’s junior team, only to be often hampered by woeful reliability issues. His performance took a clear dip after being sent back to Toro Rosso, and often his body language showed that his mind was not in the right place as well. His performances picked up after the summer break however, and that combined with Pierre Gasly’s slightly lacklustre performance in GP2 has led to Kvyat being given another season with Toro Rosso for 2017. The high point for Kvyat absolutely had to be Singapore, where he defended immaculately from Red Bull stablemate Max Verstappen, and equalled his best result for Toro Rosso. There has to be a massive improvement next year, however.

Rating: 5.5/10

No. 55 Carlos Sainz
Position: 12th
Highest Grid Position: 6th
Highest Race Position: 6th

Verstappen’s move to Red Bull did not only bring out the best in himself, but also the best in his Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz, who has been absolutely stunning in 2016. He has placed an underpowered Toro Rosso in positions it quite simply does not belong and has done so frequently – especially in qualifying, and that’s before we mention a trio of sixth places in a car incapable of doing so. It is very clear as to why Red Bull would like to hang onto this young Spaniard, who has occasionally sparred with his hero Alonso this year. There have been patchy moments though – Suzuka was a low for Sainz, and the lack of development in the back has encouraged some occasionally desperate driving. That should not be as much of an issue next year, however.

Rating: 8/10

Haas-Ferrari

Haas

No. 8 Romain Grosjean
Position: 13th
Highest Grid Position: 7th
Highest Race Position: 5th

Romain Grosjean’s first season with a team not based at Enstone has been a pretty interesting one, and the results have either been absolutely spectacular, or somewhat disappointing. There have been times where Grosjean was delivering absolutely top-drawer performances, but that was when Haas was able to find the sweet spot with the setup with relative ease. And there have been times where Grosjean has struggled massively, but that has been when the car has not performed so well. Grosjean would only add a solitary point in the second half of the season to the 28 he scored in the first half, but he has shown a lot of passion, commitment and optimism to this new project. The battle between him and Kevin Magnussen next season should be pretty interesting.

Rating: 7/10

No. 21 Esteban Gutierrez
Position: 21st
Highest Grid Position: 10th
Highest Race Position: 11th

Esteban Gutierrez finished just outside of the points in 11th place on no less than five occasions in 2016. He has produced some solid drives when points were unrealistic for Haas, but simply could not string an entire weekend together when points were on the table. He was the first Haas driver to get into Q3 (let’s not mention elimination qualifying) but was unable to make use of his strong qualifying performances. Whether he can find a seat at Manor is to be seen, but 2016 will go down as Gutierrez’s most competitive yet, even if the points table says otherwise.

Rating: 5.5/10

Renault

Renault

No. 20 Kevin Magnussen
Position: 16th
Highest Grid Position: 12th
Highest Race Position: 7th

Kevin Magnussen’s second half of what has turned out to be his one and only season with Renault started with a bang – as he destroyed the barrier at the entrance to Kemmel at Spa. He would bounce back however, and would deliver a stunning point at Singapore two races later. As the season progressed, it became clear to Magnussen that he was not high on Renault’s wishlist and duly looked elsewhere (and Haas came knocking). He was also being challenged more frequently by his rookie team mate, but ultimately still had the edge over him. Magnussen will hope for a better campaign in 2017.

Rating: 6/10

No. 30 Jolyon Palmer
Position: 18th
Highest Grid Position: 13th
Highest Race Position: 10th

Despite being about sixth on their wishlist for 2017, Renault has decided to retain Jolyon Palmer for a deserved second season. His first season was littered with typical rookie mistakes, which are forgivable. Palmer did bring the car home in a points-paying position for the first time at Malaysia, and that may have contributed to both his upturn in form and Renault’s decision to retain him. He will have a very tough team mate next year in Nico Hulkenberg, and could prove a lot of people wrong if he can eliminate the mistakes from his game.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sauber-Ferrari

Sauber

No. 9 Marcus Ericsson
Position: 22nd
Highest Grid Position: 14th
Highest Race Position: 11th

On paper, Ericsson failed to beat his team mate for the second season in a row, but in reality, he vastly outdrove both his team mate and his car. The Sauber was occasionally the worst car on the starting grid, but the Swedish driver was able to drag it on his day into positions which should not have been conceivable. The high of Ericsson’s season was certainly Mexico, where he finished 11th in a race where only Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor retired. He was very unlucky to not score points this season. He does however; retain his seat at Sauber for a third year.

Rating: 5.5/10

No. 12 Felipe Nasr
Position: 17th
Highest Grid Position: 15th
Highest Race Position: 9th

The fine drive in treacherous conditions for Felipe Nasr could not have been timelier for both him and Sauber, but it appears as if he may not be at the team for next season despite the cash injection thanks to the points. Nasr spent much of the season very much outclassed by his team mate, but ended the season with more points. This was a very tricky second season for the Brazilian, and if he is not on the grid next year, then that would be a massive blow for Formula One in Brazil.

Rating: 4.5/10

MRT-Mercedes

MRT

No. 31 Esteban Ocon
Position: 23rd
Highest Grid Position: 17th
Highest Race Position: 12th

Coming in mid-season into a car you have never driven before when you have a height issue must never be an easy task, but the incredibly talented Esteban Ocon had a very impressive first half-season. He did not have a clean weekend until Suzuka, which is where he felt comfortable in the car for the first time. He beat his team mate at that race. The most impressive drive by Ocon this season had to be at Interlagos, where he fought for points despite his car having the least downforce on the grid. It will be very exciting to see him in a Force India against an in-form Perez next season.

Rating: 4.5/10

No. 88 Rio Haryanto
Position: 24th
Highest Grid Position: 16th
Highest Race Position: 15th

The Indonesian driver was replaced by Ocon during the summer break after his funding failed to pay up.

Rating: 3/10

No. 94 Pascal Wehrlein
Position: 19th
Highest Grid Position: 12th
Highest Race Position: 10th

Wehrlein was perhaps rookie of the season. He showed gradual improvement as the year went on – especially in qualifying, and whilst a few rookie errors surfaced, he had a very good first campaign. Wehrlein’s future appears uncertain, but if rumours are to be believed then he is off to Sauber, where he will have a much more relevant yardstick. He absolutely deserves more than just the one season in Formula One though.

Rating: 5.5/10
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