F1 2014 Season Review: MotorSportsTalk’s Driver Rankings

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As part of MotorSportsTalk review of the 2014 Formula 1 season, we’ve compiled a complete ranking of the drivers that raced this year, following on from our mid-season review after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Who has moved up and who has dropped in the second half of the year?

We have decided to omit both Will Stevens and Andre Lotterer from the final rankings given that they only took part in one race each (and, in Lotterer’s case, one lap).

Without further ado, here are the driver rankings for 2014 – let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

We must start with the champion. Hamilton called his title win in Abu Dhabi “the greatest day of my life”, and rightly so. Whereas some may have doubted whether he was truly the best driver in 2008, this year, there was no question about it. 11 wins and never finishing off the podium when he saw the flag, Lewis was the undisputed king of F1 in 2014.

Season Highlight: Fighting back from P4 to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza – an important psychological victory.

2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull

Few could have predicted Daniel Ricciardo’s incredible first season with Red Bull that saw him claim three opportunistic wins at Mercedes’ expense. The affable Australian brought a sense of fun to the paddock once again in 2014, leading Red Bull’s charge and outclassing Sebastian Vettel across the course of the year.

Season Highlight: Dominating the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa after Hamilton and Rosberg clashed.

3. Valtteri Bottas Williams

After a difficult rookie year, his sophomore season brought Valtteri Bottas far better things. Six podium finishes and running the Mercedes drivers close on a number of occasions, the flying Finn led Williams’ revival in 2014, and has marked himself as a possible future world champion.

Season Highlight: Finishing second at the British Grand Prix after dropping out in Q1.

4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes

Given that he ran Hamilton close for the title, it may seem harsh to rank Nico Rosberg down in fourth place. He did unquestionably enjoy his best season in F1 to date, but after cracking under pressure at Spa, Hamilton was allowed back into the title race. A fighter to the end, his demise in Abu Dhabi was a sad end to the title race, but Rosberg will be back for more in 2015.

Season Highlight: Soaking up Hamilton’s pressure to win the Brazilian Grand Prix.

5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari

Yet again, Fernando Alonso spent his season dragging the sub-standard Ferrari car up the grid, but could only score two podium finishes in 2014. It proved to be enough to force him out of Maranello for next season. The Spaniard did all he could this year under difficult circumstances, proving once again that he is one of the most naturally talented drivers in the sport.

Season Highlight: Finishing second at the Hungarian GP, losing the lead with three laps to go.

6. Felipe Massa Williams

After joining Williams at the beginning of the season, Felipe Massa rediscovered his former self in 2014. Away from the pressure of Ferrari, Massa was unlucky not to match Bottas in the final standings due to a number of incidents, but did manage to pick up three podium finishes and one pole position across the course of the season. If Williams can make another step forwards for 2015, expect Massa to flourish again.

Season Highlight: Finishing 2.5 seconds shy of a double points race win in Abu Dhabi.

7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull

How the mighty have fallen. Sebastian Vettel’s title defence in 2014 was, speaking generously, tame, as he failed to win a single race. In fact, he finished on the podium just four times, leading only one lap across the course of the year. Seb struggled with the new Red Bull RB10 car, and will be hoping for better with Ferrari next year.

Season Highlight: Finishing second in Singapore ahead of Ricciardo.

8. Jenson Button McLaren

A difficult year for Jenson Button following the death of his father in the off-season, but the Briton rallied to finish eighth in the final standings for McLaren. His podium finish in Australia was the obvious highlight, yet his end-of-year flourish with four top five finishes in the final four races gave McLaren quite a dilemma for its driver line-up for next season. Your move, Ron.

Season Highlight: Coming so close to an emotional podium finish at the British GP as Silverstone turned Pink for Papa.

9. Jules Bianchi Marussia

Under difficult circumstances, Jules Bianchi kept Marussia’s flag flying high through the first half of the year, claiming an incredible ninth-place finish in Monaco – the first ever points in F1 for both the driver and the team. Further excellent displays at Silverstone and Spa followed, reaching Q2, but his racing season ended when he suffered severe head injuries at Suzuka. The F1 community continues to send its love and support to Bianchi and his family – #ForzaJules

Season Highlight: Points at Monaco – a remarkable achievement.

10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India

After a sensational start to the year, Hulkenberg’s form tailed off towards the end of the season, finishing in the points just five times after the summer break. Nevertheless, he led Force India’s charge to its best-ever season in F1, picking up 96 points. That long-awaited podium still eludes the German, though.

Season Highlight: P6 in Abu Dhabi with a quietly confident performance.

11. Sergio Perez Force India

Much like his teammate, Perez had a solid if unspectacular year, but he did manage to claim just the second podium for Force India since it entered the sport in 2008. That result in Bahrain was the peak for Perez, though, with a last-lap crash in Canada costing him a possible podium, although a solid final race in Abu Dhabi saw him sneak into the top ten of the final standings.

Season Highlight: Finishing third in Bahrain behind the Mercedes duo.

12. Kevin Magnussen McLaren

K-Mag’s season started so brightly in Australia with a second place finish, but that would be the pinnacle of the Dane’s rookie season. He would finish in the top five on just one more occasion, failing to match Button in the sister McLaren, but he is yet to show what he can truly do in F1 thanks to the difficult MP4-29 car that made 2014 a baptism of fire for Magnussen.

Season Highlight: P2 in Australia after Ricciardo’s disqualification.

13. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari

In a year that was meant to see Raikkonen and Alonso come to blows, the intra-team battle at Ferrari quickly fizzled out. Kimi struggled to get to grips with the new F14 T car, but did have a couple of stand-out moments in Monaco, where he should have finished third, and Spa, where he came home fourth. He improved as the season went on, but it was still a disappointing return to Ferrari for Raikkonen.

Season Highlight: Fourth at Spa, a result that proved the Finn still has some of his old spark.

14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso

JEV led Toro Rosso’s charge in 2014, scoring almost triple the points of teammate Daniil Kvyat. However, it wasn’t enough to get him the promotion to Red Bull that went to the Russian, nor will he remain at Faenza for 2015. In Hungary, he ran up in second place for a while before dropping back, and was impressive en route to sixth in Singapore. F1’s loss could be IndyCar or WEC’s gain next year.

Season Highlight: Charging to sixth in Singapore with a superb final stint.

15. Romain Grosjean Lotus

In the face of adversity at Lotus, Romain Grosjean proved that he had not lost any of the maturity that he showed towards the end of 2013, even if his on-track results left much to be desired. In Spain and Monaco, he ran well to finish in the points, and although no more top ten finishes followed, the Frenchman firmly proved that he is team leader at Lotus with some impressive outings this year.

Season Highlight: Qualifying fifth in Spain before finishing eighth in the race.

16. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso

Kvyat’s debut season was good, but not great. His qualifying performances were highly impressive, starting fifth in Russia and Abu Dhabi, but a highest finish of ninth doesn’t scream quality. Nevertheless, it was enough to get a promotion to Red Bull for 2015, but he will need to quickly prove his worth after failing to turn too many heads this year.

Season Highlight: Qualifying an excellent fifth on home soil in Russia.

17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber

While Valtteri Bottas flourished in his sophomore year, Esteban Gutierrez’s campaign proved to be the ‘difficult second album’ for F1 drivers. The Sauber C33 gave him little hope of living up to the credentials he built up in his junior years, but his best chance for points in Monaco was lost due to a silly error. He’s set to take up a reserve role for 2015, so don’t go thinking his F1 career is over just yet.

Season Highlight: Hungary when points were possible before his car stopped.

18. Adrian Sutil Sauber

Like Gutierrez, Sutil’s efforts were hampered by the C33 car in 2014, allowing the German to more than live up to his billing as the most average driver on the grid. He now enters the off-season in a legal wrangling with Sauber given that he does have a contract for 2015, but this could prove to have been an underwhelming end to Adrian Sutil’s F1 career.

Season Highlight: Coming close to points in Hungary, finishing 11th.

19. Pastor Maldonado Lotus

2014 saw Pastor Maldonado enjoy his most anonymous season to date, scoring just two points at the United States Grand Prix and, yet again, getting more recognition for his off-track excursions than anything else. There’s even a website called hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com.

Season Highlight: Two points in Austin for ninth place.

20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham

As debut seasons go, Marcus Ericsson’s was pretty unique in the modern F1 we know as he failed to reach the end of the year thanks to his team’s demise. Caterham’s financial struggles appeared to mark the end of the Swede’s F1 hopes, but he landed on his feet, securing a seat at Sauber for 2015. He really came alive in the second half of the year, suggesting there is more to come from the Swede.

Season Highlight: 15th in Singapore, beating Bianchi at the end.

21. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham

Like Ericsson, Kobayashi stood little chance this year due to the financial and managerial mess being created at Caterham, but he’ll undoubtedly be regretting his departure from a works Ferrari drive in the WEC. A sad end to an F1 career that appeared to hold far more than his solitary podium finish.

Season Highlight: 13th in Malaysia after a gutsy drive.

22. Max Chilton Marussia

After a good start to the year, Chilton’s season faded towards the end before Marussia’s withdrawal. Again, he stood little chance, but the Briton did very little to prove he is worthy of a place on the grid. Expect a switch to WEC or DTM for 2015.

Season Highlight: 13th in Bahrain.

Eli Tomac wins Tampa Supercross, takes red plate home

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With his third win of the season, Eli Tomac took the red plate from Ken Roczen at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Entering with a one-point deficit, Tomac left with a four-point advantage in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross championship hunt.

Tomac has struggled with starts so far this season. Saturday, he was part of a four-rider separation on the opening lap. He slotted in behind Adam Cianciarulo and went to school on his teammate.

“Our starts were better,” Tomac told NBCSN after the race. “That was the key. We put ourselves in a position early so that we could go to battle and ride the way we’re supposed to ride.”

Tomac claimed his 30th career win as the riders behind swapped positions. Cianciarulo and Malcolm Stewart started out with top-five runs. Both had the podium in site before they faded and gave last year’s Big Three free reign at the front of the pack.

“Early on I was just following Adam,” Tomac said. “With these short lap times I knew we had a lot of laps under our belt tonight. So I kind of just settled tonight and then made the push just before halfway.

“And I thought I’ve go to go if I’m going to go. So I was able to switch up the sand there. That was really cool with the option. A good passing spot.”

Cooper Webb finished second. It is his fifth podium of the year, but he felt he could have challenged Tomac if he had gotten through traffic a little faster. Roosters from the sand section blinded him and forced a more cautious approach from on top of his KTM.

Roczen minimized his points loss with a third-place finish. It could have been much worse. At about the halfway point, Roczen fell. Luckily for him, Cianciarulo went down on the same lap and took much longer to right his bike, which allowed Roczen to hold onto a top-three spot. Roczen ended the race nearly 11 seconds behind Webb and 18 behind Tomac.

Last year’s Big Three all stood on the podium.

Speed has not been a problem for Cianciarulo. He has been fastest in qualification every week including Tampa, but he is still learning how to get to the finish without making mistakes.

Last week Cianciarulo lost the lead late at San Diego when Webb was able to study his line. This week Cianciarulo had the opportunity to study Tomac, but he refused to simply ride and gain experience.

Earlier this week, Cianciarulo told NBC Sports: “The adversity I’ve faced – the mistakes I’ve made – have all been basically caused because of not settling. Just trying to get the absolute most I can out of every race. I guess in a way you can look at that and say it was inexperience or a rookie being a rookie.”

Cianciarulo went from second at the midway point to ninth at the checkers.

Justin Barcia and Justin Hill rounded out the top five.

Stewart had one of his best runs of the season, but he faded in the closing laps. On the final trip around the track, he nipped Jason Anderson at the line.

Shane McElrath won the opening round of the 250 East division, just as he has done in his last two 250 West openers. Feld Entertainment Inc.

250 EAST: Shane McElrath won the opening rounds of his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Both of those came at Anaheim in the 250 West division. Switching coasts did not make any difference. McElrath drew first blood in the series with a 3-second advantage over last year’s 250 East champion, Chase Sexton.

“Nobody outside of my wife and I really know what went into this year and what a hit we took last year mentally,” McElrath told NBCSN. “It was a struggle. Everybody goes through their down times, and I really had a lot of growing to do last year.”

Sexton got off to a bad start on the first lap. All the news wasn’t bad. After getting mired in the pack at the start, he picked his way through the field and settled into second about halfway through the main event. Sexton made up 8 seconds as the clock ticked but simply ran out of time.

“I didn’t execute my start like I needed to,” Sexton said. “You can’t come from fifth and expect to catch them by the end of the race.”

In his first race back after a year and a half with a broken back, Jeremy Martin stood tall on the last rung of the podium

Garrett Marchbanks and Jordan Smith rounded out the top five.

450s

Heat 1: Eli Tomac is not known for his starts. It’s time to rethink that after Heat 1. Tomac bolted to a big lead on Lap 1. … Malcolm Stewart led the field to the first corner. He slid wide exiting the corner and slipped back several spots before charging back to second. … Cooper Webb backed up his win last week with a third-place finish. … Vince Friese finished ninth to grab the final transfer. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Ken Roczen stalked Adam Cianciarulo until the rookie buried his front wheel in the sand section. That stalled his momentum and allowed Roczen to take the lead. It set up a huge battle for the final battle for the top spot as the two crossed under the checkers nose to tail … Roczen won over Cianciarulo. … Zach Osborne took the final rung of the podium. … Back after a two-year hiatus, Broc Tickle finished fourth. It was like he had never been off the bike. … On Lap 1 Blake Baggett jumped into the back of Jared Lesher. They collected Joshua Cartwright, who got pinned under his bike and limped off the track. Baggett recovered to finfish eighth. … Kyle Chisholm took the final transfer position in ninth. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Chad Reed had to go through the LCQ, but he qualified for his 255th 450 Main where he would finish 19th. … Kyle Cunningham provided a lot of drama as time was running off the clock, but missed a corner and settled for second. Ryan Breece finished third. … Making his first Main of the season, Adam Enticknap swapped positions with Daniel Herrlien throughout the race and nipped him at the end.  | LCQ Results

250s

Heat 1: Shane Mcelrath grabbed the lead early and held it throughout the heat. He won by 14 seconds, but much of that was because of mistakes by the second- and third-place riders. … Garrett Marchbanks had a quick off early in the race. He recovered to finish second. … Jordon Smith struggled in the sand. He went down early in the sand section, but he held position for a while. A second mistake in the sand allowed his teammate Marchbanks to pass him. … The final transfer position was a barnburner as Nick Gaines held off a determined charge by Hunter Sayles on the final lap. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Chase Sexton told reporters before the race that he is determined to dominate. So far so good as he let the entire heat in route to the top spot on the podium. … Jeremy Martin settled into a comfortable spot four seconds back as the battle for third heated up. … Jo Shimoda held it for a while, but was eventually overrun by RJ Hampshire, who took the final rung of the podium … Shimoda faded to fifth. … The final transfer spot went to Cedric Soubeyras. … Joey Crown finished a respectable eighth and also transferred. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Jimmy Decotis made his move at the right time. With less than a minute on the clock, he caught and passed Curran Thurman. … Jimmy Decotis finished third. … The battle of the night was for the final transfer spot. Jalek Swoll made a dramatic pass in the final turn, but bogged down in the whoops and allowed Isaac Teasdale to catch him at the line in a photo finish. Teasdale took the final spot | LCQ Results

Click here for 450 Main Results | Season Points
Click here for 250 Main Results | Season Points

Next race: February 22, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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