Ranking Formula 1's Most Out-of-Form Current Drivers
Just how do you judge a driver who has lost his form? Besides the brutally honest Lewis Hamilton, few will openly admit to a downturn in performance with contracts up for renewal, but there are some telltale signs.
Uncharacteristic driving errors and end-of-season malaise are good gauges, but perhaps the best barometer is how they have been faring against teammates in the same machinery both during qualifying and over a race distance.
Here are five drivers whose form has noticeably dipped over the last five races in terms of qualifying and race pace relative to their closest rivals.
5. Jean-Eric Vergne
Over halfway through the season, Jean-Eric Vergne was more than holding his own against a teammate who was on the verge of signing for Red Bull and was indeed ahead in their private points battle.
Since the announcement, Daniel Ricciardo has gone from strength to strength and has outqualified his teammate in each of the last five races. In fact, but for an accident in Singapore and a retirement in Korea, he has also finished ahead of Vergne on each occasion with the exception of Japan.
His future may be secure at Toro Rosso for next season, but he has yet to back up the promise he showed during the first half of the season.
Rounds 8-12: Average grid slot 14, points 0
Rounds 13-17: Average grid slot 15, points 0
4. Pastor Maldonado
For a driver who has been heavily linked to a Lotus drive in recent weeks, Pastor Maldonado has hardly set the F1 world on fire.
Outqualified by rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas in Singapore, Korea, Japan and India, the Venezuelan has fared marginally better over a race distance but was outdriven by Bottas in Korea.
Rounds 8-12: Average grid slot 16, points 1
Rounds 13-17: Average grid slot 17, points 0
3. Jules Bianchi
Is it any coincidence that shortly after having his contract extended by Marussia for the 2014 season, the highly rated Jules Bianchi is struggling against his teammate?
It may also have something to do with the fact that Max Chilton only has a handful of races left to prove his worth and gain a contract for next season and so is scrapping for his life.
Bianchi was slapped with a three-place grid penalty for impeding Paul di Resta during qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix, but Chilton outqualified and outraced him in Japan and also finished ahead of him in Korea and India.
Rounds 8-12: Average grid slot 19, points 0
Rounds 13-17: Average grid slot 21, points 0
2. Adrian Sutil
Four points from the last five races marks an extremely poor return for a driver in what is certainly not the worst car on the grid.
The German incurred the wrath of Mark Webber after he collided with the Red Bull driver, sending them both out of the race.
Things did not get much better in Japan when a mistake in free practice led to him damaging the car, which resulted in a gearbox change and a five-place grid penalty that compromised his race.
Whilst Sutil did score points in India and Abu Dhabi, Paul di Resta is looking the stronger of the two drivers as the season draws to a close.
Rounds 8-12: Average grid slot 12, points 8
Rounds 13-17: Average grid slot 15, points 4
1. Lewis Hamilton
During the last five Grands Prix, Lewis Hamilton has experienced an alarming dip in form and has only once managed to finish ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg thanks to a fourth-place finish in Korea.
Hamilton ended the European leg of the season in third place in the championship standings—65 points clear of Rosberg. He has since dropped to fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen and is only 16 points clear of his teammate. Hamilton is now in serious danger of finishing sixth.
The 28-year-old told Autosport after Abu Dhabi that he is at a loss to explain his dip in competitiveness.
Ultimately I am not particularly happy with my performance, but I am very happy with the team's performance.
The development and hard work that has gone in has been remarkable.
For whatever reasons, maybe being a new car, I have not got on well with it.
And really is for me very, very confusing. I was half a second up on my qualifying lap, 100 per cent, and if I hadn't made a mistake and been on the front row, the position would have been different.
But still, when I get to the race I don't know what happens. I really struggle. For a lot of races it's been like that.
Rounds 8-12: Average grid slot 1, points 64
Rounds 13-17: Average grid slot 3, points 34