B/R's 2014 F1 Awards

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2014

B/R's 2014 F1 Awards

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    Whether or not you believe that 2014 was a classic season of Formula One depends on what you want from your motorsport.

    If it is unpredictability and competition that you desire, this year probably wasn't for you, with one team winning all but three races.

    But if it is storylines, narratives and rivalries that you're looking for, 2014 was one of the finest campaigns in recent memory.

    A hugely tense title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was just the tip of the iceberg, with no shortage of talking points up and down the grid.

    Stars of the future such as Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat rose to prominence as the established winners of years gone by, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, struggled to get to grips with the new regulations.

    Those rule changes allowed teams such as Williams and Force India to enjoy a change of fortune, but no outfit could get the better of new world champions Mercedes.

    To celebrate the 2014 season, here are Bleacher Report's F1 Awards, ranging from the campaign's biggest flop to the all-important Driver of the Year gong.

Rookie of the Year: Daniil Kvyat

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    Hands up: Who had heard of Daniil Kvyat before he was announced as a Toro Rosso driver at the end of 2013?

    With the Russian Grand Prix joining the calendar for 2014, the signing of Kvyat was widely condemned as a publicity stunt, but the GP3 champion proved the cynics wrong as early as his very first race weekend.

    The gangling Kvyat become the sport's youngest-ever points scorer in Australia, where he made Q3, and added more points to his tally in two of the next three grands prix.

    A unreliable car denied him from ending the season with more than eight points to his name, and there was the occasional rookie error, but Kvyat was generally the more noticeable of the two Toro Rosso drivers.

    He was, of course, most noticeable at his home event, where he qualified an outstanding fifth on the grid just seven days after landing a Red Bull seat for 2015.

    We might not have known who he was back then, but we certainly know now.

    Runner-up: Kevin Magnussen, who struggled to maintain the form that saw him reach the podium in his debut race for McLaren.

Overtake of the Year: Fernando Alonso on Sebastian Vettel (British GP)

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    In a season of close, hard and (mostly) fair racing, there were a number of moves to choose from as our Overtake of the Year.

    The one that will live in the memory for longest, though, is Fernando Alonso's brave pass around the outside of his great rival, Sebastian Vettel, at Silverstone.

    In the midst of a 14-lap scrap between the pair, Alonso benefited from Vettel's slipstream as they headed toward Copse corner. The Red Bull driver covered the inside, but that wasn't enough to restrain the Spaniard.

    The Ferrari switched back to the outside and, although the odds were against him passing the long way around, Alonso held firm and maintained control of the situation, leaving Vettel with no option but to back out of the 180-mph turn.

    Vettel might have had the last laugh, overtaking at the same corner a number of laps later, but Alonso's effort couldn't be beaten in terms of sheer exhilaration.

    Runner-up: Daniel Ricciardo on Sebastian Vettel at Monza. It was a metaphor for Red Bull's season, underlining Ricciardo's confidence as well as Vettel's vulnerability.

Most Improved Driver of the Year: Valtteri Bottas

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    In truth, Valtteri Bottas probably didn't evolve too much as a driver between 2013 and 2014—he was just given a car that allowed him to showcase his talent.

    A run of three consecutive podium finishes between the Austrian and German grands prix saw Williams become a single-car team at the midseason stage, with Bottas consistently having the edge over Felipe Massa, his highly experienced team-mate.

    A further three trips to the podium would follow, with Bottas pipping world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso to finish fourth in the drivers' standings at the season finale.

    Indeed, Bottas' season wasn't entirely faultless—poles were there for the taking in Austria and Russia, while he should have secured top-three finishes in Australia and Italy—but 186 points were a great return for a driver who endured a four-point rookie campaign in 2013.

    For a driver in just his second season in F1, Bottas looked as though he'd been competing at the front for years.

    Runner-up: Daniel Ricciardo, whose whipping of Sebastian Vettel was entirely unexpected after two steady seasons at Toro Rosso.

Most Improved Team of the Year: Williams

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    Williams endured the joint-worst campaign in their history in 2013, finishing ninth in the constructors' championship with just five points.

    The team that finished third in the standings with 320 points in 2014 was almost unrecognisable from the mess of the previous year, with the legendary team returning to the front of the grid.

    Out went Pastor Maldonado and the Renault V8 engine and in came the safe hands of Felipe Massa and the dominant Mercedes V6 power unit.

    And they weren't the only arrivals.

    Pat Symonds, a mid-2013 recruit, overhauled the team's engineering department, attracting names such as Rod Nelson and former Ferrari man Rob Smedley.

    Martini also returned to F1 as the team's title sponsor as Williams claimed nine podiums in style.

    Runner-up: Force India, who threatened to break into the top five of the constructors' standings and secured their first podium since '09 in the process.

Race of the Year: Canada

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    The Canadian Grand Prix was the first time that Mercedes gave their rivals a chance to win and hinted what the entire season would have been like had the Silver Arrows not been so consistently brilliant.

    The Montreal event was set to be another race-long duel between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton until both drivers suffered MGU-K failures at the halfway stage.

    While Hamilton was unable to manage the problem and retired with overheated brakes, Rosberg continued to circulate, albeit at a reduced pace, which allowed Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa to close in.

    Despite having four drivers breathing down his neck, Rosberg maintained the lead until the final three laps, when Ricciardo, shortly after disposing of Perez, made the decisive pass.

    The grand prix ended under safety car conditions when Perez and Massa collided on the main straight, with the popular Ricciardo claiming his maiden victory.

    Runner-up: Bahrain, where Hamilton and Rosberg raced relentlessly from start to finish.

Team Boss of the Year: Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe

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    While most of the focus surrounded the rivalry between the Mercedes drivers this season, there was the potential for tension in the Silver Arrows boardroom in 2014.

    Following the departure of Ross Brawn at the end of 2013, Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe effectively shared the role of team principal, with the former focusing on the business side of things and the latter adopting a more technical standpoint.

    A clash of personalities was possible, but the pair led from the front and set a trend in terms of management structure, with McLaren later deciding against appointing a defined successor to Martin Whitmarsh.

    The strength of the Wolff-Lowe partnership was best highlighted following the collision between Hamilton and Rosberg at Spa, with Autosport's Jonathan Noble reporting that the Mercedes bosses banned both drivers from contacting the team until days after the Belgian GP.

    It had the effect of refocusing the team, and there was no coincidence that Mercedes went on to win each of the remaining seven races.

    Runner-up: Claire Williams, who was central to the resurgence of Williams in 2014.

Flop of the Year: Kimi Raikkonen

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    Kimi Raikkonen was re-signed by Ferrari to provide Fernando Alonso with a headache, but the "Iceman" found himself dazzled by his team-mate in 2014.

    A troublesome front end made the Finn a peripheral figure at most race weekends, with brief respite coming in Monaco—where his hopes of a podium finish ended with a collision with Max Chilton behind the safety car—and Belgium, where he finished a season-best fourth.

    With his lack of competitiveness came a lack of discipline, as Raikkonen sparked a scary accident on the first lap at Silverstone which saw his F14-T spin across the track into the path of other cars.

    The 2007 world champion's misery was reflected in his championship position, with Raikkonen finishing outside of the top 10 in the drivers' standings for the first time in his career.

    Runner-up: Sebastian Vettel. In isolation, 2014 was decent enough, but against the backdrop of four consecutive world titles it was nothing short of disastrous.

Car of the Year: Mercedes W05 Hybrid

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    There was no contest here.

    The Mercedes W05 Hybrid will be canonised as an all-time classic Formula One car, having secured 18 pole positions and 16 victories in 19 grands prix.

    It should, in fact, have been the first car to win each and every race of a given season, but a mixture of reliability issues (Canada), rotten luck (Hungary) and some fisticuffs between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (Belgium) let three victories slip through the net to Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull.

    The W05 might not have been the most bulletproof machine on the grid—Hamilton and Rosberg retired from a combined total of five races, with the latter limping to 14th at the season finale after suffering technical problems—but it was the fastest by a large distance, even after a midseason ban on snazzy suspensions.

    Runner-up: Williams FW36. Like the Lotus E20 of 2012, its potential was never truly realised.

Moment of the Year: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg Collide at Spa

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    After the Bahrain Grand Prix, where the Mercedes drivers repeatedly raced within centimetres of one another, it was inevitable that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg would make contact at some point in 2014.

    The only surprise was that it took so long, with the Silver Arrows coming to blows on Lap 2 of the Belgian Grand Prix, the 12th round of the season.

    Rosberg—still outraged by Hamilton's defiance of team instructions at the previous race in Hungary—lost the lead at the first corner but found himself gaining on his team-mate on the Kemmel Straight.

    Popping out of Hamilton's slipstream, Rosberg attempted an ambitious move around the outside of Les Combes but misjudged it badly, losing an element of his front wing and giving Hamilton a puncture that would eventually lead to his retirement.

    Although Rosberg recovered to finish second, extending his championship lead to 29 points, his title challenge quickly unraveled as Hamilton won each of the next five races.

    Runner-up: Rosberg's off-track excursion in Monaco qualifying, which took Mercedes' inter-team rivalry to a whole new level.

Driver of the Year: Lewis Hamilton

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    It wasn't just the 11 grand prix victories and the second world title that has seen Lewis Hamilton crowned as our Driver of the Year—it was his application and determination.

    The 2014 regulations and their emphasis on car management throughout a race, let's remember, were not supposed to favour Hamilton's pure driving style, yet the Mercedes driver almost instantly passed the intelligence test.

    A run of four consecutive wins in the opening five races was a career-best streak until the British driver won five on the trot as the season reached its crescendo, but it was when things didn't go his way that Hamilton showed his true qualities.

    In that difficult mid-part of the campaign when he suffered from bad luck and was forced to start from the rear of the field in Germany and Hungary, it would have been easy for him to allow his head to drop and let his championship challenge go off the rails.

    Hamilton, however, always came back fighting and even took energy from being punted out of the Belgian GP by his title rival, Nico Rosberg, which inspired that title-clinching five-race winning burst.

    "Still I Rise" were the words that adorned Hamilton's helmet in 2014 and it was the message that he carried with him throughout the season.

    Nobody was ever going to beat him to that crown.

    Runner-up: Daniel Ricciardo, who took us all by surprise by winning three races and having the edge over four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

    All statistics in this article, unless stated, have been taken from Wikipedia and the official Formula One website.

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