Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Mercedes signed off in style at the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, securing their 16th race win of the Formula One season and setting a new record for one-two finishes. Nico Rosberg led home Lewis Hamilton for their 12th of the year—beating their own record of 11 from 2014.
Behind them, it was business as usual for Ferrari. The Italian team have been second-best all year long and, on Sunday, Kimi Raikkonen chalked up their 16th podium of the campaign.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth despite starting 15th; the Scuderia look to be the only team with even a small chance of taking the fight to Mercedes in 2016.
Force India finished the season strongly, and McLaren had one of their most competitive races of the year, but Williams and Red Bull failed to shine under the Yas Marina lights—as did Toro Rosso.
Lotus, meanwhile, had something to smile about at their final race under their current owners. Renault will take over soon—but the Lotus name may survive for one more campaign.
F1 returns to our screens in March next year, but testing begins in late February. All the teams will be working flat-out to build the best possible car for the new season—and hopefully, the engine suppliers will be doing the same.
For the last time in 2015, here's how the teams rank.
Note on Team Power Rankings
F1 team power rankings ignore the points table and instead present a snapshot of where each team stands in relation to their competitors based on the three key factors of reliability, single-lap and long-run pace.
The rankings are based on how they would perform if racing on an "average circuit" that places equal emphasis on each area of the car.
All position changes are relative to those in the previous set of rankings, published after the Brazilian Grand Prix. You can find them here.
Manor ended their final race with an outdated engine firmly rooted to the back of the field.
Will Stevens qualified 19th on the grid with a time of 1:46.297—around 2.5 seconds down on the next-slowest car. Team-mate Roberto Merhi, in the car for only the second time in seven races, was a further 1.2 seconds adrift.
Both Manors took penalties before the race; Stevens a five-place grid-drop for changing his gearbox (but he still started 19th) and Merhi was forced to start from the pit lane after his suspension setup was altered after qualifying.
They were left at the back at the start and spent the whole race lapping several seconds down on the rest. Two-stopping Stevens was the first Manor home, finishing 18th, while Merhi—opting for a suboptimal one-stopper—was 19th.
Manor end the year in 10th, but they can now look forward to receiving shiny new Mercedes engines and should be far more competitive in 2016.
Sauber were uncompetitive in Abu Dhabi and missed out on the points for the third race in a row.
Felipe Nasr qualified 14th on the grid to secure a narrow 10-9 victory in the Sauber qualifying battle. Marcus Ericsson was 18th—knocked out in Q1 after setting a lap a full second slower than Nasr's best in the same session.
Ericsson was bumped up to 17th on the grid after grid penalties for others, but he didn't make a great start and gained only one place on the opening lap despite two cars ahead being taken out.
He ran as high as seventh as other cars pitted early—Ericsson had started on the soft-compound tyres—but was unable to offer any real defence as they lined up to get back past. The Swede was back down to 13th when he made his own first stop and emerged in 15th.
A fairly lonely race followed, punctuated only by more defending. Even Jenson Button's McLaren was able to overtake, and Ericsson ended up 15th at the chequered flag.
When the lights went out, Nasr didn't get off the line well. Fernando Alonso got halfway past, then drifted in toward the Brazilian. Nasr couldn't get out of the way because Sebastian Vettel was on the outside, and he made contact with the McLaren.
Alonso was sent into Pastor Maldonado, but Nasr survived, ending the first lap in 14th—but with front wing damage. An early stop to fix it dropped him down the order, and he spent the remainder of the race playing catch-up.
He caught Ericsson late on but couldn't overtake, and he followed his team-mate home to finish 16th.
Sauber drop to ninth in the final rankings of the year and have a lot of work to do over the winter to be competitive next year.
There were green shoots of hope for McLaren in Abu Dhabi—but they still failed to score.
Jenson Button qualified 12th on the grid with a lap of 1:42.668, just two-tenths away from making it through to Q3. Fernando Alonso had looked set to join him in Q2, but a puncture on his Q1 hot lap left him stranded down in 17th.
The start saw Button get off the line reasonably well, but he was passed by Sebastian Vettel on the first long straight and ended the opening lap in 13th. He managed to stay with the Ferrari and a queue of cars ahead in the early laps but couldn't improve his position through the first round of stops.
Button's main battle was with the Saubers, and a beautiful move on Marcus Ericsson saw him emerge on top. The recovering Valtteri Bottas closed up late in the race and looked likely to relegate Button to 14th, but the 2009 world champion held off the Mercedes-powered FW37 to cross the line in 13th.
This became 12th after Verstappen took a time penalty.
Alonso started 16th after grid penalties were applied and made a good start, but he hit trouble after only a few hundred metres. Having got his nose ahead of Felipe Nasr on the run down to Turn 1, the Spaniard drifted across the Sauber and made contact.
This sent him careering into Pastor Maldonado, knocking the Venezuelan out of the race. Alonso had to pit for repairs and rejoined the track over a minute down on the leaders—a gap that grew when he served a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.
He was never going to catch the main pack, but the team let him have some fun in the closing stages. On fresh supersoft tyres, Alonso came within 0.279 seconds of setting the fastest lap of the race before finishing down in 17th.
McLaren rise one place to eighth. They'll need something special from engine partner Honda if they want to compete at the front in 2016.
7. Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso failed to overhaul Lotus in the battle for sixth.
Carlos Sainz Jr. put an end to a poor run of qualifying results to make it through to Q3 for the first time since Spa. His lap of 1:42.708 saw him start 10th, while team-mate Max Verstappen could only manage 11th.
When the red lights went out, Sainz got off the line well and what followed was one of the best opening laps of the season. He flew around the outside of both Williams cars at Turn 3 before muscling his way past Daniil Kvyat at the first chicane to end the lap in seventh.
Unfortunately for him, a very slow first stop dropped him back to a net 11th, and his pace in the second stint wasn't great. He let Verstappen past on Lap 17, dropping to 12th, but the Spaniard regained the place soon after when Verstappen's race was compromised by a lock-up.
In the closing stages, he briefly held 10th, but supersoft-shod Romain Grosjean powered past to bump him down to 11th. Sainz spent the final laps pressing Kvyat for the final point, but he was unable to overtake.
Verstappen made a reasonable start and held 11th after the opening lap. Sebastian Vettel overtook just before the pit-stop round, but Verstappen made the place back in the second stint when he was waved past Sainz.
However, his race began to fall apart after a huge lockup on Lap 20. Verstappen had to pit for fresh tyres and switched to a three-stop strategy—this left him needing to pass a number of slower cars late in the race.
One of them was Jenson Button, who defended 12th as only a McLaren-driving former world champion could. Verstappen was muscled off the circuit but kept his foot in and completed the pass anyway, earning himself a time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
He also received a 20-second time penalty for ignoring blue flags. So although he finished 12th on the track, he was classified 16th after the time was added on.
Toro Rosso slip down to seventh in the final rankings—a position they may struggle to better in 2016 with year-old Ferrari engines.
Lotus secured sixth in the constructors' championship despite losing a car at Turn 1.
Pastor Maldonado had a rare moment of Saturday joy, coming out as the top Lotus for only the second time in 2015. The Venezuelan started 13th, but he may not have won the day had Romain Grosjean been able to set a lap. His car broke down early in Q2, and he was classified 15th.
The Frenchman took a grid penalty for changing his gearbox and started 18th on the slower, soft-compound tyres. He had a decent opening lap and ran as high as fifth after the supersoft runners pitted early.
He came under pressure from cars on the conventional strategy in his second stint, but he was able to hold them all off until he made his own second stop on Lap 43. Now on the quicker supersofts, he rapidly caught one of the queue he'd been holding up—Daniil Kvyat—and overtook to claim ninth.
Grosjean then caught Felipe Massa's Williams but ran out of laps to mount a challenge.
Maldonado's race lasted just a few hundred metres. After a reasonable getaway, he was an innocent victim as Fernando Alonso speared into him and sent him off into the run-off area.
Lotus rise back up to sixth in the rankings. They'll have new owners in 2016 and, though there are huge question marks over their driver lineup, money for development shouldn't be as much of a problem as it has been this year.
5. Force India
Force India enjoyed a rare weekend as the top Mercedes customer team.
Sergio Perez was one of the stars of Saturday's qualifying session, putting his VJM08 fourth on the grid with a lap of 1:41.184. Team-mate Nico Hulkenberg couldn't quite find the same groove around Yas Marina and ended up seventh, half a second down on Perez.
A good start for Perez saw him briefly attack the cars ahead, but the gap between Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen closed, and he was forced to settle for fourth. He remained there until the first round of stops then slipped behind long-running Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean.
He passed the Frenchman quickly but didn't have the pace to challenge Vettel. Perez, therefore, concentrated on consolidating fifth. Daniel Ricciardo was the man behind, and he closed up in the final stages of the race, but Perez had done enough early on to minimise the pressure he had to deal with.
The Mexican crossed the line to take fifth, capping off a very impressive year.
Hulkenberg got a flying start and was fifth at the exit of Turn 1. He managed to keep Ricciardo back for almost the entire first stint but eventually fell to a late-braking move and pitted from sixth.
Felipe Massa became his attacker for the second stint, but this time, Hulkenberg resisted and stayed ahead thanks to a stop made two laps earlier than the Williams. Again the German found himself on the defensive—first under attack from Daniil Kvyat, then from Massa again.
But they couldn't pressure him into a mistake, and he crossed the line in seventh.
Force India remain in fifth; it'll be very interesting to see if they can push Williams harder next season.
Williams limped over the finish line after an unusually poor outing.
Valtteri Bottas qualified sixth on the grid with a lap of 1:41.656, beaten by cars from four other teams. Felipe Massa was two places back after setting a time one-tenth of a second slower.
Massa didn't get a great launch and was ninth at the braking zone for Turn 1, but he was able to overtake Bottas at the first chicane to end the opening lap where he started it. His pace in the opening stint wasn't great—slower than the Force Indias—and after making a switch to soft tyres at his first stop, Massa was down to ninth.
His second stint was spent close behind Nico Hulkenberg, but the opportunity to overtake never came; instead, Massa was overtaken at the second round of stops after Kvyat performed an undercut.
But as the race progressed, the Red Bull developed a problem. Massa steamed past on Lap 46 to take eighth, and that's where he finished after holding off the charging Romain Grosjean on the final tour.
Bottas had a decent initial getaway but was typically cautious into the first corner and slow through Turns 2 and 3. Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and team-mate Massa all overtook him, and the Finn ended the lap down in 10th.
He came in at the end of Lap 8 to switch to soft tyres, but the team released him just a fraction of a second too early. As Bottas was exiting his pit box, Jenson Button was steering into his, and the two made contact, destroying Bottas' front wing.
He came back in at the end of the next lap for a new one and ended up 18th. He caught up to a degree and got ahead of both Saubers after their late stops, but—curiously, given his huge straight-line speed advantage—was unable to overtake Button's McLaren.
Bottas crossed the line in 14th but was classified 13th after Max Verstappen's time penalty.
Williams end the year in fourth. They may face a sterner challenge from Force India in 2016.
3. Red Bull
Red Bull ended their mediocre season with a very average race.
Daniel Ricciardo was the quickest of the team's drivers over a single lap, qualifying fifth with a time of 1:41.444. Daniil Kvyat could only manage ninth—half a second down on his team-mate.
When the lights went out, Ricciardo got off the line well but was passed by Nico Hulkenberg, who'd got an even better start, around the outside of Turn 1. He pushed hard and overtook the German with a lovely late-braking move.
Hulkenberg got back past on the following straight, but Ricciardo again dived down the inside and pitted at the end of the lap.
Ricciardo emerged from the pit-stop phase less than a second ahead of Hulkenberg. Initially, both were held up by late-stopping Marcus Ericsson, but once past, Ricciardo easily pulled away and set off in pursuit of Sergio Perez.
The team tried another undercut at the second round of stops, but it didn't pay off, and Perez was able to stay just about far enough ahead all the way to the line. Ricciardo was sixth.
Kvyat made a good start and overtook both Williams cars—one off the line and one around the outside of Turn 1. However, Carlos Sainz Jr. relegated him back one place into the first chicane, and Felipe Massa was also able to pass. Kvyat ended the opening lap in ninth.
He spent the next 45 laps staring at the back of Mercedes-powered cars—Massa in the opening stint, Hulkenberg in the second. The Russian was quicker than both but lacked the straight-line speed to overtake either, and late in the race, he began to struggle with an electronic issue.
Kvyat dropped back and ended up in 10th.
Red Bull move up one spot to third—but major improvements on the engine side will be needed to rise further than that next year.
Ferrari recovered from a dodgy qualifying call but were again unable to battle Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen put in a rare appearance as the top SF15-T in qualifying by setting the third-fastest time—around eight-tenths down on the polesitter. Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in Q1 after a poor soft tyre run and a team error.
A decent start saw Raikkonen hold off fast-starting Sergio Perez on the run to Turn 1 and slot into third. He kept the two Mercedes cars—especially Hamilton—honest in the opening stint but couldn't quite stay within undercut range.
But he was more than quick enough to keep the rest of the field at bay, and he had a fairly lonely afternoon. Vettel twice ended up ahead on the track due to a different strategy, but Raikkonen was let through on both occasions on his way to finishing third—19 seconds down on the race winner.
Vettel started 15th after Grosjean's grid penalty. He didn't make a great start and was almost caught up in the first-corner collision between Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado, but he made it through unscathed and ended the opening lap in 12th.
Having started on the slower, soft-compound tyres, he was unable to do much in the way of overtaking but made up places as the supersoft runners pitted. Vettel twice found himself ahead of Raikkonen on the track but on each occasion ceded the position.
Vettel made his second and final stop on Lap 39, taking on the quicker supersoft tyres for a sprint to the end.
He quickly passed Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez then tried to close the gap to Raikkonen, but the tyres didn't last, and the gap was far too great. He crossed the line in fourth, 20 seconds clear of fifth.
Ferrari end the year in second and look the only team with a hope of challenging Mercedes in 2016.
Mercedes ended the year with another one-two finish—their 12th of the 2015 season.
Nico Rosberg qualified on pole for the sixth consecutive race, his lap of 1:40.237 putting him 0.377 seconds clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The world champion was in turn a little over four-tenths ahead of third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
When the lights went out, Rosberg got a good start and led easily into Turn 1; Hamilton didn't get off the line well but was able to hold off Raikkonen and Sergio Perez to stay in second.
Thoughout the first stint, Rosberg opened up a reasonable gap over Hamilton, but the Brit appeared to be quicker in the second as Rosberg struggled with graining. As their private battle was going on, they were slowly but surely pulling clear of the rest of the field.
Rosberg made a much earlier second stop and was able to build a net advantage of around 13 seconds by the time his team-mate pitted. Hamilton tried to catch up in the closing laps, but he'd been left with too much to do.
The team celebrated a win for the 16th time in 2015 as Rosberg crossed the line. Hamilton followed eight seconds later, 11 seconds clear of Raikkonen's Ferrari.
Mercedes remain on top of the world and will very much be the team to beat in 2016.