Grading the Formula 1 Teams on Their 2015 Performances
Formula One's second season under the V6 turbo-hybrid regulations followed a similar pattern to the first.
Mercedes once again produced a package light years ahead of anyone else and won the constructors' championship with ease. Again, they failed to win just three races—and as in 2014, only one team was able to take advantage.
Last year it was Red Bull, this time around it was Ferrari. And for the second year in a row, Williams were third in the constructors' championship.
But some teams had very different years. McLaren disappointed in 2014, but their performances in 2015 were nothing short of appalling; on the other side of the coin, Sauber had a relatively successful 2015 after scoring no points in 2014.
Force India, Toro Rosso, Lotus and Manor also saw their fortunes shift—some for better, some for worse.
Earlier in the season, we awarded grades to each team based on how they started the year. As we look forward to the start of 2016 and a fresh start for everyone, here are their final marks.
Each team is graded based on how well they performed over the whole season. As well as race results, reliability and how well they operated at race weekends, budgets—using figures published by Autosport's Dieter Rencken—and expectations are also taken into account.
The words "we win together and we lose together" are favourites in F1, so each team is rated as a unit—chassis, engine supplier and personnel all rolled into one, with only the drivers excluded. Championship order is used to determine placement in the article.
Grades from A+ to F are used. A+ is the best possible grade, F is the worst.
Manor worked wonders just to make it onto the grid in 2015, but points proved far beyond their reach.
After the team entered administration toward the end of 2014, their assets began to be auctioned off. Some were sold in December, but the bulk of the racing operation was set to go under the hammer in mid-January. A last-minute investment secured their future—in the short-term at least.
But as impressive as their survival story was, Manor never really played a serious part in the 2015 season. Using a modified version of their uncompetitive 2014 chassis and a year-old Ferrari power unit, they spent the whole year several seconds off the pace of the next-slowest teams.
Roberto Merhi and Alexander Rossi supplied their best results of the year—12th in Great Britain and the United States, respectively.
But the future looks a little brighter. Hopefully next year, with a Mercedes engine and a shiny new car, they'll be able to get some proper racing done.
McLaren started racing in F1 all the way back in 1966, but never before have they experienced a season quite as bad as 2015.
The rekindling of their partnership with Honda—with whom they'd won so much in the 1980s and early 1990s—was supposed to be the start of a new era of success. But pre-season testing suggested all was not well, and as the year progressed, Honda repeatedly failed to get on top of their underpowered, unreliable power unit.
And in the modern era, power-unit performance is crucial.
McLaren did occasionally manage a good finish—Fernando Alonso's fifth in Hungary and Jenson Button's sixth in the United States being the highlights—but these owed more to luck and attrition than the performance of the MP4-30 package.
On raw pace alone, they were usually no better than the eighth- or ninth-best team, and reliability-wise, they were far and away the worst.
FIA figures reveal the 10 teams used a total of 578 power unit components in 2015. World champions Mercedes got through a total of 48, while the two relatively unreliable Renault-powered teams, between them, used 128.
McLaren alone used a staggering 109.
To say they need to improve over the winter would be a massive understatement.
Sauber will enjoy a boost to their revenues after securing eighth in the constructors' championship.
The Swiss team got off to a flying start at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson both finishing in the top 10. Between them they scored 14 points—14 more than Sauber managed in the entire 2014 season.
Melbourne was to prove the high-point of a year with many ups and downs. Sauber are not a wealthy team and were unable to keep up in the development race as the season progressed.
However, reliability was generally good and they were able to grab points whenever they became available; Nasr's sixth-place finish in Russia was the highlight of the second half of the year.
Overall, Sauber did the sort of job we might expect a team with their budget to do, and they can take a little extra pride from beating McLaren—one of the wealthiest teams on the grid.
Toro Rosso scored more points than ever before in 2015—but as is often the case with the Red Bull junior team, their total could have been far higher.
James Key and his team in Faenza did a cracking job to put together the STR10 chassis on a tight budget; early in the year, it often appeared to have the beating of Adrian Newey's Red Bull RB11.
It remained one of the top chassis throughout the whole season, but it struggled to fulfil its true potential due to the weakness of the Renault power unit. The lack of horsepower adversely affected lap times and made passing more difficult, while the poor reliability of the Energy F1 cost the drivers points on a number of occasions.
Max Verstappen's fourth-placed finishes in Hungary and the United States were the standout moments for the team, but Carlos Sainz Jr. probably lost more points to car failures than he managed to score.
And had the Spaniard scored the points he deserved, Toro Rosso would have comfortably beaten Lotus to sixth.
A good year, but it could have been a lot better.
Lotus' final season (for now) will be remembered more for what happened off the track than what they did on it.
Switching from Renault to Mercedes engines gave the team a huge boost before a wheel had even been turned, and Lotus had a mixed start to the year.
While Pastor Maldonado experienced difficulties with the brakes on a number of occasions and failed to finish five of the first six races, Romain Grosjean looked more comfortable and soon had some points on the board.
But as the season wore on, Lotus struggled to keep up in the development race as their financial difficulties started to mount. Autosport reported in July that the team were facing legal action from unhappy creditors, and Pirelli withheld tyres until just before practice in Hungary due to unpaid bills.
Even Grosjean's stunning podium at the Belgian Grand Prix was overshadowed as bailiffs moved in after the race.
Lotus ended the year as the slowest Mercedes team by a distance—but everyone at Enstone can look forward to a brighter long-term future as the new Renault works team.
Force India enjoyed their best season yet despite a less-than-ideal start to the year.
The new VJM08 missed the first two pre-season tests amid rumours, as reported by Motorsport.com, of financial difficulties at the team. A switch to a different wind tunnel also delayed their development of the new car; it wouldn't be truly ready until halfway through the season.
It was, therefore, not too surprising to see the team regularly outside the points in the opening races. For an underdeveloped car, it wasn't terrible, but neither Sergio Perez nor Nico Hulkenberg could do an awful lot with it.
The arrival of the "B-spec" upgrade package changed everything.
Perez in particular put the improved car to good use, scoring an excellent podium at the Russian Grand Prix in early October. By the end of the year, Force India were almost on a par with Williams—a remarkable turnaround after their difficult start.
For team with their budget, it was a fine season. What might they have achieved had the VJM08B been ready for the first race?
Red Bull aren't used to losing and might have thought 2014 was bad—but 2015 was even worse.
The Austrian team have a substantial budget and a technical department that is second to none, but the RB11 that came out of the box at the start of the year wasn't a brilliant car. Sister team Toro Rosso were embarrassingly quicker at several of the early races—proving Red Bull's struggles were not solely the fault of Renault.
However, the French manufacturer must take the blame for most of the partnership's woes in 2015.
Red Bull rapidly got on top of their problems and ended up with the only chassis in the field that could match Mercedes; Renault, meanwhile, failed to do any meaningful work on its power unit until the last few races of the year.
And when the long-awaited upgrade arrived at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo, who was using it, was slower than Daniil Kvyat, who was not.
Despite trying every avenue they could to find an alternative engine supply, Red Bull will continue to use the Renault in 2016. Without major improvements, the unhappy couple face another winless year.
Williams once again punched above their weight, but their low budget is starting to show.
Their true place in the pecking order was established in the very first race when Sebastian Vettel overcut Felipe Massa to claim the third spot on the podium. Whereas the Grove-based team had often been Mercedes' closest challenger in 2014, they were now no more than third-best.
Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa made the occasional breakthrough to grab two podiums each, but most of the time they could do no better than fourth or fifth.
However, that was normally good enough to outscore their main opponents—Red Bull. Despite having a budget around half the size of their Austrian rivals, Williams scored 70 more points than them to finish third in the championship.
The powerful Mercedes engine in the back of the FW37 deserves a large part of the credit for this, but the work done by the team on the chassis cannot be overlooked. Though not competitive on every track, it was quick enough at most.
As reported by Crash.net, Williams could even afford to switch their focus to next year's car earlier than ever before.
A little work on the operational and strategic aspects of racing wouldn't go amiss, but it's hard to see how an independent team with a modest budget could have done much better.
Ferrari began their climb back to the front of the field and replaced Red Bull as the second-best team. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen clocked up 428 points between them—almost double the team's 2014 total.
Early in the year, Vettel's victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix suggested Ferrari had closed the gap and could give Mercedes a real challenge. They looked promisingly quick at the next race, the Chinese Grand Prix, and Raikkonen very nearly won in Bahrain.
But after the sport returned to Europe, the comfortable cushion enjoyed by Mercedes returned.
Vettel won in Hungary thanks to some poor driving by the Mercedes duo, and his third win of the year—in Singapore—appeared to be down to the way the tyres responded to the unusual track surface rather than a sudden improvement in the SF15-T's performance.
Overall, it was a very promising year for Ferrari, but they don't enter F1 to be "first of the losers." Though Maranello will be full of happy faces this Christmas, everyone knows there's still a lot of work to do if they want to catch the Silver Arrows in 2016.
Mercedes once again swept all before them on their way to a second consecutive constructors' championship. Their points total of 703 was two more than they managed in 2014, and a new all-time record.
The Silver Arrows were beaten fair and square on two occasions—in Malaysia and Singapore—but otherwise looked unstoppable. Between them, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg won 16 of the 19 races, took 18 pole positions and set 13 fastest laps.
Of the possible 38 podiums they could have achieved, they managed 32.
And Mercedes were not just the quickest team—they were also one of the most reliable. The W06s suffered just three race-ending mechanical failures in 2015, putting them in equal first place in the bulletproof stakes.
Ferrari were closer than Red Bull had been in 2014, but a handful of races aside, Mercedes remained in a class of their own. It might be a bit dull seeing one team win all the time, but few would say they don't deserve their success.