With the 2014 F1 season in the books we're rating the drivers' performances over the course of the year. Next up we look at 15 through 12.
15. Sergio Perez
In some respects Sergio Perez is the perfect modern F1 driver. He’s generally very quick, usually sensible and crucially he brings huge financial investment from his Mexican backers.
2014 was a typically Jeckyll and Hyde season from Checo. His drive to the podium in Bahrain was superb, showing that on his day Perez is up there with the best of them. After all, how many podiums did Nico Hulkenberg score this term?
But the German is a far more consistent driver than Sergio, and while Nico may not have stood on a podium in 2014 he did outscore him by 37 points and won their qualifying battle 12-7. Then again Hulkenberg brings no money to the team, so perhaps it balances out.
Perez also retains an impetuous streak that really should have left him by now. A huge shunt when he collided with Felipe Massa in Canada was at least half his fault, while his first-lap collision with Adrian Sutil in Austin was the kind of error a rookie would be red-faced over.
If Sergio starts to put his experience to good use there is still a chance that he could compete at the front; if not, he’ll continue to deliver the odd star performance from the midfield.
14. Jules Bianchi
It seems almost wrong to rate Bianchi’s season while the Frenchman is still unconscious in a hospital bed. 2014 was shaping up to be a fine year for the Marussia man, having bagged the Anglo-Russian squad’s maiden points in Monaco. There were also a string of excellent qualifying performances, not least eliminating Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in Q1 at the Hungaroring.
His accident at Suzuka was pure bad luck and has left him fighting for his life. We can now only hope that Jules recovers with the same speed and determination that he drove a grand prix car.
13. Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean was one of the stars of 2013, particularly with the late-season flourish that saw the Frenchman score four podiums in final six races. But 2014 was a comparative disaster. Faced with an uncompetitive car and engine combination, there was little that Grosjean could do to keep his name on the radar.
There were signs that a recovery was possible early in the campaign, and it was Grosjean who made good on the team’s small progress. He grabbed points in Spain and at Monaco and comfortably had the better of his crash-prone team-mate Pastor Maldonado in qualifying.
But as the year progressed and it became clear that 2014 was a write-off, Grosjean grew visibly frustrated, often taking to the team radio to criticise his engine. Fortunately, the team will switch to the all-conquering Mercedes unit in 2015.
And that seemed to coincide with a dip in Romain’s form, allowing Pastor to become the stronger Lotus driver for the final few races.
Still, qualifying was a comfortable win for Grosjean, and he has matured tremendously since his wild days of 2012. Should Lotus provide him with a competitive car next term Romain should be able to remind us why he was such hot property late last season.
12. Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen’s rookie season began in spectacular fashion with a podium in Australia, but from there the young Dane struggled to match team-mate Jenson Button’s consistency. That’s no disgrace given than Jenson has 15 years' F1 experience under his belt, but as the season progressed Kevin became increasingly erratic in the races and regularly attracted the attention of the stewards.
His future is now in the balance. McLaren have Fernando Alonso on the way in next term, and the question is whether the raw talent of Magnussen or the experience of Button that offers the best compliment to the Spaniard. Matters are further complicated by another youngster, Stoffel Vandoorne, who has excelled in GP2 this term.
To hire Magnussen for a single season then cast him aside with no hope of finding another seat for 2015 might seem callous, but McLaren are in the business of winning and F1 is a cut-throat sport, particularly at the front of the grid. If Kevin survives he will count himself very fortunate - and know that a dramatic improvement is required in 2015. That Melbourne drive suggests he's capable.