With the 2014 F1 season in the books we’re rating the drivers’ performances over the course of the year. First up we’re looking at 22 through 20.
Not Classified: Andre Lotterer and Will Stevens
Two very different drivers made their F1 debuts at Caterham this season: three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer at Spa, and youngster Will Stevens at the finale in Abu Dhabi. They acquitted themselves well, with Lotterer out-qualifying Marcus Ericsson and Stevens driving a very sensible race last weekend. It would be unfair to place either in the overall ranking, but both deserve credit for their performances.
22. Esteban Gutierrez
After his troubled debut season in 2013 there were hopes that Esteban Gutierrez might show signs of improvement this term. He clearly possesses talent – the Mexican has a GP3 title and four GP2 race wins to his name – and with Adrian Sutil replacing Nico Hulkenberg as his Sauber team-mate he had a chance to emerge as the stronger driver at the Swiss squad.
But if anything Gutierrez seemed to go backwards in 2014. He was simply not quick enough and, to make matters worse, continued to make needless mistakes. Worst of all, he spurned his shot at glory. Running in the top 10 at Monaco, Gutierrez clouted the barrier and threw away his team’s best shot at points this season.
In truth Gutierrez came into F1 too soon. He was rushed into the Sauber seat by his Mexican backers when Sergio Perez left for McLaren last year, but what he really needed was a third season of GP2 to smooth off the rough edges.
Unsurprisingly the results have been poor. If he didn’t bring money to the team it would have been quite understandable for Sauber to give him the boot mid-season, and the fact that they have not renewed his contract for 2015 seems quite fair. His future seems to lie as a reserve driver with the hope of returning to a race seat in 2016.
21. Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson did very little this season to suggest he is anything more than a half-decent racer with a lot of money behind him. Fortunately for the young Swede, that is enough to secure a fairly long F1 future these days.
For the majority of the season Ericsson was roundly beaten by team-mate Kamui Kobayashi in both qualifying and races. Things got even worse when the Japanese was replaced by Andre Lotterer at Spa. The German maybe be a three-time Le Mans winner, but he had never sat in the Caterham before; most assumed Marcus would have the edge by dint of his experience in the car.
But incredibly Lotterer beat Ericsson by a full second in qualifying. Andre is a very talented and experienced driver, but part of that deficit was down to Ericsson’s shortcomings.
The Swede finally showed improvement towards the end of the campaign, but no one would disagree that his switch to Sauber is purely based on money. It will interesting to see how he fares against rookie Felipe Nasr in 2015.
20. Max Chilton
There is not a great deal to say about Max Chilton’s F1 career. The 23-year-old is not a bad driver – he doesn’t make many mistakes or put his rivals in the wall – but he’s also not particularly fast.
Team-mate Jules Bianchi was comfortably the quicker Marussia in 2014 and, appropriately, it was the Frenchman who bagged the team’s first points. To be perfectly frank, it was always clear why Ferrari signed Jules to their young driver programme while Max had to pay for his spot on the grid.
To his credit, Chilton conducts himself with maturity in interviews and was particularly impressive in the wake of Bianchi’s dreadful accident in Japan. As Jules’ team-mate, Max was in a uniquely difficult position when he raced solo in Russia.
His future in the sport is now extremely uncertain. With Marussia seemingly beyond help his only hope of being on the grid next term is to link up with Caterham, assuming they are able to solve their own financial problems.