1. Daniel Ricciardo
A mega season overall from the Australian. Incredibly unlucky not to get Red Bull’s first podium of the season after a puncture early in the race at Shanghai. Forced to up his game by Max Verstappen and he most certainly did that; especially in qualifying. Could and should have won in Spain and Monaco; but got a deserved victory in Malaysia. Had the odd average weekend though. Japan, Austria and Canada come to mind. Best overtaker in F1 at the moment in my opinion. Definitely a title contender in 2017 if Red Bull give him a really quick car.
2. Max Verstappen
An incredible performance from the young man. A massively controversial decision to put him in the car after Russia; but he proved that he was worthy of the seat. Sensational victory on his debut in Spain and some epic drives like Brazil. Some very aggressive (and quite possibly over the limit on occasions) defensive moves at times; but he’s certainly brought some new fans to F1 thanks to his style. He’s my #2 because he got caught up in unnecessary incidents like T1 at Spa and Brazil. One thing is for sure is that the young Dutchman will win races and championships if everything goes normally. A great season from him.
3. Lewis Hamilton
The enigma that is Lewis Hamilton. A year of controversy it’s fair to say. When he’s at his best he’s pretty much unbeatable. We saw that in the final four races of the season. When’s he off form though his head starts to drop and have really poor weekends like Singapore and Japan. Some shocking starts this year and it can’t all be about Mercedes. Nico Rosberg only made one awful start at Hockenheim. Clearly poor reliability cost him the title; but that’s part of racing. Ask Kimi Räikkönen about 2005 for example. With Rosberg retiring from F1 and Mercedes likely to employ Wehrlein… it’s hard to see Lewis Hamilton been denied a fourth title in 2017 if Mercedes get the new regulations right.
4. Nico Rosberg
A victory for the underdog. Did Nico Rosberg have the same amount of raw speed and natural talent as Lewis Hamilton? No he didn’t. Was he lucky with Hamilton’s failures? Yes. Racing is not all about raw speed though. Poor reliability can be part of it. Rosberg deserved his championship though. He absolutely maximised his talent and worked super hard with the team to get the absolute maximum out of himself and the car. He had some shocking weekends like Monaco and Canada; but he showed a lot of character this year too. Champion drives in Singapore and Japan. Also a massive Q3 lap in Mexico and that superb racing with Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. Every champion is a worthy champion. A great team player who will be missed by Mercedes. All the best to him after his retirement.
5. Fernando Alonso
After a totally forgettable 2015 season for McLaren and the Spaniard, 2016 was better and Alonso showed once again why he’s won two championships. This all came after a scary start to season in Australia after ploughing into Gutierrez and missing the Bahrain Grand Prix because of injuries. Despite Honda once again lacking power v Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari powered cars, Alonso managed a couple of brilliant top 5 finishes in mixed conditions at Monaco and a fully dry race at Austin. Seven top 7 finishes. As usual he showed his incredible race craft; especially on the first lap of races like Malaysia. Still a top quality driver at 35; but desperately needs a front running car for 2017.
6. Carlos Sainz
With Fernando Alonso approaching the end of his career, it looks like Spain will have another Spaniard to support for the foreseeable future. After Max Verstappen moved up to the Red Bull team, Carlos Sainz really delivered some exceptional performances in a car with a 2015 power unit in it. An incredible 10 points scoring finishes in the 21 race season. Magnificent 6th place finishes in Spain, Austin and the torrential rain in Brazil. Much like compatriot Alonso, he took opportunities when they were there. At 22 he’s still got lots of room to improve and time to get a front running car that his performances in 2016 deserve. Hello Mr. Wolff or Mr. Arrivabene….
7. Sebastian Vettel
After a stunning 2015 season from the German in his first season for Ferrari, things came crashing down in 2016. A very average season by his standards. He was beaten 10-11 by teammate Kimi Räikkönen in qualifying and 0-5 in the last 5 qualifying sessions of 2016. He also had shocking reliability in the first half of the season and some silly T1 crashes. However, it wasn’t all bad. He showed flashes of his brilliant best in Canada, Mexico (despite the radio meltdown) and Abu Dhabi. His race pace was superior to Räikkönen at most events and will look to 2017 for a better car and qualifying improvements. The four time champion is still very quick; but needs to control his fiery side and turn it into good energy.
8. Kimi Räikkönen
In a farcical season at Ferrari and his teammate having constant radio meltdowns, the Finn was a much needed calm figure at Ferrari. After a shocking 2014 and 2015 when he was lucky to keep his seat for 2016, he produced a big improvement in performances. Definitely his strongest qualifying performance since his return in 2012. There was still the odd very poor performance in 2016, Monaco and Canada come to mind. However, he pushed his teammate so hard and almost won in Spain. He also got taken out by Vettel in China and Belgium. His race pace definitely wasn’t as strong as Vettel’s though. That’s something he’ll need to work on; but a much better season for the Finn. He beat Vettel 11-10 in qualifying. Something to be satisfied with. He needs a better car like his teammate for 2017.
9. Sergio Perez
Once again a really excellent season from the Mexican. He was out qualified 9-12 by Nico Hülkenberg; but Perez scored the majority of points. One of the outstanding 2016 performances in Baku. He qualified a sensational P2 and due to a penalty he started P7. A brilliant race saw him finish P3. He also scored a brilliant podium in Monaco and almost again in Brazil in soaking conditions. Like Alonso and Sainz he took advantage when the opportunities presented themselves. He’s become a very good, solid and dependable driver. It should be fascinating to see how he does against Esteban Ocon in 2017.
10. Valtteri Bottas
A painful season for the Finn. However, this was not down to him. Williams provided their drivers with a really shocking car and it meant Valtteri only finished 8th in the standings. A superb drive in Montreal gave him a well deserved podium; but that was as good as it would get for him. He destroyed Felipe Massa 17-4 in qualifying. He was consistently faster than the Brazilian and deserves a place in the top 10. He did his job; but his team really let him down. You would hope he gets a better car next year to show his talent off. He may need to move in the very near future though.