Pre-season driver predictions revisited: Part 1

In the first part, I look back at my predictions from March that I got wrong.

Before the first grand prix of 2014, I made a prediction about how each driver would do in 2014. Here I’ll look back at the seven that I got wrong.

Sebastian Vettel

What I predicted: “Vettel will show everyone why he’s a multiple world champion by getting everything out of the RB10. He will win a few races later on, but it will not be enough to defend the title.”

My prediction for the defending champion’s season could have hardy been more wrong. Vettel struggled with the RB10 throughout the year, was clearly outdriven by his team mate and went the full season without winning a grand prix for the first time in his career – while Ricciardo won three times. The one thing I got right was he would not win the championship, as he finished his last season with Red Bull in fifth, in company of Bottas and Alonso. His move to Ferrari seems well-timed.

Daniel Ricciardo

What I predicted: “Ricciardo will keep Vettel honest in qualifying and will manage some podiums, but won’t win a race and will be outscored by some margin. It will be enough to stay at the team for 2015, though.”

Ricciardo exceeded my (and everyone else’s) expectations with a fantastic performance in his first year in competitive machinery. He simply had more pace than Vettel throughout the year, was impressively creative in his wheel-to-wheel battles and was there to capitalise every time the dominant Mercedes team slipped up, taking three opportunistic victories. He finished the championship in third, but has been the driver of the season in my view. I said he would do enough to stay with Red Bull, but he’s done much more than that and will lead the team in 2015.

Kimi Raikkonen

What I predicted: “Raikkonen will win a few Grands Prix, but will be outscored by Alonso by a few points.”

Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari hasn’t gone well as he rarely got to grips with the F14T, which wasn’t very competitive anyway. His battle with team mate Alonso was very one-sided – there were not many races where he was close to Alonso, and he finished the championship in a lowly 12th, scoring a third of Alonso’s points. He was on the way to the podium in Monaco before colliding with a lapped Chilton behind the safety car, and only beat his team mate in a race both finished at Spa (where Alonso had a penalty). His input in the development might make the 2015 Ferrari more to his liking.

Esteban Gutierrez

What I predicted: “Gutierrez will score plenty of points, more than Sutil, and remain in the team for 2015.”

That Gutierrez didn’t score plenty of points was mainly the car’s fault, as Sauber’s C33 was very uncompetitive and unreliable. He wasted the best opportunity when he crashed at Rascasse when he was on his way to a few points in Monaco – with which Sauber would have finished the championship in ninth. He was more or less evenly matched with team mate Sutil throughout the year and hasn’t been kept for 2015 by the team. While money played an important role in Sauber’s decision, it’s hard to justify he’s done enough in 2014 to deserve to stay in Formula 1.

Marcus Ericsson

What I predicted: “Ericsson will finish a race in the points and do just enough for Caterham to keep him for 2015.”

Ericsson’s F1 career didn’t start well, but he got better once the team simplified the brake-by-wire system late in the season. In the attritious Monaco GP he finished just outside of the points in 11th. He didn’t start the last three grands prix – the team missed two because of financial problems, and when they made a return he was already with Sauber, for whom he’ll race in 2015. His sponsorship had most to do with signing the contract after a disappointing 2014. Caterham did seem keen to keep him for 2015, however.

Nico Hulkenberg

What I predicted: “Hulkenberg will get a few podiums and beat Perez. He will finally get a top seat that he’s deserved for some time.”

I was only right on one point – that Hulkenberg would beat Perez, which he comfortably did, even if Perez did well, especially in the second half of he year. Early on, Hulkenberg picked up points very consistently, as he usually does, finishing fifth more often than not in the first seven races. That was as good as it would get – a mistake in Bahrain qualifying cost him his best chance of a maiden podium, which his team mate picked up. He will remain at Force India in 2015, spending yet another year in the midfield when he’s overdue a chance with a big team.

Fernando Alonso

What I predicted: “Will win some Grands Prix as well as outscore team-mate Raikkonen by a tiny margin, but will be beaten to the title.”

I expected more from the F14T and Raikkonen, which made my Alonso prediction wrong. His last year at Ferrari summed up his five years in Maranello – impressively getting the most out of relatively uncompetitive machinery. For the first time he’s gone a season in red without a victory, but finished on the podium twice – a great performance at the wet Hungaroring saw him lead for a long time and beat both Mercedes, only losing out to Ricciardo in the final laps. He finished the championship in sixth, very close behind Bottas and Vettel. His return to McLaren is yet to be officialy confirmed.

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