an F1 great. And then, after just seven months in the job, Mattiacci was replaced by Maurizio Arrivabene. A frustrated Seb Vettel gazumped everyone by announcing his departure from Red Bull, leaving Alonso to scrape together a deal with McLaren. It is very much to the detriment of F1 fans that Ferrari – or Red Bull for that matter – did not want to race with Alonso into 2015.
Ferrari were largely uncompetitive in 2014, thanks mainly to a weird front suspension geometry that required the car to be run excessively stiff. Alonso alone could manhandle the car in all conditions; Kimi Räikkönen, a front-end driver of enormous sensitivity, had no chance of showing his wares, other than on highgrip, billiard-smooth surfaces with innocuous kerbs (as per Interlagos). Ferrari’s engine was no match for Mercedes, but, as Daniel Ricciardo proved with the Renault V6, chassis balance, wheel compliance and aerodynamics still count for much in F1. McLaren were on average even slower than Ferrari, although one suspects that an Alonso or even a Ricciardo would have extracted more from a car that in the garage, and on blemish-free surfaces with decent tyres, looked very good indeed. Jenson Button was never going to be a fan of the 2014 rear aero balance and rookie Kevin Magnussen therefore raced for much of the year without real direction. McLaren further underlined F1’s woes by failing to attract a title sponsor, despite the extravagance of Ron Dennis’s pre-season exhortations. (McLaren, in addition, set some sort of record by effectively running four team managers in 2014 – Dennis, Jonathan Neale, Sam Michael and Eric Boullier.)
They lacked a chassis anything like as quick as the Williams due to their smaller budget, but Force India performed strongly for most of 2014. Their team management, resource allocation and driver choice were all examples of how to do it right – and exposed Sauber, where constant complaints about F1’s nancial structure seemed to dominate the racing. From the high mideld moving downwards, Valtteri Bottas shone brightly as a driver with championship-winning potential and demeanour; Sergio Pérez combined a ery temperament with exquisite racing ability (his drives in Canada and Russia were exemplary); Nico Hülkenberg had a very good rst halfseason and stood out once again at Interlagos, where he outraced Magnussen; Daniil Kvyat justied his promotion to Red Bull for 2015; Jean-Eric Vergne gave us plenty of dazzling car control; Felipe Massa again made you wonder why Ferrari ever red him; and Esteban Gutiérrez displayed ashes of brilliance in the difcult Sauber (particularly at Monaco and Suzuka) – to no avail.
So Mercedes dominated, and, from within that domination, came much technology and much back-slapping. Lewis Hamilton was in my view the driver of the year – by a signicant margin – with Fernando Alonso, wrestling his clumsy Ferrari, next in line. Then came Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas.
2014, then, was a year of great change, of great intra-team rivalry and of great sadness. Of highs and lows. Of champagne and tears.
Of memories that will remain bittersweet.