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The 2015 season: From A to Z

11 Dec 2015

From flying caps to fighting Finns, and from exploding bodywork to one very lucky groundhog, we take an irreverent look at what was an unforgettable year in Formula One racing - both on and off the track…

A is for… Arnold Schwarzenegger

From singing superstar Elton John's track-suited appearance in Austin to Hollywood legend George Lucas's lightsaber-free showing at Monza, the great and the good were queuing up to interview the drivers on the podium in 2015. But no one (and we mean no one) made a bigger splash than Arnie, who kicked the season off in style in Melbourne. Indeed, Lewis Hamilton could barely believe his eyes when The Terminator met him on the rostrum in Australia - though that seemed to have been mainly down to the fact that the Austrian megastar was a lot shorter than he expected. It’s just a shame that no one was on hand to speak to Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso when they made that impromptu trip to the rostrum in Brazil…

B is for… Blond

Back in 1997 Jacques Villeneuve caused a stir when he bleached his hair blond mid-season, and there was a similar commotion when Lewis Hamilton - F1 racing’s resident fashionista - arrived in the Monza paddock (fresh from attending the MTV video awards in LA, naturally) sporting a similar 'do'.  “I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that [it] attracted a lot of attention,” said Hamilton, before proving that blonds really do have more fun by winning the race at a canter on the Sunday. 

C is for… Cap toss

Depending on who you spoke to, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s controversial back and forth with a podium cap in Austin was either an incredibly meaningful incident that said everything about the nature of the two drivers' relationship or an entirely innocuous non-moment that was blown out of all proportion. Either way, it made for utterly compelling viewing…

D is for… Driving license

Hard to believe, but by the time rookie sensation Max Verstappen was lawfully allowed to drive on public roads he had already scored 32 points across 14 Grands Prix. As if to prove what perfect preparation that was, the young Dutchman promptly went and passed his driving test within hours of turning 18. Well, negotiating a T-junction has got to be easier than a 250 km/h passing manoeuvre, hasn’t it?

E is for… Exploding bodywork

In Q1 at Monza, Verstappen’s Toro Rosso staked a claim as F1 racing’s first ever strip-o-gram, throwing off its outer clothing and baring all. And what a body it was...  

F is for… Fighting Finns

What was it with Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and 90-degree right-hand bends in the latter half of 2015? Twice in three races the usually placid Finnish duo clashed in said corner type whilst battling it out over third place. Raikkonen was deemed the guilty party for the first incident in Sochi, but the stewards found neither man at fault for the second in Mexico. “It’s racing in the end,” explained a typically erudite Raikkonen. 

G is for… GP2 engine

They might have made for painful listening for McLaren and Honda, but Fernando Alonso’s frequent (and increasingly fraught) outbursts provided genuine race radio gold in 2015. The Spaniard’s “looking like amateurs” rant in Canada caused quite a stir, but it was his infamous bellowing of “GP2 engine” on Honda’s home turf at Suzuka that really set the cat amongst the pigeons (if they hadn't already been scared off)… 

H is for… Headwear

From the traditional ushankas on the Sochi podium to wide-brimmed sombreros in Mexico and incredible home-made fan hats in Japan, 2015 really was a classic year for headwear…

I is for… Ice pack

Think you know pain? Back in Spain Lotus’s front jack man discovered a whole new world of suffering after Romain Grosjean overshot his pit-stop marks and caused a rather, ahem, ‘delicate’ collision. No wonder he needed an ice pack…

J is for… Joker in the pack

After spending much of his final season with Red Bull wearing his sulky face, Sebastian Vettel was back to his wisecracking best in 2015 as he well and truly got his mojo back with Ferrari. And outside of winning, he rarely looked happier than when he was winding up his frequently tense Mercedes rivals in press conferences… 

K is for… Kerb hopping

Aerodynamicists spend every waking hour trying to ensure F1 cars stay glued to the ground, but even they are powerless to prevent a car getting airborne when a kerb intervenes. As the drivers proved in Abu Dhabi, sometimes the quickest way to negotiate a chicane is just to go straight over it…  

L is for… Le Mans

He may have found the F1 podium a tough nut to crack, but Nico Hulkenberg wasted no time at all in making it onto the rostrum at Le Mans. Sharing a Porsche 919 Hybrid with Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, the Hulk won the 24-hour classic at his first attempt, becoming, rather fittingly, the first active F1 driver to achieve the feat in 24 years. Now he just needs some F1 trophies to go alongside that rather massive sportscar gong in his trophy cabinet…

M is for… Mexican wrestling

Fresh from landing the knock-out blow in the battle for the world championship in Austin, Lewis Hamilton laid the smackdown on a mysterious masked rival in Mexico as he tried his hand at professional wrestling. Now that’s what we call a bodyslam! 

N is for… Near Misses

What do Marcus Ericsson, a bewildered groundhog and Maurizio Arrivabene all have in common? Answer: they all came perilously close to disaster in 2015…

O is for… Overtaking

We saw some truly stupendous passes in 2015, from Felipe Massa's multi-corner dust-up with Marcus Ericsson in Canada to Max Verstappen’s incredible around-the-outside overtake of Sergio Perez in Brazil. But our pick of the bunch was the precocious Dutch teenager’s frankly ludicrous pass of Felipe Nasr at the 290km/h Blanchimont corner during this year’s Belgian Grand Prix (below). Ok, so he didn’t complete the move until the chicane, but seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this.

P is for… #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe

On safari, at the South Pole, on the Moon, on the deck of Titanic, sitting next to Homer Simpson, at the beach, in a classroom, at a rubbish tip, at the dentist, on stage with Justin Bieber, on the wings of a bi-plane, at the last supper - never in his wildest dreams (see what we did there?) could Fernando Alonso have imagined the hours of fun he’d create by innocently pulling out a camping chair following his early exit from qualifying in Brazil...

Q is for… Quick step

Ok ok, so they probably weren’t doing the quick step (we’re no experts), but Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and team mate/dance partner Daniil Kvyat are fully deserving of a place on this list for entertaining the rain-ravaged fans in Austin with a jaunty pit-lane jig. Sauber’s cleverly improvised ‘wheeled canoe’ was almost as entertaining (and the closest thing we saw to a car on track on that truly dismal afternoon).   

R is for… Record speeds

Monza may be known as the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ because of its incredible average speeds, but it was at the newly-reconfigured Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City - set a dizzying 2,220m above sea level - that the drivers recorded season-high velocities. The quickest of the quick? Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado, who clocked a staggering 366.4 km/h (227.7 mph) through the speed trap on Sunday. 

S is for… Shunts

From Carlos Sainz’s Sochi smash to Sergio Perez’s Hungarian barrel roll, there were some colossal accidents in 2015, though thankfully in most cases there was nothing more serious to report than a bucket-load of broken carbon fibre (and a touch of damaged pride). 

T is for… Tyre troubles

When it came to tyres, no race in 2015 was odder than Belgium. Over the course of the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps we saw spectacular - and very unusual - blow-outs for Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, as well as the curious sight of Valtteri Bottas running two different tyre compounds at once. Now that's what you call a personalised set-up!

U is for… Up and under

After losing control of his Ferrari on the opening lap in Spielberg, Kimi Raikkonen treated old adversary Fernando Alonso to a fabulous aerial view of the spectacular Austrian countryside as he inadvertently launched the Spaniard’s McLaren up and over his SF15-T…

V is for… Virtual Safety Car

The new-for-2015 Virtual Safety Car was deployed several times during the season, but undeniably its most dramatic ‘appearance’ was at Monaco where, having been initiated for the very first time in the wake of Max Verstappen’s late prang, it contributed to the confusion that saw Lewis Hamilton drop from a dominant first place to a disastrous third.

W is for… Wind

Wind certainly had a lot to answer for in 2015. According to McLaren a freakish breeze was to blame for the unusual pre-season testing crash that forced Fernando Alonso to miss the first round of the season, while Nico Rosberg pointed the finger at a similarly odd gust for causing his costly late-race off at Austin. Not everyone was buying those excuses though, especially not Lewis Hamilton who couldn’t resist a deliciously cheeky dig at Rosberg after the German had won in Mexico.  "Nico drove really well today," he said. "No mistakes, no gusts of wind…"

X is for… X-rated language

The bleep machine was given another thorough work-out in 2015, but what does it take to turn an F1 driver into a regular ‘make your mother blush’ potty-mouth? Nothing more than the heat of competition (and the odd backmarker getting in the way)… 

Y is for… Youthfulness

Not only did the 2015 season feature F1 racing’s youngest ever driver (the aforementioned Max Verstappen, who was just 17 years and 166 days old when he took the start in Australia), it also featured four other drivers who were 22 or younger when the season began - Carlos Sainz, Felipe Nasr, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen (though the latter only appeared in Melbourne). That contributed to an average age of just 26 for the season opener in Australia, making it the youngest grid in F1 history and a far cry from the very first world championship race in 1950 where the average age of participants was a spritely 39 - three years older than the grid’s current ‘grandpa’, 36-year-old Kimi Raikkonen… 

Z is for… Zzzzzzzzzz

And finally, driving an F1 car can be a tiring business, but thankfully the snug confines of the cockpit provide an excellent place to ‘catch a few zees’, as Felipe Massa proved during a rain-delayed practice session in Sochi. Rest well over the winter, Felipe!