An early champ, a sizzling rivalry and threats to quit the sport – here’s what has happened so far in this year’s championship…
“I’ve learned from experience that nothing is ever done until it’s done in this sport, so I won’t be taking anything for granted going into the weekend.”
The words of Lewis Hamilton just days before the 30-year-old went on to secure his third championship title at the Austin GP last month.
Similar to last year, Mercedes’ Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have played musical chairs on the podium throughout the championship, with Nico dominating the most recent Brazilian outing.
It was however, Hamilton who ultimately wowed the crowds, matching his idol Ayrton
Senna’s record of three World Championship wins.
The British driver got off to a flying start with a win at the season opener in Australia, followed by Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel on his Ferrari debut.
Vettel then triumphed in Malaysia securing his and Ferrari’s first win since 2013 with Hamilton and Rosberg completing the podium.
Hamilton however was back on top at the Chinese GP where he pushed Vettel to third place, leaving space for teammate Rosberg to take second.
In hot pursuit was Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen, Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean, who secured Lotus’ first points of the season in seventh.
The Gulf Air Bahrain GP saw another win for Hamilton, despite facing brake issues on the penultimate lap. Vettel slipped to fifth but teammate Raikonnen’s new strategy saw him drive on faster soft tyres, allowing him to pass Rosberg for a second place finish.
It was another disappointing race for Jenson Button; the Brit’s McLaren quit before he could even start, with electrical problems forcing him to withdraw. It was evident early on that Honda’s new engine is proving unreliable and inadequate for the McLaren team.
Following the Bahrain GP, successful finishes from respective drivers meant Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams marched up the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Next it was time to say Hola! to the Spanish GP – Rosberg seizing the chance to step out of his teammate’s shadow. The German driver had a speedy start from pole and never looked back, leaving Hamilton 17.5 seconds in his wake.
The 30-year-old Rosberg triumphed once again at the glitzy Monaco GP. Hamilton was in pole position until Mercedes forced him to make a late pit stop for new tyres, giving Rosberg and Vettel time to overtake. Mercedes’ shock decision has since been billed as one of the most glaring errors in Formula 1 history, a decision that cost Hamilton a fourth consecutive win and slashed his 20 point lead on Rosberg by half.
Champions though are nothing if not resilient and Hamilton made a comeback in Montreal, followed by Rosberg in second and Bottas in third while Alonso suffered his third consecutive retirement.
It was the Austrian GP that saw Rosberg secure his third win of the season, reducing Hamilton’s lead by 10 points. And more Mercedes podiums bumped the manufacturer up the Constructors’ standing.
The action-packed British GP was a showcase for Hamilton’s talent, as he battled late-race rain to take the lead and then Ferrari’s Vettel topped the podium at Hungaroring, equalling Senna’s long-standing record of 41 GP victories.
The German dedicated his win to French driver Jules Bianchi, who died shortly before the race: “You will always be in our hearts. We know sooner or later you would have been part of this team.”
The Mercedes duo were back on the podium at the Belgian GP, which saw Hamilton secure his sixth GP win of the season. With Rosberg coming in second and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean third – his first podium since 2013 – it gave Hamilton a 28-point lead over his teammate.
Hamilton then clinched the Italian GP, followed by Vettel in second and Massa in third. Following what he claimed was his “best weekend ever”, Hamilton said: “I feel seriously strong now, with the way I’m driving. No matter what is thrown now we will fight through.”
He might have spoken too soon though, as Vettel was back on top at the Singapore GP. It was a hot and humid race full of action – but not the driving kind. A fan walking on the track caused six drivers to suffer, one of whom was Hamilton.
But he made a comeback with his eighth win of the season at the Japanese GP and claimed the Russian GP. Still, Hamilton said he was taking nothing for granted.
“Just because we’re ahead, doesn’t mean that we’re taking it easy. When I go out in the car I push it, I drive the nuts off it, every single time,” he said.
It was also at the Sochi Autodrom that Mercedes secured the Constructors’ Championship.
Before the Austin GP, Rosberg, fully aware that he wouldn’t be able to close the gap, said: “It’s not in me to give up or back down, so I’ll be pushing flat out to the end.”
A hurricane caused heavy thunderstorms that threatened the race, but the rain cleared long enough for Hamilton to secure the 2015 championship title.
While the title was no longer up for grabs, Rosberg and Hamilton battled it out at the Mexican GP on a revamped Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Despite swapping fastest laps with Hamilton throughout the race, the German stood his ground to win by just 1.9 seconds.
Rosberg continued to assert himself over Hamilton at the Brazilian GP earlier this month, with what Niki Lauda described as an “unbelievable performance”.
Despite nearly bumping into each other in the first corner, Rosberg pulled ahead of his world champion teammate – Vettel and Raikonnen hot on their heels.
After swapping to medium tyres in lap 30, Hamilton picked up the pace and closed the gap on Rosberg, stealing the fastest lap of the race.
“It’s impossible to follow on this track,” Hamilton told his crew. “I’m faster but I can’t get close.”
And indeed he couldn’t; Rosberg kept the pace and increased his gap further to secure his win – and second place in the championship.
But it wasn’t just the battle at the front that had fans at Interlagos on the edge of their seats. The fight was on for eighth place with Massa, Maldonado, Gosjean, Perez, Verstappen and Hulkenberg battling it out, often with just one second separating the determined drivers. Vettel, meanwhile, sat comfortably in third throughout the race, with Raikkonen 47 seconds behind in fourth.
Overall, it may have been a fairly predictable season, but that didn’t make it any less exciting.
Hamilton stresses that his passion for the sport still runs strong and Rosberg will no doubt be more fired up for next year. McLaren is already focused on returning “to race winning performance” next year – according to chair and chief exec Ron Dennis – despite a disappointing season. But first, Abu Dhabi.