Some years just don’t go as expected, in good ways and bad. But thankfully for professional racing drivers, each year brings with it a points reset and a new chance at the championship title—or to finish higher than 30th. Either way.
Some drivers couldn’t stop finishing second and some couldn’t stop getting into others’ hair (read: fenders), and ultimately, it decided a few championships. Whatever the reason for awaiting 2016, there are a handful of drivers likely more thrilled about the new year than the folks selling diet pills.
Of course, we can’t touch on every series in existence. If we did, this post would never end. But here are a few big names who could really benefit from the whole “new year, new me” thing, and a few New Year’s resolutions that they might have made yesterday.
Nico Rosberg: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last (To Lewis Hamilton Which Is All That Really Matters)
Nico, Nico, Nico. The number of times I just typed your name is the number of races you ran (and won) after your teammate clinched the 2015 Formula One championship.
But it was a bit too late by then, wasn’t it?
Rosberg even got that exact advice following his Brazilian Grand Prix win near the end of the F1 season, when the presenter at the podium informed him that his performance late in the year would have helped him to rival Hamilton. In the typical awkward fashion of an F1 podium with the Mercedes teammates turning their noses up at each other atop it, Rosberg responded: “Thank you very much for that advice. I could have figured that out myself.”
But... you didn’t, Rosberg! While teammate (and searing rival, complete with hatred and hat throwing) Lewis Hamilton spent the year owning the field and skipping out on press photos when he felt like it, Rosberg spent a lot of time as the runner up. Even after Rosberg swept the final three races of the year, Hamilton ended the championship a whopping 59 points ahead in the final standings.
That’s what second gets you in a sport dominated by a single, two-driver team. That, and plenty of boredom with a side of “Please, for the love of all things fast, let someone else win.”
But hey, it could be worse for Rosberg. He could be on a team other than Mercedes, having to settle for whatever’s left while the Silver Arrows take up a full two spots on the podium each weekend.
Oh, wait...that may just be the case if he and Hamilton can’t stop acting like siblings strapped into the same car for too long (ha, ha).
But the fans likely just want to see some exciting races. So, all other teams, work on that in 2016. New year, faster you. Please.
Joey Logano: Play Nice, Because The Big Boys Pay Back
This guy had a quintessential NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season going last year. From the start, he was one of top title contenders. But that changed pretty quickly once he made a few folks mad.
Logano started the 2015 season with a Daytona 500 win, and he swept an entire round of the new Chase format. But then he rubbed Matt Kenseth the wron... right into a wall at Kansas while racing for the win, and it all went downhill.
Knowing that his Chase ended with the Kansas wreck, Kenseth did the same to Logano at Martinsville (and earned a few vacation days with his two-race suspension because of it). The wreck occured as leader Logano went to put Kenseth’s damaged car a lap down, and carnage resulted.
The incident ultimately put Logano in a tight situation to make the next round, and he failed to claw his way back. Another four drivers went on to compete for the championship, and Kyle Busch came out on top.
But that easily could have been Logano, and he would’ve had a far better chance at it without making one of this fellow competitors mad in an attempt to win (that, since Logano already logged a win in that round, he didn’t even need).
So, Logano—you essentially lost yourself a great championship shot in order to win a race. And while the race victory always seems like the most important thing at the time, perhaps it’s not important enough to get yourself wrecked out of title contention two races later.
Onward to the 2016 season, Logano, and here’s hoping that a yellow No. 20 car isn’t in your way.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Win More, Because Rock Paper Scissors Isn’t A Thing In Racing
While the kids made their way back to school in August, Montoya got schooled by the Verizon IndyCar Series points system. (But apparently no one received schooling in graphic design, because the new series logo is quite unimpressive.)
That’s not to say Montoya had a lackluster season. He looked to be in a pretty good situation heading into the finale at Sonoma Raceway—at the top of the points standings, with two of his Team Penske teammates helping to make up the rest of the top five.
Montoya ended the day in the points lead, too, but that didn’t matter. After a wreck with teammate Will Power in a race worth double championship points, Montoya lost enough ground to tie race winner Scott Dixon for the title at the end of the day.
But the tiebreaker is for wins, and Montoya lost.
Dixon had three wins to Montoya’s two, ultimately giving him a fourth series title. Montoya said he “threw it away” following the race, and he essentially did. The tangle with his teammate had further-reaching effects than Montoya probably would have hoped, and it cost him the championship.
Though he’s not a Sprint Cup Series driver anymore, Montoya could benefit from the new “win and you’re in” mantra in those garages—because, with a couple more wins during the season, that trophy would’ve been his.
The Entire World Rally Championship Field: Stop Losing
If there’s one thing we learned watching the FIA World Rally Championship season unfold last year, it’s that Sébastien Ogier is superhuman. Or his car has a rocket engine. Or the whole rest of the field just can’t keep up.
WRC competition always seems to have a dominant force (named Sébastien, and from France). Prior to Ogier winning the most recent three titles in the series, Sébastien Loeb won nine in a row.
Perhaps it’s not the car, or in the driver. It’s all in the name and country of origin.
Ogier defeated his Volkswagen Motorsport teammate Jari-Matti Latvala by nearly 100 points in the standings this time around, 263 to 183, and won eight of the 13 rallies in 2015. No wonder he clinched the championship with a full three races to go. (Sound familiar, F1?)
Just like in F1, the rest of the field remains a few steps behind the champion. Only three drivers other than Ogier won a rally in 2015, which is slightly better than F1—only three winners total across the board—but still not ideal.
Of course, it’s not easy to just “get faster.” In F1, other teams are several years behind Mercedes as far as speed. But most of the folks wanting to lose weight for the new year don’t go into it with a sure-fire plan (trust me, fitness instructor here). It’s the goal that counts.
Of the entire WRC field, Ogier’s teammate, Latvala, will likely have the easiest time attempting that New Year’s resolution. But since his name isn’t Sébastien and he’s not from France, the odds are against him for the title.
Other than Latvala, third-place championship finisher Andreas Mikkelsen put up a fight a few times during the 2015 season. While he probably won’t be able to rival Ogier on a consistent basis this year, perhaps he will be able to rack up a few wins (and keep Ogier from claiming over 60 percent of them like in 2015).
All in all, everyone getting faster would solve a lot of problems—in a lot of series. So, in the end, that’s probably the biggest resolution of all. New year, faster you. That goes to all of you.
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