One team dominated Formula 1 and another crushed allcomers in the World Rally Championship. Taken at face value, it could be construed that 2014 was a dull year for the highest echelons of motorsport.
On the contrary. To their credit, those teams – Mercedes in F1 and Volkswagen in the WRC – both allowed their drivers to fight each other, which made for pretty sensational entertainment for spectators and armchair enthusiasts alike.
Elsewhere, there were plenty of headline-grabbing stories, including the start of the first full-electric car racing series, a down-to-the-wire fight in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and plenty of home-grown success to cheer. Here, then, is Autocar’s pick of the best moments from the motorsport year – and our top drivers of 2014.
1 – Hamilton versus Rosberg in Bahrain
The tooth-and-nail fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Sakhir circuit left us in no doubt that Mercedes wasn’t kidding about its ‘no team orders’ approach. Their thrilling tussle set a template for the season: Rosberg quicker in qualifying, Hamilton better in the race. Some of the stout defensive tactics of eventual winner Hamilton irked Rosberg and created tension that would simmer throughout the summer.
2 – Daniel Ricciardo wins in Canada
Granted, Hamilton retired with brake problems and Rosberg suffered a loss of power, but Ricciardo was in the perfect position to capitalise and claim a popular first grand prix victory. At this race, and throughout the season, he carved a reputation as a clever racer with some great overtaking moves up his sleeve.
3 – Porsche ‘comes home’ to Le Mans
Although Porsche has regularly been represented in the GT classes, this year’s return to the headline prototype class after a 16-year absence added extra spice. Both of its 919 Hybrids ran strongly before gremlins struck, but it was a promising foundation from which to launch a three-car assault on the famous race next year.
4 – Hamilton’s gutsy pass in Japan
As the F1 championship tide began to turn in Hamilton’s favour, Rosberg needed to respond, and qualifying on pole at Suzuka was a good start. But Hamilton had other ideas, and as Typhoon Phanfone dumped rain on the Japanese track, he pulled a jaw-dropping round-the-outside overtaking move at turn one and stormed clear to win.
5 – Bentley’s GT3 win at Silverstone
For the first time in 84 years, works-supported Bentleys graced the grid of a British race, lining up for the Blancpain Endurance Series event. The Continental GT3 of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick didn’t disappoint, securing the Crewe manufacturer’s first race victory since the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours.
6 – Formula E starts with a crash
The first electric single-seater race was heading for a thrilling conclusion as Nick Heidfeld chased down leader Nicolas Prost. On the run to the final corner, Prost executed a ruthless chop on his rival, sending Heidfeld into a barrel roll that ensured Formula E hit the headlines around the world.
7 – Honda Civic Tourer’s first BTCC win