From an adrenalin-fuelled year of motorsport action, here are our picks of the 10 best moments and top 10 drivers
Matt Burt
24 December 2014

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

The manner of Gordon Shedden’s victory at Donington Park would have been sensational in any car, the Scot bouncing across the gravel and taking the chequered flag after an opportunistic last-corner attack on Colin Turkington. The fact that he was in an estate-bodied Honda Civic Tourer made it all the more amazing. 

8 – Hyundai’s maiden WRC victory

The next step in the rise of Hyundai is to enhance the emotional link between its cars and its customers. Hence the Korean manufacturer’s decision to take on Volkswagen in world rallying, a move that yielded a popular first win in the vineyards of Germany, where Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo took first and second places respectively.

9 – Thrilling end to the Bathurst 1000

The famous Australian race was packed with incidents, not least when the newly laid track surface disintegrated and several drivers crashed as a result. Through the chaos, the Ford of Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris came from the back of the grid to win after the Holden of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell ran out of fuel on the last lap.

10 – Close finish at the Indy 500

A stoppage near the end of the annual 500-mile event at the Brickyard turned the race into a six-lap sprint. Three drivers – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti – struck out at the front, using the slipstream to trade positions each lap. Hunter-Reay fended off Castroneves by 0.06sec, the second-closest finish ever.

OUR DRIVERS OF THE YEAR

1 – Lewis Hamilton

A brilliantly instinctive racer, Hamilton showed greater consistency this season, winning 11 times en route to the Formula 1 title. If next year’s Mercedes is as quick, Hamilton could push on to match the three titles claimed by his idol, Ayrton Senna.

2 – Daniel Ricciardo

The sport’s broadest smile masks a ruthlessly effective racer, one who made the best use of Renault’s insipid motor. Comprehensively outraced his Red Bull Racing team-mate, one Sebastian Vettel.

3 – Valtteri Bottas

Fulfilled the glimpses of promise shown in 2013 by displaying dazzling pace this term, generally reflecting well against experienced Williams team-mate Felipe Massa. High points were back-to-back second places in Britain and Germany. 

4 – Sébastien Ogier

Had to work slightly harder for his second World Rally Championship title this year than he did for his first in 2013, as Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala got his act together. On many rallies, however, he continued to win as he liked.

5 – Nico Rosberg

For all of his qualifying pace, the German was often found wanting come race day, when the points are won. He became unpopular with fans after a dubious qualifying ‘off’ in Monaco, but the dignity with which he accepted defeat in Abu Dhabi redeemed him.

6 – Sébastien Loeb

Switching from stage rallying with Citroën, the Frenchman proved adept at the cut and thrust of the World Touring Car Championship. He won his second-ever race in the C-Elysée, proving himself once again as one of the world’s best all-rounders.

7 – Kris Meeke

He put Northern Ireland back on the WRC map. A brilliant podium finish in Monte Carlo was followed by a dip in form on unfamiliar events, but by season’s end Meeke was the fastest non-Volkswagen driver, earning a second season in a Citroën DS3 WRC.

8 – Colin Turkington

Once the WSR team had figured out the optimum set-up for the BMW 125i M Sport, Turkington’s pace in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship was devastating. He took eight wins from 30 races on his way to the title. 

9 – Jolyon Palmer

Few drivers spend four seasons in GP2, a step below F1, but the Briton put his experience to good use to win the title, earning himself a test drive with Force India. Unfortunately, race seats at the top level are in short supply.

10 – Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi

The two former F1 drivers share this place for together clinching the World Endurance Championship for Toyota. They won four rounds in their petrol-electric prototype, although success at Le Mans eluded them.

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