F1 Driver of the Year 2015: 10th
10th – Romain Grosjean
Average poll score out of ten: 6.1
Lotus F1 Team
Lotus – Mercedes E23
11th out of 21
If the beginning of Romain Grosjean's 2015 season was about missing opportunities, then the latter half was very much him maximising the promising but unfulfilled Lotus E23 package.
On the back of a dismal season 2014 campaign at the wheel of the unusual dual-prong nosed E22, which was unbalanced to drive even before it was coupled to the underpowered and unreliable Renault power unit, Lotus went back-to-basics to a degree of success in 2015.
With a tidy, if not revolutionary design, and the favourable Mercedes engine bolted on, the E23 was swift out of the box, proving well-sorted and reliable despite missing the first stages of pre-season testing, but a series of misfortune would see it fail to capitalise on its best chances initially.
Though Grosjean returned to prominence with a trio of top ten finishes in China, Bahrain and Spain, the E23's development was already trailing as rapidly dwindling funds kept the potential of the car very much on a plateau for much of the year.
Whether it was Jolyon Palmer coming in to assuming FP1 duties in place of Grosjean, the team being locked out of its hospitality in Japan or having its trucks impounded at Spa over a contractual dispute with former driver Charles Pic, Lotus – and Grosjean – suffered numerous setbacks and compromises.
Which is why Grosjean's magnificent – and entirely merited - charge to the podium in Belgium ranks up there with the 'drive of the year' as he revealed exactly what could be possible with the right resource behind him.
Headline results thereafter weren't so easy to come by, the will-they-won't-they saga of Renault's impending deal consuming most Lotus-related airtime, but Grosjean kept plugging away amidst the uncertainty, his status as one of the more underrated drivers in F1 typified by impressive drives from uncompromising positions.
Indeed, Grosjean arguably produced some of his best drives in less obvious circumstances, his drive from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi to ninth on his Lotus swansong both poignant and fitting.
A timely reminder that Grosjean used to be a regular podium contender, Lotus may have dwindled but the 29 year-old showed his talent enough times in 2015, to beg the question of why his options for next year remained fairly slim.
His move to Haas is a great deal for the American team and though it remains to be seen if it is mutually beneficial for him, the mature and eye-catching 2015 campaign deserves credit.
Romain Grosjean in the Crash.net F1 Driver of the Year
Top 10 F1 Driver of the Year 2014:
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About the vote:
Rather than repeat the Drivers' World Championship standings, the F1 Driver of the Year poll asks viewers to take into account factors such as machinery, performance relative to a team-mate, driving style, experience, injuries, progress and personality just as much as race results.
Over 120,000 votes were cast for the 2015 Crash.net
F1 Driver of the Year poll, where viewers awarded each of this year's full-time participants.