5th – Sergio Perez
Average poll score out of ten: 6.5
Sahara Force India
Force India Mercedes VJM08/B
9th out of 21
Though you'd be hard pressed to argue that Sergio Perez isn't a driver deserving of his place in F1, ahead of his fifth season in the series – his second as a Force India driver – 2015 nonetheless represented something of a 'now or never' moment for the Mexican. By and large, however, he duly delivered.
To truly appreciate Perez's efforts in 2015 though, his performances must be viewed in the context of his circumstances.
Spending the first 8 rounds of the season driving a lightly modified version of the 2014 chassis, Perez – and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg – nonetheless maximised their chances in the limited, but dependable package to turn in a number of noteworthy results that far exceeded initial expectations.
From this solid platform, the belated arrival of the B-specification car at the start of its development cycle just as rivals were beginning to reach a plateau with theirs represented a golden opportunity for both drivers to break beyond the mid-field, even if it was Perez that would ultimately make it count.
Indeed, though the VJM08-B didn't come naturally to Perez initially, an eye-catching performance in Belgium set the standard for a flurry of strong results in the final rounds of the year. Quick, balanced and compliant, the tidy VJM08 chassis was a match for Perez's smooth driving style, none more so than in Russia when a strategic risk that required him to preserve his tyres late on was rewarded with a magnificent podium finish.
This was simply the peak of several impressive outings late on though, with top five finishes in Belgium and the USA doing their bit to haul him to a career-best ninth in the standings, while you couldn't help but be swept away by the hero status he attained with Mexico's return to the F1 calendar.
Going on to wrap up his most complete F1 season yet with his strongest ever race weekend in Abu Dhabi, the final rounds of 2015 would prove a testament to Perez's development as a driver in the preceding years.
Indeed, whilst Perez has shown more than a few flashes of form in the past, in 2015 he added much needed consistency into the mix too, suffering just one DNF all season for which he wasn't to blame.
Interestingly, while his podium in Russia or his exceptional weekend in Abu Dhabi may have captured the headlines, it is telling that Perez identifies Monaco and Bahrain – where he finished seventh and eighth driving the interim car – as his best performances of the season since it taught him to drive to the best of the car's capabilities.
Two years on from having his confidence – and reputation – harmed during his brief stint at McLaren, as the two parties reflect on their varying fortunes in 2015, Perez has very good reason to feel vindicated.
Sergio Perez 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.