50. Sebastian Vettel F1 World Championship - 4th

The standout of the 2015 F1 season, Sebastian Vettel endured a frustrated and bad tempered second year in Ferrari colours as the team struggled to live up to the expectations of rivalling Mercedes. Following a return to race winning success in 2015, Vettel suffered a win-less season defined by a mid-to-late season lull and a series of angry tirades culminating in 'that' Mexican GP furore. In his defence, Vettel's car let him down on several occasions, often forcing him into fight-backs and it is telling then that he was overtaken just once all season. There were highlights but no obvious high point.

49. Edoardo Mortara DTM - 2nd

Crowned European Formula 3 champion back in 2010, Edoardo Mortara was at one point confidently touted as Italy's next great F1 hope, only to see his career stall in the DTM since 2011. Nevertheless, save for a major blip in 2013, Mortara has been one of the more consistent racers in the German touring car series and it very nearly culminated in him clinching an elusive title in 2016. His five wins were more than title winner Marco Wittmann achieved, but the difference in consistent result would see him fall just four points shy of his target.

Alexander Rossi

48. Alex Rossi IndyCar Series - 11th Indianapolis 500 - 1st

Despite becoming one of America's higher profile drivers on the back of his (brief) F1 shot in 2015, Alexander Rossi's switch to the home-grown IndyCar Series still made him an inexperienced rookie amongst competitive drivers in 2016. Having plied his trade in Europe, it was bold to assume Rossi could be a front runner out of the box and that initially proved to be a fair assessment. And yet it was Rossi that provided one of the year's big motorsport stories by tenaciously managing his fuel better than his more experienced rivals in the closing stages of his first Indianapolis 500, to claim an unlikely win that drew headlines around the world.

47. Jason O'Halloran British Superbike Championship - 5th

Having had his 2015 campaign cruelly cut short by a leg injury that kept him off a bike for six months, Jason O'Halloran came back even stronger in 2016 as he mounted a solid title challenge for Honda. Though he didn't quite have the measure of a remarkably strong British Superbike Championship field around, O'Halloran notched up his first BSB win in 2016 and took it all the way to the Showdown for the first time (classified third at the time), before going on to finish a career-best fifth overall.

46. Oliver Rowland GP2 Series - 9th
The defending Formula Renault 3.5 Champion, Oliver Rowland stepped up to the GP2 Series in 2016 and made his mark in a tough field during his rookie season. Paired with the MP Motorsport team, th Renault-backed Rowland was an immediate front runner for the minnow Dutch outfit, notching up four podiums and regular points. The measure of his performance is demonstrated by his 107 points haul - more than double what the team has managed in total over previous years.

45. Tom Dillmann Formula 3.5 V8 - Champion

A driver that made his European F3 debut way back in 2007 and hasn't strayed far beyond the intermediate single-seater ranks ever since, Tom Dillmann finally struck gold in 2016 by winning the inaugural Formula 3.5 V8 series. Though the revised series didn't quite demonstrate the gravitas and strength of its Renault-backed predecessor, Dillmann showed impressive nerve in a tense final round showdown against Louis Deletraz to secure his first high-profile title win.

Leon Camier

44. Leon Camier World Superbike Championship - 8th

Committing to the MV Agusta project for a second full season, Leon Camier proved his perseverance with the evidently promising F4RR is beginning to reap rewards. With the bike showing vastly improved reliability in 2016, Camier supplemented its durability with impressive performances that took him close to the podium on several occasions. Though he didn't quite reach that target, seven top five results didn't just demonstrate the measure of the bike's potential but the quality of a rider that is seemingly on the cusp of something deservedly special.

Lucas di Grassi World Endurance Championship - 2nd Formula E Championship - 2nd

Another season of near-misses for former F1 driver Lucas di Grassi, the Brazilian secured runners-up spots in the World Endurance Championship with Audi and also in Formula E in the Audi-backed ABT team. Though not the most experienced driver in Audi's WEC line-up, di Grassi arguably emerged as its quickest contender in 2016 as he developed an affinity with the R18 just as the manufacturer elected to withdraw its entry. Nevertheless, Formula E will form di Grassi's future with more Audi backing and the Brazilian has proven he deserves to be at the forefront of this exciting new charge.

42. Jack Miller MotoGP World Championship - 18th

After a solid but unspectacular rookie campaign given his Moto3 to MotoGP jump Jack Miller set to work climbing the premier class ladder on satellite machinery. A campaign stagnated by injury, Miller missed five races completely through physical issues, the Australian's 2016 will be remembered for his masterful wet weather ride at Assen to one of the unlikeliest of wins. Just six additional point finishes restrained Miller to 18th in the riders' championship may prove the scale of the task to match Marquez, Pedrosa and Crutchlow in the Honda pecking order.

Carlos Sainz

41. Carlos Sainz Formula 1 World Championship - 12th

Carlos Sainz insists it is a coincidence his form improved in the wake of Max Verstappen's exit, but the Spaniard came into his own in 2016 as he exceeded the abilities of a car that didn't deserve to be securing top six finishes so late in the year. Showcasing an evident step forward in race craft in 2016, Sainz flourished in the tidy handling STR11 but continued to keep pushing away as his increasingly uncompetitive year-old engine negated his keen efforts. A mid-season lull undid much of the hard work but Sainz was impressive in the way he extracted far more than expected on occasion this year, notably with top six finishes in Spain, USA and Brazil.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment