The Crash.net team in the F1 paddock brings you an alternative edition of what we learned in the 2014 season from a more personal point of view...

Nobody knows anything, really

While this year's Japanese Grand Prix will not be remembered fondly, the action off-track was intense before the race itself. On Friday night Crash.net was one of many news outlets chasing news that Fernando Alonso would leave Ferrari, and was told by a very reliable source that it was a done deal and that Sebastian Vettel was Ferrari's target, with Daniil Kvyat set to get the nod to replace Vettel if he leaves Red Bull.

With the focus on Alonso, Crash.net spoke to Jenson Button about it late on Friday evening and told him what was expected. With a wry smile he said: "I think it's going to be a very exciting few weeks and then nothing will change".

The following morning, Red Bull announced Vettel's departure and Kvyat's promotion, with Christian Horner also confirming Ferrari was Vettel's destination. Later in the day, a surprised Button admitted the news was completely unexpected for him but said he had been told Alonso would end up "in a silver car but not a McLaren".

He wasn't alone in that belief, but now they sit together as team-mates at Woking...

Shanghai kicks Jiading's arse

Travelling the world with F1 is something of a learning process - where to stay, when to fly in and out, no one gets it all right their first season. Or their second, third, or even fourth...

Because China can be a difficult place to navigate - particularly when lacking the necessary language skills - when the organisers of the Shanghai race email round lists of discounted media hotels close to the track in the northwestern Jiading District - and with a free shuttle service - most of us jump and book as instructed.

Having had something of a nightmare with the media hotels in 2013 (bathrooms are not supposed to rain indoors, let alone rain every night), it was Shanghai or bust for 2014. Cue a five-star hotel in the centre of town for the same price as the soggy media hotel in the sticks, and a weekend spent discovering the delights of Shanghai as a place to party. The only downside? Shanghai traffic made for a very long commute. Still worth it.

Monaco's glamour stops at Mirabeau

The Monaco Grand Prix was one dominated by Nico Rosberg's mistake at Mirabeau in qualifying, but the very same corner was one I found symbolic for other reasons this season.

As you can imagine, Monaco is a very expensive place to stay during grand prix week, and as a result a group of four of us journalist-types crammed in to a studio apartment just across the border in Beausoleil in order to be able to afford to stay somewhere from which we could walk down to the track each day.

While the glitz and glamour of the harbour was true, to avoid the crowds many a cheap pizza was had in an Irish bar just beyond Mirabeau - closer to Portier in all honesty - and all that awaited from that point were stairs and elevators up to Beausoleil. The walk wasn't one to be sniffed at (you're getting to cover the Monaco Grand Prix, after all) but only if you remembered a photographer's tabard which would allow you to walk trackside...

The one day I left my bag in the media centre - tabard and all - I had to walk for an hour taking in numerous staircases, the station, countless tunnels and underpasses, and all with fans who had to do that on a daily basis to get a glimpse of track action. As a fan, I'd save my money and do two different European rounds for the same price instead.

First class ain't worth the extra cash

One of the highlights of the 2014 season from a travel point of view was supposed to be a first class flight on an Airbus A380, and the chance to live like a king for 14 hours in the sky.

And while there was nothing to complain about in the level of service (or the quality of the endless champagne and caviar that I kept accidentally reordering...), it turns out that Emirates are just so damn good at treating you like a queen in business class that there's really nowhere for them to go when it comes to improving the treatment for first class passengers. Sexy brown complimentary pyjamas aside, of course.

There's no logic in turning down the chance to fly first if someone else is paying. In an A380 you get the semi-private cabin experience thanks to those closing doors, and the opportunity to have a shower in the sky is not to be sniffed at. The first class lounge is sensational, and includes its own duty free to save one from hob-nobbing with the hoi polloi, but for three times the price of business it's not three times the experience.

In fact, the real highlight of the trip came when we were disembarking, and I scanned the cabin and realised I could legitimately - and chastely - claim to have slept with several drivers.

Russia will be better in 2015

Sounds obvious, but not only will the Russian Grand Prix be better next season, it needs to be.

This year's race was doomed before it even started. Focus on the political implications of racing in Russia amid the Ukraine crisis ensured that almost every headline about the grand prix was negative in the build-up to the inaugural race. Then came Jules Bianchi's accident in Japan, and the F1 paddock arrived in Sochi under a cloud.

That was a tough situation for Russian journalists and fans. Excited about F1 finally arriving in their country, the journalists spent Thursday wishing to ask the drivers about their thoughts on the track and country, but were met with solemn - and sometimes snappy - responses from people with thoughts elsewhere.

Then came the race itself, which made Luca Badoer's F1 career look spectacular. The grand prix was so dull that two separate local journalists fell asleep in the media centre; the kind of proper, deep sleep that leaves you catching flies.

It seemed the drivers couldn't wait to get home, many flying together on Sunday night and being criticised (unfairly) for posting an image of them all enjoying a drink at the end of a tough few weeks. And that criticism was for the sober version of the photo...

As always, let us know what you learned - serious or tongue-in-cheek - over 2014 in the comments section below. Thanks for your interaction and Happy New Year to all Crash.net readers from the F1 team.

By Chris Medland and Kate Walker