With the 2015 Silly Season in full swing, here's a look back at who made the best moves going into this season.
Here we look at six notable signings from this past season that paid off for either the driver, team, or both parties involved. We'll also note the worst move of the 2013/2014 offseason...
The best signing
I think it goes without saying that the best signing was made by Red Bull. They brought Daniel Ricciardo up to the main team and he was a pleasant surprise, exceeding all expectations. He was faster than Vettel more often than not and was also the only driver to win a race other than the Mercedes duo. He didn't just win a single race though. The always smiling Aussie won three. He placed third in the World Championship, scoring 71 more points than his teammate, the champion from the previous four years. With Vettel searching for greener pastures at Maranello, Ricciardo has suddenly been thrusted into the lead position for the Red Bull Racing team. Well deserved.
Force India makes a smart swap
Force India made two very strong signings as well, which worked out for both them and the racers they brought on board. Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were sent packing in favor of the fierce Mexican Sergio Perez and the rock solid German Nico Hulkenberg. In 2013, they placed sixth in the constructor's standings with just 77 points. In comparison to 2014, they scored 155 total points, one podium, and five top fives.
As for their drivers, it was a nice change for them as well. Both Perez and Hulkenberg ran stronger and finished higher in the championship standings. Perez even ended up on the podium in Bahrain, beating none other than his teammate for the spot.
Ferrari's year was dreadful, but it could have been worse for Kimi
Ferrari has endured a dismal year ... One of their worst ever. Major names were axed as Maranello searched desperately for that magic bullet. They never found it. Nonetheless, it was a very smart move by Kimi Raikkonen to rejoin the prancing horses. He never contended for the win and ended the year 12th in points, but it was a good move still. Why? Well, he left Lotus, whom he won with in 2013 and finished fifth in the standings, despite missing two races. This year though, Lotus has fallen off the map, struggling to even score a handful of points. So we're basically looking at the lesser of two evils here, but it was still a better decision in hindsight.
The revival of Massa
Felipe Massa was out-shined by Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas in 2014, but the Brazilian also impressed. When Ferrari finally gave him his walking papers, many saw it as the end of his career. When he joined Williams, a large contingent thought he would slowly vanish from Formula One after spending a couple years as a field filler. Well, Massa almost won the season finale in Abu Dhabi, putting an exclamation point at the end of a great season that saw him score multiple podiums, capture a pole, and almost beat former teammate Fernando Alonso in the overall points. It was a comeback season for a veteran driver who we all thought would vanish into obscurity very soon. After 2014 though, it appears that he isn't going anywhere, any time soon.
Worst move goes to...
This one is somewhat humorous. The worst move goes to one of the most controversial drivers in the paddock ... Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan spent most of the latter part of the 2013 season slamming Williams and openly letting anyone who would listen know how much he wanted out of the team. Well, he got his wish. Maldonado was signed by Lotus, but the pendulum shifted in an unforeseen direction. Without warning, Lotus fell to the bottom of the pecking order as Williams suddenly became the second strongest team in the sport. It's as if they swapped places, which I'm sure infuriated and frustrated Maldonado. He remained almost equal to his 2013 showing in terms of average finish and points scored, but it's the fact that he wanted out of one team so bad in order to join a stronger group, only to see the roles reversed that make this such a raw deal.