Welcome to the first part of Motorsport.com's 2015 Awards, where we take a look back at the year's best drivers, races, series and teams to determine who is worthy of one of our coveted gongs.
We polled our global team of writers to assemble a list of six nominations for each category, with the entry receiving the most nominations being chosen as the winner. Read on to see who we chose...
Title fight of the Year
WEC: Audi seized the early advantage with two wins from the first two races, but then Porsche staged an incredible fightback post Le Mans to head to Bahrain as overwhelming favourites – until fate intervened, requiring the ultimately victorious #17 car to fight its way up the order to title glory.
MotoGP: A title fight has that extra dimension when the two protagonists don’t like each other. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo weren’t exactly best of friends when the year began, but the gloves were well and truly off when the former accused the latter of colluding with Marc Marquez to thwart his championship ambitions.
Formula E: The inaugural season of the all-electric series produced one heck of a showdown at Battersea Park, with Nelson Piquet Jr emerging as a worthy victor by a single point from Sebastien Buemi in a second race that went down to the last corner – and not knowing if he had won until commentator Jack Nicholls informed him via radio!
IndyCar Series: Yes, double points were on offer at Indy and Sonoma, but they were on offer to every driver. And Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing – the absolute kings of turning adverse situations into triumphs – ended up beating Team Penske’s Juan Montoya to the title on a tiebreak. Doesn’t get closer than that.
NASCAR Sprint Cup: The Chase format might have eliminated a couple of worthy title contenders relatively early on – but there hardly could have been a better battle to cap it off than Kyle Busch versus Kevin Harvick in a superb showdown at Homestead.
Moto3: Mid-way through the year, the lightweight class of the Grand Prix motorcycling paddock looked more or less settled in Danny Kent’s favour. But over-caution by the Brit and some sublime late-season form for Miguel Oliveira helped keep a thrilling Moto3 battle open all the way to Valencia.
Overtake of the Year
Max Verstappen, Belgian Grand Prix (F1): F1’s new rookie sensation made plenty of memorable overtakes, but going round the outside at Blanchimont takes some doing – which is exactly what Verstappen did to Felipe Nasr, setting himself to out-brake the Brazilian on the inside going into the Bus Stop.
Jose Maria Lopez, Nurburgring Race 2 (WTCC): There weren’t too many thrilling races for the WTCC to boast about in 2015, but its trip to the fearsome Nordschleife threw up an entertaining second race, which culminated in Lopez drafting by both works Hondas along the enormous back straight on the last lap and very nearly pipping Yvan Muller at the finish.
Esteban Ocon, Sochi Race 2 (GP3): Overtaking in GP3 has not been easy in the last couple of years, and requires maximum commitment – like the commitment shown by Ocon in passing Antonio Fuoco for the lead at Sochi, squeezing by ahead of Turn 2 despite coming within inches of the wall.
Matthieu Vaxiviere, Aragon Race 2 (Formula Renault 3.5): Having closed down on Nyck de Vries lap after lap in pursuit of his first win, Vaxiviere managed to pull off a shock pass in the penultimate corner of the race. De Vries had braked early and Vaxiviere surprised him with a jink to the outside, sticking with it despite contact to emerge as the race winner.
Andrea Iannone, Phillip Island (MotoGP): There were almost too many overtakes to mention during MotoGP’s ‘race of the century’ Down Under, but one stuck out in particular. After all, it’s not every day you see Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi overtaken at the same corner – by a Ducati.
Bruno Spengler, Moscow Race 1 (DTM): Just when Jamie Green seemed to have done enough for the final podium spot, Spengler got the perfect draft on the Brit down the back straight on the last lap, moving to the outside and blocking off any counter attack turning into the final corner. Textbook stuff.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Race of the Year
Hungarian Grand Prix (F1): Coming not long after the passing of Jules Bianchi, F1 had the good fortune of putting on a race to remember at the Hungaroring. Both Ferraris getting the jump on the Mercedes pair at the start set the tone for a chaotic afternoon that resulted in a double Red Bull podium, Max Verstappen coming fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth.
United States Grand Prix (F1): Those fans that braved the awful weather at Austin were treated to a absorbing encounter, in which Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a spell in the lead before a fascinating strategic battle unfolded between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – thrown away by the former in the closing laps, which handed the latter a third championship crown.
Phillip Island (MotoGP): Unquestionably one of the most captivating MotoGP races of the modern era. The combination of a smooth, composed Lorenzo, a wild but inspired Iannone, the irrepressible brilliance of Marquez and a determined Rossi – all battling around one of motorsport’s finest circuits – was absolutely mesmeric.
6 Hours of Silverstone (WEC): The WEC season-opener could boast some of the best wheel-to-wheel action of the year in any class, as Neel Jani’s Porsche and Marcel Fassler’s Audi diced at 180mph for over 10 laps, swapping the lead several times. An unforgettable duel that made Silverstone an immediate sportscar classic.
Indianapolis 500 (IndyCar): The self-titled ‘greatest spectacle in racing’ has a habit of throwing up exciting finishes – and this year’s 99th running was no exception, as the 500 mile epic boiled down to a three-way dice between Scott Dixon, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya, who pulled off an unlikeliest of victories to get his face on the Borg-Warner trophy for a second time.
Norisring Race 2 (European F3): A traditional stop-start F3 race at the Norisring culminated in a brilliant showdown between rookies George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon – and, as the trio battled, Maximilian Gunther managed to sneak by all of them in one corner to claim his team's only win of the year.
Winner: Phillip Island MotoGP
Controversy of the Year
Fernando Alonso (F1): In what has gone down as one of the most bizarre episodes in recent F1 history, Alonso was conspicuously absent from his first race back with McLaren after suffering a concussion in a mysterious testing crash at Catalunya – the cause of which to this day has yet to be adequately explained.
Valentino Rossi vs. Marc Marquez (MotoGP): Not much more needs to be said about this one – when Rossi accused Marquez of riding with an ulterior motive, all hell broke loose between the duo at Sepang. Wherever you stand on the matter, one thing’s for sure: it made for incredible viewing.
‘Push him out’ scandal (DTM): Those fateful words uttered by Audi’s Dr Wolfgang Ulrich in the pit-lane at Spielberg had big consequences – the points the Ingolstadt marque lost effectively cost them the DTM manufacturers’ crown, while Timo Scheider was handed a one-race ban for executing his boss’ instruction with incredible precision.
Matt Kenseth vs. Joey Logano (NASCAR): A likely fourth consecutive win for Logano and a spot in the title showdown were taken away in an instant when Kenseth, who the Penske driver had previously turned at Kansas, chose not to turn in while running behind him at Martinsville. Kenseth was parked for two races, but Logano's title hopes never recovered.
Kevin Harvick (NASCAR): The reigning champion's title hopes looked set to perish due to a dying motor in the final laps at Talladega, only for a race-ending caution to save him on the final restart. What brought out the caution? Why, Harvick, turning Trevor Bayne and causing a big wreck. A lot of drivers weren't happy, but NASCAR saw no malice in Harvick's actions.
Richard Bradley vs. Gustavo Yacaman (WEC): Any instance of a driver labelling a rival a ‘psycho’ has to make the grade for this list, and that’s exactly what Bradley accused Yacaman of being after their rather physical fight for position in the LMP2 battle during the 6 Hours of Fuji.
Winner: Valentino Rossi vs. Marc Marquez
Surprise result of the Year
Romain Grosjean takes third at Spa (F1): There wasn’t a lot for the financially embattled Lotus squad to cheer in 2015, but late tyre woes for Sebastian Vettel paved the way for Grosjean to transcend the limits of a car that had received next to no development all year and grab the feel-good result of the season.
Hulkenberg, Bamber and Tandy win Le Mans (WEC): With its three drivers having just two previous La Sarthe visits between them – both courtesy of Tandy in a GTE Porsche – you would have had long odds pre-race on the #19 car taking outright victory. But that’s precisely what they did, thanks in no small part to Tandy’s virtuosity in the night-time.
Andreas Mikkelsen wins in Spain (WRC): After throwing away a maiden WRC win in Sweden, Mikkelsen must have already settled for another winless year - that is, until the penultimate round in Spain, when Ogier crashed on the power stage, giving up a 50-second lead. Mikkelsen found out he had won only during the post-stage interviews – with him and co-driver Ola Floene breaking down on the spot.
Danilo Petrucci takes second at Silverstone (MotoGP): Rain often gives the underdog a chance to shine, and on a day where Lorenzo struggled and Marquez hit the deck, it fell to Petrucci to lead the charge against Rossi at a sodden Silverstone. At one point, it even looked like the Pramac rider was on course to stage one of the unlikeliest upsets in recent MotoGP history.
Jarno Trulli takes pole at Berlin (Formula E): It didn’t take long for the Italian veteran to regress to the mean once the race itself began, but Trulli topping qualifying at Tempelhof in May has to stand out as one of the year’s wackiest, most left-field results in any category all year.
Nick Tandy beats the prototypes to win Petit Le Mans (IMSA): While Tandy will be largely remembered this year as one of cornerstones to Porsche’s triumph in the Le Mans 24 Hours, arguably, it was no greater an achievement than guiding his little 911 RSR past all the prototypes to win overall in torrential conditions at Road Atlanta in October.
Winner: Hulkenberg, Bamber and Tandy win Le Mans
Check back tomorrow (Friday) for part two of our awards, where we will name our Team of the Year, Most Improved Driver of the Year, Rookie of the Year and our Driver of the year.