From spectacular crashes to intra-team squabbles, Formula One in 2019 pretty much had it all. One driver took one step closer to equalling one of the sport’s greatest, one driver took an emotional maiden win of his career while one team made major progress with the help of a brand-new line-up. Here is a short review of the 2019 F1 Season.
Driver of the Year?
Hamilton’s record breaking year while Verstappen and Leclerc deserve mention
It’s incredible to write, even say that Lewis Hamilton is just one more title away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record of seven. The Brit found a new level this year and on more than one occasion, demolished the opposition. Dominant performances in Spain, France and Abu Dhabi, an unlikely win in Mexico and an incredible fightback in Hungary overtaking Max Verstappen a few laps before the finish sums-up Hamilton’s great year. Taking 11 wins, 17 podiums and setting a new record of the amount of points scored during the season of 413, will go down as one of Hamilton’s best seasons.
This year saw a more mature Max Verstappen. Partnering with Honda, Red Bull and Verstappen thought this would be a trial year but three wins, nine podiums and two pole positions were all a result of Verstappen’s great driving. This driver will be world champion one day.
Making the step up to the Scuderia, Charles Leclerc came heartbreakingly close to winning on only his third outing for the team in Bahrain but car issues prevented the Monegasque from winning. This was definitely a year of learning for Leclerc and was able to win in Belgium and in Ferrari’s home race in Italy. His rivalry with Sebastian Vettel will be one of the major storylines next year and beating the German in the standings will boost his confidence heading into next season.
Team of the Year?
Mercedes had a slightly easier run to this year’s title but nevertheless deserve the glory
Mercedes stand tall as the German team secured the Team’s Championship for the sixth year running. This ties Ferrari’s record from 1999 to 2004 and just shows how dominant this team has been this decade. Racking up 739 points, falling just 26 short of their 2016 total, Mercedes went from strength to strength and were helped by the somewhat resurgence of Valterri Bottas and the poor early season pace of Ferrari to claim a deserving championship.
McLaren also deserve a very big mention hear as the turnaround in performance and attitude had been an absolute joy to watch. Coupled with a new driver line-up of Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris, the Woking based team secured their best finish in the championship since 2014 and their last podium in the same year. With the switch to Mercedes engines from 2021, we could see this team back at the forefront of F1 very soon.
Under-performers of the Year?
Ferrari leave this decade still without a title while Renault are left scratching their heads
It was looking so good Pre-Season for Ferrari. Finally, after a number of years trying to beat Hamilton and Mercedes, it looked like this was going to be their year. Failing to capitalise on their testing speed it was Leclerc at Belgium, 13 races into the season, who took their first win. They undoubtedly had the best engine despite questions over the legitimacy of it in the second-half of the season. The intra-team squabble between Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc with the team making strategy blunders and the odd bit of reliability failed to make any real impression and trouble Mercedes consistently race-on-race.
This was a kick in the teeth for Renault. Shocking the F1 community in the summer break of 2018 by signing Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull, Renault should have made serious progress this season. Finishing behind McLaren, who they supplied engines to, the works team lagged 54 points behind their nearest competitors. Signing Esteban Ocon to partner Ricciardo for next season will be exciting to see but results are clearly needed to ensure that their future is in Formula One.
In terms of drivers, Vettel, the four time World Champion, deserves a mention. There has been too many errors on his part and although we saw flashes of the driver who won all them titles at Red Bull, consistency is a big must for next year. His post race penalty in Canada, a race where he should he won, definitely changed his attitude towards the sport and his win in Singapore temporarily boosted his confidence.
Lance Stroll also had a mixed season with his qualifying pace, or his lack of it, making for difficult races. Although, his race starts were the best of any on the grid with the Canadian gaining more places than anyone else. Team-mate Sergio Perez out-qualified 18 times throughout the season and finished five places ahead of him in the championship with 31 more points.
In his first full season of competing in F1, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi had a season of two halves. A steady rise in results and confidence saw the Italian driver on three occasions after the summer break. Recently revealing that his last-lap crash in Belgium, where he on course to score points, put his drive for next season at risk but he was able to narrow the deficit to team-mate Kimi Raikkonen which was enough for him to keep his drive.
Rain throws race into chaos at Germany
The German GP at Hockenheim is one of my favourites and this year it provided much action. This race had it all. Rain. Crashes. Drama. And an unlikely podium. Celebrating their 125th year of competing in motorsport and their 200th F1 start, Mercedes went all out at their home race with a special lively and retro overalls. A miserable race followed as Bottas crashed with Hamilton crossing the line in 8th.
It would be the new “rain-master” of Verstappen who would take the win with a much-needed second place for Vettel. It’s races like this that the midfield teams have their best opportunity to get a great result and that’s what Toro Rosso and Daniil Kvyat did. Third place marked the team’s first podium since Italy 2008 and Kvyat’s first since China 2016.
The Austrian, British and Brazilian races all deserve a mention as well.
Rookie of the Year?
The F2 graduates shows the sport’s future is in good hands
This is a tough one to choose.
Alexander Albon started the year with Toro Rosso and drove a fantastic race in China where he started from the pit-lane to finish in 10th in only his third F1 race. Due to the poor results by Pierre Gasly at Red Bull, Albon was promoted to alongside Verstappen for the reminder of the season starting in Belgium. Matching a driver like Verstappen is no easy job but setting identical times in Qualifying for the Japanese is a very good effort and missing out on a potential first podium in Brazil will only motivate the Thai-Brit heading into next season.
Making his debut with McLaren, Lando Norris has become one of the funniest and likeable drivers on the current grid. His season was a mix of highs and lows and it was during these low that his relatable personality shown through. The “bromance” with Sainz made for great watching and definitely helped Norris to learn and grow. With a best finish of 6th, Norris wasn’t able to beat Sainz in the championship but beating the Spaniard in the head-to-head qualifying battle is a very impressive feat.
F2 champion George Russell had the toughest of times this season and it’s due to the poor performance of his team, Williams, to gauge his overall season. In the struggling Williams team, Russell quickly became the team leader and finished the season out-qualifying team-mate Robert Kubica a staggering 21 out of 21 times. Finishing behind Kubica in Germany was the Brit’s best chance of points as after the race and penalties applied, Kubica nabbed 10th and a single point. However, making it into the second part if Qualifying in Hungary shows the speed and talent he has and hopefully we’ll be able to see more of this next season.
All three drivers graduated from F1’s junior series F2 with Russell taking the honours but these young guns, who have shown incredible speed, maturity and certainly a bit of character, were one of the highlights of this year. The fans voted Norris as their driver of the year and on this occasion, I agree with them.