With the recent conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it was yet another season which is concluded and yet another season where we saw Mercedes domination. Mercedes clinching their 6th consecutive constructors’ world championship. And Lewis Hamilton being crowned world champion for the 6th time only one behind the legendary Michael Schumacher. I won’t be perplexed if the To-Do of Mercedes team consists of Eat, Sleep, Win World championship and Repeat.
With almost an impeccable season for Mercedes, we roll to the other of the spectrum with Ferrari having a season to forget. Whatever could go wrong went wrong from, senseless strategy calls, lack of downforce on the car to their drivers colliding in the race (the last thing you want as a team). Well, they did have something to cheer about with their victories in Belgium, Italy (home turf) with Charles Leclerc and with Sebastian Vettel in Singapore but apart from it was a season they wouldn’t want to retrospect. Coming to Red Bull which was the 3rd best team yet again. Red Bull had a mediocre season with wins in Austria, Germany and Brazil with Max Verstappen but with their Japanese counterpart’s Honda engine not extracting the power to trade punches with Mercedes and Ferrari initially during the season saw them not competing with the other two but did come alive surprisingly towards the end of the season. Well, any season is a mediocre season for the top 3 teams if they’re not winning the championship.
The Three Top Guns
After reviewing the pre-season testing at the start of the season fans were holding their chairs up tight in anticipation of very close scraps between Ferrari, RedBull and Mercedes. But as the season started in Australia, Mercedes proved yet again why they’re the team who would want to place your bets on.
Mercedes started the season on a high note with not only securing a 1-2 finish but doing it in a dominant fashion. Surprisingly it was Valtteri Bottas who lead the charge in Australia with a victory and in doing so arriving as a serious title contender.
With the next few races, Mercedes continued their domination, sometimes because of having the best car-like in China, Spain, Monaco and France but sometimes picking up the pieces of Ferrari’s mishap with an engine failure in Bahrain and mistakes by Charles Leclerc in Azerbaijan (qualifying) and Sebastian Vettel in Canada (race) costing them probable race wins. After the first 8 races being won by Mercedes, the paddock arrived in Austria which saw a scrap between Ferrari and RedBull for the race win, with Verstappen closing in on Leclerc during the closing stages of the race. Verstappen passed Leclerc but failing to do so without banging wheels with Leclerc. This is Honda’s first race victory after the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. British Grand Prix saw a repeat telecast of Mercedes domination with Lewis Hamilton winning in thorough fashion after some hard-fought battle with teammate Valtteri Bottas. Germany proved to be one of the best races of the season. On the race day it rained enough for teams to switch to wet tyres. With the track beginning to slowly dry up it was a battle in the strategic departments of the team with their tyres choices. With the track fully dried up Max Verstappen was leading and took the chequered flag and Sebastian Vettel coming home to finish P2 after starting P20 and Danil Kyvat securing an unlikely podium for Toro Rosso. Hungary was the final trophy in their cabinet for Mercedes before the summer break with Lewis Hamilton winning by a strategic masterstroke.
Tables Turn after the Summer Break
The summer break gave the news of promotion of Alex Albon to RedBull and Pierre Gasly being demoted to Toro Rosso, It came off a surprise after RedBull promising not to change their drivers before the end of the season. After a string of poor performances by Pierre Gasly it was just a matter of fact when RedBull takes the call. The summer break also saw the revival of Ferrari. Winning 2 consecutive races in Belgium and on their home turf in Italy the ‘Tifosi’ celebrated a special, emotional victory finally ending their drought from 2010. The high speed track layout of Belgium and Italy suiting the low drag philosophy on their car. Although the Belgium Grand Prix marked the darkest day of the season with the tragic demise of Anthoine Hubert during a support F2 race.
The whole Motorsport fraternity lost a young and talented soul and reminding all of us of how cruel this sport can be. Singapore was won by Sebastian Vettel by a brilliant undercut strategy which helped him jump everyone and eventually taking the lead and chequered flag. His first since 2018 Belgium Grand Prix. The next few rounds saw Ferrari unable to take advantage of their pole positions, with bad driver management in Russia to Faulty start by Vettel in Japan it could have only gotten worse. The US Grand Prix saw the end of Ferrari’s pole run since the summer break. Valtteri Bottas won after starting from pole but the main highlight of the race was Lewis Hamilton clinching his 6th driver’s title. With the paddock heading to Brazil with Constructor’s and Driver’s Championship secured it was all to play for the honour for the other teams. Max Verstappen won a crazy, chaotic race after starting from pole position and retaking the lead in the closing stages of the race. The race was known for Ferrari cocking it up yet again when both their drivers crashed into each other during the closing stages of the race. With a rather uneventful season finale in Abu Dhabi and Lewis Hamilton winning yet again the curtains finally drew on F1 2019.
The Mid Field Scraps
McLaren deserved the Oscars for the most improved team. Finishing best of the rest after a pretty difficult 2018 season saw their hard work pay off. With Carlos Sainz’s string of P6 and P7 finishes saw him finish impressive P6 in the championship with the cherry on the cake being his P3 finish in Brazil .His teammate Lando Norris impressing everyone with his performances as well proved they have the best driver pairing on the grid. McLaren would be satisfied with this season but their main focus lies on 2021 when they will have Mercedes Power Units in their cars, hoping that it would prove to be catalyst in their quest of fighting the top teams.
After Daniel Ricciardo making the jump from RedBull last year, The French manufacturer was under a heap of expectations. And being P5 wasn’t under their ‘Season Goal’ list. Well it wasn’t all cries for Renault, impressive performances on power dependent circuits like Canada and Italy radiates a strong engine package. But the dark cloud for the season was the accusation and proven guilty of cheating for implementing a “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system’’ by Racing Point F1 Team both Renault cars were disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo’s P9 and Nico Hulkenberg’s P14 in the championship highlight their mediocre season. With no customers on the grid for 2021, the team would be highly motivated to bring back their glory days.
With just 6 points behind Renault in the championship, Toro Rosso’s hard work paid off. With a P3 finish by Danil Kyvat in Germany and P2 finish in Brazil by Pierre Gasly, the team had lots to celebrate. The summer switch for Pierre Gasly came in as a blessing in disguise, The Toro Rosso suiting his driving a lot better he put in highly impressive performances with a point to prove to the RedBull sharks. Gasly finished the season P7 and Kvyat P13. The credits also goes to Honda, after a disastrous 3 years with McLaren and always being on the receiving end of Fernando Alonso’s fury, the team had come a long way.
After the buyout by the consortium led by billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll, Racing Point F1 team was reincarnated. With the obvious new face of Lance Stroll and ever-dependable Sergio Perez they were always in the mix for the juicy midfield scraps. With Perez finishing P10 and Stroll finishing P15 it couldn’t be considered a bad season after the team went into administration when it failed to find a buyer. With a fresh contract for Sergio Perez for the next 3 years it seems Perez has the confidence and faith in the team, with major changes lined up for 2021, Did he make the right choice only time will tell.
The team had a fresh driver line up for the season bringing the young Italian rookie Antonio Giovinazzi and also the return of Kimi Raikkonen after debuting with them in 2001. The start of the season being lead by Kimi Raikkonen having a string of points finishes, whereas Giovinazzi struggling to keep up to the pace. But the gold of the season for Giovinazzi was, he became the only non- Mercedes, Ferrari, and RedBull driver to lead a Grand Prix at the Singapore Grand Prix. Brazilian Grand Prix the only other highlight of the season for the team, after finishing P4 and P5 in a chaotic race.
2019 was probably the worst year for Haas. It didn’t quite come to them on track and off track. After Kevin Magnussen impressive P6 finish in Australia, fans that it would be another season wherein they would see Haas in the scrap but unfortunately, the crystal ball didn’t go their way. Their struggles continued off track as well, with Rich Energy terminating their contract with the team after a series of poor performances. And was a much talked about gossip during the whole paddock? With Romain Grosjean finishing P18 just ahead of the two Williams, and Kevin Magnussen finishing P16 Haas did have a season to forget.
Well, it did hurt to see Williams in this manner. Probably 2.5 seconds off the pace, they were constantly occupying the back end of the grid. Never in the mix for any points. Although the team did open their account with Robert Kubica after finishing P10 at the German Grand Prix. George Russell although proved his might after clean sweeping Robert Kubica in qualifying head-to-head battle 21-0. It was a showcase of his skills and talent and given a strong car he would be the one to keep an eye on. Williams would be glad that the season is over, everything could go wrong went wrong from non-competitive car to struggling with spare parts.
With the curtains closing on Formula 1 2019 it is time for behind the scenes with the development of next year’s car. With winter break being the most challenging and critical phase of the season, the teams wouldn’t leave a stone unturned in their development. Will we see Mercedes domination yet again in 2020 or will Ferrari and RedBull would catch them by the scruff of their neck?