Wednesday , 21 August 2019
Daimler/Mercedes AMG F1

F1 2019 mid-season report part II – the top teams

** You can find part one of this report here **

12 races into a Formula 1 season that has morphed into a true slow-burner, and against pre-season expectations it is Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes who both seem nailed on for their sixth drivers’ and constructors’ championships respectively. Ferrari’s challenge never materialised despite early promise, while Max Verstappen and Red Bull-Honda are emerging as legitimate threats to snatch the championship from Hamilton. Elsewhere, new stars have come into the fore, rookies have massively impressed, and some team-mate battles have become totally one-sided. Which drivers can go into the summer break on a high, and who has some serious work to do in the second half of 2019?

Mercedes

Mercedes team-mate comparison after 12 races

44 Lewis Hamilton – 1st
Best qualifying: 1st (x4)
Best race: 1st (x8)
Average rating: 7.8 – 2nd

The records continue to be annihilated by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. He has failed to win on only four occasions this season – twice when he was soundly beaten by his team-mate, once when the seemingly unbeatable Mercedes struggled in the heat and on one occasion when he made two high profile errors on a weekend where he was very unwell. A sixth world championship almost seems totally inevitable now. It should not be a huge discredit that Hamilton does not top the ratings at this point of the season – that’s because the driver who does has simply been somehow better. It’s those four races which were not stellar from Hamilton’s end and a few qualifying sessions where a few tenths here and there were left on the table which brings his rating down a bit to a ‘measly’ 7.8/10 at this stage. It’s a very short debate now over whether Hamilton deserves to be in the greatest of all-time argument or not, after all, he has been truly magic on eight Sundays this season.

77 Valtteri Bottas – 2nd
Best qualifying: 1st (x4)
Best race: 1st (x2)
Average rating: 6.8 – 11th

After four races, it was looking as if this new beardy, porridge-eating, Valtteri Bottas 2.0 was going to seriously sustain a championship challenge. It has since totally unravelled. Any opportunity Bottas has looked great since then, Hamilton has simply been better. And there have also been races where he has simply not been good enough. Nowhere in Canada, ruined his own race with a flat spot in Hungary and a crash while following a Racing Point in Germany. His seat his under threat from Esteban Ocon, and the language Toto Wolff has been using recently has not been particularly complimentary towards Bottas. He’s been great in qualifying, but he just seems unable to sustain a season-long challenge to one of the greatest of all-time. That’s not to discredit Bottas – he’s seriously good. He just is not a consistent Hamilton-beater.

Ferrari

Ferrari team-mate comparison after 12 races

5 Sebastian Vettel – 4th
Best qualifying: 1st (x1)
Best race: 2nd (x3)
Average rating: 6.9 – 9th

The fall of Sebastian Vettel has continued through into 2019, albeit without the viciousness of his seemingly weekly mistakes as was the case for much of 2018. Whether he was the true victor in Canada or not remains debatable, but his form after that tanked. That was, until Germany where, he brilliantly rose from 20th to 2nd at the flag. He’s been sometimes Vettel-as-we-know-it levels of amazing in qualifying, and then on other days, he’s several tenths off. Some of his races have followed a similar trend. He has, however, made fewer mistakes than his less-experienced team-mate and largely less costly ones at that.

Further reading on Sebastian Vettel

16 Charles Leclerc – 5th
Best qualifying: 1st (x2)
Best race: 2nd (x1)
Average rating: 6.5 – 13th

Charles Leclerc’s first season with Ferrari has been one littered with mistakes and form that has varied from absolutely brilliant to drastically off the pace. He has crashed out of two races this season, crashed twice more in qualifying, yet taken two brilliant poles which should have both been converted into victories. Leclerc looked so composed last year at Sauber and through much of his junior career, but he has often looked the total opposite this year. A lot was expected of someone with huge amounts of potential, but it’s taking a somewhat surprising amount of time for some consistent form to emerge.

Red Bull

Red Bull team-mate comparison after 12 races

10 Pierre Gasly – 6th
Best qualifying: 4th (x1)
Best race: 4th (x1)
Average rating: 3.9 – 20th

Pierre Gasly’s time with a top team has lasted a mere 12 races, and it’s clear why that has been the case. He is not a driver whose average rating should be less than four out of 10. It is obvious that he was struggling immensely with a top team, and in a car that doesn’t suit his driving style. It is seriously frustrating because this is a driver with good potential and shouldn’t be someone who struggles to beat ‘Class B’ drivers with a ‘Class A’ machine. He seemed to turn a page at Silverstone when he had a genuinely punchy weekend but has been back to his usual self since then – terrible. He returns to Toro Rosso from Spa onwards but hopefully. his demotion doesn’t result in the same confidence problems as faced by his new team-mate.

Further reading on Pierre Gasly

33 Max Verstappen – 3rd
Best qualifying: 1st (x1)
Best race: 1st (x2)
Average rating: 8.5 – 1st

The class of the field so far in 2019. What is scary is that Max Verstappen is still just 21 and could well be a Hamilton-beater in equal machinery with Hamilton in his absolute prime. He has obliterated his team-mate and seems to have so few weaknesses. The Hungarian race got away from him, but he still clinched his first pole there on a weekend where Mercedes looked stronger. He has finished every race in the top five this season. Nobody else can boast that. Scarily, he probably has the third-best car. There has not been a single high-profile mistake this season – unless the poor first effort in Q2 in Canada counts, but that is about it. He has scored more than anybody in the last four races. Except for performing a more outrageous lunge in Monaco than he tried, it’s difficult to argue that he has left any points on the table throughout the season so far.

McLaren

McLaren team-mate comparison after 12 races

4 Lando Norris – 10th
Best qualifying: 5th (x1)
Best race: 6th (x2)
Average rating: 6.9 – 10th

McLaren’s youngest driver ever has been a total breath of fresh air in 2019 and has some scintillating speed to go with the memes and so on. On a Saturday, Norris has been startlingly quick considering his inexperience and certainly deserves a few more points than the tally suggests. There have been rookie errors – such as crashing in Spain – but otherwise, it has been a very strong start to life in F1 for the teenager. His starts haven’t been great and he has also looked tentative in combat, but these are small criticisms against what has otherwise been a very strong first 12 races.

55 Carlos Sainz Jr – 7th
Best qualifying: 6th (x1)
Best race: 5th (x2)
Average rating: 7.8 – 3rd

This is the best that Carlos Sainz Jr has driven in F1 to date, without question. He already has more points than he has ever scored in a single season, he alone has nearly topped McLaren’s 2018 total, has four ‘Class B’ victories, almost has double the number of points of his nearest rival in the championship, and is just five points away from Gasly in the considerably superior Red Bull. If there is one criticism, it’s that his rookie team-mate has been marginally stronger on a Saturday, but some smooth operating has meant that Sainz is the absolute standout driver in the midfield on a Sunday. He’s only really had one poor result and that was when he was battling with former team-mate Verstappen in Bahrain.

Further reading on Sainz and Norris

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso team-mate comparison after 12 races

23 Alexander Albon – 15th
Best qualifying: 9th (x1)
Best race: 6th (x1)
Average rating: 7.1 – 7th

Thailand’s first F1 driver in over 60 years – who is now being vaulted to the main team – has quietly asserted himself as the best-performing rookie this season, even if he hasn’t necessarily been the quickest one. It shouldn’t be a massive surprise that rookie Alexander Albon has made rookie mistakes – especially as he had never driven an F1 car before 2019. However, the way he has qualified and raced has been stealthily brilliant. His maiden wet weather drive was incredibly eye-opening as he diced with Hamilton, and his tally of 16 points so far doesn’t quite do him justice. As Red Bull’s third-least experienced driver ever, he faces a massive challenge in the second half of the season in trying to succeed where Gasly did not.

26 Daniil Kvyat – 9th
Best qualifying: 6th (x1)
Best race: 3rd (x1)
Average rating: 7.3 – 5th

What a magnificent turnaround for new father Daniil Kvyat. His redemption story could have resulted with a return to the team he clearly has unfinished business with – Red Bull, and a lucky podium in Germany is just one of several superb performances he has produced this season. He did have a somewhat sluggish start to the season, but he started to seriously build on a strong result in Spain. His best Toro Rosso finish then followed immediately, before following that up with more points in unlikely circumstances and then that wonderful podium. This is easily the most solid he has driven in F1 yet – even better than when he was outscoring his race-winning team-mate at Red Bull.

Further reading on Daniil Kvyat

Progression of average driver ratings (only an opinion!) through the season so far

About Craig Woollard

Motorsport historian and journalist Craig Woollard has had an unusual path to a career in motorsport. After graduating from the University of Essex with a degree in mathematics in 2013, he changed his career path immediately after discovering a talent for writing. After occasional freelance work in 2015 and 2016, he joined the Autosport Academy for 2017. In the same year, he became an archive digitiser at Motorsport Images - which is his full-time job to this date.

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