Wednesday , 2 December 2020
Racing Point F1

2019 Driver analysis Part I: The bottom teams

On paper, the 2019 Formula 1 season was yet another walkover from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. The reality is that others featured heavily through the season, but the six-time champion’s superior class and consistency resisted pressure from a ballsier, beardier team-mate Valtteri Bottas, young chargers Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, as well as four-time champ Sebastian Vettel. The titles were wrapped up well before the season ended in a year that featured some of the greatest races of the decade.

Behind the frontrunning teams, there were a lot of interesting subplots – the revival of McLaren and Carlos Sainz Jr – which culminated in a well-deserved podium from the back in Brazil, Pierre Gasly’s rollercoaster of a season, mayhem on and off-track with Haas, disappointment and controversy with Renault, and a starlet of the future arriving at backmarkers Williams.

But it’s time to analyse the numbers and examine exactly what went on in the team head-to-heads (with a few big surprises), as well as summarise exactly where things went right or wrong for each driver in 2019. As always, the ratings given are merely based on opinion based on a driver’s performance with the equipment given in the races.

Toro Rosso – Drivers pouncing for podium opportunities

For the purposes of this, only the results with Toro Rosso are displayed unless stated otherwise.

10 Pierre Gasly – 7th
Best qualifying: 6th (Brazil)
Best race: 2nd (Brazil)
Average rating (whole season): 5.52 – 18th

Defining statistic: Scored double what Albon scored with Toro Rosso with three fewer races

Gasly’s season went from utterly dismal to incredibly strong following a return to Toro Rosso mid-season. In addition to the new-but-familiar surroundings, he had to manage the loss of his friend Anthoine Hubert in Belgium. He brilliantly rebounded from that by taking points in his first race back with the team he last drove for in 2018. From there, he was consistently strong, had the edge on his team-mate, regularly challenged for points, and was there to brilliantly pounce in Brazil when those in the top teams lost their heads late in the race. There, he secured his well-deserved maiden podium finish with what was perhaps his greatest performance in the series to date.

23 Alexander Albon – 8th
Best qualifying: 9th (Britain)
Best race: 6th (Germany)
Average rating (whole season): 6.52 – 14th

Defining statistic: Was beating team-mate Kvyat in a number of areas before Red Bull call-up

After impressing with Toro Rosso early in the season, Albon was given the call-up to the main Red Bull team for the final nine races.

26 Daniil Kvyat – 13th
Best qualifying: 6th (Azerbaijan)
Best race: 3rd (Germany)
Average rating: 7.10 – 8th

Defining statistic: Best season excluding 2015 and scored third F1 podium

While the second half of Kvyat’s season failed to reach anything like the dizzy heights of Germany, it continued to be very solid. A revitalised Gasly proved to be a more difficult team-mate than rookie Albon, but Kvyat still brought home points on a number of occasions and qualified the Toro Rosso well. He was on for a strong result in Italy before his car suffered from reliability. Overall, podium aside, it was perhaps a slightly better season than the outright statistics and points tally may imply it was.

Racing Point – Perez’s strong second half of season a rare highlight

11 Sergio Perez – 10th
Best qualifying: 5th (Azerbaijan)
Best race: 6th (x2)
Average rating: 7.19 – 6th

Defining statistic: Scored 39 points in the final nine races

The Racing Point was rarely a top 10 contender early in the season, but it did start to progress somewhat after the summer break. That should not downplay Perez’s performances in the remaining races, because he was absolutely stunning. Of the nine races, he finished eight of them in the points (the one he did not was a retirement in Singapore). There were midfield victories and the points just kept coming. It was arguably not a car that warranted one of the drivers finishing the year in the top 10, but that is exactly what Perez managed in the hotly contested midfield. He totally had the measure of his younger team-mate and is another underrated star of the season.

18 Lance Stroll – 15th
Best qualifying: 10th (Italy)
Best race: 4th (Germany)
Average rating: 5.52 – 19th

Defining statistic: Just one Q3 appearance to team-mate’s four

Stroll’s season was not too dissimilar to what we have become accustomed to with the young Canadian from his Williams days. Mighty on the opening laps, a points threat at a handful of venues – Baku, Monza, Montreal – and in the wet, but severely lacking that extra bit on a Saturday and often far too anonymous to have a strong overall season. That is why his average rating is so poor, even though he scored a solid number of points this year. The elephant in the room is that most of those came from his team’s excellent strategy call in the rain in Germany – where admittedly he drove very well while his team-mate binned it in the opening laps.

Alfa Romeo – Raikkonen often superb as Giovinazzi finds the ropes

7 Kimi Raikkonen – 12th
Best qualifying: 5th (Germany)
Best race: 4th (Brazil)
Average rating: 6.95 – 11th

Defining statistic: Only scored once in the final nine races

A very strong opening half of the season derailed for Kimi Raikkonen, but overall it was good. He often left a little bit on the table on a Saturday but made up for it in the races, which is why he ended up scoring a huge number of points for Alfa Romeo when the car wasn’t always up to the challenge. There were times during the latter part of the season where the Alfa looked to be nowhere, yet Raikkonen was squeezing it through into a good grid slot and challenged for points. Some scruffy weekends and a few needless crashes here and there is why his rating isn’t well above seven out of 10.

99 Antonio Giovinazzi – 17th
Best qualifying: 8th (x2)
Best race: 5th (Brazil)
Average rating: 5.86 – 17th

Defining statistic: Outqualified Raikkonen eight times, but finished ahead just twice

Giovinazzi’s first full season in F1 wasn’t without its hiccups but by the conclusion of it, he was looking like a more than competent driver. The majority of his 14 points came in the chaotic race in Brazil, but his upturn in form started to coincide with the performance of the Alfa Romeo falling off in comparison to earlier in the year. He was a match for Raikkonen on a Saturday by the end of the year – having a very solid score against him there, but the Ferrari-backed driver must be looking over his shoulder at the five Ferrari Driver Academy members in Formula 2 next year.

Haas – Dreadful season on and off track for both drivers

8 Romain Grosjean – 18th
Best qualifying: 6th (x2)
Best race: 7th (Germany)
Average rating: 6.42 – 15th

Defining statistic: Scored the number of points as his car number

It’s quite difficult to assess exactly how well or poorly Grosjean performed this season given the erratic performance of the Haas, and how much of the second half of 2019 was used as a testbed moving forward. But, while the points tally says otherwise, he had a slightly less unimpressive season than his team-mate. Both managed to continue crashing into each other and walls and so forth, but Grosjean was the one getting involved in fewer incidents and was more often ahead on Sundays.

20 Kevin Magnussen – 16th
Best qualifying: 5th (Austria)
Best race: 6th (Australia)
Average rating: 6.05 – 16th

Defining statistic: Also scored the number of points as his car number

Magnussen was, unusually, peakier than Grosjean during the season. In qualifying, he was exceptional at times in 2019 – his beautiful lap around Austria being one fine example. But in the races – when the car was just lacking – he struggled quite often. There were some fine drives that went unrewarded, but there were simply far too many incidents as well.

Williams – Russell crushing Kubica in team’s toughest season yet

63 George Russell – 20th
Best qualifying: 16th (Hungary)
Best race: 11th (Germany)
Average rating: 7.10 – 7th

Defining statistic: Unbeaten in qualifying by team-mate

Russell had few opportunities to showcase what he was capable of doing in 2019 – not least in the second half of the season, but he did what was possible with the Williams on most of the occasions possible. Quite regularly, he was battling with the floundering Haas cars, among others. His leadership qualities came to the fore and he has been superb throughout the year. It is just a shame that the equipment he has been given has not been up to the standard of his abilities.

88 Robert Kubica – 19th
Best qualifying: 18th (x2)
Best race: 10th (Germany)
Average rating: 4.86 – 20th

Defining statistic: Qualified last in 15 of the races

Kubica’s fantastic human story, unfortunately, has concluded without a huge amount to shout about. It seems likely that his final race has been run. His lengthy spell away from F1 certainly showed – beaten comprehensively by his younger team-mate incredibly frequently, especially on a Saturday where the gap was at times extortionate. It is set to be a sad end to a career for a driver who challenged for race wins in a car entirely incapable of doing so at the start of the decade.

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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