2019 Season Review – Hamilton’s number six

Features

Australia

A new season is normally a start of new hope, but when the paddock arrived in Melbourne there was an air of sadness. Race director Charlie Whiting had passed away suddenly in his hotel room ahead of the weekend, as expected F1 paid its respects.

Hamilton once again started his season off in style, he took a sixth back to back pole in Albert Park outpacing Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by four-tenths of a second. The pace of Ferrari had been a talking point leading up to the opening race, but the team were seven-tenths off the pace despite finishing testing as the fastest team. Daniel Ricciardo would start his home race and Renault debut from sixteen.

Come Sunday, it was Bottas who got the better start passing Hamilton into turn one where he managed to build a huge gap. He set off into the distance while teammate Hamilton was under pressure from Max Verstappen. A surprise given Ferrari’s performance in Barcelona, the dutchman breezed past him

New season, same errors for Sebastian Vet tell locking up allowing new teammate Charles Leclerc to challenge him. Before the team instructed them to hold position. The class B battle showed what was to become a close-fought battle, Nico Hulkenberg locked in battle with Racing Point and Toro Rosso. The German winning with seventh.

Daniel Ricciardo’s home race saw him retire after going wide and losing the front wing.

Drivers – 1) Bottas 26, 2) Hamilton 18, 3) Verstappen 18
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 44, 2) Ferrari 22, 3) Red Bull 15

Bahrain

Melbourne was a blip for Ferrari, or so it was looking in practice and qualifying. Leclerc was on fire all weekend and went into qualifying looking to beat his teammate. He hooked the weekend up well as Mercedes struggled to find the pace to challenge Ferrari, Leclerc looked on course for a good race.

Ferrari went into Sunday’s race looking to prove they were back stronger than Mercedes. Leclerc looked on course to take his first victory in the sport, he had a clear lead over the two Mercedes. Earlier he had passed his teammate after losing the lead to Hamilton. Then the technical difficulty made his four-second gap look vulnerable, his engine failure now was effectively made him a sitting duck for Hamilton.

Meanwhile, a spin for Vettel made Hamilton’s job easier he dropped back after shattering his front win. That allowed Verstappen to close up on Vettel. The spin was somewhat reminiscent of a series of spins Vettel had in 2018 as he was fighting wheel-to-wheel with other cars. Ultimately, the loss points from those mistakes cost him last year’s championship.

Bahrain was the race where Ferrari’s decision to promote Leclerc was rewarded, but a reminder that F1 can be so cruel and sometimes heartbreaking. Hamilton’s first victory of 2019, somewhat lucky given the lead Leclerc had early on.

Drivers – 1) Bottas 44, 2) Hamilton 43, 3) Verstappen 27
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 87, 2) Ferrari 48, 3) Red Bull 31

China

The 1,000th world championship race took the sport to Shanghai, surely this circuit would be the weekend where Ferrari could fight back given the teams strong testing form. The long straights and high downforce in Barcelona should bring Ferrari into the mix, but could they beat Hamilton?

Despite his usual good form in Shanghai, it was Bottas who just beat Hamilton by twenty-three of a second to take pole position. Mercedes again had the upper hand, Vettel was three tenths off with Leclerc admitting the team didn’t have the pace. Red Bull meanwhile messed up there timing up and both drivers failed to set a time in the closing moments of Q3.

Hamilton made a better start getting passed Bottas to lead into the first corner, the five-times champion looked unstoppable. Leclerc got passed Vettel before the team instructed him to let Vettel back passed.

The drama was never far away in the midfield, at the hairpin Daniil Kvyat lost the rear of the car, then bounced off the rear of Carlos Sainz. That sent Sainz torpedoing into his teammate Lando Norris, earning the Russian a penalty and pushing Sainz out the points, as well as causing Norris’s retirement.

But no one was able to stop Hamilton, winner of the 900th and 1,000th Grand Prix, while it wasn’t the thriller, we had in Bahrain 2014 or as controversial as the 800th in Singapore 2008.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 68, 2) Bottas 68, 3) Verstappen 39
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 173, 2) Ferrari 173, 3) Red Bull 52

Azerbaijan

Bottas took pole ahead of Hamilton, despite practice looking as if the sliver arrows were going to be on the back foot as Ferrari looked to hold the advantage. The Finn appeared to have taken advantage of the slipstream, and got the edge over his teammate.

Baku the land of fire, proved once again to be a challenge for all the drivers as the session was interrupted multiple times by red flags and damage to the circuit. Verstappen was left with only a single run in Q3 after Charles Leclerc crashed the Ferrari into the castle.

Once again it proved to be the Mercedes who were in fine form, Bottas took control from the start ahead of Hamilton. Ferrari meanwhile dropped away with Vettel struggling to find the pace. Leclerc’s crash had taken him out of the fight, but he worked his way to fifth.

Verstappen was becoming a consistent challenger, this year Honda was really stepping up to be part of the front runners he finished fourth. But all was not perfect, Pierre Gasly retired from the race with plumes of smoke.

It was another strong race for the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, the Mexican had run as high as fourth with him settling for sixth. Perez looked to be comfortably ahead of his midfield rivals with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat looking not to be a challenge.

Baku may not have had the drama of recent years, but the conclusion was clear Mercedes were stronger than last season. Hamilton also knew at this early stage it was Bottas he would need to beat, but could anyone join them?

Drivers – 1) Bottas 87, 2) Hamilton 86, 3) Vettel 52
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 173, 2) Ferrari 99, 3) Red Bull 64

Spain

Barcelona marked the start of the European season, the main question was could Ferrari start coming to fight Mercedes with their strong form in winter testing? Or would Mercedes stay ahead with their own upgrades? There were so many questions, so would qualifying provide answers.

Bottas again took pole ahead of Hamilton in an impressive gap of six tenths, as the champion struggled to beat his teammate following a number of errors which left the champion unable to improve on his final lap. The Mercedes was looking comfortable faster with Ferrari unable to mount a challenge.

Carlos Sainz would start his home race thirteenth, a mistake saw him go wide on his final lap after missing his braking point and running wide.

Hamilton got past Bottas on the long run to the first corner, before out braking him. But at Ferrari, there was another sign that things where not as they seemed, in testing the team had dominated in Barcelona. But the team used team orders, with Vettel and Leclerc twice told to trade position.

That allowed Verstappen up into third place, a collision between the McLaren of Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll triggered a safety car. That proved key to the unravelling of Ferrari’s race, Leclerc was placed onto hard tyres for the restart as Ferrari decided not to stop his teammate Vettel, that decision saw him drop from third to fifth.

Haas’s race saw the team score their first points of the season, thanks to a costly pit stop for the Toro Rosso’s which dropped Kvyat to tenth and Albon to eleventh.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 112, 2) Bottas 105, 3) Verstappen 126
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 217, 2) Ferrari 121, 3) Red Bull 87

Monaco

Sadness returned to the paddock after the sport lost another one of its charismatic leaders Niki Lauda. The Austrian was world champions three times, and more recently served as non-executive chairman of Mercedes. He had survived a live changing accident at the 1976 German Grand Prix, but the injuries lead to a double lung transplant last year but he failed to

His team were on it again around the streets of Monte Carlo, it was a close battle between Hamilton and Bottas. The Finn pushed the car to the edge, but Hamilton went even further nearly hitting the wall at Rascasse, taking pole. Ferrari was again unable to mount a challenge Vettel clipped the wall trough Tabac while Leclerc was knocked out in Q1 after being called to the weighbridge and failing to do a second run.

Hamilton was locked in a battle with Verstappen throughout the race, the Dutchman tried to get close he took his chances at the Harbour Chicane making contact. It was another disappointing home race for Leclerc, the Ferrari driver spun causing a puncher which lead to his retirement.

Mercedes reacted bringing both drivers in, but Verstappen was wrongly released into the path of Bottas. They kissed and Bottas wheel rim caught the wall causing a slow puncture, but with the safety car still deployed he only dropped behind Vettel to fourth, and eventually, Verstappen was awarded a five-second penalty for the unsafe release.

But it was Hamilton who took his fifth win of the season, holding off Verstappen. The question was where was the Ferrari and what could do in the middle of the season, with the Montreal upgrade?

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 137, 2) Bottas 120, 3) Vettel 82
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 257, 2) Ferrari 139, 3) Red Bull 110

Canada

F1 headed to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, which saw Ferrari bring an engine upgrade, but was it enough to turn around there season. But the question was could they stop Mercedes from whitewashing the 2019 season?

Vettel took pole position for Ferrari, beating Hamilton by two-tenths of a second. Ferrari appeared as if the upgrade was bringing the team back into the title fight. But Leclerc was forced to slow on his final run and was under investigation for driving on the wrong side of the marker bollard at the Nine-Ten chicane earlier in qualifying.

Vettel may have taken victory on the road, a dominate one to take Ferrari’s first win of the season. An incident with Hamilton saw him awarded a five-second penalty. In the closing stages, while battling for the lead, he pushed Hamilton off the track, that meant all the Mercedes need to do was finish within five seconds.

Stroll was ninth at his home race,  despite his Racing Point being fitted with an older-spec engine after a fiery failure in final practice. Daniil Kvyat completed the point scorers for Toro Rosso.

Ferrari’s 2019 campaign was effectively over, just before the halfway stage as Mercedes surpassed the teams (as Brawn) 2009 record of seven wins from seven races

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 161, 2) Bottas 133, 3) Vettel 100
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 295, 2) Ferrari 172, 3) Red Bull 124

France

The fallout from Montreal continued until the sport returned to Europe, Ferrari decided to appeal the result of the race, citing ‘new evidence’. However, the case was rejected following Friday practice session, the evidence was based on analysis by Sky Sports. The FIA deemed a new element but “not significant and relevant,”

Mercedes were in a class of their own, as Hamilton was two and half tenths faster than teammate Bottas. Throughout the weekend the sliver arrows were six tenths ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen. An impressive session for McLaren with, Lando Norris just nine-thousandths of a second off Verstappen. Pierre Gasly started ninth and Romain Grosjean while knocked out in Q1 ahead of their home race.

Hamilton went on to dominate the race following a brilliant first corner before going on to build an eighteen second over his teammate Bottas. His ability to manage the tyres proved his advantage, he took victory in France. It was another race where Leclerc continued to rise, he put pressure from the Finn, to secure third.

McLaren looked on course to back up there strong qualifying with Sainz sixth and Norris seventh in the closing stages. However, the Bristolian was losing hydraulic pressure, a problem that affected his gearshifts and steering and prevented him from using the DRS overtaking aid.

He then ran wide, first losing a place to Ricciardo, then Raikkonen passed him, Norris tried to hang on and then on the final lap was passed by Nico Hulkenberg. He felt annoyed and was heard apologising to McLaren.

None of the French drivers had a good afternoon, Pierre Gasly struggling to keep his tyres alive finishing the race eleventh after starting on the soft tyres. Gasly struggling to keep the tyres alive in the opening stint and faded further after his pit-stop.

Romain Grosjean faired no better, the Haas driver the only retirement in the race

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 187, 2) Bottas 151, 3) Verstappen 111
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 338, 2) Ferrari 198, 3) Red Bull 137

Austria

The first stop of the summer leg of the championship took F1 to Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix. Leclerc was on it as was Hamilton, providing for a final lap showdown for pole. Hamilton set the benchmark before Leclerc improved going two tenths faster, the world champion dropped three places for impeding Kimi Raikkonen.

Verstappen would start Red Bull’s home race from second, setting him up for a fight with Leclerc ahead of the two Mercedes. Engine issues for Vettel left him ninth.

Leclerc held pole at the start but looked to have covered the inside but Verstappen moved right to the edge of the track, forced Leclerc wide, and the two bumped wheels as Leclerc tried in vain to hang on again on the outside. That dropped Verstappen back to eighth, neither was deemed to be at fault for the collision.

Bottas finished third and Hamilton’s chances of victory were gone when he sustained front-wing damage. The world champion was overtaken by Vettel in the closing stages. Mercedes being beaten for the first time compressively for the first time since Mexico last year, a run of eight consecutive wins.

Following the race, the future of Gasly was in the spotlight, as speculation about his future with Red Bull continued. The team insisted that the Frenchman would finish the season at Red Bull…

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 197, 2) Bottas 166, 3) Verstappen 126
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 363, 2) Ferrari 228, 3) Red Bull 169

Britain

Silverstone again marked the halfway stage of the season, so far it had been the season where Mercedes continued to be the team to beat. Hamilton led the drivers’ championship by thirty-one points, but could anyone stop his charge to a sixth world title?

Bottas took pole by six thousandths over teammate Hamilton, that was despite the Finn losing the real through Brooklands. Hamilton didn’t fare much better, he also made a mistake, meaning that the times were set on the drivers first runs in Q3.

Leclerc looked as if he could challenge the Mercedes, however the Ferrari driver fell short. The Monacan looked to have the pace in Q2, before following Hamilton by losing the rear at Brooklands. Lando Norris and Alex Albon would start side by side for their home race.

Hamilton got past Bottas by running a very long opening stint, while the Finn made his first pit stop. This proved key as it allowed the Englishman to use a one-stop. Mercedes had the advantage throughout the race, miles ahead of the battle between Leclerc and Verstappen, that fight was brought to an end with Vettel running into the back of the Red Bull.

Vettel was handed a ten second time penalty for the collision by race stewards and ended the race down in sixteenth after pitting due the damage sustained. Norris failed to finish in the points after losing out on strategy.

Both Haas’s of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen retired from the race early on after colliding on the opening lap. The Frenchman sild into his teammate through The Loop, giving both cars punctures which required early pit-stops.

Hamilton took victory and became the only driver to take six wins at Silverstone, extending his lead to thirty nine points. Mercedes at the half way stage looked on course for another world title, but the question was where was Ferrari?

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 223, 2) Bottas 184, 3) Verstappen 136
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 407, 2) Ferrari 243, 3) Red Bull 191

Germany

Hamilton out-qualified Verstappen by three tenths, Mercedes struggled on Friday and expected to struggle. Vettel’s session ahead of his home race was a disaster he was unable to take part because of an issue with the airflow to the turbo, leaving him twentieth.

His teammate Charles Leclerc did show pace later in the session, however, an issue for the Monacan left him unable to challenge at the front. Overnight, wet weather moved into the circuit, meaning that the race could be a repeat of 2018.

Mercedes looked to be the favourites, however, both Hamilton and Bottas came unstuck. When Hamilton made his pit stop on lap thirty his stop went slightly wrong, things got worse as the Englishman spun off and lost position with ten laps to go.

There was no such drama for Verstappen, the Dutchman who took victory despite struggling himself. It was a repeat of 2018 for Ferrari, as Leclerc went off with a tiny error where Vettel crashed in similar conditions last year.

Hamilton also made a mistake, but when he rejoined, he went around the wrong side of the bollard, earning himself a five-second penalty, before spinning damaging the front wing. Bottas was then the only man on soft tyres, as he returned to the pits he crashed into the wall handing Verstappen the lead.

Vettel meanwhile put right the wrong of last year taking third. Also, Daniil Kvyat was a strong performer, he took Toro Rosso’s first podium since Vettel’s maiden win at Monza in 2008. Alfa Romeo took seventh and eighth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who ended Haas’ long wait without a point.

However, both Alfa drivers were awarded a ten-second penalty, because of the way they operated the clutch which potentially mimicked traction control in the tricky conditions. That gave Williams their only point of the season with Robert Kubica, his first since Abu Dhabi in 2010.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 225, 2) Bottas 184, 3) Verstappen 162
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 438, 2) Ferrari 288, 3) Red Bull 215

Hungary

Conditions were wet for qualifying days later in Budapest, this created a close fight between Verstappen and the Mercedes. The three drivers were just a few thousandths apart, Ferrari dropped away. Verstappen pulled out a hundredth off a second to pip Bottas, securing his first pole position. Honda’s first since Melbourne 2006, Leclerc survived a spin early on in Q1 at the final corner to out-qualify Vettel.

Verstappen converted his pole into the lead, leaving Hamilton to chase after him. The Mercedes driver used a strategy which he wasn’t entirely comfortable with, to hold on to the lead as his tyres wared off. The team had it right and he closed the gap, before taking the victory.

Ferrari meanwhile struggled to find the pace of the leaders, dropping a minute behind the leaders. Vettel took third away from his teammate Leclerc, it was a devastating day for the Scuderia, who finished a minute behind Hamilton.

Sainz matched up to McLaren’s performance in qualifying, taking fifth withstanding the pressure of Gasly in the other Red Bull to finish fifth for the second race in a row. Teammate Norris was caught out by a bad pit stop after the team couldn’t attach the rear tyre and that dropped him behind Gasly

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 250, 2) Bottas 188, 3) Verstappen 181
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 438, 2) Ferrari 288, 3) Red Bull 244

Belgium

Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, and despite repeating that Gasly would finish the season with Red Bull the team announced the Frenchman would be replaced by Alex Albon for the remainder of the year. A rapid promotion for the British-Thai who hadn’t driven an F1 car until Barcelona testing.

Ferrari started the second half of the season strongly, Leclerc beat Vettel on his first lap in Q3. Vettel pushed Hamilton off the front row by hundredths off a second, to take second claiming a front row

Following qualifying disaster struck again, in the Formula Two race. The Frenchman Anthoine Hubert crashed at the exit of Eau Rouge and Radillon and suffered a heavy impact with the outside tyre barrier before his BWT Arden ran back across the run-off area and was struck while sideways by the Sauber driver Juan Manuel Correa as he attempted to avoid the spinning Trident of Giuliano Alesi.

Hurbert’s car broke in two and he passed away a few hours after. While Corea rushed to hospital in a critical condition with a ‘minor spinal injury’, he returned to the states where he continues to recover. The inquiry into what went wrong for Hurbert will report soon…

Emotions were still running high on Sunday, Leclerc made a brilliant start as teammate Vettel slipped away at the start. An accident between Verstappen, Raikkonen and Perez saw the Alfa Romeo pitched into the air at the first corner on the restart.

Things didn’t get better for Alfa as Antonio Giovinazzi in ninth on the penultimate lap when he crashed into the wall at Pouhon, spoiling what would have been the best result of his difficult 2019 season.

But there was no trouble for the Leclerc, despite Hamilton’s best efforts held off Hamilton to take the victory. The five times champion finished the race almost a second behind the Monacan, despite his best efforts could not close the gap to Leclerc and lead his teammate Valtteri Bottas by eleven seconds. The five-times champion was closing at a second a lap.

Verstappen crashed out of his home Grand Prix in the first corner crash. But celebrations of Ferrari’s first win of 2019 and Leclerc’s maiden win were muted because of the events on Saturday, it was certain that the twenty-one year old would be a winner again…

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 268, 2) Bottas 203, 3) Verstappen 181
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 471, 2) Ferrari 326, 3) Red Bull 254

Italy

Fresh from his first win at Spa, Leclerc took pole by nine hundredths ahead of Hamilton. But it wasn’t all happy families at Ferrari, the planned tow in Q3 saw all the drivers under investigation following an indent in the latter part of the session.

Raikkonen crashed out of qualifying with around three minutes to go, when the session resumed and following a dramatic accident in the F3 race a minimum lap time for the out lap in qualifying. When it came to the restart, drivers were all backing each other up to get a tow, thus meaning they failed to get a final run in.

Hamilton was second after going three tenths faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas on the first runs with Vettel was fourth fastest.

Leclerc took Ferrari’s first home win since 2010, that was despite Mercedes throwing everything at him. He was on his own at the front, after teammate Vettel spun, Hamilton also had trouble losing out to Bottas after a minor error in the closing stages.

The pressure was building on Vettel, his season had been marred by mistakes and errors while his teammate continued to rise. another mistake saw him spin while running fourth collecting the Racing Point of Lance Stroll on lap eight. He spun out and dropped to the back as well as earning himself a ten-second stop and go for rejoining the track unsafely.

It was a strong race also for Renault, with Ricciardo fourth and Hulkenberg fifth. Ricciardo had fallen behind teammate Hulkenberg in the early laps, but re-passed him soon after his pit stop and built his advantage. Giovinnazi finished his first home race despite contact on the opening lap eighth.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 284, 2) Bottas 219, 3) Verstappen 185
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 505, 2) Ferrari 351, 3) Red Bull 266

Singapore

Leclerc continued his run of poles in Singapore, the Ferrari went two tenths faster than teammate Vettel. The Italian team were surprised given they were off the pace, but both Red Bull’s and Mercedes appeared to struggle. Hamilton split the Ferrari’s after Vettel was forced to abort his final lap after losing control three times.

Albon’s first qualifying with a direct comparison with Verstappen saw him six tenths off, a creditable performance after a difficult Friday in which he knocked off a front wing with one off-track moment.

The race was a fight between the two Ferrari’s, but it became a question of which driver would come out on top. Vettel stopped first, which allowed him to get a second ahead of Hamilton. Leclerc was anger as he struggled to find the same pace as Vettel. The German took victory for the first time in over a year.

Key to Vettel’s victory was the collision between Grosjean and Russell, the Williams was turned into the wall exiting Stamford. Russell retired from the race, while the Frenchman made a stop for a front wing change.

The Haas driver got caught on the outside as but left his nose in the fight as Russell moved across to take up his track position. The impact pitched the Williams into a slide, which quickly resulted in a collision with the wall.

Hamilton struggled so much with his pace that Mercedes even ordered Valtteri Bottas, who had already stopped from fifth place, to back off the lap before Hamilton’s pitstop. The gamble which could have changed his race never came, he re-joined fourth, after Bottas was instructed to make room for Hamilton.

Mercedes headed to Sochi for the first time in 2019 without a win, Ferrari had certainly got there act together. Although it was mathematically still possible the team knew they were needing to retain second in the constructors.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 296, 2) Bottas 231, 3) Leclerc 200
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 521, 2) Ferrari 394, 3) Red Bull 289

Russia

Leclerc continued his strong run of pole positions out qualifying Hamilton by four-tenths, he was the first Ferrari driver to claim four poles back to back since Michael Schumacher in 2001. Vettel for the second week in a row made a mistake on his final lap, allowing Hamilton to spilt the Ferrari’s.

Albon crashed out of the session in Q1, he lost the rear-going through Turn Thirteen and went into the barrier, that left Vettel with a lot to do after failing to get a lap in. While Kvyat failed to take part in qualifying for his home race, a power unit failure in FP3.

The race started with drama, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi all colliding at Turn Four. The Italian was trapped between the Renault and Haas in the corner, with Ricciardo making contact it pitched the Renault into Grosjean and the barriers. Both retired from the race.

Mercedes played the long game as the tension boiled over at Ferrari. Vettel le+d the race from Leclerc, the team instructed the German to allow Leclerc back into the lead. Vettel refused, forcing Ferrari to engineer the swap, but that swap gave Mercedes the upper hand.

The German team took control of the race in the latter stages, while Vettel’s race went from bad to worse, he stopped on track handing Hamilton a free stop. That left Leclerc struggling on the medium tyres while Mercedes had fresher tyres which allowed him to take the victory. Ferrari had again lost a race on strategy.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 322, 2) Bottas 249, 3) Leclerc 215
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 571, 2) Ferrari 409, 3) Red Bull 311

Japan

With a typhoon on Saturday, qualifying took place on Sunday morning creating extra pressure on the teams and drivers to get it right in qualifying. Vettel took pole by a tenth over teammate Leclerc, as the two Mercedes lined up behind.

Both Red Bull’s set exactly the same lap time, 0.787secs off the pace, a hugely impressive performance from the Anglo-Thai on his first visit to Suzuka.

Ferrari’s race, however, was another story, Bottas jumped into the lead as both Vettel and Leclerc made poor starts. That put him into control where he remained for the rest of the race.

The Italian teams’ problems started even before the start, the Ferrari rolled before the start, although an investigation subsequently did not invoke a penalty, the issue cost the polesitter crucial momentum. That then allowed the Mercedes into the lead as they bunched up into Turn Two, when Leclerc ran wide.

The Monacan, then ran into Verstappen, breaking his own front wing. Leclerc continued for two laps in third place, irritating Hamilton as the Ferrari’s damaged wing showered the chasing Mercedes with sparks and then debris, which broke Hamilton’s right-side wing mirror.

While Leclerc was awarded a five-second penalty for the Verstappen collision and Ferrari a €5,000 fine for the team not calling him sooner in for his damaged front wing. Albon lost out to both Ferrari’s at the start but used a two-stop strategy to finish fourth.

McLaren should have had a double point finish, but Lando Norris was caught in the debris of the collision of Verstappen Leclerc forcing him into an extra stop, dropping him to thirteenth.

But the win and second place for Mercedes was enough for the team to wrap up the constructors, as well as putting Hamilton on the brink of his sixth driver’s title.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 338, 2) Bottas 274, 3) Leclerc 223
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 612, 2) Ferrari 435, 3) Red Bull 323

Mexico

Verstappen secured his maiden pole in Mexico, going a quarter of a second faster than Leclerc. The session was brought to a premature end after Bottas crashed out as he went through the Peltrada. The crash also impacted the laps of Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton, who were behind Bottas on track and finished the session third and fourth after backing off.

Hamilton took victory in a very interesting strategic race between himself and Vettel. The driver pulled off a lengthy stint to finish over a second and a half over the Ferrari but failed to score the fourteen points he needed to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton recovered from an early setback, as Verstappen challenged him to retake the lead. He then suffered an oversteer moment at Turn Two and Three saw him go onto the grass and lose position to Verstappen, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon.

Sainz got passed the Mercedes on lap four and remained in fourth for the remainder of his stint, he ran long but ultimately had to settle for thirteenth after switching to a two-stop strategy. Verstappen collision saw Hamilton take Victory ahead of Vettel.

late contact between Kvyat and Hulkenberg saw the stewards award him a ten-second penalty. The Toro Rosso pushed the German into the wall and saw him break his rear wing.

McLaren’s race became an utter disaster, the British team looked on course for another best of the rest finish, but Carlos Sainz hopes faded with a two-stop strategy which left him thirteenth. Lando Norris was forced to retire after a tyre failed to attach properly.

Hamilton was looking certain to seal his title in Austin, should he finish eighth or higher he would be the only six times champion in the history of the sport.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 363, 2) Bottas 289, 3) Leclerc 236
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 652, 2) Ferrari 466, 3) Red Bull 341

United States

Bottas took pole going a hundredth faster than Vettel, that could be key as he needed a win to keep his championship alive and ensure that his teammate Lewis Hamilton drops out of the points. Vettel led the top four of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who were covered by just over a tenth.

Hamilton was forced to abandon his final run, after losing time in the second sector, meaning he ended up fifth and two tenths down. Magnussen was the highest place Haas going twelfth fastest for the teams home race. He was a hundred ahead of the Toro Rosso of Kvyat.

Bottas made a brilliant start to hold the lead from a charging Verstappen, who passed Vettel. Hamilton played it safe avoiding drama into the first corner and dropped to fifth. The champion-elect ran a very long opening stint allowing him to deep into the race.

Hamilton slowly started to build pressure on Verstappen, who had picked up minor front wing damage at the first corner. He knew that the victory wasn’t his but still fought the Dutchman as hard as ever and knew he could have yielded position and still won the title, too easy for him.

Hamilton did get pass Verstappen, finishing the race in second and that was enough for him to be world champion for the sixth time.

Albon recovered from damage on the opening lap with Carlos Sainz, the Red Bull was squeezed between Leclerc and the McLaren. The British Thai driver was forced to recover from the back, charged back through with two strong stints.

Ricciardo finished sixth for Renault after overhauling the two McLarens. Lando Norris had a later second stop that allowed him to pick off his midfield rivals and clinch seventh, ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 381, 2) Bottas 314, 3) Leclerc 249
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 695, 2) Ferrari 476, 3) Red Bull 366

Brazil

Verstappen took pole by a tenth ahead of Vettel despite a huge wobble on the exit of Pinheirinho, a left-hander in the middle of the lap. He then improved by a tenth to take his first pole since Budapest in August.

Verstappen’s pole lap, a 1:07.508, was a tenth of a second faster than Vettel in the powerful Ferrari, with Hamilton just missing out on a front row. Leclerc finished the session two tenths off the pace in fourth place but would start the race fourteenth because of an engine change.

The Dutchman lost out early on in the race, but with five laps to go, the two Ferrari’s collided fighting for the lead giving Verstappen the lead under the safety car. On the restart, Hamilton set after Albon, they made contact which Albon spinning the Red Bull around. The champion was later awarded a penalty.

There was another sign that things were pressurised at Ferrari, Leclerc got passed Vettel into the Senna S before the German forced the furious youngster into retirement, while Vettel blamed Leclerc picked up a right-rear puncture. That triggered at a safety car under which Hamilton dived into the pits yet again.

Sainz came from the back of the grid to finish fourth, gaining third from Hamilton.

Gasly has one of his best races of the season, starting sixth he had driven through the dramas at Ferrari and the Hamilton/Albon incident to take his first podium since Bahrain 2017. But like in Mexico it was Verstappen who came through to take the victory.

Arguably the race was one of utter chaos, that also helped Sainz come from the back to fourth, he finished on the podium for the first time in his career.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 387, 2) Bottas 314, 3) Verstappen 260
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 701, 2) Ferrari 479, 3) Red Bull 391

Abu Dhabi

Hamilton and Bottas maintained Mercedes status as the team to beat in Abu Dhabi locking out the front row. Hamilton improved by a few hundredths off that time on the second run to post a 34.779, to consolidate his position at the top of the timesheets.

Verstappen started alongside the six-time champion, thanks to a back-of-the-grid penalty for power unit changes for Bottas. Leclerc accused teammate Vettel of holding him up on his final run in Q3, the team admitted they had “screwed up” as they tried to maximise track conditions.

Norris won a very tight battle with engine supplier Renault to put his McLaren seventh. He was two-hundredths faster than Ricciardo, who himself was just three-hundredths ahead of the second McLaren of Sainz.

Hamilton continued his strong weekend to build a sixteen second lead over his teammate Bottas by the end of the race. Despite being champion he hadn’t taken victory since Budapest, and he took a sixth career Grand Slam, with Hamilton untouchable when it mattered all weekend.

Verstappen also delivered a strong race, despite losing out early on to Leclerc a long first stint proved key and a bold move allowed him to gain second later in the race.

Leclerc tried to go late on the brakes around the outside at the end of the straight but was able to hold him off. That then allowed the Dutchman to follow Hamilton into the sunset a take second by twenty-six seconds.

It was an interesting battle between Red Bull and Ferrari, Leclerc tried to undercut Verstappen on lap twelve. But the Dutchman emerged ahead of him. Leclerc made a second stop after regaining the position on lap thirty, but Verstappen retook the position.

An extremely good race from Bottas could see him take third as Leclerc went into the race with an investigation over him for a “significant” pre-race fuel declaration discrepancy.

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 413, 2) Bottas 326, 3) Verstappen 285
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 739, 2) Ferrari 504, 3) Red Bull 417

Conclusion

2019 didn’t turn out how we expected, Mercedes were still performing at the high level we expected. Ferrari failed to get that speed shown in Barcelona testing until Belgium, but it was the story of the rookies who provided the drama. Leclerc has to be the stand out performer beating Vettel on many occasions.

The new generation of drivers coming through shows that when Mercedes fall there are drivers they are ready to pick up the mantle. Can we see a closer championship next year before the regulation changes? The racing was good across the midfield.

The chance of equalling Michael Schumacher has to be Hamilton’s next challenge in 2020…

 

 

 

Jack Fielding

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.