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
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
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
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