2019 Season Review – Part Three – Honda returns to the top step, as shambles continue at Ferrari

Features

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 day’s 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

Mercedes had set themselves up for a sixth world title as the summer break began, the team were in pole position for another title. Ferrari had failed to take the fight to the champions, but had a new star in Leclerc…

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.