F1 2019: Half-Term Report

After 12 thrilling rounds full of action and rants, the 2019 Formula One season is now midway through its Summer break so who is enjoying the sun and who has work to do once the racing resumes in Belgium?

From the dominance of Mercedes to a tight midfield and even positives for the struggling Williams’ team, we analyse how every team has fared in the first half and provide some pointers for who has work to do once the holidays are over. 

Without further ado, let crack on starting with Mercedes who currently lead the Constructor’s Championship as we work our way through the field. 

 

Key

Ret = Retired, Pole (highlighted in Italics)

 

Mercedes

Race/Drivers Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas
Australia 2nd 1st
Bahrain 1st 2nd
China 1st 2nd
Azerbaijan 2nd 1st
Spain 1st 2nd
Monaco 1st 3rd
Canada 1st 4th
France 1st 2nd
Austria 5th 3rd
Great Britain 1st 2nd
Germany 9th Ret
Hungary 1st 8th
Points 250 188
Qualifying Head to Head 7 5

148 points clear of Ferrari and with both drivers leading the championship, Mercedes have every reason to enjoy their summer break because this has been their most dominant start to a season since 2015 with just five non podium finishes. 

One of the most impressive if not the best improvement overall has to be Bottas because he gave Hamilton a great fight throughout the early races, although the defining factor in  the hybrid era has been Hamilton’s ability to string runs of three or more race wins together to seal the title in four of the last five seasons. 

That ultimately has been the difference again between Hamilton and his teammate but there is hope for Bottas despite being 62 points behind, because if he can find a winning consistency throughout the second half of this season and Hamilton hits a rut akin to 2016 then it could be game on in the championship. 

Focusing back onto this season, Mercedes have done an incredible job to collect seven one-two finishes with five of those coming in the opening five races which underlines their strong performance despite suffering an unusually sloppy performance in Germany. 

The aim for the remainder of this season therefore has to be continuing this fierce dominance and correcting recent heat related errors, which will be key to earning strong results in Singapore and Mexico. 

Grade = A

 

Ferrari

Race/Drivers Charles Leclerc Sebastian Vettel
Australia 5th 4th
Bahrain 3rd 5th
China 5th 3rd
Azerbaijan 5th 3rd
Spain 5th 4th
Monaco Ret 2nd
Canada 3rd 2nd
France 3rd 5th
Austria 2nd 4th
Great Britain 3rd 16th
Germany Ret 2nd
Hungary 4th 3rd
Points 132 156
Qualifying Head to Head 6 6

Having dropped Kimi Raikkonen who effectively did a seat swap with Leclerc, Ferrari could of easily found themselves in a similar situation to Red Bull, who we will come to shortly. 

Leclerc instead has revitalised Maranello by bringing the strong competition that Vettel really needed, and was very dominant in Bahrain to take pole despite it only being his second race for Ferrari even if reliability is still the team’s achilles heel, as proven throughout the season so far although mainly in qualifying than the race itself.

If there’s one thing that Leclerc can improve throughout the second half of this season, it has to be ironing out those little errors because if he hadn’t crashed in Baku qualifying or in the Monaco and German GPs, he probably would be closer if not ahead of Vettel in the driver’s championship. 

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As for Vettel, luck hasn’t really been there for him at times this season although his Bahrain, Canada and British GPs results were entirely of his own making through silly errors which only compounded his miserable end of 2018 in which he made a lot of mistakes to throw away the championship.

It is therefore clear that Ferrari have work to do because they have underperformed throughout the season so far and if Vettel makes more of the same mistakes then get in a sport psychologist in to help him correct those mental issues with his driving. 

Grade = C

 

Red Bull

Race/Drivers Max Verstappen Pierre Gasly
Australia 3rd 11th
Bahrain 4th 8th
China 4th 6th
Azerbaijan 4th Ret
Spain 3rd 6th
Monaco 4th 5th
Canada 5th 8th
France 4th 10th
Austria 1st 7th
Great Britain 5th 4th
Germany 1st 14th*
Hungary 2nd 6th
Points 181 63
Qualifying Head to Head 11 1

*Classified as completed over 90% race distance.

Well this season so far has been a tale of two halves at Red Bull who has come on leaps and bounds under their new power unit deal with Honda. 

Let start with Verstappen because he has gone the equivalent of a full season of finishing in the top five, if we consider the fact that he has carried over his form from the second half of last season which was under Renault power and made the step up to being the leading driver. 

Now that form would be championship winning in any other era but in this hybrid era, he would still of been outscored by Hamilton by 121 points if the season began at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, although he has raked in 322 points compared to the 301 collected by Mercedes’ Bottas. 

It also highlights the progress in Verstappen’s development and maturity compared to his new partner – Gasly, who just struggled to adapt to the car following his promotion from Toro Rosso and earned just 34.8% of the team’s total points. 

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The Frenchman’s results might seem reasonable at first glance but there has been numerous mistakes from Gasly throughout the first half of this season, especially in Germany when he crashed in both FP2 and the race on top of being beaten by former Red Bull junior, Carlos Sainz three times in the last five races. 

Throw in the fact that Sainz in a McLaren is just five points behind in the drivers’ championship whilst Red Bull are 44 points behind Ferrari in the battle for second in the Constructors’ standings, then Helmut Marko has made the right decision in demoting Gasly because he throwing away valuable points.

All things considering, Red Bull have done a great job in adjusting to Honda whilst giving Gasly a fair chance but now need to kick on if are to finish runners-up to Mercedes come December.

Grade = B

 

McLaren

Race/Drivers Carlos Sainz Lando Norris
Australia Ret 12th
Bahrain 19th* 6th
China 14th 18th*
Azerbaijan 7th 8th
Spain 8th Ret
Monaco 6th 11th
Canada 11th Ret
France 6th 9th
Austria 8th 6th
Great Britain 6th 11th
Germany 5th Ret
Hungary 5th 9th
Points 58 24
Qualifying Head to Head 4 8

*Classified as completed over 90% race distance.

McLaren took a bold risk in changing their driver lineup and it has worked brilliantly with a strong car enabling both drivers to deliver great results and at times push Red Bull on single lap pace. 

Sainz had a rough start with a Q1 exit and power unit failure in Australia but since Baku, he has been incredibly consistent with Hungary a particular highlight because he held up fellow Red Bull’s Gasly with a brilliantly defensive drive, despite the Frenchman being in the faster car. 

That drive ultimately underlines the quality of the McLaren MCL34 in that it is capable of fighting stronger cars, which was also demonstrated in France when Norris held up Ferrari’s Vettel in the opening stages of the race. 

Speaking of Norris, he has to be rookie of the year because although his race results hasn’t been as consistent as Sainz’s, his one lap pace on several occasions has been impressive as highlighted by the fact that he has out qualified Sainz on eight occasions. 

I therefore am very excited to see what McLaren can do in coming races as they look to cement their fourth place in the Constructors’ standings, although Norris needs to iron out some rookie mistakes if he is to mount a stronger challenge to Sainz in races.

Grade = B 

 

Toro Rosso

Race/Drivers Daniil Kvyat Alexander Albon
Australia 10th 14th
Bahrain 12th 9th
China Ret 10th
Azerbaijan Ret 11th
Spain 9th 11th
Monaco 7th 8th
Canada 10th Ret
France 14th 15th
Austria 17th 15th
Great Britain 9th 12th
Germany 3rd 6th
Hungary 15th 10th
Points 27 16
Qualifying Head to Head 7 5

Toro Rosso are lucky to find themselves fifth because their performance overall hasn’t been spectacular with both drivers firmly in the midfield in the dry, 

Focusing on Kvyat, it is clear that he used last season as Ferrari’s test driver to reset himself because he has been consistently solid throughout the first half, and his drive to third in Germany was just unbelievable in tough conditions. 

Albon however has been quietly impressive in how he goes about his races with China and Germany his two stand-out drives for very different reasons, and surely a huge factor in his promotion to Red Bull for the second half of this season which should be exciting to watch.

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Starting with Shanghai, he missed qualifying after a FP3 crash but drove a great race from the pit lane to pip Haas’ Romain Grosjean to the final point in just his third F1 race, which highlighted how good a driver Albon can be if the circuit suits his car. 

Germany however highlighted his wet racing quality because he calmly fought his way from 16th on the grid to fourth by lap 30, although a strategic error to not pit on the same lap as Kvyat cost him a likely podium as he eventually finished sixth. 

I therefore have to say that Toro Rosso has done a solid job to find themselves fifth in the order with an intriguing second half to come. 

Grade = C

 

Renault

Race/Drivers Daniel Ricciardo Nico Hulkenberg
Australia Ret 7th
Bahrain 18th* 17th*
China 7th Ret
Azerbaijan Ret 14th
Spain 12th 13th
Monaco 9th 13th
Canada 6th 7th
France 11th 8th
Austria 12th 13th
Great Britain 7th 10th
Germany Ret Ret
Hungary 14th 12th
Points 22 17
Qualifying Head to Head 8 4

* Classified as completed over 90% race distance. 

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The only way to really sum up Renault’s season so far is that it has been bumpy with various highs and lows, from Ricciardo qualifying fourth in Canada to the double retirements in Bahrain and Germany. 

Ricciardo however has done a solid job despite the car’s difficulties to secure three top-ten finishes, in comparison to Hulkenberg’s two which highlights the Australian’s quality because outside the top drivers nobody else would of been capable of squeezing that many points out of the car. 

As for Hulkenberg, he needs to step up if he is to earn a new contract because his performances might be consistent but more is needed if he is to help Renault progress forward, particularly in preparation for the 2021 rules shake-up. 

Overall, Renault should be pleased with where they’re in the midfield pecking order currently but at the same time, they are underperforming in relation to last season with plenty of work to do after the break. 

Grade = C

 

Alfa Romeo

Race/Drivers Kimi Raikkonen Antonio Giovinazzi
Australia 8th 15th
Bahrain 7th 11th
China 9th 15th
Azerbaijan 10th 12th
Spain 14th 16th
Monaco 17th 19th
Canada 15th 13th
France 7th 16th
Austria 9th 10th
Great Britain 8th Ret
Germany 12th 13th
Hungary 7th 18th
Points 31 1
Qualifying Head to Head 8 4

All that can be said about Alfa Romeo is that Raikkonen is simply outperforming the car because Giovinazzi has contributed just a single point to their 32 overall points. 

That shows just how brilliant a driver Raikkonen still is, especially given that he is sat eighth in the drivers’ championship despite suffering a three race blip between Spain and Canada and has dominated the qualifying head to head against Giovinazzi.

Giovinazzi meanwhile seems to have inherited the luck of Marcus Ericsson because he hasn’t really been at the races except in Austria, where the track characteristics coupled with a heatwave seemed to suit their car so I am surprised that there isn’t much speculation over his F1 future.

We must however acknowledge that Alfa Romeo have garnered 15 more points than at this exact stage last season, under the Sauber name which is a huge step forward even if one driver has scored the majority of their points.

I therefore believe that there is plenty of points to come unless the car’s performance plateau out, and Raikkonen will certainly continue to deliver the points if given the right setup.   

Grade = C

 

Racing Point

Race/Drivers Sergio Perez Lance Stroll
Australia 13th 9th
Bahrain 10th 14th
China 8th 12th
Azerbaijan 6th 9th
Spain 15th Ret
Monaco 12th 16th
Canada 12th 9th
France 12th 13th
Austria 11th 14th
Great Britain 17th 13th
Germany Ret 4th
Hungary 11th 17th
Points 13 18
Qualifying Head to Head 12 0

Racing Point have had an underwhelming first half to their first proper season in F1 with a car which lacks one lap pace, although its race pace is quite solid which means that their poor qualifying form has hindered their potential for further points.

Stroll in particular has been a huge disappointment because he has only escaped Q1 once this season, which is alarming because he has crashed out in Q1 in 15 of the last 16 races dating back to USA last October.

Should Stroll’s qualifying form fail to improve, his father – Lawrence needs to take a business view at end of season and consider a driver change in order to get more out of the car and provide Perez more of a fight because Stroll is often relying on excellent race strategies and luck to extract points out of races.

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Speaking of Perez, he has done a solid job and was simply unlucky to crash out in Germany because I am sure that he would of also been right in the podium mix at the end of that race given his strategical intelligence in those type of conditions.

Overall, this has been a tough season so far but Racing Point are still finding their feet and if can unlock their one lap pace through upgrades, expect them to be targeting sixth come the closing stages of this season.

Grade = D

 

Haas

Race/Drivers Kevin Magnussen Romain Grosjean
Australia 6th Ret
Bahrain 13th Ret
China 13th 11th
Azerbaijan 13th Ret
Spain 7th 10th
Monaco 14th 10th
Canada 17th 14th
France 17th Ret
Austria 19th 16th
Great Britain Ret Ret
Germany 8th 7th
Hungary 13th Ret
Points 18 8
Qualifying Head to Head 7 5

This season started off so promising for Haas but a series of developmental errors mixed in with reliability issues and collisions has limited the amount of success earned so far for the American outfit. 

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In fact, I can’t think of a single positive highlight from the first half of this season that Haas can be proud of other than Magnussen’s sixth place in Australia because the two standouts are both drivers colliding at Silverstone then Hockenheim, which is simply unacceptable between two experienced drivers. 

We however must give Haas the benefit of doubt because they have used the last few races to compare their current spec against the spec which they begun the season with, and although it’s tough to see which is better I believe that Haas will come back stronger in Belgium after doing their homework and rectifying any issues. 

In summary, this has been a season where luck and performance simply hasn’t gone Haas’ way but at least they’re working to rectify the issues. 

Grade = D

 

Williams

Race/Drivers George Russell Robert Kubica
Australia 16th 17th
Bahrain 15th 16th
China 16th 17th
Azerbaijan 15th 16th
Spain 17th 18th
Monaco 15th 18th
Canada 16th 18th
France 19th 18th
Austria 18th 20th
Great Britain 14th 15th
Germany 11th 10th
Hungary 16th 19th
Points 0 1
Qualifying Head to Head 12 0

This season surely has to be the if not one of Williams’ worst ever F1 campaigns with the car around two seconds off the pace, although Kubica has manged to half his qualifying deflict to the frontrunners from 4s in Australia to around 2s come Hungary. 

Russell in particular has been a highlight because despite having a poor car, he has managed to consistently eke out more pace than Kubica in qualifying even if strategic errors in France and Germany cost him a clean sweep of race results. 

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As for Kubica, there isn’t much to say other than his return has been a huge disappointment but he has made considerable progress from Australia to Hungary, even if Russell has the measure of him overall on both single lap and race pace which is a great achievement for the rookie Brit. 

Williams however still have work to do to close the gap but Russell’s Q1 performance in Hungary is promising, so Belgium is going to be revealing in terms of their progress with further upgrades due but it has been a terrible season overall so far despite both cars finishing every race. 

Grade = E

 

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