We've now reached the summer break for Formula 1 in 2019, what time is better to reflect on the first portion of the season than this? We've experienced quite a polarising season so far but the cream of the class have progressively started to show their worth through the season, lets see how everyone has faired.
The format will be that I'll go through constructors by the current order in the championship, with the drivers ordered by their points.
Well, this season was just another reminder that nobody should ever read too hard into pre-season testing, giving the loosest of predicitions has always been something I've tried to not even entertain. It is of course inevitable that people will and those watching have once again been blown away by the margin Mercedes are able to pull out when the chips are down. Of course in any prolonged competitive environment weaknesses will inevitably appear and they have but the drive behind the Brackley based team has once again proven unwavering and the incremental push in all departments has been rewarded with a consistent and well rounded car which has been complemented by a championship topping on site race team and driver lineup.
Lewis Hamilton - 250pts - A
Call it how you may, having an average points score of over 20 (20.833 for those interested) shows just how in tune Hamilton has been with the imperious Mercedes team in general. For all the fortune Hamilton has run with I'm a firm believer in you make your own luck, always being there and close when you aren't winning to capitalise when others faultered. Only two races from the season he hasn't featured on the podium however every other time either on the second or top step of the podium. Whilst having shown definite mortality at Hockenheim both driver and team came back with an aggressive race and victory in Hungary heading into the summer break it's very difficult not to see Hamilton and Mercedes as championship favourites.
The Mercedes juggernaut charges onwards with a consistent car which now looks to may not be the absolute fastest in some departments but by far has the most well rounded car with currently the most complete driver. Imperious performance in the first half of the season with few displays of vulnerability the Hamilton train drives onwards.
Valtteri Bottas - 188pts - B-
Currently hanging onto to second place in the championship we have one of the enigma's on the grid currently. The first quarter to Valtteri's season was textbook, five 1-2's with very little to have decided between Hamilton and Bottas on points, however through strategy calls and lacking some fundamental racecraft Bottas has slipped from being on par and 2nd in points gain in the first 5 races of the season to 5th if the championship were to only take into account the last 5 races. Heading to the summer break it's an uncomfortable position to be in for Bottas as the momentum he held along with Hamilton through the first part of the season has evaporated and in the last 2 races has only gained 4 points comparitively to the 45 points of one Max Verstappen. Overall we shouldn't takeaway from the exemplary start to the season Bottas had but concerns are definitely present about where the momentum has disappeared to.
Ferrari must be having a worrying sense of Deja Vu with their 2016 season. I honestly had to do a double take realising Ferrari have yet to score a race win this season. Ferrari's engine reliability also seems to be rearing it's ugly head again, more questions than answers seem to be leaving Ferrari hamstrung and slowing slipping into the clutches of a surging Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel - 156pts - B
A quietly decent but underwhelming first half to the season, He's equal in qualifying performances with LeClerc whilst being more consistent through the races and is faster on race pace as well. The two flashpoints of the season for Vettel so far have been the Canada incident and his home GP surge in the latter half of the race. Whilst Ferrari's reliability has left Vettel struggling for grid positions in qualifying he has been able to work against the tide to produce some tidy results for the prancing horse. All in all a decent first half of the season however littered with a couple of timely mistakes and Ferrari's issues have left him 4th in the championship.
Charles Leclerc - 132pts - B-
Arguably the more interesting of the two Ferrari drivers so far this season, Leclerc has looked to have as much if not more pace than Sebastian Vettel for the majority of races this season however between nightmares like Monaco and Hockenheim and the agony of Bahrain and Austria Leclerc is the best part of a race win behind his teammate in the standings and is looking a little unreliable in getting to grips with the Ferrari at times.
To my mind it is a little misleading his results from the season so far. So many races, myself included, I've read and heard people watching races thinking that Leclerc has a significant chance to go and challenge the Mercedes for the race win. However, Ferrari strategy has decided otherwise. Whether the hope is genuine in those races, Azerbaijan as an example, I'm not sure, I lack far too much information to make that sort of an educated statement. Heading into the latter half of the season the most we can ask for is Ferrari's pace to not continue it's slight stagnation and that Leclerc is able to string together a full race weekend.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Red Bull right now must be feeling quite proud of themselves. Having struggled in the first part of the season the rapid development of the car has left them in a position to almost lay claim to the outright 2nd fastest car spot on the grid. Along with that having only a single retirement due to some sort of mechanical failure after last season it must be a very welcome sight. Red Bull also has managed to gain the most momentum with it's most valuable asset currently performing at his absolute best thus far.
Max Verstappen - 181pts - A*
This season has really cemented Verstappen's credentials as a future champions given half a chance in a championship challenging car. Having not dropped out of the points for a single race and his lowest finishing position being 5th the over aggressive mistakes of last season are a distant issue to the more well rounded clinical Verstappen of 2019, having also taken two wins in the last five races Max has had the greatest points gain of anyone in the field in the last 5 races which speaks volumes from the stance in the first part of the season that Verstappen was out driving the car to make podiums.
Overall a consistent and quietly impressive first half of the season and currently holding the most momentum heading into the summer break the future looks bright for Max Verstappen.
Pierre Gasly - 63pts - D-
I'm not sure how to describe Pierre Gasly's first half of the season. It's almost as if it hasn't started yet. In a car which seems to be accepted that it was built for Verstappen who has a markedly different driving style Gasly just has not got to grips with the car in nearly the same way. Last season showed he is a driver worthy of the Red Bull drive just he has not managed to find the missing link in all the time. Silverstone was easily the highlight of his season so far and yet there he was still on the outer edges of the Red Bull Ferrari battle and finished well due to Vettel taking himself and Verstappen out of the equation.
It does feel ominously like this is a seat which will be hotly discussed about in the coming weeks as to whether or not Gasly will keep it or who will come in and take it for 2020. Watch this space...
One of the two teams along with Red Bull to have made noticable and impressive gains through the season so far. A solid and stable base of a car which was able to produce decent results through the first couple races of the season has really excelled since the first set of updates came at Catalunya and has gone from strength to strength only marginally held back by the rate and choice of Renault's engine updates forcing grid drops for new parts.
Carlos Sainz - 58pts - A
If you discount the first 4 races and take Carlos Sainz's championship from Catalunya to now versus Pierre Gasly Sainz has outscored Gasly by 2 points. I'm not sure how to properly describe Sainz's season, after the painful first three races he's really started to hit his stride and bring out the best of a car which is starting to look like it's capable of gapping the rest of the 'B-Class' teams. If there is a driver to score a podium not in one of the top 3 teams this season that will do it off merit I would not be surprised if it this man. Excellent race craft after a rocky first couple of races and currently is challenging for 6th in the championship outright and has nearly double the points haul of anyone else who isn't in one of the top 3 teams. Exceptional work.
Lando Norris - 24pts - B+
Whilst his points tally does not match his teammates Lando Norris should not be ashamed of his first part of the season. He has had the majority of the poor reliability out of the Mclaren outfit, most of it all coming mid race as well compromising his points haul, such as in France. His qualifying has shown he is more than a match for Sainz on one lap pace and has shown a good increase of punchy wheel-to-wheel expertise over the course of the season, getting more comfortable in the top flight of open-wheel racing. I would not be surprised to see Norris challenging Sainz for the top of 'B Class' on more occasions heading into the summer break.
Toro Rosso Honda
One of the more track sensitive midfield car packages Toro Rosso have been fortunate in having one of the faster and clean driver pairings on the field, especially in recent races and the only team outside the top 3 to have poached a podium this season. It's a bit difficult to properly gauge Toro Rosso's ultimate pace due to just how track sensitive a lot of the midfield are. Currently doing well, lets hope they continue to provide with their dynamic pairing putting on a show at Hungary as well.
Daniil Kvyat - 27pts - B
Firstly congratualtions to Daniil on the birth of his daughter, I hope both mother and daughter are doing well. This season has been a real rekindling of the Kvyat Red Bull believed in enough to offer a seat in the main team in 2015. His drive in the manic Hockenheim was well measured, a little elusive through the first part of the race and came good when he rolled the dice along with Lance Stroll to go early onto slicks late in the race. This put him in the prime position to poach the only podium finish from a team that isn't Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. This tied in with a very entertaining and clean battle with his younger teammate at Hungary has left Kvyat well settled in our memories heading into the summer break even though the eventual finishing position was 15th at Hungary.
9th in the championship outscoring both Renault cars is no mean feat, a lot of it admittedly coming from Germany the pace though does looks to be there when the car is good. Bright things might be on the horizon for Kvyat's second coming.
Alexander Albon - 16pts - B-
Another Red Bull programme reject come re-embraced in his first full season of Formula 1 Alexander Albon has quietly gone about his business and collected a tidy number of points finishes. when looking at the numbers if you take away the points from Germany for both Albon and Kvyat they're level pegging with very few points between them. In a car that has struggled more race weekends than not it will be interesting to see how Toro Rosso's performance progresses into the last stages of the championship and how Albon adapts to it.
P15 in the championship doesn't do Albon's season justice, with 2 points between 12th and 15th its very tight and I'm excited to see how the battle progresses.
Probably one of the two largest disappointments this season Renault have gone from aiming to be gapping the rest of the midfield and starting to make inroads into the top 3 teams yet now are struggling to try and mount a solid and consistent challenge to their customer team in the form of Mclaren.
Daniel Ricciardo - 22pts - B-
Daniel will of course be wondering what could have been but I don't think nearly as much as people make out he might be. Currently what I'm seeing is Ricciardo at a point where his performance has taken a bit of a dip due to the lack of stability in the aerodynamic platform Renault has. He's well known for making late dives and that's something that comes with a very good aerodynamic platform and the confidence to lean on it. We've seen points this season when Ricciardo has tried a late lunge and just not been able to make it stick due to the lack of stability.
Reliabilty still seems to hang over Daniel's head as an ongoing issue, whether it is just rotten luck or possibly a lack of mechanical mercy is yet to be seen. Overall a slow start to the year but slowly gaining confidence and hopefully a return to form is on the cards.
Nico Hulkenburg - 17pts - C
Whilst Ricciardo's championship hasn't been ideal Hulkenburg has just looked to be consistently nearly there and only on a few occasions really hitting his stride.
Alfa Romeo Racing
One step forward, two steps back. Alfa Romeo have had probably one of the most difficult to track performances of the season in part due to the exceptional driving of one Kimi Raikonnen and the somewhat vacant performance of Antonio Giovinazzi. The car's general performance seems to be slightly more consistent but with a more gradual development curve comparitively with last year's car which came on more aggressively late in the season. Either way a more understated season thus far.
Kimi Raikonnen - 31pts - A-
Kimi looks to be a man released from the shackles of the stress a top team drive brings with it and he has continued to, from what we can tell, out drive a car which struggles for race pace and is comfortably beating Gio in the teammate matchup. 8th in the championship and only missing out on points 4 times this season Raikonnen is running incredibly consistently and the car is reliable.
Overall having shaken his unfortunate habit of not gaining positions in the opening laps Raikonnen has made frequent appearances inside the top 5 at the end of lap 1 this season. All in all a lot of positives to be taken from Kimi's first half of the season.
Antonio Giovinazzi - 1pt - D
Unlike Kimi's first half of the season Antonio Giovinazzi's brings a stark contrast of how experience and understanding a car play in bringing the results. Whilst both Raikonnen and Giovinazzi had points taken due to a rules snafu in Germany a single race does not equal a whole season. Gio has simply not looked comfortable in the car nor quick either. Coming from a position in which he was commended for his work assisting the Ferrari team through last season working well inside the simulator for the team it has a sinking feeling of a driver just not well suited to the car. In a team which has in recent years, and even more so now, acted as a feeder to Ferrari this seat will be hotly fought over by the up and coming stars of Formula 2 so unless some real progression is shown I fear Gio's day's as a Formula 1 driver are numbered.
Sportpesa Racing Point F1
A car undeiably found in a transition year for the mangement it can't help but be concerning that despite updates being talked about and brought to races the last time a Racing Point got any points barring the insanity of Hockenheim was at Canada. With Spa being the first race back after the summer break and it also being the anniversary for when the Stroll ownership was announced there will surely be some comparisons made to how this and last season have fared...
Lance Stroll - 18pts - C
Whilst I don't want to wholly disregard Hockenheim from everything were it not for 4th Stroll would currently be 17th in the championship to only Giovinazzi and the two Williams. His qualifying record continues to be woeful and whilst it is positive to see Lance come through the field to pinch points and make positions in general half of them are usually down to DNF's and the highest finishing position since Canada (disregarding Hockenheim) is 13th. Even now with the 4th place finish Stroll's average point collection is only 1.5 points per race and without Germany it's 0.5. Overall in a car that has been struggling with how Stroll is able to make positions in the race he continues to make no indication of wishing to improve upon that in himself and strikes a relatively underwhelming figure in the paddock for the most part.
An unconvincing first half to the season after being handed a better set of machinary and a more convincing teammate (who also happens to be underperforming.)
Sergio Perez - 13pts - C
Checko just seems to be a bit at sea with the car currently most concerning being no points finish since Baku where he made a solid push to finish 6th the car just does not seem to be there. What really doesn't help in Racing Points push for points is that Perez in the last 3 races has made mistakes twice where both could have proven costly towards the opportunity of making points. Out braking himself at Silverstone and then crashing early on at Hockenheim have properly hurt Perez's points tally thus far.
A more concerning and mistake laden season for Perez so far which have cost the team on some valuable points leave a little to be desired.
Haas F1 Team
The second disappointment of the midfield. After showing promise in pre-season testing and at the opening race with a solid 6th for Magnussen Haas just have not gotten to grips with the car and have managed to go in the opposite direction with their development to the point where they have been running an Australia spec and a current spec car for 3 races now and still have yet to properly determine what is going on. Both cars having moments of superiority whilst the current spec looks to be sporadic with its performance and coming out and setting blistering laptimes when everything's perfect the Australia spec has looked more consistent but slower. A very interesting situation to be in with the car which isn't helped by the 'mickey mouse' behaviour of it's title sponsor.
Kevin Magnussen - 18pts - B-
KMag's season has been probably the weirdest yet. Having started out well with a 6th at Australia he has only finished in the points two more times this season, we've seen moments of blistering pace such as qualifying in Monaco but then abismal pace at the next race in Canada. This then tied into a brewing issue of inter-team battles between Grosjean and himself and their comings together have not helped the team at all.
Overall quite a ponderous and inconsistent season so far however when the car is under him Magnussen is ready to provide, just the car isn't there very often.
Romain Grosjean - 8pts - D
It's actually sad that it has become a regular occurence to hear Romain on the radio complaining about hard racing. There have been moments when he has been right but those are few and far between and the pace and how the updated car had been handling did not suit his driving style and was unreliable enough to put Grosjean far off the pace and consistency we have seen him deliver. 6 retirements in 12 races though is frankly unacceptable, I haven't had the time to check each one of them but from my memory it's an equal share of mechanial and driver error. Something needs to happen for Romain otherwise Gunther Steiner will be slowly becoming more of a household name through Drive to Win and the screen time that will inevitably come from a young team struggling and one of it's drivers in particular being picked out for just not having the spine when it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing at the moment.
After a torrid start to the season we're now only just starting to see some glimmer of hope. From the chassis safety issues to the tub cracking at Baku Williams' season has been far from easy however with their first points scored in the mania of Germany and the slow signs of promise from a deeply impressive rookie and the understated, whilst slow, experience and insight that Kubica brings we're starting to see Williams tag on to the tales of the Midfield.
Robert Kubica - 1pt - B-
Whilst being far off the pace for the majority of races Kubica still managed to gain the one point to Williams' name so far. So little has been talked about that I can't pass too much of a judgement towards Kubica's performance this season, he has however finished every race of the season along with George Russell and I can only hope that the tales of being a fiend for the detail at Renault and BMW Sauber at the end of the noughties are coming to bear fruits for Williams as well.
George Russell - 0pts - A-
Now you may be wondering why the one man in the championship who hasn't yet got a single championship point to his name has an A-. This is a good question. George Russell is probably the unspoken star of this season the little that has been talked about his season just sounds incredibly promising. In Hungary as an example, in the rain he went out on the setup from Hockenheim in which he felt lost and at sea without confidence they worked on to provide a more stable platform for races in the future. You see so many teams not bother to run in conditions that aren't going to benefit their information haul for the race weekend however any running for a rookie is beneficitial and I can't help but admire Russell and Williams' approach towards the Hungary weekend to say the very least. After providing updates for the car as well we saw the first signs of proper 1 lap pace out of the Williams with Russell out qualifying Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi at Hungary.
An understated and quiet approach to the season has paid well and hopefully we see this come to fruition with well earnt points by the end of the season.
Where does that leave us?
After being spoilt with 4 enticing races to round out the first part of the season we can only hope that Formula 1 hasn't been flattering to deceive and that the season only gets better. Unlikely to happen but we can hope. Having only finished writing this on the morning of the 12th we've heard that Albon and Gasly are switching. Best of luck to both and lets hope the second part of the season brings the good stuff. N