Formula 1 is known around the world for being one of the toughest sports in terms of driving, endurance, ability and to even get into in the first place. It can also be a very brutal sport at times when it comes for a driver to find another team to race with for the next year if they suddenly find themselves without a contract. Furthermore, the twenty drivers that make up the grid are often referred to as the best in the world. So, if this is the case, which of the following should still be on the grid when 2020 comes around?
1. Sebastian Vettel
We’ll start with one of the big names on the grid. Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel may seem like a controversial driver to kick these proceedings off with, but it is not without reason. The German is currently in his fifth season at Ferrari after a dream signing for the Italian outfit back in 2015. However, neither Vettel nor Ferrari could mount a successful challenge to the ever-dominant Mercedes in the years since. Vettel was still able to achieve victories but since the Belgian Grand Prix back in 2018 (a lifetime ago in F1) he hasn’t been able to get up to the top step of the podium. That victory came too late for him to beat Hamilton to becoming World Champion and many thought that when 2019 rolled around, he would have everything together to finally take on – and defeat Hamilton and Mercedes once and for all.
We’re now fourteen races into the season with seven left and Vettel has yet to secure a victory for the team. He has also been consistently outperformed by his new teammate - Charles Leclerc, most notably in the last two Grand Prix where Leclerc took the chequered flag in first place.
Vettel has also made mistakes on track that you’d associate with a rookie driver rather than a veteran of the sport. He collided with Verstappen at Silverstone, trying to pull off a move that anyone could see wasn’t going to work. He then spun off the track at Monza last time out, of his own accord, before coming back onto the track in a dangerous way and colliding with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. As a result of that last accident, Vettel has now scored more penalty points than any other driver since the system was introduced. His solid results during the season so far are good – but good doesn’t cut it when you’re a driver of Vettel’s calibre.
Quite simply, he doesn’t seem like the mighty titan he used to be in the sport. His body language following most races and his comments suggest he has fallen out of love with the sport a bit – despite what he says to the contrary. For a top team like Ferrari, they need both drivers at the top of their game if they want to stand any chance of ending their drought of winning either a driver or constructors’ championship. Vettel doesn’t seem at all on top of his game. Perhaps, he needs to take a year out of the sport and see how he feels when 2021 comes around. Either that or he needs to make a big turnaround in his performances if he wants to prove to everyone that he still has what it takes to remain at the pinnacle of motorsport.
2. Roman Grosjean
Grosjean has always been quite the character on the F1 grid. In his early days in the sport he proved to be quite a hazard and received a one race ban after triggering an almighty pile up on the first corner of the first lap in Spa back in 2012. Since then though, Grosjean has joined the Haas racing team and matured somewhat. But along the way, he seems to have lost that passion that was so visible at the start of his F1 career. If he could have combined that enthusiasm with his maturity, he might have been a formidable force on track. But his performances in the last two seasons – and especially this one, have been consistently mediocre at best to say the least. So far this year, he’s had six DNF’s whilst the rest of the time, he’s mostly finished outside of the points. His best finish came at the crazy German Grand Prix where he finished in seventh place – but even this doesn’t really give him much credit as it was a bizarre race that saw drivers from all over the grid out of position.
Grosjean currently only has eight points in the Driver’s Standings, ten points less than his teammate – who only has two DNF’s to his name this year, one of which involved Grosjean. His results, at or near the back of the pack, race after race also suggests that whilst Haas undoubtedly don’t have the best car this year, Grosjean isn’t trying very hard to get what he can out of it. In Spa, when encouraged by his race engineer to not give up and to have a go at the tightly packed midfield cars ahead, he chose to moan and rant over the open radio. He said there wasn’t any point in trying and came home in thirteenth place. F1 is a cutthroat sport and we should see Grosjean leaving by the end of the year – hopefully replaced, by the now available, Nico Hulkenberg who definitely deserves a seat for 2020.
3. Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll is another driver who’s place on the Formula 1 grid is highly questionable. Like other drivers racing this season, he capitalized by being out of position in Germany and finished in a remarkable fourth place as a result, but sadly, that’s where the good results generally end for him. Aside from four low point scoring finishes in 2019, he’s finished outside the points or had a DNF for the remaining races of the season so far. Although they have, for various reasons, not had the car they should have had this year, one has to wonder how much better it could have been if both drivers had been pushing the team. He’s been in F1 for a few seasons now and should have improved accordingly, this is not the case however and one has to wonder if he’s still on the grid for the simple reason that his Father owns the team he’s driving for. If it were not for the family connection at the top of Racing Point, it seems highly unlikely that Stroll would have received the promotion from Williams or that he would have even remained on the grid at all. For a sport that likes to demonstrate it has some of – if not the best – racing drivers in the world, Stroll doesn’t cut the mustard. It seems unlikely that he’ll make way for a better driver though as long as Lawrence Stroll has a say about it.
4. Robert Kubica
Kubica made a dream F1 comeback to the sport after a nasty rallying crash a few years ago. It’s a great story that has sadly fizzled out as 2019 progresses. It’s no secret that Williams have been quite far off the pace this year, hence Kubica’s consistent placing at the bottom of the race results and driver’s standings. His finish at the German Grand Prix, revised after the race due to others’ penalties, did give Williams their only point of the season so far – but again, this can be put down to a wild Grand Prix unlike the rest so far this season.
His teammate meanwhile has been able to do slightly better with finishes in fourteenth, fifteenth place, etc. rather than just nineteenth. Kubica has also been outqualified by Russell in every Grand Prix so far – something one has to question about an experienced driver like Kubica. It may seem harsh to give him the axe after his dream F1 comeback but that’s the nature of the sport. It’s not known for being nice – just ask Pierre Gasly. F1 needs the best drivers and has to make room for new contenders to try and prove themselves. Right now, Kubica isn’t doing what is required and should maybe make the transfer to Formula E where he might have more success.
5. Antonio Giovinazzi
Again, Giovinazzi may be a controversial name to put on this list but it is not without reason. For the first half of the season, the Italian Driver had a hard time of it – not helped by the outstanding performances of his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen. But since F1’s return after the summer break, he seems to have figured out what he has to do if he wants to stay in the sport next year. At Spa, he nearly got it all right, up until the final lap where he took himself out of the race by crashing into the barriers. At his home race in Monza, he finished in ninth, much to everyone’s joy that day. However, he needs to keep these kind of race finishes up if he wants to secure his place on the grid next year., rather than go back to how he was performing in the first half of the season. He has potential but in Formula 1, that’s not enough. Only time will tell if he has what it takes.
What do you think? Are my assessments fair or do any of these drivers deserve a spot on the Grid for 2020? Or is there someone not on the list that should be? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.