Mid-season driver review
With the Formula 1 summer break in full swing, Last Lap have decided to sit down and evaluate how the drivers have done in the first half of the season.
Lewis Hamilton couldn’t have achieved much more in the first 12 races, having won eight of them and only failing to reach the podium on two occasions.
Max Verstappen has been his closest challenger in recent races, but the Hungarian Grand Prix showed that Hamilton still has the better car and was able to beat the young Dutchman despite making an additional pit stop.
He now leads his teammate, Valterri Bottas in the championship by 62 points and it is already hard to see him losing the title.
After a great start to the season it finally looked like the year that Bottas would mount a serious title challenge but his chances have started to fade once again.
He had been in contention for the first six races, but he hasn’t won a race since the fourth round at Baku and crashed out of the German Grand Prix before finishing eighth last time in Hungary, having damaged his front wing on the first lap.
Bottas’ focus now seems to have switched from a title hunt to saving his seat for 2020 with Mercedes evaluating if they should replace him with Esteban Ocon.
2020 just hasn’t worked out for Sebastian Vettel. His Ferrari is clearly slower than Mercedes and the pace shown in pre-season testing has not made its way to the circuit, leaving Vettel limited to fighting for the lower podium positions.
He did have a chance to win in Canada and crossed the line first, but was later penalised for obstructing Hamilton.
Vettel also misjudged a move against Verstappen at Silverstone causing him to crash and eventually finish 16th.
All this means Vettel now sits fourth in the driver’s championship, behind the Red Bull of Verstappen.
Leclerc has had two opportunities to win a race this year and missed the boat on both of them, although they weren’t necessarily his fault.
In Bahrain he suffered an engine issue which saw his lead vanish and result in a third place finish, while in Austria, Verstappen overtook him in the last few laps to yet again deny the Monegasque driver a maiden win.
He has put in a number of strong performances this year and looks the real deal, but right now he is trying too hard and making a few too many mistakes.
If he can iron out his mistakes and get a handle on his tyres on long runs, he could poach his first win by the end of the year.
Verstappen is the ‘in form’ driver on the grid, having racked up more points than anyone else in the last four races.
He has given Honda their first win and pole since 2008 and the Dutchman is starting to maximise the potential everyone saw in him when he first broke on to the scene.
Verstappen has ironed out his mistakes and isn’t making the over-aggressive moves that would end up in contact like in years gone by, and boy is it paying dividends.
He sits third in the championship, only seven points behind Bottas, and he looks at home in his number one driver role at Red Bull.
While this season won’t be the year he wins the championship, it surely can’t be far away.
People questioned if Gasly’s promotion to Red Bull was too early and so it proved to be the case.
He has failed to out-qualify his teammate all season and the gap between the pair on race day has been massive.
Last time out in Hungary Gasly found himself a lap down on Verstappen when they crossed the line and that seemed to be the last straw for Team Principal, Christian Horner.
Earlier in the week it was announced that the Frenchman had lost his seat at Red Bull and was being sent back to Toro Rosso.
Gasly will need to regain his confidence quickly and get back to scoring some strong results. If he doesn’t, it might not be long before he disappears from the grid all together.
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz has done an incredible job at McLaren this year, becoming the “Mr Consistent” of the grid, having scored points in eight of his last nine races.
He has settled in to his team leader role in perfect fashion and his driving has been brilliant to match.
He and teammate Lando Norris have a great working relationship and it is enabling McLaren to rise back through the midfield.
It has been a strong start for Norris, regularly scoring points, but he has been on the wrong end of luck when it comes retirements, having failed to finish three races, two of which were car failures.
He and Sainz are evenly matched at each weekend, with Norris appearing to be slightly quicker over one lap and as rookie seasons go, it is one the 19-year-old can be proud of.
Norris currently sits 10th in the championship, but if he can get back to his point scoring ways, it won’t be long before he is rising back up through the table.
The Russian driver has resurrected his carer and his time at Ferrari as a development driver appears to have done his confidence the world of good.
He has returned to the grid with the speed he showed when he first appeared and has begun to rebuild the reputation that was damaged after his disaster at Red Bull.
Kvyat had a brilliant race in Germany to finish third, giving Toro Rosso their first podium since Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.
It is good to see Kvyat hit some good form and hopefully he can carry this on into the second half of the year.
What a whirlwind year it has been for the Thai driver. He turned up at pre-season testing having never driven a Formula 1 car and after only 12 races he finds himself promoted to Red Bull, replacing Pierre Gasly.
He is another rookie to have impressed this year, instantly quick and reliable and his battle with Kvyat in Hungary was a joy to watch even if he was unable to make a pass stick on his teammate.
It is a tough ask to step up to Red Bull so early in his career, and with a team as ruthless as they are, lets hope Albon can live up to expectations and put himself firmly on the F1 map.
It has been another tough year at Renault for Nico Hulkenberg. His car has not been as quick as he or his team would have wanted and he has found himself far too often stuck at the lower end of the midfield.
To emphasise his struggles, the German has only had four points finishes this year and crashed out from the German Grand Prix whilst in contention for a podium position.
It is looking less likely his services will be retained by Renault for next season so he is a drive that definitely needs to find some form and pick up his performances for the rest of the year.
The Australian surely would have been hoping for a faster car than he got when he decided to leave Red Bull for Renault but he now needs to make the most from the cards he has been dealt.
Like his teammate, he has been stuck at the lower end of the midfield far too often this year and will be hoping he can make a step forward when racing returns at Spa.
There is no doubting his speed or his overtaking prowess, but right now he doesn’t have the car to show what he can really do.
The Finn looks at home with Alfa Romeo, able to turn up and race without any politics and he seems to be thriving on it.
While he may not be quite as quick as he once was, he is still faster than his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi and is regularly scoring points driving a car, that in other hands, may not be so far up the grid.
Raikkonen sits eighth in the championship with 31 points at the halfway stage and is making Team Principal, Frederic Vasseur look like a genius for getting the 39-year-old to sign for his team.
The Italian joined Alfa Romeo with plenty of promise but has almost been anonymous at times throughout the first half of the year.
He is consistently out-paced by his older teammate Raikkonen and only has a single point which was scored at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Italian will need to step up his game after the summer break, otherwise he could lose his seat in 2020 to another Ferrari Academy driver.
It has been an unfamiliarly quite season for Sergio Perez as the Mexican’s Racing Point is running below par in contrast to previous seasons.
The result of that means he is regularly fighting at the back of the field, struggling to score points on a regular basis.
He is another driver who will be hoping his team can turn up to Spa with some being improvements for the remainder of the year.
Despite having moved to a new team for this year, Stroll is still struggling to evade Q1 on a regular basis.
Once again, he is a much better performer on race day, often rising up the grid and narrowly missed out on a podium at the German Grand Prix.
He heads his teammate in the driver’s standings, and is having a reasonable season, but he needs to up his qualifying game over the rest of the year.
Another tough year for the Frenchman, and could it be his last with Haas?
He has had a number of incidents over the season, most of which have included his teammate, and he has failed to finish six races so far this term.
Grosjean has been outshone but his teammate Kevin Magnussen on a regular basis in qualifying and finds himself with a lot of work to do over the remainder of the season to save his seat for 2020.
Magnussen has had some impressive qualifying sessions but has found his car to be a different beast on race day, often struggling for pace.
He has had a number of incidents with Grosjean, but has found himself in the more points more often than his French teammate.
The Dane sits 13th in the driver’s standings and he will be hoping Haas can have their car figured out when they return to racing at Spa.
Despite having the slowest car, Russell has impressed with both his speed and maturity.
He managed to wrestle his car in to Q2 for the first time at the Hungarian Grand Prix and has quietly gone about his work, building his reputation in the process.
Russell is much faster than his teammate, Robert Kubica, and if Williams can close the gap to the rest of the midfield, the Briton will surely maximise the results.
Kubica’s return to Formula 1 has not been the fairytale that anyone wanted.
In a car that is much slower than the rest of the field, he has been unable to show what he has to offer, and it hasn’t helped being completely out-paced by his younger teammate, Russell throughout the whole season.
He does have a point to his name to prove s sliver lining after being promoted to 10th at the German Grand Prix after both Alfa Romeo’s were penalised, but if he can’t find some additional speed quickly, it looks like the popular Pole will be dropping off the grid again next year.