The 2019 Formula 1 season is now officially over, and the drivers and teams are heading into their winter break to get prepared to do it all again next year.
In this article, Last Lap looks at the 10 talking points of this season in F1.
The big talking point at the start of the season was Pierre Gasly’s promotion to Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo moved to Renault.
The French driver had a big crash on his first outing in his new car in testing at Barcelona, and it seemed to create a confidence issue, as he struggled to be competitive against the top five.
After half a season of struggling to break into the top six, and finding himself almost half a second down on his team-mate, Max Verstappen, on a regular basis, Red Bull made the decision to demote Gasly back to Toro Rosso and swapped him with Alex Albon.
It was initially thought the move could be career ending for both drivers, seeing as this is Albon’s first year in the series, but it has turned out to be an inspired swap, with Albon showing he has the potential to be a top line driver, and one of the best overtakers in the business, while Gasly has flourished back at Toro Rosso, and secured his best ever result at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where he out-dragged Lewis Hamilton to the finish line to secure second place.
Hamilton – The class act
Despite not having the strongest car at various points this year, Hamilton still came out on top, securing the world title at the United States Grand Prix.
Not only was the Mercedes a more difficult car to drive this year, but the team also had to deal with the death of Niki Lauda, who was a tremendous driving force behind the Silver Arrows.
Regardless of the difficulties off the track, Hamilton maintained his simply stunning form, winning 11 of the 21 races.
In a season where Hamilton should have faced a stronger challenge from Ferrari, the 34-year-old made his sixth world championship look almost effortless.
The crazy wet race
Wet races always provide unpredictable results and the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was no different.
The rain created havoc, and it was only the Red Bull of Verstappen who managed to have a clean race, to win the Grand Prix, while others, such as Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc had nightmares.
Hamilton had an unusually scruffy race in conditions that he normally excels in, and ended up finishing ninth while Bottas and Leclerc both crashed out of the race.
Nico Hulkenberg also had a home race to forget, after crashing out, despite running in a podium position, but his compatriot, Sebastian Vettel had a very different race, rising from last on the grid to finish second, with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat taking the team’s second ever podium position in third.
It was also the highlight of the season for Williams and Robert Kubica as they managed to get a point by finishing tenth, after the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were given penalties for using driver aids at the start.
Sainz – Driver of the season
While Hamilton had another incredible year, securing his sixth world title, it was Carlos Sainz who was arguably the driver of the season.
Sainz made a risky move to McLaren, but the gamble paid off with the 25-year-old excelling in his new leadership role, and with one of the most improved cars on the grid, he put in a number of brilliant performances.
His highlight of the season was securing third place at the Brazilian Grand Prix after Hamilton’s penalty for colliding with Albon, all the more impressive since he started the race from last after an engine issue meant he couldn’t set a flying lap in qualifying.
The morale at McLaren this year is a stark contrast to the seasons before, and Sainz has fitted in perfectly, adding to the warm atmosphere oozing from the Woking squad.
Despite a difficult start to the season, with a few disappointing results in the opening three races, Sainz bounced back to string together a consistent run of points finishes and managed to grab sixth place in the driver’s championship right at the death after passing Hulkenberg for 10th place on the last lap in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen is ‘Mr Consistent’
Verstappen is in the form of his life, and had been provided with a car capable of regularly fighting for wins, there is no doubt he would have given Hamilton a great run for his money in the title race.
In the first 12 races he only finished outside of the top four on two occasions, and at those two races, he finished fifth.
He also managed to take three victories throughout the year, giving Honda some much needed success and their first wins since their return to Formula 1.
Verstappen has shown maturity this year, making less mistakes and is more polished than previous seasons, and his consistent form meant that he ended up finishing the year above of both the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc.
Vettel v Leclerc
Ferrari expected to be fighting for the title this season, but their hopes faded away early on, with the form of Vettel dropping and the team making some strategical mistakes with Leclerc.
Leclerc was meant to be the number two driver this year, but he quickly threw that out of the window, consistently out-qualifying Vettel, although Vettel was more consistent on race day.
The two ended up fighting each other and took an eye off the title at times, which is never going to help, and they finally came together at the Brazilian Grand Prix, with both cars retiring.
Vettel expected to have the upper-hand on Leclerc when the 21-year-old moved over from Alfa Romeo, but Leclerc has instantly shown that he has championship winning potential and made fewer mistakes to finish the year ahead of his four-time world champion team-mate in the driver’s standings.
Next year will be a crucial one for all parties involved, and it still could all end in tears.
Ricciardo’s underwhelming year at Renault
When Ricciardo decided to make the switch to Renault, there is no doubt he expected them to be more competitive than they have been.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out as intended, and Ricciardo has found himself regularly fighting at the lower end of the midfield, whilst his old team have unleashed more potential from Honda to become race winners once again.
Ricciardo dominated Hulkenberg throughout the year, scoring 17 points more than his team-mate throughout the season, but he hasn’t put together any stand-out drives.
As a result, the Australian faces the danger of falling off the radar of the big teams, and must hope that Renault can put together a much stronger package in 2020.
Haas – A season to forget
Haas has had their worst season since joining Formula 1 in 2016, with a car that appears to be incredibly quick over one lap, but insanely slow over the course of a race distance.
The confusing car has meant that both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have struggled to get the results they were expecting at the start of the year, and in a bid to resolve their issues, they finished the season using the spec first introduced at the opening race in Australia.
It is the first time that Haas have hit any major issues, and as a newer team, it can take time to resolve issues, but if they are to avoid another disastrous year in 2020, they need to turn up at pre-season testing with a consistent car, and must have finally got to the problems that have caused so many issues this year.
Dire times for Williams
It is a shame to see Williams struggling so bad, but it was never going to be a great season, after missing part of the first test due to their car not being ready on time.
As a result, the Grove based team found themselves rooted to the back of the field for the whole year, with Kubica’s 10th place in Germany securing the team their one and only point of the year.
Although Williams appear to have closed the gap slightly to the midfield, they still find themselves a long way behind and must make a miraculous recovery next year if they are to return to being point scorers once again.
Despite their poor form, the shining light at the team is George Russell, who has shown that he does possess some great speed, and has come across with a really mature attitude for such a young driver, especially when it must have been incredibly frustrating at times.
2021 regulations sorted
Finally, the 2021 regulations have been sorted out, and the teams now know what they will be doing when the rules change at the end of next year.
The cars will look drastically different to the current generation F1 cars, and they do appear to be more aggressive.
More importantly though, the aerodynamics have been stripped back, and ground-effect has made a return, meaning cars should be able to follow each other closer than they are able to now, and in turn, that should generate better racing.
It remains to be seen whether that actually turns out to be the case, but the rule changes, along with the new financial restrictions, is moving the series in a better direction to achieve the target of creating more competition.