How will each of the 20 Formula 1 drivers be feeling as they take a breather for the summer break? Who can kick back on the beach safe in the knowledge they’ve performed to their best in the first dozen races of 2019, and who will be sweating over nagging doubts that they haven’t done anywhere near well enough? Let’s consider each team pairing, in the order of the constructors’ standings.
How F1’s team‑mates stack up at the summer break
Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas
Not exactly tough to imagine a contrast with this pair – although Bottas will be keeping his mind busy with his annual duathlon, which takes place in his native Finland on August 18.
But he must be a worried man. Team boss Toto Wolff made it clear in Hungary that his own summer break would include a massive decision: which driver, Bottas or highly rated reserve Esteban Ocon, would he be signing to race for Mercedes in 2020? It’s a simple stick-or-twist decision, and after another disastrous race in Hungary, Bottas can’t be confident (even if Wolff said his mind won’t be made up by one race performance).
Bottas looked mega at the start of the year as he returned from the winter newly hirsute and fired up to show F1 what he could do. After his win in Australia, we even thought a genuine title tilt could be on. But it’s all gone south. In truth, he’ll be fortunate to earn a fourth year at F1’s best team, especially as Ocon is being groomed as Hamilton’s potential successor as Merc’s main man.
Meanwhile, the five-time champion has been imperious once again. Hamilton just seems to be getting better as Michael Schumacher’s win record of 91 grand prix victories begins to loom on the horizon. We’re witnessing something very special right now – and his best might be yet to come.
Sebastian Vettel vs Charles Leclerc
At a press conference in Hungary, Vettel ’fessed up and gave himself a humble five out of 10 for his season so far. There’s no hiding from it, and the four-time champ is too intelligent to do so: he’s having a horrible season that could have dramatic repercussions. OK, he’ll probably ride it out and continue at Ferrari next year – but stranger things have happened…
As for his 21-year-old team-mate, Leclerc is enduring a few growing pains as he searches for his first F1 win, but all the signs are there that he is a special talent. Vettel has more points on the board – 156 plays 132 – but the momentum generally seems to be building behind youth rather than experience at Ferrari.
Max Verstappen vs Pierre Gasly
Again, another stark contrast. In his fifth F1 season, Verstappen is maturing into the awesome force he’s always threatened to become. Mistakes are few and far between now, and he’s keeping his cool under pressure. The two victories in Austria and Germany were hard earned, but thoroughly deserved, and that maiden pole position in Hungary was just another sign that in harness with the growing force of Red Bull and Honda, he’s well on his way. Hamilton knows Verstappen is his main threat for the future.
Meanwhile, Gasly has been found out. He’s just not cracked up to be in a top F1 team and has little hope of hanging on to his drive for 2020. Might he be replaced before the season is out? Red Bull certainly has history, and with just 44 points to make up on Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ standings a switch with one of the Toro Rosso drivers before the autumn is done cannot be ruled out. If Gasly enjoys his summer he definitely doesn’t deserve his drive.
Lando Norris vs Carlos Sainz
A great pairing, which is why both have already secured their places at McLaren for another season.
Young rookie Norris has stolen the limelight with some standout performances, but while he is ahead 8-4 in their personal qualifying battle, the more experienced man has points on the board. In fact, Sainz is comfortably top of F1’s unofficial ‘class B’, seventh behind Gasly.
As for McLaren, what a turnaround from last year. F1’s most improved team still has much work to do, but finally there are green shoots visible in Woking.
Alexander Albon vs Daniil Kvyat
Another well-matched pair, both of whom have shown well for Toro Rosso and have staked a claim to Gasly’s Red Bull seat.
London-born Thai Albon has arguably been the revelation of the season, given that he was something of a surprise signing. Little was expected from him. Kvyat’s experience and that great podium in Germany means he heads Albon on points (27 to 16), but that was to be expected. Albon has every reason to enjoy his break and will surely be champing at the bit to get going again come September.
Daniel Ricciardo vs Nico Hülkenberg
What a sorry mess. Ricciardo’s signature smile has lost its sparkle this year as his big-money move to Renault has backfired. The team has a great history, but right now there’s little sign it has the momentum to give Daniel what he needs. Will he ever win another race?
As for Hülkenberg, F1’s most overrated driver of this era could be on the cusp of losing his drive. Rumours are swirling and the German is just not doing enough to keep his place, even if the team is mired in its own problems. All that pre-season talk that he’d give Ricciardo a run for his money was a waste of breath and ink.
Kimi Räikkönen vs Antonio Giovinazzi
You get the feeling Kimi would have the same summer whether his season so far had been a cracker or a dud… But still, it’s been great to see him thriving out of the limelight as a relative underdog. Eighth in the points and second to Sainz in ‘Class B’ shows the Finn and Alfa Romeo are bringing out the best in each other.
Giovinazzi too has shown promise, but is struggling to emerge from the Iceman’s shadow. He could do with a relatively big performance in the autumn, just to underline that he deserves an F1 future.
Lance Stroll vs Sergio Perez
That vastly experienced Mexican Perez has stitched up Stroll 12-0 in qualifying is a surprise, because even if he must always endure the ‘manager’s son’ barbs, Stroll is better than that. But the fresh start at the team his father Lawrence bought last year has not really got going.
Perez is doing his best, but Racing Point has lost its momentum since the days when it finished fourth in the teams’ standing as Force India. A largely frustrating season.
Kevin Magnussen vs Romain Grosjean
But that’s surely even more true for Haas. Pre-season and at the first race in Australia, the American team appeared to have the fourth fastest car behind the ‘big three’. But Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean flattered to deceive as the team has struggled to master Pirelli’s tricky tyres. If there’s true speed in the car, this team doesn’t appear to understand how to unlock it.
As for the drivers, neither has exactly shone. Grosjean makes far too many errors and Magnussen has a growing reputation that has echoes of Rene Arnoux when he was past his best: in other words, a liability when racing other drivers. Both are better than they look, but their partnership at Haas looks unlikely to continue into a fourth season. Something – or more accurately someone – has to give.
George Russell vs Robert Kubica
Williams is the other team with a 12-0 qualifying drubbing. But neither driver can be properly judged in this situation. It has to get better for Williams – because it can barely get much worse.
Russell is doing all the right things and is a future star, if he gets the breaks. As for Kubica, the mammoth achievement of him even making it on to the grid has been overshadowed by his lack of spark now he’s there.
But of all those who might be having an uncomfortable summer break, surely he is the least deserving of harsh judgement.
Photography courtesy of Motorsport Images.
- Formula 1
- F1 2019
- Lewis Hamilton
- Valtteri Bottas
- Charles Leclerc
- Sebastian Vettel
- Max Verstappen
- Pierre Gasly
- Lando Norris
- Carlos Sainz
- Alexander Albon
- Daniil Kvyat
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Antonio Giovinazzi
- Lance Stroll
- Sergio Perez
- Kevin Magnussen
- Romain Grosjean
- Robert Kubica
- George Russell
- Esteban Ocon
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