The Formula 1 2019 season starts with the Australian GP in Melbourne this weekend (March 15-17 2019). After the two pre-season tests at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain, the experts have been trying to read the tea leaves to deduce the pecking order.
The first race of the season will offer definitive clues on the pecking order for the season. Mercedes-AMG F1 team has dominated the hybrid-engine era. The team has won five consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles (2014-2018).
In this time, Lewis Hamilton has won four of the five drivers’ world championships. Hamilton has five titles overall and belongs to an exclusive club with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher of five-time world champions of Formula 1.
Valtteri Bottas has been Hamilton’s teammate since 2017. It has been a daunting task for the affable Finn to compete against one of the top drivers in the history of the sport.
Hamilton is in his prime and at his best looks unbeatable. Nico Rosberg showed that he can be beaten with his dogged performance in 2016 when he won the drivers’ championship.
Bottas will have to step it up in 2019 to have any chance of beating Hamilton. If Mercedes are again fighting for titles this season, a close Hamilton vs Bottas battle will be riveting to watch.
#44 Lewis Hamilton
229 GP Starts | 5 Championships | 73 Wins | 134 Podiums | 84 Pole Positions | 41 Fastest Laps
Lewis Hamilton was a protégé of McLaren and made his debut with the Woking-based team in 2007. Hamilton has fulfilled the potential he showed as a young driver. The Briton has won five world championships and secured numerous Formula 1 records along the way.
The McLaren Years
Hamilton made his debut alongside two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in 2007. The sparks flew on and off the track as the two drivers fought a close battle during the season. Hamilton had a spectacular debut season as he tied Alonso in points, but finished in second position ahead of Alonso in the drivers’ championship.
After a season filled with controversies, Alonso departed from McLaren. Over the next two seasons Heikki Kovalainen was Hamilton’s team-mate. In 2008, Hamilton won the drivers’ world championship by one point from Felipe Massa. He also outclassed Kovalainen who finished in seventh position in the drivers’ championship.
In 2009, in a poor McLaren car, Hamilton finished in fifth position in the drivers’ championship and outscored Kovalainen by 49 to 22 points.
In 2010, Hamilton was joined by then world champion Jenson Button. Hamilton was in the title fight all season-long and finished fourth in the drivers’ championship. He outscored Button (240 points to 214 points) and finished ahead of him in the drivers’ championship.
In 2011, Hamilton’s form dipped and he was involved in numerous on-track clashes with Massa. Button outscored Hamilton (270 points to 227 points) and finished in second position to Hamilton’s fifth position in the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton returned to form in 2012 in his last season at McLaren. He edged Button as he finished in fourth position, just one position ahead of Button.
That season Hamilton could have been in the thick of the title fight with Sebastian Vettel and Alonso, if not for reliability and other issues. Hamilton left to join the Mercedes team in 2013. In his Mclaren stint, Hamilton won one drivers’ championship as he amassed 49 podiums which included 21 wins.
The Mercedes Years
In 2013, Hamilton moved to Mercedes from McLaren, the team he had spent all his formative years with. Ross Brawn, then Mercedes Team Principal, had convinced Hamilton that with the new hybrid-engine era starting in 2014, Mercedes would be the team to beat. This has come true in a big way and Hamilton has won four of the last five world championships with Mercedes.
For the first four years at Mercedes, Nico Rosberg was Hamilton’s team-mate. In 2013, Hamilton outscored Rosberg (189 points to 171 points) and finished in fourth position to Rosberg’s sixth position in the championship.
The start of the hybrid-engine era was the start of the Mercedes dominance. Mercedes was so far ahead of the competition that the fight for the title was between the two team-mates only until 2017.
In what was often a contentious and controversial partnership, the two team-mates battled hard for the drivers’ championship. Hamilton had the measure of Rosberg as he won the 2014 and 2015 titles.
But Rosberg was closely studying his team-mate and kept improving every season. In 2016, Rosberg finally beat Hamilton for the title, aided in small measure by the reliability issues that hampered Hamilton.
Rosberg retired soon after he won the title. Bottas joined Hamilton as his team-mate from Williams. Hamilton has easily beaten Bottas and has added two more championships since then.
During the five years at Mercedes, Hamilton has set many a Formula 1 record. The Briton has moved to the top of the all-time pole sitters list with 84 pole positions. He is second on the all-time winners list with 73 wins to Schumacher’s 91 wins.
Hamilton has amassed 85 podiums which includes 52 wins at Mercedes so far.
#77 Valtteri Bottas
118 GP Starts | 3 Wins | 30 Podiums | 6 Pole Positions | 10 Fastest Laps
Valtteri Bottas won the GP3 championship in 2011. Bottas joined the Williams team in Formula 1 in 2012.
The Williams Years
In 2013, Bottas made his debut in Formula 1. He partnered Pastor Maldonado at the Williams team and he outscored him four points to one point.
The next three years, Massa was Bottas’s team-mate. Bottas easily defeated Massa every season. Bottas had nine podiums in his Williams stint.
The unexpected retirement of Rosberg after he won the drivers’ championship in 2016 paved the way for Bottas getting a drive at a top team like Mercedes in 2017.
The Mercedes Years
Bottas stepped into the lion’s den as he started his tenure with the formidable Hamilton as his team-mate at Mercedes.
In 2017, Hamilton beat Bottas as he outqualified (13-7), out-raced (12-8) and outscored him (363 points to 305 points). Hamilton won the championship for the fourth time.
In 2018, Hamilton was even more dominant as he outqualified (15-6), out-raced (17-3) and outscored Bottas (408 points to 247 points) as he won the championship for the fifth time.
Bottas secured his first pole position and win at Mercedes. The Finn has secured his three wins and six pole positions with the team. But after a reasonably close first season in his battle with Hamilton, Bottas faded away last season.
Hamilton vs Bottas in 2019
With major regulation changes coming into force for the 2019 season, Mercedes will have a much tougher challenge from the other teams.
Bottas could have won a couple of races early in the season, but did not have luck on his side. The Finn did not have a single win the whole season even as his team-mate Hamilton won his fifth world championship with eleven wins.
Bottas has to make a good start to the new season so he does not get swept aside by another sterling performance by Hamilton. Last season, Mercedes favoured Hamilton as the season went on.
The Silver Arrows was given a tough fight by Vettel and Ferrari for most of the season. If Bottas falls behind Hamilton early, he will lose out again.
The Hamilton vs Bottas intra-team battle will depend on the Finn being able to do a hard reset during the off-season and coming back to provide Hamilton a tough fight.