Season Review: 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – Driver Rankings – 11-20

by William Brierty

Be it challenging machinery, their own inexperience, a fast new team-mate, the threat of demotion or the prospect of losing their Formula 1 career altogether: plenty of F1 drivers faced a great deal of adversity in 2019. And yet, it’s a testament to the quality of the field that almost every driver managed to produce at least one moment of truly world-class skill and commitment.

It was disappointing, if unsurprising, that the aerodynamic tweaks for 2019 didn’t result in any less of a field spread between the fastest and the slowest cars, but this didn’t stop drivers from the lower reaches stealing top five cameos at the more frenetic races of the season. Of course, some drivers were better than others at seizing opportunities and nor was it exclusively drivers from the midfield who had to overcome adversity in 2019…

20 – Robert Kubica – ROKiT Williams Racing

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 0/19
Beat team-mate in race: 2/18
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 245/1151
Qualifying margin: +0.62s

Robert Kubica - ROKiT Williams Racing - Shanghai International Circuit
Credit: ROKiT Williams Racing

He may have scored Williams’ only point from its worst season on record, but unfortunately fairytale returnee Kubica simply wasn’t on the pace in 2019. It quickly became clear that the Pole no longer had the feel for the car – particularly in qualifying trim and particularly through high-speed corners. He might have been in a car sometimes over a second adrift of the rest of the field, but a qualifying whitewash at the hands of his rookie team-mate speaks volumes. Although Kubica tended to be closer to Russell in the race, eye-watering qualifying deficits – sometimes upwards of a second – will probably be the most lingering memory of Kubica’s comeback. As unpleasant it was to witness such an awesomely talented driver become a backmarker, Kubica can at least be content that he ticked the most ambitious box in his heroic fightback from injury.

19 – Lance Stroll – SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 2/20
Beat team-mate in race: 3/17
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 345/1128
Qualifying margin: +0.13s

Stroll - Racing Point - Canada
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Different season, same old Lance: respectable on Sundays but just not quick enough in qualifying. It is telling that even a change of team – and a team well-renowned for unlocking the potential from young drivers – didn’t result in an upturn in Stroll’s single lap pace. Outwardly, it appears that the young Canadian can’t properly measure his aggression; often making lap-ruining errors out of sheer exuberance. Superb opening stints on the hard tyre salvaged points from lowly grid positions in Melbourne and Montreal – but Stroll showed that he had the pace to score even more had he started higher up. His headline result came following a bold switch to slicks in the chaos of Hockenheim – although Lance’s engineer Bradley Joyce has to take his fair share of the credit for recognising that Stroll had nothing to lose as he unlapped himself from the safety car.

18 – Romain Grosjean – Rich Energy Haas F1 Team

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 7/20
Beat team-mate in race: 8/13
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 576/1025
Qualifying margin: +0.08s

Romain Grosjean - Formula 1 - 2019 Mexico GP
Credit: Haas F1 Team

The Frenchman’s fall from sporadic hotshot to serial underperformer was complete in 2019, as Grosjean finished the season without any standout performances to his name. Albeit at the wheel of Haas’ most infuriating car to date, Romain tended only to make matters worse with needless and costly errors followed by the customary expletive radio call. The arrival of the infamous Barcelona upgrade moved the car away from Grosjean’s driving style and further compounded his quickly unravelling season. Despite his well-established single lap prowess, he had no answer for Magnussen on Saturdays until the team finally allowed him to revert to the Melbourne-spec aero. The Frenchman‘s best finish was a rain-assisted seventh at Hockenheim – a measly return for a once widely-respected midfield combatant. Reports emphasise Grosjean‘s corporate links in the decision to retain him for 2020.

17 – Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo Racing

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 9/19
Beat team-mate in race: 2/18
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 305/1187
Qualifying margin: +0.004s

Having not raced a single-seater since he nosed the Sauber into the pitwall at the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix, a degree of early-season race rustiness was forgivable. And yet, having impressed Ferrari with his test and simulator outings, Giovinazzi probably struggled more than expected in the opening races with persistent errors and an alarming lack of race pace relative to his world champion team-mate. The Italian began to eclipse Raikkonen on Saturdays as the season wore on but a single point was a disappointing return from the first half of the season. A heavy crash from a points-paying position at Spa squandered a rare opportunity at the wheel of a car that markedly lost ground in the final races. With a decent Saturday record to his name, Giovinazzi deserved to keep his seat for 2020, although a superb field of rookies proved that inexperience is no excuse.

16 – Pierre Gasly – Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 7/20
Beat team-mate in race: 5/19
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 310/1211
Qualifying margin (versus Kvyat): -0.2s

Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in the 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix - Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Podium
Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Pierre Gasly’s curate’s egg of a season is proof of two things: 1) drivers don’t perform when they aren’t confident in the car and 2) binary opinions about drivers are generally inaccurate (are you listening Dr Marko?). Gasly’s career in a frontrunning car couldn’t have started any worse with a heavy crash in testing and scarcely more than midfield results in the opening races. Prior to his demotion, Gasly was utterly routed by team-mate Verstappen: racking up an average qualifying deficit north of half a second and even being lapped by the Dutchman on two occasions. Things couldn’t have been more different at the wheel of the more docile STR14. Gasly immediately exacted a decent pace advantage over Toro Rosso incumbent Kvyat, especially in qualifying. A supreme redemptive podium was the fairytale ending to Gasly’s rollercoaster season.

15 – Kevin Magnussen – Rich Energy Haas F1 Team

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 13/20
Beat team-mate in race: 5/13
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 449/1025
Qualifying margin: -0.08s

Kevin Magnussen - Formula 1 - 2019 Mexico GP
Credit: Haas F1 Team

A notoriously tenacious Dane plus one of the most infuriatingly sensitive F1 cars of modern times certainly sounds like an explosive mix, but Magnussen was definitely the most dependable Haas driver in 2019. On the rare occasion that the VF-19 did behave itself, it was almost exclusively Magnussen who delivered the biggest prize; finishing ‘best of the rest’ in Melbourne and Barcelona. A stonking qualifying lap in Monaco was another highlight. And yet, whilst he got the best from the car when it was on song, Magnussen struggled to limit the damage when the car was outside the window. Crashes in qualifying in Canada and Japan didn’t help matters, nor did his overzealous approach to racing his team-mate, which saw the pair collide on no less than three occasions. A respectable campaign, but the Dane certainly lost points due to his customary bouts of belligerence.

14 – Nico Hulkenberg – Renault F1 Team

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 7/21
Beat team-mate in race: 5/15
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 392/1078
Qualifying margin: +0.07s

Nico Hülkenberg - Renault F1 Team in the 2019 Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix - Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez - Free Practice 2
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Having topped the unofficial ‘B Class’ title standings just twelve months prior, Hulkenberg would nosedive out of F1 completely amid a surprisingly poor showing alongside Renault’s new Aussie figurehead. It was only ever a matter of hairline margins in qualifying, but Hulkenberg rarely had much of an answer for Ricciardo in race trim. Whilst the RS19 had a narrower operating window than its predecessor, Hulkenberg simply lacked the raw speed that had made him one of the top midfield performers in recent years. The lowest point came when a likely podium on home turf was frittered away with a crash in the treacherous conditions; an all too familiar feeling for the podium-less German. And yet, having shadowed verified superstar Ricciardo on Renault’s finest showings in Canada and Italy, Hulkenberg still proved that he was absolutely deserving of a place in F1. He will be missed.

13 – Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 7/19
Beat team-mate in race: 10/17
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 565/1182
Qualifying margin: +0.09s

Kvyat - Podium - F1 German GP
Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Kvyat’s return to F1 didn’t herald any kind of groundbreaking renaissance but did see him return to more solid performances following disastrous campaigns in ‘16 and ’17. Versus Albon in the first half of the season, a steady trickle of points kept Kvyat’s nose ahead, although the rookie driver was probably a little too close for comfort. Daniil’s European season culminated in a superb podium at Hockenheim following a bold switch to slicks in the closing stages. Coinciding with the birth of his daughter, this was surely Kvyat’s best drive in F1. A change of team-mate after the summer break would prove a reality check, with Gasly promptly inflicting a fairly decent pace advantage over Kvyat, despite his inexperience with the STR14. Following a solid, if unspectacular season, Kvyat might have to keep one eye on Juri Vips’ campaign in Japanese Super Formula next year.

12 – Sebastian Vettel – Scuderia Ferrari

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 9/20
Beat team-mate in race: 10/17
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 507/1078
Qualifying margin: +0.07s

Vettel - Ferrari - Media
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Vettel hastened his increasingly worrisome career downturn in 2019, suffering a convincing defeat at the hands of his young team-mate and looking alarmingly ill at ease both in the car and out. The peculiar close-combat errors remained: a spin alongside Hamilton in Bahrain, bulldozing Verstappen at Silverstone and drifting into his team-mate in Brazil. A ham-fisted spin at Monza’s Ascari chicane was the low point of the season. Coupled with these baffling moments of clumsiness was an uncharacteristic lack of pace, especially in qualifying. Whilst Leclerc could light up and energise the SF90, Vettel was suffering a visible lack of confidence behind the wheel; although a late-season upgrade did improve things. Vettel owed the Ferrari pitwall his gratitude following his solitary win in Singapore, although he was perhaps due some luck following his infamous Canadian penalty.

11 – Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo Racing

Beat team-mate in qualifying: 10/19
Beat team-mate in race: 16/18
Laps spent ahead of team-mate: 882/1187
Qualifying margin: -0.004s

Kimi Räikkönen - Alfa Romeo Racing at the 2019 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix - Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps - Drivers Parade
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Raikkonen started his second stint with the Hinwil-based team on very solid form, scoring points in the first four races. Indeed, Raikkonen was able to extend his run of consecutive Q3 appearances to 53 races before being eliminated in Q2 at the Chinese Grand Prix. A rocky trio of races in Barcelona, Monaco and Montreal also coincided with a resurgent string of Saturdays from his young team-mate – who perhaps overturned the Finn’s single-lap advantage a little too easily. Kimi would still prove handy in the races, scoring 18 points over the course of a very respectable European season. As the C38 nosedived out of contention after the summer break, Giovinazzi became even more of a match, although neither were able to fight for points. A superb fourth place in the chaos of Brazil is a testament to the Finn’s experience and racecraft at the wheel of a chronically underdeveloped car.

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