Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok and respected journalist Mark Hughes took to twitter recently to argue that with fewer errors and mistakes from Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, they could be in with a shot of winning the title in Abu Dhabi; Hughes also argued that Leclerc and Vettel could have won 11 races between them.
Is that the reality? I take a look below.
Hamilton started on pole position but got beaten into T1 by Valtteri Bottas. He had to settle for 2nd place and 18 points in the end. Mercedes confirmed his car had damage following the race, but with overtaking so difficult in Melbourne, his result probably wouldn’t have changed.
Leclerc struggled for the most part on his Ferrari debut as he made a number of small errors throughout the weekend. He was 5th and couldn’t match Vettel or Verstappen in the first stint. However, with Vettel struggling in the second stint, Leclerc caught him.
He was told to hold position after asking the team if he should. In reality, he would have passed his German stablemate if he was allowed to.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 18, Leclerc 10
Possible points standings: Hamilton 18, Leclerc 12
Leclerc was absolutely outstanding in Bahrain. He stormed to pole position and recovered from a shaky start to overtake Vettel to move into the lead early on. The Monegasque driver controlled the race from there and looked set for a comfortable victory until an engine issue cruelly denied him. He had to settle for 3rd + fastest lap in the end.
Hamilton’s race was an intense fight with Sebastian Vettel for the most part and won the battle as the German spun after Hamilton overtook him. He benefitted the most from Leclerc’s problems to take a fortunate victory. Nonetheless, he deserves credit for the way he forced an error from Vettel who was in a faster car that day.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 43, Leclerc 26
Possible points standings: Hamilton 36, Leclerc 38
After just missing out on pole, Hamilton jumped his team-mate at the start and comfortably controlled the race from there. It was a dominant display from Mercedes as they easily had pace in hand on their rivals.
Leclerc finished a disappointing P5 following a tough race. He was asked to move aside for Vettel in the first stint as the German showed better pace in the Grand Prix. They tried to go long with car 16 before his first stop but it didn’t work as he lost too much time to Verstappen in that phase of the race. He only lost 2 points at most, if that.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 68, Leclerc 36
Possible points standings: Hamilton 61, Leclerc 50
Hamilton narrowly missed out on pole and the race win to Bottas. A solid 2nd place was satisfactory, though. Mercedes once again proved that they had a mighty race car vs their main opposition.
This was Leclerc’s first really bad weekend in F1. He looked extremely quick throughout practice and topped both FP2 and FP3; a pole challenge seemed likely. Unfortunately for him, he crashed in Q2 instead of fighting for pole. A P8 start on the alternate strategy didn’t work as he lost out massively on worn mediums vs the other front runners after they pitted.
What should have been a podium – probably P3 if you look at Vettel’s struggles on the soft tyre in the opening stint vs the Mercedes in the race – turned out to be a very disappointing P5.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 86, Leclerc 47
Possible points standings: Hamilton 79, Leclerc 66
One of Mercedes’ most dominant performances of the season as they crushed the field in both qualifying and the race. Hamilton may have lost out on pole position again, but he demolished Bottas the following day to take an emphatic victory.
Once again team orders were at play at Ferrari in Spain. Leclerc benefitted from them in the early stages as Vettel had flatspotted his tyres whilst trying to pass the Mercedes’ at the start. The tables turned later in the race as Vettel was let through by him on softer tyres.
Leclerc ended up 5th and that was the maximum for him at this event as Verstappen and Vettel edged him on pace.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 112, Leclerc 57
Possible points standings: Hamilton 105, Leclerc 76
Around the streets of Monte Carlo, Mercedes proved they had built a mighty car. Hamilton snatched pole from Bottas and went on to take another victory as he held off Verstappen.
Leclerc’s first race with Ferrari at home was a nightmare. He got knocked out in Q1 as the track ramped up and improved. With Ferrari failing to send him out for a second run, this was a shocking mistake by the team.
He promised to be aggressive in the race and he lived up to it. However, he picked up a puncture after clipping the barrier whilst trying to pass Hulkenberg and his hopes of a decent result were over. Ferrari messing up qualifying cost him a top 5 finish; it probably would have been 4th as Mercedes and Verstappen were quicker that weekend than the Ferraris.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 137, Leclerc 57
Possible points standings: Hamilton 130, Leclerc 88
Controversy reigned in Montreal as Sebastian Vettel’s error and trip through the grass earned him a contentious penalty as he allegedly rejoined the track in an unsafe manner. Hamilton took the win thanks to the 5-second penalty for the German.
Leclerc started 3rd and finished P3 as he didn’t quite have the pace to match Vettel and Hamilton on Saturday or Sunday.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 162, Leclerc 72
Possible points standings: Hamilton 155, Leclerc 103
Another Mercedes and Hamilton masterclass took place at the French Grand Prix as Hamilton destroyed the field to win by 18 seconds from Bottas.
Ferrari didn’t have the pace to match Mercedes and Leclerc maximised his result by finishing in 3rd.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 187, Leclerc 87
Possible points standings: Hamilton 180, Leclerc 118
It looked like Charles Leclerc would convert pole position into a maiden race victory until Max Verstappen stole victory from him with three laps to go. Frankly, Verstappen was on fire and managed to win despite a shocking start. Leclerc didn’t have the ultimate raw speed to take the victory as the Red Bull was plain faster on the day.
Hamilton could have finished P3 if he didn’t require a front wing change at his stop due to a flap failure on it. He was right in the mix with Bottas in the first stint and he surely would have overtaken his team-mate on much fresher tyres or jumped him had it been a normal tyre change.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 197, Leclerc 105
Possible points standings: Hamilton 195, Leclerc 136
Again, Hamilton narrowly missed out on pole to his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. He also lost out in an early race duel with the Finn. However, he clearly had the superior race and made the 1-stop strategy work vs his team-mate's 2-stop option and comfortably won his home race in the end.
Leclerc was involved in a series of heated battles with Max Verstappen throughout the race as they battled for P3. Ferrari’s botched strategy looked set to see him finish P5 until Vettel clouted Verstappen, which gifted him 3rd back. That was the maximum he could achieve as Mercedes were in another league once again.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 223, Leclerc 120
Possible points standings: Hamilton 221, Leclerc 151
This was a race where both drivers made mistakes and lost a lot of points for themselves and their teams.
Hamilton took pole as Ferrari shot themselves in the foot. He was controlling the race beautifully in tricky conditions until he went off on lap 29 and touched the barrier. He never really recovered from that and had another spin on the exit of T1 later in the race.
Penalties for both Alfas gave him a fortunate two points – but it should have been a victory.
A problem meant Leclerc couldn’t run in Q3 and started P10 when he could and maybe should have taken pole. He quietly moved himself up into P2 before he crashed out of the race on lap 28 and blew a wonderful chance of scoring a podium finish. Hamilton looked to be quicker in the wet than him before they both went off.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 225, Leclerc 120
Possible points standings: Hamilton 246, Leclerc 169
Following a thrilling duel with Max Verstappen throughout the race, a late-race overtake gave Hamilton a brilliant victory from the Dutchman. A brilliant call by Mercedes to make a second stop put the Brit in the position to steal the win.
Ferrari were miles off the pace in Budapest and in turned into a battle for the final podium spot between Leclerc and Vettel after Bottas’ touch with the Monegasque driver on lap 1.
Vettel managed to hunt down his team-mate in the closing stages to pass him for P3. P4 was the absolute maximum for Leclerc as he couldn’t match the pace of the sister car.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 250, Leclerc 132
Possible points standings: Hamilton 271, Leclerc 181
Ferrari’s pole scoring streak began at Spa as Leclerc stormed to P1 from Vettel and Hamilton. The young Monegasque took a very emotional maiden victory the following day as he paid the perfect tribute to his friend Anthoine Hubert.
Mercedes couldn’t match Ferrari in qualifying at this or the next few events but they showed superior race pace once again; if Hamilton hadn’t got stuck behind Vettel for a few laps in the second stint, he may well have got car 16 before the end.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 268, Leclerc 157
Possible points standings: Hamilton 289, Leclerc 206
Leclerc collected a second consecutive following a titanic tussle with the Mercedes’ at Monza. He magnificently held off the relentless Hamilton for a number of laps before Bottas tried to steal the win in the final few laps. It was one of the finest victories in this decade of Formula 1 – and to do it at Ferrari’s home race in front of the Tifosi made it even more special.
Whilst Leclerc had incredible top speed, Hamilton’s Mercedes was quicker in the race again. Despite forcing his rival into a couple of small errors, the Brit couldn’t find his way through. In the end, his tyre fell away and Bottas got through. It was a rare occasion where the 6-time World Champion lost out in a battle.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 284, Leclerc 182
Possible points standings: Hamilton 305, Leclerc 231
The night race at Yas Marina was a nightmare for Mercedes. A shocking strategy for Hamilton cost him a great chance of winning. He tracked Charles Leclerc very closely in the opening stint and if Mercedes had triggered the undercut, he would have most likely taken the victory. Instead, he ended up behind both Ferraris and Verstappen.
Leclerc was left furious after an undercut for Sebastian Vettel got the German ahead of him. Frankly, he was hard done by on that front but that’s racing sometimes. He probably should have been 2nd anyway if Mercedes had done a better job on the strategy front.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 296, Leclerc 200
Possible points standings: Hamilton 330, Leclerc 249
Mercedes didn’t have the raw speed to fight for the win in Russia, but Vettel’s problem opened the door for Hamilton to grab the victory and lead home a Mercedes 1-2 in the end.
Leclerc looked set to be gifted victory following more team order controversy in Sochi. However, Vettel’s car broke down which brought out a VSC; Leclerc had pitted but the Mercedes’ hadn’t and that allowed Hamilton to take the lead. Bottas also got in front when Ferrari decided to make a second stop with car 16. What should have been a win via team orders (because of Singapore?) turned into a hugely frustrating P3.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 322, Leclerc 215
Possible points standings: Hamilton 346, Leclerc 274
Suzuka was a tricky weekend for Hamilton as he got outqualified by Bottas and finished 3rd in the race, behind his race-winning team-mate and Sebastian Vettel. A questionable strategy probably cost him an almost certain 2nd place.
Charles Leclerc’s race was ruined almost instantly as he hit Max Verstappen in turn 2 and damaged his wing. Did it take him out of contention for a podium spot? Probably not as Mercedes had the better pace on a Sunday as usual in 2019.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 338, Leclerc 223
Possible points standings: Hamilton 365, Leclerc 286
It was another victory for Hamilton in a race where he managed to take it despite a Ferrari 1-2 after the opening lap as he found himself down in P4. The door opened up for him following a successful undercut on Vettel and he managed the hard tyres perfectly.
Mexico was another ‘what might have been’ case for Leclerc. He led the opening 15 laps before Ferrari responded to Albon. Fitting another set of mediums was a big error on their part and it completely took him out of victory contention. Had they not reacted to Red Bull and he’d stayed on a 1-stop, he probably would have won as he led Vettel by 2.3s before his first stop.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 363, Leclerc 236
Possible points standings: Hamilton 380, Leclerc 312
Hamilton wrapped up the championship in Austin as Valtteri Bottas passed him with a few laps to go to take the victory. After a difficult qualifying session, it was the maximum for him that weekend.
Leclerc was a distant 4th as Ferrari were miles off the pace of Mercedes and Red Bull at COTA.
Actual points standings: Hamilton 381, Leclerc 249
Possible points standings: Hamilton 398, Leclerc 325
- Should Ferrari have won more races in 2019? Yes
- Should one of their drivers be third in the drivers’ standings? Absolutely
- Do they need to improve in a number of areas to become champions again? Of course.
To suggest Leclerc and Ferrari should have taken the title battle all the way to Abu Dhabi is well and truly wide of the mark.
Whilst they’ve taken the same amount of pole positions as Mercedes, in race trim the W10 has been in another league to the SF90 at the vast majority of races. You only need to look at the gaps at races like Melbourne, Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Hungary to see the huge gap that has existed.
Ferrari power advantage reduced significantly in the race vs qualifying and their deficiencies (a lack of downforce + worse tyre wear) were left brutally exposed.
2018 is a case of what could have been for Ferrari had Vettel and the team not made errors. That has not the situation in 2019, however.
Even if Leclerc maximised his season, the title would have been decided in Austin anyway.