5 drivers under big pressure heading into the 2019 season
Ahead of the new season, let’s take a look at five drivers who need to deliver very strong performances this year. Most of them need to produce consistently good drives in the upcoming season to guarantee their F1 futures or to stay at their current team.
The Finnish driver is under tremendous pressure to do better this year.
After very strong starts in 2017 and 2018, his form dipped massively in the second half of both seasons. He’s finished 58 and 161 points behind stablemate Lewis Hamilton in the previous two years. The win (3 vs 20) and pole (6 vs 22) stats don’t make pretty reading for the man from Nastola either.
He was terribly unlucky in the opening half of 2018 – but Bottas’ alarming collapse across the second part of last year has really put a question mark on his future at Mercedes and possibly in the sport. He did an excellent job as a wingman for the team, but that only keeps his seat safe for a short time.
If he fails to deliver this year, Esteban Ocon or George Russell could well take his seat at the team. Bottas needs to find a higher, more consistent level of performance to get close to or match Hamilton.
Despite finishing 2nd in the championship in 2017 and 2018, the German is under big scrutiny going into the new campaign. A series of first lap collisions last season has brought back the questions of his ability in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Now, with young Charles Leclerc joining him at Ferrari, he’s likely to have a tough time from the opposite side of the garage.
Nonetheless, it would be extremely foolish to write Vettel off after a tough couple of seasons. Only once in his eleven full seasons in the sport has the German been beaten by his team-mate – and you don’t win four titles and over 50 races being average.
Still, 2019 is massively important. If Ferrari gives him the tools to compete for the championship, he’ll need to cut out the mistakes he made in 2018. If it happens again, the team may start to have very serious doubts about him delivering the title for them. The German has the speed and ability to do it, though.
It’s very rare a driver gets more an opportunity to have more than one chance with a team, but 2019 will be Daniil Kvyat’s third spell at Toro Rosso. It will surely be his last as well.
With Toro Rosso controversially dumping Brendon Hartley after a single season and the Russian doing excellent work on the Ferrari simulator during the 2018 campaign, he’s back on the F1 grid.
How he’ll perform will be interesting to follow. In 2016 he seemed a broken man after being harshly dumped by Red Bull four races into the season. Throughout the rest of 2016 and across the majority of 2017, he struggled at Toro Rosso and couldn’t get close to Carlos Sainz; particularly on a Sunday.
Without question, the Russian driver is quick. If he can handle Helmut Marko this time around, he should be able to perform at his best and show the world why he was highly rated after an impressive rookie year in 2014.
On track, he’ll need to beat Albon pretty comfortably to have any chance of staying on the grid in 2020. The pressure will be big.
His seat is unlikely to be under threat in the near future – but 2019 will be massively important for the Canadian.
This is likely to be the first season of his career where the team he’s with will have a package that can regularly be in Q3 and fighting for points every weekend.
The main Achilles heel for Stroll so far in his time in F1 has been qualifying: he got hammered by Massa in 2017 (2-17) and beaten by Sirotkin (8-12) last year. On the basis of that, he’ll do well to get close to Sergio Perez in the upcoming season.
Its unlikely Stroll will beat Perez. The Mexican is a very consistent and impressive driver and has shown that for many years now.
If the young Canadian can get close to ‘Checo’ on a Saturday and Sunday across 2019, that will be an impressive effort.
However, if he has another season where he’s well off the pace of his stablemate, the obvious criticism will be given. He must find a new, higher level this year.
2019 will be the French driver’s eighth full season in Formula 1 – and it could be his most crucial one yet.
At 32, the frustrating inconsistency from Grosjean is still there. Capable of magnificent pace and performances, silly crashes and errors never seem to be far away either. 2018 was a fine example of that.
It took him until round 9 of the championship to get off the mark following a series of mistakes. He threw away points thanks to incidents at Baku, Spain and France. Grosjean found himself under huge pressure at that stage.
A lot of credit has to be given for the way he turned his year around in the second half of it. He secured the vast majority of the points for the team and turned around the qualifying head-to-head against Kevin Magnussen.
However, in 2019 he needs to cut out the erratic form of last year to guarantee himself a seat in 2020. The speed is there to do it, but he has to string a solid season together again. Haas can’t afford huge ups and downs from him in such a tight midfield battle.