Lewis Hamilton (1st) vs Valtteri Bottas (2nd)
In the opening few races of the year, Valtteri Bottas looked like he might threaten Lewis Hamilton for the championship. Ultimately, Hamilton eased to the title in the end, however.
After trading two wins apiece in the opening four events, Hamilton took firm control from Spain onwards. Bottas thumped the Brit in qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya to take his third straight pole, but Hamilton showed his class in the race to take a dominant win from the Finn.
6 wins in 8 races from Spain to Hungary meant Hamilton had a 62-point heading into the 4-week break. Bad races for Bottas at Hockenheim and Hungary pretty much ended his title hopes.
It was quite even after the action resumed as Ferrari took a big step forward and Max Verstappen started to fight with Mercedes on a more regular basis. Hamilton took 3 wins to Bottas’ 2 and sealed his SIXTH Drivers’ Championship at COTA.
Despite both drivers getting pole on five occasions, Hamilton comfortably won the qualifying battle.
While Bottas had his strongest season at Mercedes to this point, Hamilton still overpowered him with his speed consistency and relentlessness. Barring a nightmare weekend at Hockenheim, the Brit was superb once again.
It’s going to take a miracle for Bottas to beat Hamilton over the course of a season.
Qualifying head-to-head: 14-7
Charles Leclerc (4th) vs Sebastian Vettel (5th)
Arguably the closest and most fierce team-mate battle of the 2019 Formula 1 season. There was a good bit of needle on track between rising star Charles Leclerc and four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Team orders came into play throughout the year: Australia, Bahrain (ignored) China, Spain, Russia (ignored) showed how tense things were inside the team across 2019.
Whilst Vettel had a stronger start in the first third of the season, Leclerc was cruelly denied a maiden win thanks to a reliability problem in Bahrain when he dominated and the race. The German also lost a win following that very controversial incident and penalty in Canada.
Leclerc then started to hit his groove from France onwards and out-qualified his team-mate at nine consecutive events. He scored his first win and second wins in the space of 7 days at Spa and Monza to firmly put Vettel in the shade at that point. Vettel’s spin and dangerous rejoin at Monza was one of the lowest points for the German in his career so far.
Vettel’s only victory of 2019 came in controversial circumstances at Singapore as an undercut allowed him to jump Leclerc and steal the victory. It must be said that had the German stayed out, Ferrari would’ve scored a 1-3 finish at best, as Verstappen would’ve easily undercut. Leclerc’s frustration was understandable, though.
Things finally boiled over in Brazil as the two drivers clashed in the closing stages and retired from the race. Most of the blame lay with Vettel, but a clash between the pair seemed inventible as both drivers showed they wouldn’t back down as they see themselves as the lead driver in the team.
Leclerc shaded Vettel in the championship as they finished 4th and 5th. The young man from Monaco can be very proud of his maiden season with the Scuderia as he proved how good he is already – and he’s far from the finished product.
It was quite a close contest nonetheless and people writing off Vettel could be making a big mistake.
Vettel was the faster driver in several races and proved that he’s still got very good speed, despite some mistakes. Both drivers need to cut out the errors of this year in 2020; that’s even more critical if Ferrari gives them a title-contending car.
The internal fight between these two next season should be fascinating to watch.
Qualifying head-to-head: 11-9
Max Verstappen (3rd) vs Pierre Gasly (7th)
It’s fair to say Max Verstappen trounced Pierre Gasly in their 12 races together as team-mates.
2 wins, finishing ahead in 11 of the 12 qualifying sessions and races show how dominant the young Dutchman was against the Frenchman. Gasly’s pre-season testing crashes put him on the back foot and apart from Silverstone, he never looked like getting close to Verstappen.
Verstappen lapped his French team-mate on his way to winning the Austrian Grand Prix and in Hungary when he finished in P2. Unsurprisingly, Gasly was demoted to Toro Rosso during the summer break.
It was an outstanding first 12 races from Verstappen as he finished in the top 5 at every single race.
Qualifying head-to-head: 11-1
Max Verstappen (3rd) vs Alex Albon (8th)
Alex Albon took Pierre Gasly’s seat at Red Bull Racing following the summer break – and while he did a better job than his French counterpart, Verstappen was still comfortably the quicker driver in the main.
Incidents for the Dutchman at Spa, Monza, Suzuka and Mexico hid the reality of his advantage over the Thai driver. When they were both in clear air at Brazil and Abu Dhabi, Verstappen was well up the road from Albon.
However, Albon showed more aggression and pace than Gasly did and deservedly keeps the seat for 2020. His aim must be to get closer to Max next year, though. The team wants and needs a solid number two driver.
Based on this year, Verstappen should easily win this head-to-head in 2020. It’s up to Albon to prove everyone wrong.
Qualifying head-to-head 8-1
Carlos Sainz (6th) vs Lando Norris (11th)
In terms of this intra-team battle, it went Sainz’s way. Nonetheless, Norris did a very creditable job in his maiden Formula 1 season and will look to push his team-mate much harder next year.
The story was quite consistent throughout the season: Norris was as strong as Sainz in qualifying and he was the quicker driver on a Saturday during the first half of the season. However, the Spaniard consistently excelled on race day and usually ended up ahead of his young team-mate.
Norris got McLaren off the mark with a P6 in Bahrain. Sainz should have finished in the top 5 if it wasn’t for an early race collision with Verstappen. P7 and P8 in Baku was their first double points finish of the year.
Sainz really started to dominate in races as 8 points finishes in 9 races before the summer break left him 34 points clear of Norris. His performances at the Red Bull Ring and in Hungary were particularly impressive.
The high moment for him and the team came at Interlagos when he inherited a podium finish following a magnificent drive from the back of the grid. Avoiding the chaos that happened in the closing stages and Hamilton’s post-race penalty allowed him to score his maiden podium.
Sainz was superb in 2019 and delivered his best season to date in Formula 1 to finish ‘best of the rest’ in the Drivers’ Championship. While Norris did finish outside the top 10 in the standings and 47 points behind his team-mate, problems out of his control in France, Canada, Germany and Belgium cost him a good few points.
It’ll be intriguing to see how this tussle goes in 2020.
Qualifying head-to-head: 10-10
Daniel Ricciardo (9th) vs Nico Hulkenberg (14th)
It was expected to be one of the tightest team-mate fights of the 2019 season. However, in the end, it turned out to be a solid victory for Daniel Ricciardo.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hulkenberg started the season stronger. The German finished 7th at the Australian Grand Prix and looked set for 6th in Bahrain until a car failure in the closing laps. After a difficult opening couple of races with his new team, Ricciardo’s P7 at the Chinese Grand Prix left them tied on 6 points each after three rounds.
Renault lacked competitiveness throughout the first part of the season apart from Canada. Ricciardo finished 6th ahead of Hulkenberg; the German was told to stay behind the Australian as team orders were implemented.
Hulkenberg could have finally stood on an F1 podium at his home race, but a costly mistake once again cost him that chance. Ricciardo was 5 points ahead (22-17) at the summer break.
The ‘Honey Badger’ really started to assert his authority when the action resumed. Renault’s strongest race came at Monza as the duo finished P4 and P5. Ricciardo finished ahead by 12.6s, though.
Outstanding performances by the Aussie at Suzuka (before getting DSQ’ed), Austin and Interlagos (P6 after an early race tangle with Magnussen) meant he finished in the top 10 in the standings. He outperformed Hulkenberg from Belgium onwards as he consistently extracted a bit more out of the car than the German could in a very tight midfield scrap.
Qualifying head-to-head: 14-7