F1: The season that was 2019

Image Credits: Kym Illman @ https://www.kymillman.com/

While the whole world is still debating whether 2019 is the end of the decade or not, one thing is sure we as die-hard F1 fans had a cracker of a season in 2019 which has certainly ended. The season was marked with everything: fierce competition, great rivalries, intense battles on-track and a lot of controversies.

The season started in February with the winter testing which promised us that the status quo could be challenged this year with great speed that Ferrari showed us during the tests. All of us started believing we could finally see Ferrari winning the Championship this year breaking its long dry spell of 11 years. But this myth was to be shattered soon come the opening race of the season in Australia. Australian GP was a moment of disbelief for Ferrari as they lacked the pace to even challenge the ever-dominant Mercedes. Moving on to the next race we saw Ferrari suddenly looking meteoric and looked quite pacy. Young driver Charles went onto claim pole in just his second race for Scuderia Ferrari beating the more experienced 4-time World Champion teammate Vettel. But the race emerged to very different from the qualifications. The Ferrari teammates raced each other, then subsequently Vettel spun while being overtaken by Hamilton and to everyone’s dismay Charles lost engine power which took away a much deserved in from him.

And thus began a miserable streak of races where the midfield was battling fiercely and the Mercedes just dominated the field for the next 4 races. Those 4 races showed us the enate problem we all have been discussing over time about how the top teams were in a different league of their own and so far ahead of the midfield. We saw an emergent Mclaren and Renault. The likes of Racing Point and Toro Rosso were not that competitive in the first few races. But this domination from Mercs was to be broken in Canada where Vettel took the pole. The race was fairly okay but turned quite interesting over the last few laps when Hamilton really started to close up to Vettel and a small mistake from Seb lost him the GP. Whether he deserved the penalty he was given is still questionable but as results stand Ferrari lost out to the Mercs again. So the Mercs still won when they should not have. Then the next race was in France which has to be the worst race of the season where there was almost no overtaking and the grid just followed like a train. We almost started to believe that this season is not worth anything and will turn into another snooze fest. Who knew we would be proven wrong very soon!

The next race took place in Austria were Ferrari once again showed pace and Charles was leading a comfortable race until Verstappen really started fighting for the win. We always wanted to see this rivalry playing out on the track. It was an epic race with a lot of amazing action and Verstappen finally breaking the Mercedes domination with a win and a really hard but fair overtake on Charles. Mercs were clearly facing a lot of issues in the heat of Austria and knew they won't win it. Moving to the next one, we had British Grand Prix where we saw the two Mercs giving each other a great fight and Seb crashing into Max to take himself out of the points. The race had the best battle of the year between Charles and Max. The GP turned out to be very exciting. It seemed as if we were in for some great luck with two GPs being great to watch. Yet we were to see the best and the classic that was the German GP.

Hockenheim has always been a great track and hosted some amazing races over the years but come 2019 it took it into another level altogether. The race was predicted to be in heavy rain which reduced to light drizzle for the start but throughout the race the intensity of rain kept on changing. This led to some amazing racing and a lot of mishaps and accidents. A lot of drivers could not figure out the grip levels of the wet track and kept on sliding and skidding the whole race. Many drivers crashed out of the race and the rain led to a lot of different strategies due to unpredictability. Mercedes who were celebrating their 150th year in Motor Racing has the nightmare race at their home GP. We had one of the best podium finishers for the race inform of Max who won the race. Kvyat came in third for an amazing Toro Rosso’s second podium ever and Vettel drove amazingly from the back of the grid after a disaster qualification to finish in second place. The race has to be one of the F1’s classics.

This trend of amazing races continued where we saw Mercs not being able to win or be as dominating as they were earlier in the season. Max continued to impress and grow stronger winning in Hungary as well. Thus the first half of the season ended with Honda-Red Bull looking a promising prospect and a strong Merc despite not winning for some time. Ferrari started improving but they still were losing massively in the corners due to the low-downforce package. The teams went for a mandatory three-week shutdown and came back to Spa for the second half of the season. Many of the teams brought upgrades but of all Ferrari seemed more confident than others owing to the fact that they had a perfect car for the high-speed low downforce tracks of Spa and Italy that was to come next. It wasn’t a surprise that Ferrari went onto win both the races with Charles winning both for the team. Then came Singapore where all of us believed it was time over for Ferrari and they would be back to the same position as they were in the first half. But Ferrari managed to surprise us all with an amazing upgrade which improved their pace to an extent which helped them take pole and then a deserving victory. Although the way strategy was played by the team which helped Seb take the victory instead of Charles who had pole was a big talking point and led to a lot of controversies. Another strategy game played by Ferrari led to further controversy in Russia where Seb took the lead from Charles at the start and then unwillingly never agreed to give back the position before finally retiring from the race. All of this again cost Ferrari a victory and raise questions over how the team is being managed by Binotto.

Another thing which was a headache for Ferrari was how rivals like Red Bull and Mercedes were trying to instigate FIA over the power of the Ferrari engine. They claimed that Ferrari has been cheating which never could be proven. All of this brought in more stress onto the team. Then we went for Japan where Seb claimed the pole but a small mistake during the start led to Bottas taking the lead while he could manage to be in the second position. But Ferrari still messed it up with their indecision over calling Charles to pit to change his front wing after he sustained damage while colliding with Max at the start. They were fined for the same and the list of mistakes from the team and its drivers kept on piling up. Mexico was not a very exciting race but not overly boring which Hamilton won again.

Then the USA GP happened and suddenly Ferrari lost stem and they were nowhere to compete against Red Bull or Mercs. The same was the situation in Brazil and Abu Dhabi which made the rivals feel that Ferrari actually might have been cheating and now after the new Technical directive was out they could not corner cut anymore. Although on racing front Brazil was another crazy race particularly because of how things unfolded over the last few laps. The Ferraris crashed with each other, Hamilton crashed into Albon and got a time penalty for the same, Gasly beat Hamilton to the finish line in a drag race and we had a fantastic podium with Max winning again, flanked by Gasly coming in second and Sainz coming in third. It was a feel-good moment for us fans to see such a diverse podium with rare podium finishers.

Abu Dhabi was uneventful and very much Merc-dominated. And so ended the season but gave us a lot of things to cherish about. We saw Mclaren resurgent where they finished fourth and amassing more points over a single season then they had since the turbo-hybrid era. Toro Rosso gave a good fight alongside Racing point. Haas had a terrible season alongside Williams. Renault was once in a while giving a good fight to Mclaren but failed to mount a serious challenge to them. Red Bull got an amazing driver pairing after swapping Gasly for Albon mid-season and the Honda partnership seemed to be working for them. We had an amazing camaraderie from the Mclaren driver pair. We had an intense teammate battle in Ferrari and Mercedes. Overall it was an impressive season that would go on to be one of the best of the decade (mind you the debate on when actually the decade ends is still on). One thing is for sure that this season will remain etched in our memories for a very long time. It would be interesting to see how things change next season. Do follow on to our next article which will be up in a few days to read onto what we can expect from the coming season. Till then enjoy the last few days of the year. Adios 2019.

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