KARUN CHAND­HOK

A look back at the sea­son gone by, with an eye on the fu­ture

Evo India - - DRIVEN - @karun­chand­hok

It was a bit of an anti-cli­matic end to the sea­son, but un­for­tu­nately for the Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit it of­ten is

SO THERE WE GO – THE 2019 FOR­MULA 1 cham­pi­onship has drawn to a close with Lewis tak­ing an­other vic­tory and the two young pre­tenders to his crown stand­ing along­side him at the fi­nal race. It was a bit of an anti-cli­matic end to the sea­son with a dull race in Abu Dhabi but un­for­tu­nately for the Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit it of­ten is.

Lewis and Mercedes were in a class of their own all week­end and once he got to the first cor­ner first, there re­ally was noth­ing any­body else could do to stop him. Max did an­other strong race, fin­ish­ing over 50 sec­onds ahead of Alex Al­bon show­ing that Red Bull re­ally do rely on Max to de­liver while Fer­rari have never gone par­tic­u­larly well around this cir­cuit.

With the race be­ing a bit un­event­ful, I thought it’s prob­a­bly a good time to look back at the sea­son on the whole. Mercedes were the best team as a pack­age of com­pet­i­tive­ness. Lewis has been very good all year, espe­cially on the Sun­days. He shouldn’t have won races like Canada, Rus­sia and Mex­ico but he was there to cap­i­talise on er­rors from the op­po­si­tion and the com­mand­ing wins in Spain and Sil­ver­stone where de­spite be­ing be­hind Valt­teri on the grid, he turned the ta­bles in his favour.

Valt­teri had a bet­ter year than the last one. The wins in Ja­pan and Austin showed that he was capable of hit­ting the highs he needs to beat Lewis, but in a very Bar­richel­loSchu­macher sort of way. Like Rubens, Bot­tas is up against the best driver of his gen­er­a­tion, so it’ll be a tall or­der to beat him across the year and he’ll need to dig deep to do so.

Fer­rari had an­other year of un­der-de­liv­er­ing. They looked bril­liantly fast in pre-sea­son test­ing but then we got to Mel­bourne and they were nowhere in com­par­i­son to Mercedes. In 2017 and 2018, Vet­tel could have been cham­pion, while this sea­son, Le­clerc could at least have taken the bat­tle to the fi­nal round. When we add up all the er­rors, he should have ar­rived in Abu Dhabi nine points be­hind Lewis. On the whole, Mercedes had a faster car than Fer­rari for prob­a­bly 75 per cent of the sea­son but the Scud­e­ria still un­der­de­liv­ered on what they had.

The Ital­ian team were lucky that Red Bull’s sec­ond driver didn’t re­ally match Max. The An­glo-Aus­trian team seemed to be af­fected by the change in front wing reg­u­la­tions more than some oth­ers and did strug­gle at the start of the sea­son. By the time we got to

Aus­tria, the cham­pi­onship chal­lenge didn’t look like it was on the cards any­more but Ver­stap­pen was able to rack up three vic­to­ries and se­cure third in the Cham­pi­onship. Honda looked like it made de­cent progress this sea­son and the re­li­a­bil­ity was a lot bet­ter.

When you look at the qual­i­fy­ing com­par­isons, Gasly was on av­er­age 0.417 away from Max, whereas Al­bon was ac­tu­ally fur­ther away at 0.433. The prob­lem for Gasly was that early on in the sea­son, the Red Bull wasn’t as good a car and there­fore he would of­ten get caught up bat­tling with the mid­field run­ners. Al­bon did seem to make progress in the races a bit bet­ter than Gasly, but con­sid­er­ing the gap to Max, you have to won­der how much of that is the car now be­ing a lot bet­ter than it was at the start of the year?

The mid­field bat­tle was as tight as ever this year. McLaren did an out­stand­ing job over the win­ter to go from some­times hav­ing the slow­est car on track in 2018 to be­ing the clear best of the rest in 2019. It’s not of­ten we see such a turn-around from a team, and it shows that if your fun­da­men­tal con­cept is wrong, as it seem­ingly was in 2018, giv­ing up on it and com­mit­ting to a whole re-think can be re­ward­ing. With An­dreas Seidl and James Key lead­ing the team, Zak Brown sell­ing the dream to spon­sors, two good driv­ers, a Mercedes en­gine deal and a new wind tun­nel com­ing, they seem to fi­nally have the foun­da­tions in place to be a top team again.

This was a break­out year for Car­los Sainz. Un­til now, we did won­der just how good he ac­tu­ally was but in 2019 he seemed to find a whole new level and es­tab­lish him­self as a true star of F1. Lando Nor­ris has clearly got great speed and his Qual­i­fy­ing per­for­mances were very im­pres­sive but his in­ex­pe­ri­ence in the races showed some­times. Car­los was able to put to­gether bet­ter Sun­days in gen­eral to get nearly twice as many points.

Re­nault, Haas and Wil­liams will be dis­ap­pointed with their sea­sons while Rac­ing Point seemed to match their ex­pec­ta­tions in what is a year of tran­si­tion for the team. Alfa Romeo had an in­con­sis­tent sea­son where they some­times had no idea why a car that could get into Q3 one week, couldn’t even get out of Q1 the next. Toro Rosso had some bril­liant highs with the podi­ums in Hock­en­heim and Brazil and they will ben­e­fit from a sta­ble driver line up for next sea­son. So there we have it, an­other year over and done with. Hope you’ve all en­joyed my col­umns this sea­son and I look for­ward to bring­ing you more in­sights in 2020! ⌧

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