With the 2019 season firmly in the books and reflected upon, it’s time to dish out the F1 awards to some very worthy winners this year.
Best driver, best team, best overtake, best rookie and best race are all up for grabs…
Driver of the Year
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
All three of these drivers could be deemed worthy of this award. Max Verstappen matured beyond our very eyes in 2019, doing away with mad Max (except for his cameo appearance in Mexico), and claiming three race wins in Germany, Austria and Brazil, the most of any non-Mercedes driver in 2019.
Charles Leclerc also had a year to remember – he came into Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel’s No.2 after just one season of F1 with Sauber and he unsettled the four-time World Champion from the start.
Ferrari were at their most dominant after the summer break in Belgium and Italy, no surprise then that Leclerc claimed his two victories in 2019 there.
But the award for Driver of the Year simply must go to Lewis Hamilton – Leclerc, Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Vettel landed blows on the Briton, but he knocked out the lot of them, not literally of course.
A staggering 11 of the 21 races in 2019 were won by Hamilton, while the Mercedes man was the only driver to score points at every round and complete every lap of the season.
With six World Championships now in the bag, Hamilton goes into 2020 on the cusp of history. Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles are in sight, and good luck trying to stop Hamilton from equaling it.
Team of the Year
This one wasn’t easy as it looks. McLaren reinvented themselves in 2019, putting four years of misery behind them to climb to P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, while they are armed with one of F1’s most exciting duos in Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Sainz also became the first driver outside of the big three teams to finish in the top six of the Drivers’ Championship since 2015, so it has been a season of triumph for the Woking outfit.
Let’s also not forget what Toro Rosso achieved – Daniil Kvyat’s P3 in Germany was their first podium since Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, before Pierre Gasly then went one better with P2 in Brazil. What a way for the Toro Rosso name to bow out of F1 – next year of course they will be Alpha Tauri.
But we have to go with the obvious choice in Mercedes. The Silver Arrows collected eight straight wins at the start of 2019, and when Ferrari moved ahead of them for raw pace after the summer break, it was Mercedes’ strategy which kept Hamilton in the fight.
Ferrari’s troubles on the pit wall in 2019 were made to look far worse just because Mercedes were near perfect, and they remain unstoppable with a record six consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles now to their name.
Best overtake of the year
Nominees: Lando Norris on Pierre Gasly (Bahrain), Lewis Hamilton on Valtteri Bottas (Silverstone), Max Verstappen on Charles Leclerc (Austria), Carlos Sainz on Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat (Monaco), Carlos Sainz on Sergio Perez (Brazil)
Winner: Carlos Sainz on Sergio Perez (Brazil)
Keep your eyes peeled from 50 seconds onwards as Sainz pulls off a daring move down the inside of Perez – and even more impressively makes it stick!
2019 will go down as a memorable year for overtaking – who can forget Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton going back and forth at Silverstone? Max Verstappen’s forceful pass to take victory from Charles Leclerc in Austria, or Lando Norris’ move around the outside of Pierre Gasly in Bahrain?
For what it’s worth Sainz would have scored runner-up too for his double pass on the Toro Rosso duo of Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat in Monaco, a move he called the best of his career at the time, but his lunge on Perez is what claims top prize.
It’s the context of the move which was most impressive – on an afternoon where the Spaniard had started from P20 after issues in qualifying, Sainz fought back to finish P3 and take his first podium in Formula 1.
Sainz truly found himself in 2019, and we can’t wait to see what he does next season, especially if McLaren continue on their upward trend.
Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Lando Norris, Alex Albon and George Russell
Winner: George Russell
Lando Norris and Alex Albon both had outstanding rookie seasons. Norris came into McLaren as a teenager and stuck with Sainz who was in the form of his career, while Albon needed only half a season to earn promotion to Red Bull.
But for us the award goes to George Russell. The Mercedes junior was sent in his first season to work with Williams, the team who sadly were nowhere.
That didn’t dampen his mood though and Russell remained as upbeat as he could, did his job, and let’s not forget whitewashed a former race winner called Robert Kubica in qualifying 21-0.
Whenever there was a sniff of something more than P19, Russell was there, almost getting his FW42 out of Q1 in Hungary, and despite all the struggles, he’s sticking around for 2020 when you could understand if he didn’t see much benefit to his career in doing so.
Race of the Year
Nominees: German Grand Prix, Brazilian Grand Prix, Austrian Grand Prix, Hungarian Grand Prix
Winner: German Grand Prix
Our final category, Race of the Year, was definitely the most difficult to decide upon.
We were wowed by Verstappen’s recovery through the field in Austria before he took Leclerc’s P1 away from him, while in Hungary the Dutchman and Hamilton were in a class of their own as they dueled for victory.
Brazil was chaos as we saw Hamilton wipe out Albon and the Ferraris force each other into an early retirement, and then we had the thrilling drag race to the line between Hamilton and Pierre Gasly for P2, won by the Frenchman, and Sainz’s first podium.
But if Brazil was nuts, then Germany was an F1 apocalypse. The race started very wet, and further bursts of heavy rain throughout the race made it an absolute lottery.
Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas were all among those to fall foul of the treacherous Hockeheimring, while Hamilton also had an off day and narrowly kept his W10 out of the barriers.
Hell Verstappen won the race despite spinning off onto the grass. It was pure chaos, and we loved it!