Continuing to reflect on the F1 2019 season, we pick out what we feel are the five biggest success stories to come from another eventful campaign.
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way early, shall we? The juggernaut that is Mercedes somehow reached even greater heights in 2019 with a car that was not necessarily the fastest on the grid this year.
But, while Red Bull continue to only show their potential in short, sharp bursts over a season and Ferrari continue to find new ways to shoot themselves in the foot, Mercedes didn’t even need to be at the absolute peak of their powers to continue their domination of the turbo hybrid era.
They are truly in a class of their own now after becoming the first ever team to win six consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles and, after winning another 15 races this year, the Silver Arrows have now won 89 out of 121 races since 2014. A win percentage of 73.6%.
Love them or hate them, you still have to respect their incredible achievements and you very much suspect there will be more of that to come next year, especially when Lewis Hamilton is still in the car.
While 2019 represented another missed opportunity for Ferrari to end their title drought, the continued rise of Charles Leclerc should give the Scuderia’s long-suffering fans a big reason to be optimistic for the future.
Ferrari’s initial expectation of Leclerc this year was to play second fiddle to Sebastian Vettel, who was going to be given preferential treatment in 50-50 scenarios, whilst the 22-year-old found his feet in making the big jump up from Sauber to Ferrari. He wasn’t having any of it.
Part of the disruption and chaos caused at Ferrari has simply been down to the fact that Leclerc is super quick. The implemented team orders immediately came into question in the first race of the season and he could have easily been a winner in only in his second race had engine trouble not cruelly taken it away from him.
As the season progressed, Leclerc has developed a taste for that winning feeling whilst continuing to show that he should at the very least be considered an equal to Vettel.
Leclerc is by no means perfect and still has a lot to work on himself but, in his very first season with Ferrari, he has undoubtedly shown that he is their star driver now for many years to come.
Away from those on the top rungs of the Formula 1 ladder, McLaren are heading in the right direction and climbing closer towards joining the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.
Of course, there is still a long way to go before we start using ‘McLaren’ and ‘title contenders’ in the same sentence but the 2019 campaign, which ended with a ‘best of the rest’ finish, was a fitting reward for putting their own house back in order.
In the past few seasons McLaren did become victims of their own hype and, as the poor results continued, they were in a far from ideal situation where they had a driver in Fernando Alonso who was bigger than the team itself.
Now McLaren are a lot more grounded, perfectly exemplified with their video of looking all over for the keys to their trophy cabinet following the podium finish in Brazil, and their new driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Both drivers have been a breath of fresh air not just for McLaren, but for Formula 1 in general, too, and there is a real sense now that everyone is collectively working for the good of the team and the political games are over.
We cannot mention McLaren without also giving props to Honda, the other jilted partner involved in the messy relationship with the Woking team that ended in an abrupt yet inevitable divorce.
In the space of four years they have gone from having a GP2 engine by Alonso’s standards to one that has delivered three pole positions (Ok, officially two because of Max Verstappen’s blatant disregard for safety in Mexico) and three race victories in 2019.
The transformation from laughing stock and the butt of everyone’s jokes to being on the cusp of genuine title contenders with Red Bull in a relatively short amount of time in Formula 1 years deserves to be applauded, especially when there has probably been a strong temptation to pack it all in and focus on other projects instead.
Red Bull obviously deserve credit too for having faith in the Japanese manufacturer and gradually implementing them within the team by giving them Toro Rosso to use as test guinea pigs. But, Honda deserve their own entry for the progress made on their own path to redemption.
You can easily make a case for any of the three rookies to feature in here as Alex Albon, Lando Norris and Russell have all provided their own success stories this season.
But Albon got his rightful recognition by winning ‘Rookie of the Year’ at the FIA Prize Giving Gala for his meteoric rise up through the ranks when Formula 1 was not even an option for him a little over year ago, and barely a race weekend went by without Norris getting praised – if he wasn’t entertaining us on the track then he certainly was off it.
Given the continued rotten form of Williams, it has been easier for Russell to perhaps slip a little more under the radar compared to the other two rookies who have been in cars that can help showcase their talent more.
It’s very rare that you would single out a driver who has a grand total of zero World Championship points to his name, but that is an unfair reflection on the season that the young Brit has had.
He was well and truly thrown in at the deep end starting his Formula 1 career at Williams when they are at one of their lowest points, but Russell has been a consummate professional throughout what has no doubt been an incredibly frustrating season for him and he convincingly beat his team-mate over the course of the season.
Even though the World Championship standings tell a different story, the actual truth is that he would have left a very good first impression with Mercedes as he continues to try and work his way up to one of those Silver Arrows seats.