With the conclusion of the 2019 Formula One season, we are doing our end-of-year rankings a little differently this year.
By looking at a driver’s highest peak and lowest dips in our weekly Power Rankings, we can chart the consistent drivers, the late bloomers, those who had a roller-coaster year and those who just had a year to forget. But do the averages give a fair representation of every driver’s season? Let’s find out.
1. Lewis Hamilton
Average position: 1.75
Verdict: Hard to argue. Take away the German Grand Prix and his clumsy clash with Alex Albon in Brazil (one race after wrapping up the championship) and there isn’t a blemish on Hamilton’s sixth title-winning campaign.
2. Max Verstappen
Average position: 1.96
Verdict: Could easily have been No. 1. The eventual average finishing position was 1.75 for Hamilton and 1.96 for Verstappen, showing how close they were all year. Often they were simply swapping positions at the top. Verstappen was sublime in 2019, and his wins in Austria, Germany and Brazil were all memorable in their own way. This was the season Verstappen showed he is ready to beat Hamilton to a championship — now he just needs the car to do it.
3. Charles Leclerc
Average position: 3.80
Verdict: Propelled up the order by a four-week run at the top after his victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, it would have been difficult to put Leclerc lower. His season was not without big mistakes — crashing out of Q2 in Baku and his error-filled Monaco Grand Prix spring to mind — but he balanced that out with two brilliant wins, including a popular victory for Ferrari at Monza, and more pole positions than anyone else.
Though Ferrari stumbled over itself on numerous occasions, Leclerc usually came out of those situations looking much better than teammate Sebastian Vettel, something the Power Rankings often reflected. The biggest mark of respect to Leclerc this year was that he took Ferrari’s preseason belief that Vettel was the driver to back and quickly tore it to pieces.
4. Carlos Sainz
Verdict: Spot-on. Even without a podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Sainz was the standout performer of 2019. The Spaniard may have been above Leclerc in the averages were it not for a slightly slow start to the year. Once Sainz found his groove, he was in masterful form — especially on Sundays — and has probably left Red Bull ruing the fact they ever let him leave the driver programme.
5. Valtteri Bottas
Average position: 6.9
Verdict: Bottas is propped up by his strong start to the year. After six straight weeks in the top five, he never returned once the rot set in. Bottas 2.0 must be a yearlong thing in 2020 if he wants any chance of beating Hamilton (or anyone else) to the title.
6. Lando Norris
Average position: 7.45
Verdict: Norris deserved his rookie of the year award. He was the youngest man on the 2019 grid but often raced like a seasoned veteran. There were some wobbles, and he struggled to match Sainz in qualifying in the second half of the year, but given how well Sainz did it’s hard to judge Norris too harshly on that. McLaren has a real talent on its hands.
7. Sebastian Vettel
Average position: 8.05
Verdict: Very generous. He claimed a good win in Singapore and should have won in Canada and Russia. Beyond that, Vettel continued the run of mistakes that cost him the title in 2018 and, like with Daniel Ricciardo in 2014, was outperformed by a younger teammate over the year. Having yo-yoed up and down our order all season, he’s lucky not to be lower.
8. Daniel Ricciardo
Average position: 8.15
Verdict: Ricciardo was probably the only consistent bright spot during Renault’s season. His lowest finish in the Power Rankings was after the first race of the year, and he stayed in the top 10 from the French Grand Prix onwards. The Australian’s decision to leave Red Bull for Renault does not look great from a competitive standpoint, but 2019 did little to tarnish his standing on the grid.
9. Alexander Albon
Average position: 9.00
Verdict: Considering what he went through in his rookie season, he should be higher. After being thrown into the deep end at Red Bull he showed enough consistency to earn another season at the top team. Top priority in 2020 now must be cutting the gap to teammate Verstappen and proving he belongs at that end of the grid.
10. Kimi Raikkonen
Average position: 10.166
Verdict: It’s easy to forget that early in the year Raikkonen looked like the standout midfield driver. The Finn faded later in the season, but his early form pushes him higher than most might have ranked him by this point.
11. Sergio Perez
Average position: 11.111
Verdict: It was a low-key year for Perez, but he is still one of the most reliable hands in the midfield. He’s earned himself a big extension to 2022 and is part of an ambitious Racing Point team looking to force its way to the front of the grid.
12. Daniil Kvyat
Average position: 11.83
Verdict: For someone who got a podium midyear, you could argue he should be higher, but Kvyat’s season was fairly ordinary after the German Grand Prix. Red Bull’s decision to eliminate him from the discussion to be Max Verstappen’s teammate in 2020 hardly did his short- or long-term prospects any good, either.
13. George Russell
Average position: 12.05
Verdict: It’s always hard to judge a driver saddled with uncompetitive machinery. It’s even harder when the driver’s teammate is returning from an eight-year hiatus. But we can only take the facts as we see them — Russell outqualified and outperformed Robert Kubica all year. It speaks volumes about his potential that Mercedes happily let Esteban Ocon walk to Renault knowing Russell is waiting in the wings.
14. Nico Hulkenberg
Average position: 13.05
Verdict: Outshone by Ricciardo all year, Hulkenberg also squandered his best chance at a podium since Brazil 2012 at the German Grand Prix. His slow, agonising slide off the circuit into the barrier summed up his career perfectly. No doubt he was talented, but F1 won’t miss a man who consistently failed to live up to the hype.
15. Kevin Magnussen
Average position: 13.222
Verdict: Haas had a horrible year, but Magnussen showed enough glimpses of his tenacious and punchy race craft to push himself up the order. A supreme qualifying performance at the Austrian Grand Prix is a great bright spot in an otherwise frustrating campaign.
16. Romain Grosjean
Average position: 14.555
Verdict: He could be lower. Grosjean struggled with a temperamental Haas car but too often seems to find himself in an incident with another driver. He might keep retaining his Haas drive, but his reputation seems to be diminishing with every passing season. His only top-10 Power Rankings appearance all year was after the season-opening Australian GP.
17. Lance Stroll
Average position: 15.222
Verdict: Many people remain unconvinced about whether Stroll deserves a long-term place in F1, an opinion not helped by the fact that he drives for a team owned by his father. He shows flashes of real skill from time to time, but 2019 was far too unremarkable to warrant a place further up this list.
18. Pierre Gasly
Average position: 16.11
Verdict: Proof that sometimes averages don’t tell the whole story — Gasly deserves to be in the middle of the order after reviving his F1 career. Gasly spent much of his time at Red Bull rooted to the bottom of our Power Rankings because he was so far off the pace in a car capable of wins and podiums. His demotion back to Toro Rosso turned out to be just what he needed, and a popular podium in Brazil capped a remarkable story.
19. Antonio Giovinazzi
Average position: 16.611
Verdict: Giovinazzi did well to save his F1 career with a resurgence in form in the second half of the season, triggered by a top-10 finish in front of a home crowd at the Italian Grand Prix. He had looked ordinary before then, and the jury is still out. With Mick Schumacher waiting in the wings, Giovinazzi still has to prove he belongs in 2020 to ensure his career extends beyond then.
20. Robert Kubica
Average position: 19.2
Verdict: As you can see from the averages, Kubica was comfortably last, and that is a fair representation of his 2019 — he failed to get close to teammate George Russell all year. He claimed a rather fortuitous point at the German Grand Prix; that might have moved him off the bottom of the championship standings, but it wasn’t enough to do so on this list.
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