Twelve races down and there’s a lot to unpack from the first half of the F1 2019 season.
F1 journalists David Tremayne, Mark Hughes and Will Buxton, F1 Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Reynolds, F1 Senior Writer Lawrence Barretto and F1 Staff Writer Greg Stuart share their hot takes from the season so far and make some bold predictions…
Who have been your top three drivers of 2019 so far?
Mark Hughes (Technical Writer): Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Hamilton’s victories have on occasion demanded much more than just super pace.
In his pressuring of Bottas early at Silverstone and of Verstappen in Hungary, he was masterfully forcing his opponent to use more tyre than him, so as to maximise his chances of being able to pass him before the end, whilst not taking as much of his own tyre life.
Verstappen has been faultless and maximised his situation. Sainz is just consistently delivering the best achievable result every time he gets a clean run.
David Tremayne (Hall of Fame F1 Journalist): Lewis, of course, because after a slightly hesitant start he really got everything together and looks so strong, illness-marred Hockenheim apart.
Max, because he very rarely makes mistakes these days, is so consistent, and wrings everything out that the Red Bull has to offer.
And Charles. Yes, he made mistakes in Baku, Austria and Germany, but he is frequently quicker than Sebastian and he’s still only in his second year. He’s dealing very well with the pressure at Ferrari.
Will Buxton (Digital Presenter): That’s really tough. You’d expect me to say Hamilton and yet such is his level of excellence that we almost expect him to shine. As such I’m going to leave him out as it’s kind of accepted that he’s up there.
Verstappen obviously makes it in as he’s been nigh on faultless, not just in 2019 but for well over 12 months now. Racecraft, maturity, introspection… he’s fast becoming the real deal. As is his former team mate Carlos Sainz.
There were many who didn’t believe he could lead a team and questioned McLaren’s decision to hire him. He’s repaid the faith, and then some. Then there’s George Russell.
In incredibly difficult circumstances he is extracting everything from the machinery he’s given. Even at his former best I think Robert Kubica would have struggled to contain him.
Jonny Reynolds (F1 Editor-in-Chief): Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the obvious answers – both seemingly operating better than ever before – but who fills spot three?
A few names spring to mind: Carlos Sainz, who is consistently getting the best from himself and his car in a new environment at McLaren; Charles Leclerc, who has been supremely quick, if more than a little erratic at times; any one of the rookie class of 2019; and Kimi Raikkonen, seemingly loving life as an underdog at Alfa. But I’ll plump for Sainz.
Lawrence Barretto (Senior Writer): Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are without doubt the top two. It’s tempting to go for Kimi Raikkonen, who has been brilliant at Alfa Romeo, but he has been usurped by Carlos Sainz.
Best of the rest and just five points adrift of Pierre Gasly and 27 points ahead of his midfield rivals, the Spaniard has been infectious at McLaren and key to their revival.
Greg Stuart (Staff Writer): Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz. With Verstappen, I love the fact that all that potential that we know is in Max is being galvanised in 2019 into a really fine racing driver, operating at what is the highest level of anyone on the grid currently.
Leclerc’s year has been far from perfect, but the flashes of brilliance and the way he’s constantly developing his craft make me excited. As for Sainz, I feel he’s always flown slightly under the radar in F1, probably not helped by the fact that he came into the sport in both the same team and year as Mr Verstappen.
But this season, at a rejuvenated McLaren, he’s performing superbly. If I were Mattia Binotto and looking for Sebastian Vettel’s successor at Ferrari, Sainz would be very high up on my shopping list.
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