There were contingency plans in place in case F1 couldn’t go qualifying at the Red Bull Ring due to the heavy and persistent rain that was forecasted.
Another season in Formula One is over and as we hurtle towards Christmas it is time for my season review series to begin.
The first part takes a look at my five favourite grands prix of 2019, starting at number five and counting down to number one.
5. Canadian Grand Prix, June 9th
I’ve chosen this more for the controversy than for the action itself although there was some of that to be seen.
The main thing that everyone took away from this race was, of course, the penalty awarded to Sebastian Vettel on lap 48 when he went wide and across the grass at turn four, re-joining the track in such a fashion that Lewis Hamilton nearly found himself in the wall.
At the time, I agreed with the five-second time penalty. Many commentators didn’t and neither did the fans at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
However, it is the controversy that makes this race so interesting because the debate lasted for weeks.
Let’s not forget Vettel’s post-race temper tantrum where he swapped the number one and number two bollards around as he was the real winner of the race, in his opinion anyway.
Don’t you just love a bit of bad-boy behaviour in Formula One?
4. Bahrain Grand Prix, March 31st
Ferrari started this race one-two. They finished third and fifth.
It started so well for them. Yes, the two had a little battle for the lead on lap six but things settled down: Charles Leclerc was leading, Vettel was second.
Then, 20 laps from the end, we saw Vettel do what he has done countless times over the past two seasons. Spinning out of contention.
This time, it was as a result of lighting up the rears as he accelerated out of turn four.
To make matters worse, later on in the lap, his front wing disintegrated in a shower of sparks.
As for Leclerc, a cylinder failed meaning he lost a significant amount of power. Lewis Hamilton reeled him in within three laps of the problem beginning before Bottas flew past with ease four laps from the end.
Fortunately for Leclerc, the double retirement from the Renaults meant he could at least take his first podium in Formula One to end a bittersweet weekend.
This, as well as Canada, rather summed up the majority of this season for Ferrari; always starting well but never converting that into a victory.
3. Brazilian Grand Prix, November 17th
This was redemption day for Max Verstappen after a collision with Esteban Ocon took him out of the lead of the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. He started on pole for a grand prix that he was destined to win but it is what happened behind him that really earns this race third place on this list.
With less than 20 laps to go, the race win had largely been all but settled when Valtteri Bottas’ engine expired, bringing out a safety car.
Verstappen took this opportunity to pit with Hamilton staying out having been told to do the opposite to what Verstappen did. For the restart, Hamilton led with Verstappen right on his heels in second.
Max wasted no time in getting back into the lead, lining up a move around the outside of Lewis through turn one before getting the job done up the inside into turn two. Hamilton didn’t put up much of a fight after that.
The book was not closed yet though, as there was one more chapter to unfold. The rivalry between the two Ferrari teammates boiled over and led to a double retirement after Vettel made contact with Leclerc as he came across to try and block his teammate. Cue another safety car and a tense debrief for the Scuderia.
Two laps to go. Hamilton pitted under the safety car in a bizarre move. He is now behind Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly in fourth. Hamilton dispatched Gasly without too much difficulty and was back on the podium.
However, his move on Alexander Albon wasn’t so clean as the Brit sent the Red Bull spinning, promoting Gasly to second position and sparking one of the greatest races to the line the sport has ever seen. Gasly won out in a straight, non-DRS assisted fight, to take second place and his first podium in Formula One.
Not since 1991 had Honda seen two of their customers finish one-two.
Carlos Sainz also took McLaren’s first podium since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix when he was promoted to third after Hamilton’s penalty for making contact with Albon. He had started last.
There were smiles all round as the F1 circus decamped from Interlagos after a grand prix that proved that you have to be in the right place at the right time.
2. Austrian Grand Prix, June 30th
This race saw a magnificent fightback from race winner Verstappen. He even managed to lap his struggling teammate Gasly as he did so.
Anti-stall was Verstappen’s foe off the start as he dropped right back from a starting position of third from where he was expected to charge through and overtake Leclerc and Hamilton in front of him for the win. That would have been too easy though, wouldn’t it?
Hamilton helped Verstappen out by making a habit of running over the massive yellow sausage kerbs placed to dissuade drivers from exceeding track limits at turn one. Hamilton had to have a new front wing, putting him out of position in fifth, where he finished the race.
Now that his fiercest rival, Hamilton, had been dispatched through his own doing, Verstappen set his sights on the gold trophy in the shape of the fine Red Bull Ring. Buoyed by his raucous supporters dressed in orange in their stand, Verstappen carved his way to the top step of the podium in any way possible.
The final one of these overtakes was the most elbows-out overtake of them all.
Picture the scene. 15 laps to go. Verstappen is five seconds behind the leader Leclerc and has been given permission to use the highest engine mode to pursue him.
With two laps to go, Verstappen dived up the inside of Leclerc into turn three, making contact with him as he did so and forcing the Ferrari driver wide over the sausage kerb on the outside of the corner. The stewards forced us to wait three hours for them to say that this was a racing incident.
The Verstappen stand was sent into raptures and Honda had their first win in 13 years. After a four-year failed relationship with McLaren, Honda had finally found success again in Formula One.
1. German Grand Prix, July 28th
“A horror movie mixed with black comedy.” That is how Daniil Kvyat described this year’s German Grand Prix, an obvious choice for the top spot.
The rain clouds that hung over Hockenheim created all sorts of drama. It caught out so many drivers: Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas all found themselves either in the barriers or close to them at some stages in the race.
Mercedes looked as if they were going to cruise to the win with Hamilton having a masterful opening stint and Bottas holding off Verstappen in second. It was going to be the perfect result for the Silver Arrows’ 125th birthday celebrations.
Seeing both Hamilton and Bottas spin on a damp patch on the inside of turn one soon burst that bubble, especially when they saw Bottas crashed in the barriers. This all came after Hamilton’s undue pitstop after an excursion across the slippy drag strip at the final corner which took 50.3 seconds and involved much scrambling from the poor mechanics.
The midfield drivers had their chance to shine. Lance Stroll led half a lap while Daniil Kvyat got a podium after overtaking Stroll to claim third in the end as hometown hero Vettel moved into second by the chequered flag. I also cannot forget Robert Kubica, who somehow managed to get a point when the Alfa Romeos were penalised for a clutch infringement.
The man who took all the glory was Verstappen, who came through a spin on slicks 20 or so laps in to win his second grand prix of the season.
If this is to be the last German Grand Prix held at Hockenheim for a while, let’s be pleased that it went out with its head held high by hosting the best grand prix of the season.
I could have chosen more than five but these were made on a gut feel as to the iconic moments of the season that I vividly remember and also the ones that I was shouting at the TV to as they were unfolding. Feel free to approve or disapprove in the comments.
Hopefully, we get more of the same and perhaps something even better in 2020. A proper championship battle would be nice for a start.