Top 10 moments of Formula 1 in 2019: Part 1
By Mat Coch
Monday 30th December, 2019 - 12:00pm
Take a look back on the 2019 Formula 1 season as Speedcafe.com picks out 10 of the most talked about moments of the year.
In the first part of the two-part series we look at five key moments that shaped the year, before tomorrow looking at the stories that defined it.
The final lap of the French Grand Prix proved especially intriguing as the battle in the midfield reached fever pitch.
A four way scrap developed between Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen, and Nico Hulkenberg.
Ricciardo put a move on Norris at the chicane on the back straight, running off the track in the process.
He then slipstreamed Raikkonen on exit and passed him up against the fence to drivers’ right.
Post-race officials reviewed the two incidents and deemed he’d gained a lasting advantage from leaving the track, handing out five second penalties for each infraction.
During the summer break the news that all expected, but Red Bull had repeatedly denied was coming, finally broke; Alex Albon would replace Pierre Gasly at the Red Bull senior team.
Gasly had started the year alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull, having been promoted when Daniel Ricciardo jumped ship to Renault.
However, his performances in the opening half of the year were lacking by the team’s lofty standards, and certainly in comparison to Verstappen’s.
By mid-year things had built to a head, and Gasly found himself demoted in favour of Albon, who was in his first year of F1.
Toro Rosso’s other driver, Daniil Kvyat was overlooked despite a strong showing in Germany, while Gasly went on to flourish out of the Red Bull main game spotlight.
So too, it must be said, did Albon.
We’d all seen it coming, but it took until the penultimate race of the year for tensions at Ferrari to finally boil over.
In the closing laps Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc found themselves locked together, and following a restart that metaphor proved apt.
The pair came together at the end of the back straight, taking both out of the race and sending the Scuderia into damage limitation mode.
It capped off the year for Ferrari, one that promised so much but ultimately ended up delivering comparatively little.
All the while, internal tensions visibly grew.
The German Grand Prix weekend is one Daniil Kvyat is unlikely to ever forget.
On the weekend when his first child, a daughter, was born, the young Russian achieved a remarkable third place finish in the unfancied Toro Rosso.
The last man to have stood on the podium for the squad was Sebastian Vettel a decade earlier, and that was in what was ostensibly the Red Bull factory car under a different name.
There’s no doubt the chaotic conditions played a significant part in the result, but Kvyat was still there when it mattered and claimed a well-deserved podium, almost two years after Red Bull dumped him out of Formula 1.
In May the world lost three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda, a man whose influence cannot be underestimated.
Over his lifetime he’d transformed himself from racer, to businessman, to team leader.
He was also an inspiration, a determined figure who fought against the odds following a life-threatening crash in 1976 to win two further world crowns.
The opinionated Austrian latterly played an instrumental role in Mercedes’ rise to the top of Formula 1, while the sport as one publicly mourned his loss at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Following such a dramatic season, narrowing it down to just 10 key moments was far from easy, and there were stories that, while important in the unfolding drama of the year, didn’t make the grade.
However, we felt some of them still deserved mentioning, even if they don’t make our Top 10 list.
Bottas Mk II
Valtteri Bottas, for instance, got the year off to a flying start with a dominant performance in Australia.
Alas his challenge would fade, but for a time it looked as though the Finn might well step up and pressure Lewis Hamilton for the title.
Ricciardo qualifies fourth in Canada
His early races were a baptism of fire, plagued with unreliability, not to mention the challenge of coming to grips with a new team and car.
Then, in Canada, Daniel Ricciardo plonked his black and yellow machine on the second row.
It was a glimpse that, inside a genuine midfield car, sat a driver still capable of sensationally big results.
Azerbaijan practice debacle
Much of the Formula 1 paddock was left shaking its head in disbelief in Azerbaijan when George Russell’s Williams ran over a loose manhole cover.
It stopped practice as they recovered the car, only for the recovery truck to hit a bridge in pit lane.
Naturally it all got sorted, but it wasn’t a good look at the time.
McLaren’s first podium since 2014
Almost lost in the crush was the fact that, in Brazil, Carlos Sainz handed McLaren its first podium since 2014.
Predictably, it was a strange one too – the Spaniard not actually standing on the podium courtesy of a post-race penalty demoting Hamilton off it.
Still, the history books will show Sainz third, a result which saw him break the record for most race starts to score a first podium.