So, here we are around a week away from the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, which will mark an end of one-fourth of the season. Let us take a look at how the 2019 season has been so far.
When 2018 season ended, there was a lot of optimism mixed with uncertainty regarding the new rule changes. Plus the driver market had seen a major overhaul with some major mix ups happening. From Ferrari giving a young and hugely talented Charles Leclerc a chance to Daniel Ricciardo making a shock move to Renault from Red Bull. 2018 champions Mercedes stuck to the winning team as did Haas who managed a respectable 5th in the standings. F1 fans and pundits expected a hugely entertaining season coming into 2019.
Then came winter testing where teams unveiled their new spec machines and it was time to test their preparations. Ferrari started strongly and finished at the top, giving further hope to take the challenge to Mercedes, who for all intends and purposes looked quite slower. The F1 community was divided with one half optimistic about Ferrari’s dominance and the other half suspecting a Mercedes sandbagging.
On the midfield side, McLaren and Haas showed great improvements while Renault, Alfa, Toro Rosso are not very far behind. The biggest disappointment was Williams, who started testing 2 days late.
Come Australia and time for the real test. Practice was history and things were about to get very real. There was nervous tension in the paddock. You can read the race review here. The race wasn’t very eventful but far from being disappointing. Mercedes dominated race lead by Finnish driver Valterri Bottas. The biggest let down was Ferrari. They got overtaken by Honda driven by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Midfield was packed as expected, with Haas expectedly emerging best of the rest. McLaren faced reliability problems with Sainz while his teammate finished in points. This race gave us the first glimpse of actual Mercedes grunt which proved too much for Ferrari to handle. 8 constructors managed to grab points in the race.
Next up was Bahrain. And it did turn out to be . Read my race report here. Charles grabbed pole with Ferrari get their first 1-2 start of the season. The race was one of the best and eventful race in recent memory. Heartbreak for Charles after his car lost power(~160 bhp) of harvest power. He was comfortably heading towards his maiden victory with a 7-sec lead. Alas. he only somehow managed to hold to the final podium spot.
Renault’s reliability problem surfaced with both cars retiring on the same lap while Haas found tyres really tricky to work with. Lando Norris was the super star of the day with a fantastic drive to 6th position. Kimi managed his second points finish in as many races. The race finished with a Merc 1-2, their 2nd of the season in as many race.
China promised but failed to deliver. It came close to being a snoozefest and bad camerawork topped the viewer’s frustration. Yet again, Mercedes finished 1-2 and Ferrari seemed quite a long way off the pace. Read the race report here.
Azerbaijan ended with Mercedes getting their 4th 1-2 finish. Read race review here. The race itself wasn’t traditioally entertaining. It had its moments especially at the start when Leclerc showed great pace at start and we began to feel the Ferrari resurgence. But it went as quickly as it came.
All in all, the races have not lived up to the expectation and the fans have been complaining about the quality of the race. We need Spain to deliver to bring back the fans and keep the race alive. Last year had been more alive with the championship while this year with 4 consecutive 1-2’s, Mercedes are 74 points ahead of Ferrari. They look set to win the championship before the summer break at this rate. We hope it doesn’t happen for the sake of the championship.