F1’s annual summer shutdown marks the halfway point of the season – so, who is top of the class and who is heading for detention?
After 12 rounds of relentless racing, the Formula One stars are currently enjoying a deserved summer break before they return to action next weekend.
F1’s annual summer shutdown marks the halfway point of the season, with Lewis Hamilton and Co back behind the wheel next Sunday for the Belgian Grand Prix.
And if the remaining nine races of the season are anything like the opening 12, then we’re in for an enthralling finale to a season dominated by Mercedes so far.
So, who’s top of the class and who is heading for detention? Here’s Mirror Sport’s half-term report…
Flawless – that’s the perfect way to describe Hamilton’s performances this season. Britain’s five-time world champion has once again demonstrated why he is the best in the business, winning eight of the 12 races this season.
The standard (and often boring) argument is that Hamilton is driving the strongest package on the grid but, if that is the case, why hasn’t team-mate Valtteri Bottas been able to produce similar exploits?
Hamilton has been the stand-out driver this year, keeping his nose clean when his rivals hit trouble. Some of his victories have been a tad fortunate – Bahrain, when Charles Leclerc suffered late-race engine woes, is one example.
But Hamilton has delivered time and again, and is en route to securing a sixth world title which would move him one behind Michael Schumacher’s record trophy haul. It’s about time we appreciate what we have in front of us, and there’s no doubt he’ll prove his worth for the remainder of the year.
There’s a reason Bottas’ seat for all-conquering Mercedes is in doubt next season – his performances just haven’t been good enough despite a strong start to the campaign.
The Finn appeared to be in with a chance of a title shot after winning two of the opening four races, but his challenge has faltered since Azerbaijan and he’s been consistently out-performed by Hamilton.
Having gone the whole of last term without a single victory, Bottas’ underwhelming showing this year has once again left his Silver Arrows future in doubt.
And with Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings, this could well be the last season we see him driving in a title-winning car…
After a quiet opening to the season, Red Bull’s highly-rated Dutchman began to find his groove as the summer break approached – and what a perfect time to deliver.
Mercedes looked to be running away with both titles – the drivers’ and constructors’ championships – but then up popped Verstappen with a spectacular triumph in Austria, his Red Bull team’s home race.
That marked the first victory for the team since they switched to Honda power, and he repeated those race-winning exploits in Germany, triumphing in an incident-packed Hockenheim showdown.
Those victories have given F1 fans something to look forward to heading into the second half of the season – Mercedes will not have it all their own way when they return to the track, while Verstappen’s marvellous attacking prowess has strengthened the belief that he has the ability to become a world champion.
Well, what a remarkable season this London-born Thai racer is enjoying. Initially handed a drive with Toro Rosso for this season after an impressive 2018 campaign in F2, his performances have ultimately seen him promoted to Red Bull for the remainder of 2019.
Albon has scored 16 points from his 12 Grands Prix to date, with a best result of sixth in the rain-affected German round – his first ever wet F1 race – and Red Bull decided two weeks ago that he deserves a shot in better machinary.
His promotion coincided with Pierre Gasly’s demotion back to sister team Toro Rosso, the Frenchman having endured a tricky debut season with Red Bull (more of that later).
But Albon certainly deserves his chance, and how he’ll be hoping to push Verstappen more than his predecessor did….
The decline of this four-time world champion has continued this season, with the German enduring a tricky campaign with his once-dominant Ferrari squad.
The Italians were tipped as pre-season favourites, having shown lightening pace in testing at Barcelona, but they have been unable to live up to that promise, and Vettel has struggled to get the best out of his car.
He’s without a victory this season, having come close in Canada before a mistake ultimately led to a five-second penalty that handed victory to fierce rival Hamilton. That’s as close as he came to a win this year.
For much of the campaign, he’s cut a frustrated figure in and out of the car. Three podium finishes is a disappointing return for a driver who should be winning races – and those results have led to paddock rumours suggesting he could call it quits at the end of the year.
Had Leclerc won in Bahrain, just his second race for Ferrari, things would undoubtedly look much brighter for a driver who is in just his second season in Formula One.
But mechanical woes denied him a debut win in the desert, and the Monaco-born starlet is still chasing that dream triumph despite producing a string of performances that deserved to see him stand highest on the podium.
There’s no denying he’s made a few mistakes, but that’s down to inexpereince. What makes this racer stand-out is his sheer pace, something he showed in Austria before Verstappen clinched the win with a late overtake.
Leclerc has pushed his more experienced team-mate to his limits this season and, had Ferrari been more reliable this year, would already have a number of wins under his belt.
Given McLaren’s struggles (they haven’t won a title since Lewis Hamilton triumphed for the Woking squad back in 2008), their turnaround this season has been nothing short of remarkable.
The British team currently sit fourth in the constructors’ standings and their surprise charge up the table has been spearheaded by Carlos Sainz, who has been thoroughly impressive in his debut season with McLaren.
Still only 24, Sainz never really settled at Toro Rosso or Renault but seems to have found his feet with his new employers, managing nine top-ten finishes included back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the last two events.
And the much-liked Spaniard seems to have formed a great working relationship with his younger team-mate Lando Norris, too – after years of dismay at Woking, the team finally look to be on the up.