F1 drivers, Yas Marina, 2018

Which F1 team has the best – and worst – driver line-up for 2019?

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The new year began with all 20 seats taken for the 2019 F1 season. All bar two of the teams have changed at least one of their drivers. But who has got the best line-up?

One world champion has departed along with five other drivers. Meanwhile a wealth of new talent has arrived and two of F1’s least experienced drivers have scored major promotions with top teams.

But which teams have the strongest and weakest driver pairings for 2019? Here’s a quick reminder of who’s in which colours this year:

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton goes into his seventh season at the team where he has won four world championships, while Valtteri Bottas is onboard for the third year in a row.
Ferrari – While Sebastian Vettel prepares for another crack at the title he is joined by Ferrari’s least experienced newcomer for 28 years, Charles Leclerc.
Red BullMax Verstappen has a new team mate with much less F1 race experience who is nonetheless older than him: Pierre Gasly.
Haas – The only team besides Mercedes to have retained its 2018 line-up: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen team up again.
Renault – Last year’s top midfielder Nico Hulkenberg is joined by race winner Daniel Ricciardo in what is surely Renault’s best line-up since they returned to F1.
McLaren – It’s all change at Woking where Carlos Sainz Jnr arrives from Renault to team up with rookie Lando Norris.
Racing PointSergio Perez begins year six at the team formerly known as Force India, and has a new team mate in Lance Stroll.
Sauber – The combination of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen plus promising rookie Antonio Giovinazzi means expectations will be high at 2018’s most-improved team.
Toro Rosso – Who would have predicted 12 months ago that Toro Rosso’s line-up for 2019 would be Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon?
Williams – Another all-new line-up. Robert Kubica makes his long-awaited return from injury while George Russell arrives with F2 and GP3 titles under his belt.

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I say

Picking a strongest line-up for the year ahead is not as clear-cut as it seemed 12 months ago. Particularly as the pair who won this poll in the last two seasons – Verstappen and Ricciardo – are now at different teams.

So which is F1’s new power line-up? While Leclerc and Gasly showed clear signs of promise last year, it’s too soon to say with certainty they will immediately be at the level of Vettel or Verstappen in the front-runner teams.

Renault and Sauber both have promising line-ups. The new Williams pairing has perhaps the greatest capacity to spring a surprise. But in terms of proven credentials it’s hard to look past Mercedes, notwithstanding the tough second half of 2018 Bottas endured.

As for the weakest line-up, the Haas drivers clearly under-performed last year, particularly Grosjean who lapsed into his error-prone ways despite clearly begin quicker than Magnussen a lot of the time. And it’s been a long time since McLaren began a season with two drivers who have never stood on an F1 podium.

But the duo with the most to prove is probably to be found at Toro Rosso. Kvyat’s return is a surprise given he was dropped by Red Bull and Toro Rosso and was thrashed by Sainz during his last two seasons in F1. And while Albon deserves his F1 chance, the lack of championship silverware from his junior career does leave a question mark.

It is, however, a close call on both counts.



You say

Which team has the strongest and weakest driver line-ups for the season ahead? Cast your votes below and explain your choices in the comments.

Which team has the STRONGEST driver line-up for 2019?

  • Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (29%)
  • Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc (37%)
  • Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly (5%)
  • Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo (25%)
  • Haas: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean (2%)
  • McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris (0%)
  • Racing Point: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll (0%)
  • Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi (0%)
  • Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon (0%)
  • Williams: Robert Kubica and George Russell (1%)

Total Voters: 412

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Which team has the WEAKEST driver line-up for 2019?

  • Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (1%)
  • Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc (0%)
  • Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly (2%)
  • Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo (0%)
  • Haas: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean (5%)
  • McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris (7%)
  • Racing Point: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll (10%)
  • Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi (1%)
  • Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon (63%)
  • Williams: Robert Kubica and George Russell (11%)

Total Voters: 410

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 91 comments on “Which F1 team has the best – and worst – driver line-up for 2019?”

    1. According to the poll, either you have breaking news that we don’t, or Kimi is back at Ferrari, Leclerc has gone to Red Bull and Gasly is out.

      1. Heh. Proofreading fail :-)

        1. @phylyp, it has to be said that questions about proofreading the articles have come up quite a few times – one of the recent Formula E articles has a rather mangled paragraph partway through it that makes it look as if somebody put the first half of one paragraph with the second half of a different one, leaving a fairly confused piece of text there.

          With regards to the question that Keith poses, I would argue that the Hulkenberg-Ricciardo pairing is probably the strongest overall. Both drivers have sometimes exhibited faults, but overall I would say that they should have a fairly good blend of experience and ability – and, equally, both of those drivers do seem to be fairly mentally resilient as well.

          If you look at the top three teams, in the case of Bottas, some mechanics at Williams were noting back then that he felt prone to prolonged drops in performance when his confidence was knocked. He might already be starting 2019 off on a slightly awkward footing given that Wihuri, one of his longest backers, pulled their sponsorship and criticised his performance in late 2018 – now, he has time to get over that before testing, but that is already something that might put seeds of doubt in his mind and impact his performance.

          Meanwhile, over at Red Bull and Ferrari, you have two drivers – Gasly and Leclerc – who are very inexperienced (Gasly’s got just 26 starts under his belt and Leclerc 21), and I suspect both of them will need time to settle in to their parent teams.

          It’s a big step up in terms of competition for them, and both of them are stepping in to teams in a period of transition – Red Bull to Honda engines and Ferrari under Binotto’s leadership – where it might take time to sort things out. The other challenge is that Marko is already talking about how Red Bull plan to take strategic engine penalties in 2019 – they’re planning on using five engines in 2019 – so Gasly will know that he is going to have to deal with that as well.

          I do agree that the Toro Rosso line up is probably the weakest, depending on how Kvyat performs. Red Bull did not seem to be particularly effective at supporting him in the past, and that really seemed to hurt his performances – there is also the question of whether the changes to how Toro Rosso operates (shifting to a more Haas like structure) might make it a little harder to get their drivers up to speed if the team itself is also having to adapt.

          Keith is right to note that, even if Albon did perform OK in Formula 2 last year, his record in junior series isn’t exactly outstanding – he’s not won a single championship, and indeed even the number of race victories in junior series is not huge (a total of 9 wins out of 165 races). There does seem to be a feeling that he was called upon simply because Red Bull didn’t have anybody else in their junior team to call upon, and I think that few are really expecting much from him.

          1. You write of Leclerc [with 21 F1 races under his belt] that he “will need time to settle in” at Ferrari.

            How long did it take Lewis Hamilton [with ZERO F1 races under his belt] to settle in at McLaren?

            1. LH had probable done a similar number of hours in an F1 car as Leclerc has now, there was a lot of testing in 2006

            2. @gnosticbrian, as noted by others, Hamilton entered the sport at a time when there were fewer restrictions on private and pre-season testing, so he was able to clock up quite a lot of mileage in testing before he ever raced.

              In 2006, Hamilton, running alongside de la Rosa and, eventually, against Alonso (once Renault freed him from his contract), clocked up 3,200km of mileage in testing that year. In 2007, Hamilton then covered a further 7,700km of mileage during the pre-season tests that were arranged, meaning that before he arrived in Australia for his first race, he had covered about 10,900km of mileage for McLaren in testing.

              By comparison, Leclerc is shown as having done 5280km of mileage in races in 2018 and, between pre-season and mid season tests, about 2,400km of testing – so, in 2018 Leclerc has covered about 7,680km, meaning that even with a full season under his belt, Leclerc has only covered about 70% of the mileage that Hamilton was able to cover before he took part in his first race (and that was not abnormal for the time either – Alonso covered a similar distance in his pre-season tests for McLaren as well, despite starting later than Hamilton whilst he waited for Renault to release him from his contract).

              Furthermore, Hamilton was driving for McLaren and was therefore working directly with the mechanics and engineers who would be allocated to his car over the 2007 season. As for Leclerc, even though Sauber do have close links to Ferrari, Leclerc was driving for a different team in 2018 to the one he will drive for in 2019.

              Now, although he already had links with Ferrari though their Young Driver programme and he will have an opportunity to build links with the team over the pre-season tests, so that will help smooth the transition from one team to another. To some extent, the situation is also eased by the fact that, whilst real world testing is more heavily restricted now, he might have been able to partially make up for it via simulator testing.

              However, overall the situation facing Leclerc is different to that which Hamilton had – drivers would do a lot more testing in the era he joined, such that drivers would often turn up to the first race of a season with more mileage under their belts then than even a driver who has done a full season now, and Leclerc is having to manage the transition to a new team that is, itself, going through changes in how it operates as Binotto takes charge of the team. Leclerc does therefore face a different challenge to that which Hamilton, and others of his era, faced back in their era, so it’s not quite as straightforward as you suggest.

            3. You make a reasonable point Anon. Apart from the fact that Alonso was simply changing tyres. Hamilton was changing a whole series and a number of the circuits were unknown to him unlike Alonso.

              However, what cannot be ignored is the huge jump in simulation and thus simulators that all younger (than LH) in even smaller teams have had unfettered or in any way restricted access to that was completely sub standard just a couple of years ago. Such technologies are and have been more than making up for the testing restrictions- that’s why they were invented. Obviously bigger teams have more but even the smaller teams are putting their drivers into kit that is far removed from rattling around a track for a few hours on minimised settings.

              This is happily ignored in any of the “ look what LH had “ discussion and also ignored the fact he had a championship to win. Thus not exactly stacks of downtime….

            4. And for clarity folks, anyone that has conducted “testing” knows it is so far removed from racing as to be completely irrelevant other than learning about the team and where the buttons and bits are. If lucky you may learn a bit about tyres, etc etc but testing in 2007? Far removed from today.

              A year in the series? That’s worth ten years of testing and Leclerc will benefit hugely from such.

            5. I believe Hamilton covered nearly 11,000km for McLaren in tests before jumping in an F1 car, that’s 33 race distances.

      2. Red Bull with Max & Charles is the team with best line up.

    2. It’s better then that… Kimi is driving for Ferrari AND Sauber, which will keep him very busy..

      1. Ahah, indeed, never too much money!

    3. It’s quite hard for me to pick a strongest pairing – a lot of the pairs consist of one known quantity, and one driver with potential, but not yet proven.

      Renault comes pretty close to a good pairing, but the Hulk – well 2019 will show whether he’s really been a good driver overlooked by the top teams, or someone who’s good but not quite there (yeah, yeah, I know he won F1.5).

      1. The biggest problem with the Hulk is his consistency. Every year he makes a couple of stupid mistakes. And that is imho the main reason he is not at a top team.

        1. not really, Hulk just never got a go in a top team. there are only so many teams. Bottas got a go, and has shown he isn’t good enough to be championship material. I think Hulkenburg is a better driver than Bottas.

          1. There are reasons why he is not in a topteam. Do not switch cause and effect.

            1. As someone who is impressed by Hulk every year again and again I wonder what those reasons are.

            2. @franky.. pairing brilliance with stupidity in one season could something have to do with it.
              His starts are something to work on.. of course he had a lot of mechanical problems. but hey.. he choose renault ;)

      2. Hm, i disagree there @phylyp. I found it pretty easy this time

        – Red Bull lost on of their really top notch guys with Daniel, and gets a rookie back who I don’t think has shown much to convince us he will be close to the same level (at least not right away).

        – Ferrari clearly have a very good driver to replace Kimi, but their lineup is hampered by a haphazardly performing Seb Vettel. Leclerc will probably need some time to mature further, but to me it is Vettel with something to prove there.

        At the same time, there is little reason to doubt Hamilton’s level and I think Bottas was actually doing really well last year until Mercedes forgot that driver only perform at their top level if they are actually allowed to do so. Unless Ferrari has a great car and can have Vettel as no. 1 from the start, I see no reason why Bottas won’t be allowed to challenge for poles and wins this year.

        Yeah, Renault is certainly a very decent line-up, but Hulk will have to prove he can “score”. And the car will have to be up there to make both able to show their skills.

    4. Too easy question. Seb and Charles at Ferrari form the strongest line up of 2019.

    5. While stroll is probably the weakest driver in f1 I would not say the racing point has the weakest driver lineup. Perez has done well against some good team mates in the past and in the tough midfield has got the job done being consistently the best of the rest (except last season when he was only 2nd best of the rest). He is going to beat stroll comfortably if he gets equal treatment

      1. i’m not sure Stroll is weaker than Albon or Giovinazzi. Norris might be more talented, but we can’t say for sure. This is the year when these kids will make or break their carrers.

    6. I think the weakest at the moment is probably McLaren’s. Sainz is alright and so is Norris – but the other lineups tend to be stronger. Force India’s is pretty bad but at least they have 1 very strong and 1 very weak – McLaren’s is generally… ‘okay’.

      Strongest, I tend to lean towards Renault? I think Haas and Red Bull have strong lineups too but they seem to be good ‘on the day’, while I think Renault’s is overall more dependable, if that makes sense.

      1. Any two of Kubica, Russell, Kvyat and Albon does not sound stronger than Sainz alone.

        1. Russel is highly rated and kubica was a good driver, so he could still be decent, which is what sainz is; agree with toro rosso.

      2. I would not rank Stroll as ‘very weak’, but rather ‘very inconsistent’.

    7. how about waiting 1/3 of the season before setting this poll? its pointless, its pretty much fan favoritism, a ranking of 1 to 10 might be better. sorry, I don’t like this kind of polling, its completely impossible to say who has the best driver pairing, especially when the cars haven’t turned a wheel yet.

      1. There is already a poll at the end of the season (individual rather than pairing), and we love to discuss the mid-year ranking by Keith.
        Furthermore, it is driver-pairing poll, thus it doesn’t matter that the cars ‘haven’t turned a wheel yet’. I wouldn’t change my pairing of choice, even if they were to show up in a soapbox.

      2. Then don’t participate. Simple.

      3. I’m happy to vote for my best & worst line-ups now, but agree with you that a 1-10 ranking would be a better way to do it and might help even out some of the fan favouritism issues. Cheers.

    8. IMO, Charles LeClec will become a force to be reckoned with no matter who he drives for. With Ferrari, he may be stymied to some extent by team orders but he will have more chances at winning in that car. Red Bull need to marry well into their Honda engine but if that works well, Mad Max will have a say.

      Having said all that if Verstappen & LeClerc both drive for Red Bull and the car works well, my money will be on the pseudo-Frenchman. With his skill LeClerc can make even better use of Newey’s aerodynamics than Mad Max has done thus far.

      1. You obviously missed some junior series…. Leclerc is not nearly on Verstappens level, he was nowhere in F3, might have won F2, though his strongest rival was Markelov. P6 thanks to 7 DNF’s as abest result while Max took two P4’ss in his rookie year…

        To expect Leclerc on top of the top class drivers is based on wishfull thinkiing rather than numbers

        1. Matn, I note that you did not mention the fact that Verstappen’s 4th place in the US GP came about in a race with an even higher retirement rate than the races which you are bashing Leclerc over (there were 8 DNFs in the 2015 US GP). By arguing about retirement rates, you undermine the very races that you cite in Max’s favour.

          1. Let’s say we know verstappen is very fast, maybe the fastest in f1 nowadays but makes occasional mistakes, leclerc also seemed to be able to do the same with a midfield car, now we just have to see if he’s a fisichella or frentzen, as in a good driver of a bad car and a bad driver of a good car (2005, 1997) or if he’s a verstappen\schumacher.

          2. Strange remark, knowing VER ( and VET) already made up a lot of places before the accidents and mechanical problems for some happened. (around lap 20+ ) The early DNF’s stevens, Bottas, Grosjean had no influence on the race. So even without the DNF’s VER would ended very high. He followed VET in his way up the ranks..

    9. Max Verstappen and Leclerc will do great, meanwhile i cant decide if Racing point or Sauber has the worst line up. Antonio is an unknown so with the benefit of doubt the vote has to go to Racing point.

      1. Antonio was impressive in Aus 2017 but then China was one of the worst weekends he could’ve had, throughout 17’ he kept crashing in practice which doesn’t bode well for the future, but who knows

        1. @joshuadoran
          Leclerc also had similar problems at the start in Sauber and that turned out great. I still havnt seen enough of Antonio to judge him.

    10. Hamilton and Riccairdo was the best pairing that was veteod for 2019 due to politics and games.

      Given that people are still claiming Ferrari had the best car last year, then Kimi and Seb (claimed as a potential ‘best pairing’) grossly underperformed, also Lewis disasppointed early on and Bottas an overall disappointment. Which leaves me unbothered to speculate for next year. I got fed up with the hype.

      1. Jeez – can’t you just let it go?

        The guy did not disappoint and he will be beating MV for some time to come.

        Probably good to get over it and just enjoy the races.

    11. For the best, I’d go with Hamilton and Bottas. Hamilton is obvious, and while Bottas didn’t drive as well as he’s capable of during the second half of last season, there are only a small handful of drivers who I think would be more competitive relative to Hamilton. Then it’d be a choice between Vettel-Leclerc, who are an interesting pairing – could be great but too many question marks to put them first… and Ricciardo-Hulkenberg. After that it’d be Verstappen-Gasly, purely because of Verstappen.

      For worst, I voted wrong but Toro Rosso would be the obvious pick. I rate Kvyat very highly in terms of outright talent but he’s never been great at applying it… and Albon comes across as a bit ‘standard’, the type of driver who deserves a shot at F1 but probably won’t stick around. Then it’s a toss-up between Sainz-Norris at McLaren – very average all-round – and Kubica-Russell at Williams, purely because I don’t know how good Kubica is now. Perez-Stroll escape the bottom three due to Stroll’s extra experience, and I’ll give Raikkonen-Giovinazzi the benefit of the doubt because they could be either really good or really bad.

      1. Agree with you on LH and VB as the best pairing. They’ll likely have the best car again, and so LH in that car will continue to be formidable, and I expect VB to have a much better season than 2018.

      2. I think Albon is as big a question as any, we all saw when the funding increased for 2018 in F2 he seemed to get better. All in all for me Toro Rosso is too big a question mark for me

    12. I’m surprised my strongest vote of Verstappen and Gasly is sitting so low. I was thinking the Ferrari team but I think the weaknesses shown by Vettel mentally the last couple years has ruined him being rated so highly for me. Leclerc will bring that up a bit for sure but Gasly seemed to be no slouch either, easily having the number of Hartley. I just think overall the Red Bull pairing is stronger.
      Bottas brings down Mercedes too much in my mind for that to be the strongest pairing. I can’t believe they’re sticking with him for another year to be frank, even despite the bad luck. Other drivers got a harsher deal and were booted from the paddock.
      I think Mercedes will still have the strongest *team* but for driver pairing it just has to go to Red Bull for me, unless Gasly falters massively.

      Weakest is obvious with the majority decision. I agree there, not much needs to be said. The other 3 teams are obviously weak as well, but the Torro Rosso pair literally are just making up the numbers. Movable traffic cones to be used strategically to slow down the others or “accidentally” cause some safety car drama when it’s needed for the A team.

      1. @bascb @skipgamer – agree with your points on Ferrari that its the young ‘un who’s probably more reassuring than the old blood.

      2. Kvyat is interesting, that last race he did for TR, USA 2017 was it? All I know is that I felt they should’ve put him in for one more race just to see if he could continue that form. I think Albon is as big a question as any, we all saw when the funding increased for 2018 in F2 he seemed to get better. All in all for me Toro Rosso is too big a question mark for me

    13. For the best driver pair, it’s hard to argue against Vettel and Leclerc. Hamilton can match or beat Vettel but i don’t think Bottas is a match for Leclerc.

      For the worst, it’s a toss up between Racing Point and Toro Rosso. Kvyat has had his day and Stroll’s just not good enough.

      1. Hamilton can match or beat Vettel??? What word do you live in? lol
        Vettel was already routed the two times he had a shot in equal cars. Next!

        1. Then let’s say hamilton is probably at the same level as leclerc if he continues the form he showed at sauber, and vettel, for all his flaws, is faster and would score more points than bottas given the same car.

          About red bull, I think verstappen is at a similar level as leclerc and hamilton, and gasly can at best be a ricciardo, but remains to be seen what he can do, so probably red bull’s line up is only slightly inferior to ferrari’s and slightly stronger than mercedes’.

          That we are here discussing which of the top 3 has the best line up means they made reasonable decisions tbh.

          And as for renault, ricciardo is at vettel’s level but leclerc is supposed to be far superior to hulkenberg, impressed a lot more in his only season.

          1. @esploratore

            Wait, you are rating Lec the same level as Ham?

            LOL . . .

    14. Interesting to see that every team outside the top 4 has received more than 5% of votes for “Worst”…except Sauber. I’m wondering why RAI + GIO is that highly rated, Raikkonen is far from being a top driver and will be 40 this season and I don’t think Gio is anything special (based on his junior career). He was beaten in F3 and F2 by younger drivers with less experience (Ocon, Verstappen).

      1. @francorchamps17, I suppose that it is in part because of the context in which he achieved those results – junior series might, on paper, seem to be more even than senior series, but the team which you race for is often still a fairly significant factor in how successful you might be.

        Ocon might, for example, have been very successful, but he also had the advantage of driving for Prema in Formula 3, and Prema Powerteam are one of the most dominant teams in the European and National Formula 3 championships. Giovinazzi, by contrast, drove for the second ranked Carlin team – the one that was basically set up to help the organisers pad the field out and really only existed to relieve Sean Gelael’s sponsors of their money – so in that sense the team he raced for wasn’t necessarily the best that he could have raced for.

      2. “Raikkonen is far from being a top driver”

        Word Champion, 103 podiums (P5 all time)…

    15. Renault and STR.

    16. Best line up has to be Mercedes’. Bottas might be a bit off Hamilton’s pace most of the time, but he’s a proven winner. Any deficit in Bottas is balanced out with Hamilton who IMO is the best driver on the grid with difference. After them I think Hulkenberg-Ricciardo is very good, but 2nd place should go to Vettel-LeClerc. I don’t think LeClerc had a lucky year or something, I think he’s properly good… but he’ll give Seb some headaches that’s for sure.

      As for the worst, it’s hard to vote anything other than Toro Rosso. Albon might be good but he’s a rookie, and Kvyat hasn’t done that well… 2nd would be Haas. That car deserves more.

    17. Caliber of F1 drivers is overrated. Just look at the FE races and you will see some former F1 drivers, some who raced in top teams are not doing so well, and, obviously, in FE the equipment performance is much closer than in F1. So, driver’s talent should make a bigger impact than in F1.

      For the people who fantasize that Kubica will do well, I feel sorry for them. Williams finally reached the bottom of the standings and I don’t see them climbing it back up. Their corporate culture will continue to drive poor management decisions.

      1. @svianna, it is presumed that the equipment performance is much closer, but whether that is the case in practise is another matter when there are parts of the cars which are open to development (such as the transmission systems).

        With regards to Kubica, I do agree that, with the organisational problems that Williams have exhibited for several years now, the odds are that he’s more likely to be found nearer the back of the grid.

        Other factors are also likely to work against them – it is hard to see how Williams will beat better resourced teams, such as McLaren or Renault, whilst Haas and Toro Rosso have the benefit of their partnerships with major teams and will be similarly hard to beat. The former Force India team, similarly, have tended to operate quite efficiently on a limited budget, and Stroll’s investment is likely to push them forward, whilst Sauber will benefit from their links to Ferrari, which are more extensive than those which Williams have with Mercedes.

        Equally, in some senses there is the problem that Kubica hasn’t raced in F1 for nearly a decade now, and the analyst behind F1 metrics suggests that, from the way that even great drivers have usually tended to perform over the length of their career, Kubica was probably close to his peak potential back in 2010.

        Taking into account age related factors, even without the possible after effects of his injuries, in all likelihood he’s never going to return to the same level of performance he had then – between that and the difficulties that Williams face, both internally and against strengthening opposition, it’s hard to see them making up much ground on the rest of the pack.

        1. @ anon.

          Completely agree. That said will his “now” level which would seem fairly high plus a perhaps better car given the aero reset, provide a better opportunity to move up? Aiding a younger driver in need of guidance? Let’s not forget what’s in the back of that car.

          That also said – Paddy Lowe while a bright engineer, has form for serious downturns when in charge of a programme and a healthy penchant for losing the best assetts due to reliability issues amongst other things. 2012, even 2016 springs to mind along with 2009.., you get the idea.

      2. Aren’t all FE champions former F1 drivers though ?

    18. I would say it is quite easily Mercedes, then followed by Ferrari.

      I think some people are expecting a bit too much from Leclerc. It seems people think he will do well because he’s been really impressive. (for a rookie- i think way too much of the fact that he’s a rookie has influenced peoples views on him this year. Having Ericsson beat him several times and be close on several others makes me think he’s somewhat over rated.) But instantly moving to a top team against someone like Vettel? I’m don’t think he’ll even be as good as Kimi to begin with. But I do expect that to change. But to start with, I think the Ferrari line up is weaker than Mercedes.

      I feel people are being too harsh on Bottas. Basing too much on this previous season. He’s had others that are better that can show what he can sometimes do. At the moment, I think he will be stronger than Leclerc, but again in time, that could change. Sauber has improved so much this year, that is obvious. I myself think Ericsson is under rated, but I would still rate him 15th or below last year in terms of the best driver order. But he managed to get a fair few points that season too. It showed Sauber had improved. The fact that Sauber had been looking bad before I think made people think Leclerc was much better than he really was last year. He wasn’t always getting points and how do we know that was down to Leclerc underperforming rather than the car not suiting the track? We all to often seem to forgive the lower teams for having inconsistent results, but just like some of Bottas’s off days, leclerc might have had one or two as well. Maybe some of Bottas’s weaker looking performances were because of the Mercedes not being the best that day but Hamilton seriously outperforming the car? That is what I think was the case at times. Hardly any of Leclerc’s days that didn’t look “great” got looked at more closely. He was a bit messy in the first few races and was terrible in germany (why does this hardly ever get discussed? I bet Ericsson would get a whole lot of criticism for a race like this.). I know Bottas has had several weak races, But I think Hamilton being so strong made him look worse. Leclerc just didn’t have the same pressure of having such a good team mate. Bottas didn’t make a mistake like Leclerc did in germany. If he did that in a top teams car, it still will have guaranteed no points. Are we forgiving Leclerc because it was his rookie season? If so, then yes, that was a great season. But if we ignore that, I don’t actually think he is currently any stronger than Bottas who we have much more evidence of. I think vettel currently is clearly a level below Hamilton and both of these things considered makes it obvious to me which is the stronger line up. But if Leclerc does improve, and I do expect this, by 2020, I expect he will be very strong. And I don’t think Bottas will get a lot better than he’s been.

      Now sorry for what looks like criticism towards Leclerc. I myself think that he had the best rookie season for quite some time. And I would rate him pretty high up the grid. I just don’t quite understand what is making people think he would pretty soon be putting Vettel under pressure. Vettel is a 4 times WDC. He’s been in F1 for a very long time and will now be in his 5th year with Ferrari. Leclerc has had one year with Sauber (that has a significant swing in pace compared to the previous years) and had a team mate that wasn’t much of a challenge. And people seem much more confident that Leclerc will challenge Vettel compared to when Bottas went to Mercedes. And Bottas may not have had as much hype behind him. But he had 4 years at Williams behind him. 3 of which he did look very good. May not have been the most exciting driver, but he was solid and hardly ever made mistakes. He’s now had two more at Mercedes. I don’t think he’s any worse than he used to be, but it could be Hamilton’s skill that is making others think he’s looking worse.

      I personally think it is pretty obvious that Mercedes has a stronger line up. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. I will be surprised, but very impressed if Leclerc instantly and regularly starts beating Vettel. Then that would make me say the teams were matched, or slightly better on Ferrari’s side.

      1. @thegianthogweed Re. Leclerc, it all comes down to pace. Most young drivers with real talent and speed arriving in one of the top teams hit the ground running, soon beating even former champions or race winners (Ricciardo over Vettel, Verstappen over Ricciardo, Hamilton over Alonso etc.) So it’s reasonable to expect Leclerc to show his relative speed to Vettel early on in the first races. Is Leclerc as fast as Vettel? Can he beat him in qualifying? That for me is the key question, since his other abilities – calm but decisive racing and overtaking – are likely to continue and maybe even give him an advantage over Vettel. The one area I remain to be convinced is Leclerc’s ability on wet tracks. But that’s not an issue relative to Vettel (who is average in wet weather) but in relation to other top drivers.

        Overall I agree with your evaluation about Bottas and Mercedes having the better line up.

        1. Indeed, leclerc seems generally weak on wet track, though he could improve, it was only his first year, and if we look at the best drivers of all times, fangio, ascari, schumacher, senna, stewart, clark, hamilton, alonso it was quite common to be good in the wet.

          The exception might be prost, and not sure about lauda.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            14th January 2019, 7:25

            Yea, his performance in the wet was the other thing I forgot to mention. He also got outqualified by Ericsson in Hungary and Brazil when it was wet. And Ericsson has only completed a full race distance once when it was wet in his whole career. indicating that he generally wasn’t very strong in this area. If those 3 wet sessions are one of the few times Ericsson can beat him, what will it be like against Vettel? Generally Vettel is reasonable in the wet, just not outstanding. He did crash out in Germany, but if Leclerc has been in a Ferrari that day, he would have been well out of the points anyway with the mistakes he made. I thought that in Germany, struggling in the wet was a one off for Leclerc, but the rain was the trigger of the only other times Ericsson beat him in qualifying. It is a weakness he will need to work on.

            1. Agreed but this is a difficult one. Just a year ago MV was suddenly a rain god on the back of Brazil (quite apart from being handed a lesson by LH) but this year suddenly the cracks show? Did he forget how or more likely was the car less happy in the wet despite being the best dry chassis so far? It’s hard to tell on the basis of single races how good anyone is. Well apart from LH and I make no excuses in pointing out a record 16 race winning streak (Senna is next – on 8) across different cars regs, races, environments, you name it. The broader canvas of work shows the genius even beyond Shumi who also was an obvious yet could have a Spa just the same – and in LH case – having Hulkenberg clatter into him in 2012 in his obvious rookie error shows how single races can shape perceptions. I would let Leclerc work in a known reference across a series of races before deciding he is a Prost and not overwhelming in the wet.

            2. Drg, I just noticed that in qualifying, Leclerc was usually well ahead of Ericsson. On the 2 wet occations, Ericsson looked better. Thn there was the race in germany where he was significently better. Basically all the wet sessions this year, Ericsson was better. So that is why I get the feeling that Leclerc currently does have a weakness in this area. But that could change quickly as he gets more experience.

            3. I agree with you- I just think a few more such races before deciding there is a weakness in such is needed.
              Who knows? The best that have ever been have had occasional unlucky races. And unlucky chassis. As MV this year.

    19. VERY hard this time as there are quite a few teams with one top-notch driver and one below-average.

      We have Hamilton, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Verstappen as potential race and possible title winners
      but they are paired with Bottas, Vettel, Hülkenberg and Gasly. Now, with Gasly I’m very unsure but Bottas is clearly solid 2nd tier with Vettel and Hülkenberg possibly having their career ended by their new team mate.

      1. I wouldn’t say Vettel is bad, he had a bad year, but apparently he had stuff in his personal life which wouldn’t have helped. If he shows that form he had with RB back in 13’ it could even end Leclercs career, unlikely though given how long SF kept the old Kimi

        1. @joshuadoran
          Kimi is still their latest champion and a massive fan favourite. Leclerc is a nobody in comparison so i very much doubt they will hang on to him like they did with Kimi if the pace isnt there.

          Vettel deserves all the bashing he gets for the latest season but most of us know he has the potential to rise up again. Only time will tell but i wouldnt go so far as to rank him as a b driver just yet. And to claim he isnt a potential racewinner is stretching it a bit far dont you think? ;)

          1. @rethla It’s a good point about Vettel. There is actually a good chance that the strongest pairing could be Vettel and Leclerc, if the former gets rid of his mistakes (new management, better performing team mate who actually eases some of the pressure or helps Vettel focus) and Leclerc adapts well to Ferrari. Along with Gasly at Red Bull and the Hulk/Ricciardo pairing at Renault, it’s something to look forward to finding out. Pity Mercedes couldn’t add an unknown too, but maybe next year.

    20. Last season the best line up was easy, Red Bull. This season it’s less clear. I voted Mercedes simply because Hamilton is the best out there and Bottas a reliable number 2. Vettel has had two error-strewn seasons and Leclerc, though good in 2018, is an unknown at Ferrari. Likewise Gasly at Red Bull. Almost voted for Hulk and Ricciardo as a ‘super solid’ line up. Worst is easy, Stroll and the overrated Perez.

    21. Picking the best line up is a bit difficult but in the end I opted for the Renault pairing because both are consistent, experienced and should reliably guide their cars to the best possible results in the car they are given.

      Worst line up I gave to Mclaren. Sainz failed to impress me last year and Norris is a totally unknown factor. I suspect both will struggle to deliver any better than Vandoorne given that their car is likely to not have the characteristics to allow a driver to shine.

      1. @dbradock
        And yet most of the votes from last years season showed the mclaren was the perfect car to allow a driver to shine.

    22. Mercedes simply has the strongest line up! I am surprised with Bottas criticism. The fact he is a bit slower then Ham makes mercedes line up no1. Ferrari and potentially redbull will have drivers pushing each other to the limit hence bound to make mistakes. Compared to Ham having comfortable edge over Bot most of the time and having perfect “wingman”.

    23. The worst team… Got to be Hass just because they hugely underperformed compared to what the car was capable of.

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        14th January 2019, 16:55

        Their biggest loss of points (Melbourne) was down to a team error though

    24. Very easy to pick the weakest one. It’s which ever one Stroll drives for. If we had 3 drivers to a team and HAM and VET were in the other 2 seats next to Stroll, it would still be the weakest one.

      1. No, even if stroll were the worst f1 driver, it still wouldn’t make such a team weakest, and I think you’ll be surprised about stroll at force india.

      2. @crystakke
        Whatabout a team with Vettel, Hamilton and then Stroll as a simulator/reserve driver? ;)

    25. Feels like people are having trouble separating “best car” from “best driver pairing”

      1. @pastaman Not really. The best drivers are more likely to be driving the best cars and given the speed with which new talent has been taken on by some of the top teams (scowling at you Mercedes…) that tendency should be even more pronounced.

    26. It is difficult to compare the new teams because they haven’t driven a mile yet. So for me the best and stabile team line up would be Mercedes and Renault. The rest is just a mess.

    27. Really simple. The team with Hamilton is the strongest

    28. It’s a difficult question actually. If I’m a team boss of a frontrunner and LH is on the market I’m taking him and Bottas without question, give 2018 Lewis a car and he will deliver you the title and Bottas will do enough imo.

      If I’m running a midfield/F1.5 team wanting both my drivers to scrap for points, take any podium opportunities that may arise I’m taking Max and Charles. We’ve yet to see just how good Charles is but I think him and Max will be very competitive on raw speed and race pace even if they’ll get into the occasional ugly incident (which is what would put me off them as a frontrunner boss).

      Danny Ric and Hulkenberg is the pairing to watch though, I really hope for both of them that they get a car that can challenge for the podium occasionally.

    29. Much though I am a huge fan of Max Verstappen, as a pairing with Pierre Gasly (who may be great, but I’m not sure about yet), they will not be as strong as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

      Weakest line up is much easier to choose: Toro Rosso, hands down.

      Every other team has at least one midfield or better driver in it who is a known quantity. Kvyat was never that great in his previous stints in either Toro Rosso or Red Bull, and Albon is an F1 rookie.

      1. Albon is a rookie and a unknown force.. but Kvyat in his good days was excellent ( and extremely bad on his off days;)
        So if Kvyat get his act together you could be in for a surprise!

    30. I think Ferrari have both the strongest and at the same time weakest pair. I guess it’s pretty obvious what the positive sides are, but we all know and it will be not surprise that this couple won’t work as smooth as Seb-Kimi. I expect points will be carelessly lost because Ferrari are not used to having and managing a pair driving on equal terms. I expect there will be tensions as a consequence. In that sense Mercedes and Red Bull have an advantage because I don’t expect Gastly and Bottas to be standing in Max and Lewis’ way.

      I also have the unpleasant feeling that Renault’s line up will disappoint; I like Dani a lot and it’s a pitty he had to make that choice. It may have been better if he drove the red car along with Charles (just a thought here). Such a duo would have been much more harmonious. Especially since it’s clear Vettel is not the messiah.

    31. The replies are quite funny here.

      One one hand people think Leclerc will beat Vettel, on the other hand they think the Mercedes pairing is better.
      So if Leclerc will beat Vettel, and say for argument sake Vettel keeps his errors last season for this season, keeping in mind he beat Bottas comprehensively last season.
      Will this not make the Ferrari pair the strongest?

    32. It is, however, a close call on both counts.

      Hahahaha! I misread this line but I can’t explain how!

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