2019 Japanese Grand Prix: Driver Ratings

ADITYA GOKHALE | 16th October 2019

The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix will go down in history as the grand prix where Mercedes won their 6th consecutive Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship, even though it was one of the better races of the season. The race was completely dominated by Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas who took the lead in the first lap from the 2nd row of the grid after Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc got off to extremely poor starts. The whole race consisted of wheel to wheel racing, and some moments of pure drama.

Seeing how each and every driver fared at the competitions paints an accurate picture of those who ruled the roost and those that fell to the wayside.

Lewis Hamilton (6.5/10)

Qualifying master, Lewis Hamilton didn’t have the best of laps in the unusual Sunday qualifying as the Englishman qualified behind the Ferrari’s and his teammate, Valterri Bottas in 4th. The defending champion was out of the race pretty early as Bottas got away from the pack, while Lewis was stuck behind Vettel for the first 15 laps before he went for the two-stop strategy alongside Valterri. Hamilton put on a charge in the last 10 laps on fresh tyres but failed to pass Sebastian’s Ferrari.

Valterri Bottas (9/10)

The race winner ran away from Vettel at the start and there was absolutely no looking back. The Finnish driver ended up 13 odd seconds in front of the German in the Ferrari. Bottas barely had anything much to do in terms of racing but despite that, he did not put a foot wrong all race, taking the lead less than 100 meters from the outset from 3rd on the grid, becoming the first driver to win at Suzuka, starting from the 2nd row on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel (7/10)

The four-time world champion started proceedings in the worst way possible as he almost jumped the start. The German let go of the clutch before the lights went out. Luckily, the veteran stopped the car before crossing the penalty line and the lights went out, helping Seb not get a drive-through penalty. The German’s poor start lost him the lead, but his incredible defense in the last few laps against the fast charging Lewis gains him back some brownie points.

Charles Leclerc (7/10)

The rising Monegasque had a not-so-rising Lap 1 as he underwent an awful start like his teammate and went on to crash into Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at Turn 2, after he understeered into the side of the Dutchman after catching the dirty air from Vettel. Another down point came when he decided to continue, despite damage to his left front wing endplate. The endplate broke off and hit Hamilton’s car, just missing the cockpit in what could have been a dangerous accident for the Brit.

Later into the race, Leclerc fought back well up to 6th, making some spectacular moves in the Spoon curve and the hairpin. The driver was hit with a 15-second time penalty post the race for making contact and ignoring orders to come into the pits.

Max Verstappen suffers damage after Charles Leclerc crashed into him

Max Verstappen (-/10)

The Dutchman had a very good start from 5th on the grid as he almost got up into 2nd. Although, it ended up being a short race after Leclerc crashed into him at the second turn of lap 1, through no fault of his own. The RB-15 of Max had suffered extreme damage to the floor and endplate and the car was completely unbalanced. The Dutchman tried to continue on for another 13 laps but was stuck behind Danill Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. It was apparent that the car was done and dusted and was retired in the 14th lap.

Alexander Albon (6.5/10)

Alex Albon had a very quiet afternoon as he finished where Red Bull wanted him to but was still out of sync with the race leaders. He made a daring move, almost on the limit of receiving a penalty on McLaren’s Lando Norris. Lando suffered damage, however Albon escaped with the move. Albon had a pretty quiet race in general but came home in his career best 4th position.

Carlos Sainz (9.5/10)

Carlos Sainz is a man in form. He has consistently been best of the rest for almost the whole season now, standing 6th in the Drivers’ Championship in a McLaren. While he may get pipped for 6th by Albon, it is a competition to the end. The Spaniard had a massive start as he almost got past Hamilton into turn 2, but was the wiser as he knew fighting with the Mercedes would only lose him time other than anything. Carlos lost out to Albon, under the pits through no fault of his own.

In-form Carlos Sainz races against the Red Bull of Alexander Albon

Lando Norris (5/10)

Lando Norris had a promising start as he got up into 6th ahead of Albon behind teammate, Carlos Sainz, but it all got undone after the Red Bull’s head honcho made contact with the MCL34’s side. Lando suffered damage to the sidepod and floor but still managed to complete the race finishing in 13th. Not impressing as much as his teammate, he endued up doing the best he could with a damaged car and a hampered strategy.

Daniel Ricciardo (8/10)

Daniel Ricciardo was yet another who had a race worth remembering as he managed to make the most of it when everything did not go as planned. The Aussie man reported some mechanical problem to the team which was quickly sorted by an all clear on the steering controls. Danny made a wonderful move on Racing Point’s Stroll with a tasty switchback at the last chicane to overtake him on the straight with ease. Danny Ric made P6 as Leclerc was dealt with a 15-second penalty after the race.

Nico Hulkenberg (5/10)

Nico Hulkenberg failed to put a mark on the race after another disappointing result for the German finishing in tenth, 13 seconds behind his teammate. He had a decent start to the race as well as a good first stint on the softs. Nico was ahead of his teammate till the 36th lap, where he was told to let Daniel pass as he was on fresher tyres. To rub salt into his wounds, Sergio Perez overtook Hulkenberg on the second last lap. All in all, Nico had a poor race.

Kimi Raikkonen (6/10)

Everyone’s favorite Iceman had a poor Japanese GP by his own standards, claiming he didn’t know where Alfa Romeo’s entire pace had disappeared. Kimi had a poor qualifying session as he put his Alfa Romeo C38 in 13th behind his teammate. The Finnish driver found a little bit more race pace than his teammate as he passed Anto Giovinazzi on the faster two-stop strategy.

Antonio Giovinazzi (5.5/10)

The Italian put in a great lap in Q2 but just failed to make it into Q3 by the 10th of a second. He started the race on a fresh pair of Medium boots, but went towards a slower one-stop strategy when the tyre degradation was too high. This completely ruined his race and he made his second pit stop 5 laps from the end, a call that Alfa made so the faster Raikkonen wouldn’t have to pass his teammate on track.

Pierre Gasly (8.5/10)

Pierre Gasly seems to be a different man in the Toro Rosso. The Frenchman has put all his shoddy form after being demoted to the Toro Rosso seat to one side. Gasly qualified 9th on the grid and finished 8th, being passed by Ricciardo just 4 laps from the end. He had a very consistent drive, not putting a single foot wrong on the slower one-stop strategy.

Danill Kvyat (6/10)

Danill Kvyat had a shocking Q2 lap as he made a mistake into the ‘spoon curve’. The lap put him in 14th on the grid, eventually starting 5 places behind his teammate. Although in the first stint, he did make up a few places, he lost them on the second attempt as his tyres fell off the cliff. He was the victim of a wonderful move by Leclerc where he was muscled off.

Sergio Perez (8/10)

Sergio Perez had a very good race, before the bizarre ending. Checo tangled with Gasly on lap 53 which was the scheduled last lap, and crashed out of the race. The Mexican was still given the P9 finish as there was a timing error on the last lap and the chequered flag was waved at the end of lap 52. Meanwhile, Checo made a wonderful move on the main straight against Danill Kvyat.

Lance Stroll (6/10)

Lance Stroll had a decent qualifying performance, starting 12th on the grid. However, there is no denying that he had a rather uneventful race with the only action coming in the last 10 laps where he was passed by 4 cars, as he struggled with degraded tyres.

Kevin Magnussen (4/10)

Kevin Magnussen had an overall poor weekend starting with his crash at the final corner during his first run in Q1 in the Sunday morning quali session. The Dane started last on the grid on the contra strategy, hoping for the safety car. The contra strategy didn’t work as the Haas is very poor at looking after the rear tyre, and Suzuka being a track where a lot is demanded off of the rear tyres, the Haas looked very uncompetitive. The qualifying crash didn’t help the woes of Haas one bit.

Romain Grosjean (6/10)

The Frenchman surprised everyone by putting the underperforming Haas up into 10th place in the qualifying. It all disappeared quickly as he lost 4 positions in the first lap, and the inability of Haas to look after the rear tyres put him in a position where he couldn’t make up places. Grosjean stayed up in 14th for almost the whole race before Raikkonen passed him with two laps remaining on the back straight.

George Russell (6/10)

The rookie has impressed everyone this season, despite not scoring a single point in the season. The same could not be said about this race. While, Russell didn’t have a bad race by Williams’ standpoint, he didn’t have a good race either. He finished 12 seconds off the struggling Haas of Kevin Magnussen. While, he did finish almost 90 seconds ahead of his teammate, it was because of an appalling call by Williams on Kubica.

Robert Kubica (4/10)

Kubica had a horrendous start to the qualifying as he caught some tailwind coming out of the final corner to start his first flying lap. He clipped the grass on the exit, and was a passenger as his FW-42 careered into the barrier. The Polish driver’s race was ruined by the fact that he put on a set of Hard tyres for his second stint and he failed to switch them on and put in some horrendous times. Kubica decided to pit again just 11 laps into the second stint and put a fresh pair of Medium boots.