How All F1 Battles Panned Out In 2019 Abu Dhabi GP

20 Formula 1 drivers battle in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for final championship positions and standings
  • The weekend brought with it the grand finale of the 2019 Formula 1 season at Abu Dhabi, signalling the end of a hectic 21-race calendar.
  • Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes already claimed both world championships a few races ago.
  • But there were several other important and exciting championship battles waiting to be decided.

Interestingly, the unpredictable results from the last race in Brazil was the reason why we had these exciting face-offs to cheer in Abu Dhabi. Here’s a list of all battles that were fought and won in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen vs Leclerc — fight for 3rd

Winner: Max Verstappen

In recent years, Formula 1 drivers have expressed disinterest in finishing third in the drivers’ championship. This is primarily because of the extra travel required in the off-season to attend the FIA prize-giving ceremony. That said, third place in the drivers’ championship is incredibly prestigious, especially since Mercedes has locked out the top two places.

The fight for the third place was between Red Bull Racing-Honda’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. By retiring from the last race in Brazil, Sebastian Vettel ruled himself out of this battle. Coming to Abu Dhabi, Verstappen led Leclerc by 11 points in the drivers’ championship — a gap that worked in his favour. However, Verstappen downplayed the importance of third place in the championship, saying, “I think it’s always nicer than finishing fourth or fifth, but looking back in 20 years’ time and seeing that you were third in the championship wouldn’t really make me very happy. I think we are all here to win and we are all here to fight for the title. I think it would be nice after the weekend to be third, but in 20 years’ time, I don’t think it will do much.”

Despite Verstappen’s stance, there is no doubt that Honda and Red Bull Racing (in that order) will celebrate finishing ahead of both Ferraris in their first year of partnership.

On the other hand, Leclerc was looking to stamp his ‘arrival’ in the sport by grabbing third place for himself — especially against the highly rated Verstappen. Leclerc shared, “It is always nice to finish the season on the podium. I will give it all even though 11 points are quite a bit to recover in one race. But I will give it all and will be nice to finish my first season with Ferrari on the podium.”

The fact is that Ferrari were favourites to win both titles in 2019 after the pre-season tests — a challenge that dissipated into a whimper as the season progressed.

Sainz vs Gasly vs Albon for sixth place

Winner: Carlos Sainz Jr.

There was a three-way battle for sixth place in the championship — Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr. were tied at 95 points while Albon was 11 points behind with a tally of 84 points. All three drivers have secured contracts for 2020 — so this battle was more about glory and earning the respect of the paddock.

Mclaren’s Sainz has been the surprise of the season — scoring points in 13 out of 21 races, including a podium in the last race in Brazil. Unsurprisingly, he was fighting for finishing 6th in the drivers’ championship against Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon and Toro Rosso’s Gasly. Yes, it was the mid-season swap at Red Bull (between Gasly-Albon) that brought him in contention, but there’s a lot of bragging rights for Sainz in beating one, if not two, drivers contracted by his former employer. Revealed Sainz, “I think we’re as confident as we can be but at the same time you’re obviously cautious, you can never know what’s going to happen in the last race. I already consider it a bit of a success, to be fighting for P6.”

Gasly had a tumultuous season with a shock mid-season demotion. Securing sixth place in the championship would be a vindication of sorts – and let the Frenchman show the paddock that he has the drive and talent to succeed. He shared, “I think it makes it really exciting, coming into the last race of the season with something to play for in the championship. Carlos and McLaren have been fast all year long, consistent, so we expect it to be tough and it will be our job to execute the perfect weekend to hold on to that sixth place until the end.” As for Albon, scoring 6th place would be impressive — he would have scored more championship points this season than Gasly and Sainz in just his 9 races at Red Bull Racing.

It was a last lap battle for 10th place against Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg that Sainz won and managed to score the extra point to beat Gasly!

Renault vs Toro Rosso for 5th place

Winner: Renault

Mclaren comfortably sealed the unofficial ‘best of the rest’ position (4th place) in the constructors’ championship. However, there was a battle that was yet to be settled between Renault and Toro Rosso for 5th place. Gasly’s unexpected second place finish for Toro Rosso in Brazil a fortnight ago brought the Red Bull B-team to within 8 points of Renault. Could Toro Rosso, who will be renamed to Alpha Tauri in 2020, beat Renault to register their best-ever finish in Formula 1? Toro Rosso is the only mid-field team to have scored a podium with each driver in 2019 (Kvyat’s 3rd place in Germany and Gasly’s 2nd place in Brazil) while Renault are yet to score a podium in the hybrid-turbo era that commenced in 2014.

Renault failed to score a point in Abu Dhabi, while Toro Rosso scored points with Daniil Kvyat’s 9th place finish. Gasly’s race ended on the opening lap after contact with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. At the end of the season, the two teams were separated by just 6 points – but their standings may have been different had Gasly run a normal race.

Racing Point vs Alfa Romeo

Winner: Racing Point

There was a fight brewing for 7th place between two teams that are technically in their first season in Formula 1 — Racing Point as Force India’s new avatar and Alfa Romeo, who returned to the sport after their departure in 1985. Racing Point F1 Team was in 7th place in the constructors’ championship with 67 points while Alfa Romeo was only 10 points adrift in 8th. While both teams haven’t had a season to boast of, Alfa Romeo’s 22 points haul in the race in Brazil has certainly brought them into contention in Abu Dhabi.

The last season when Sauber finished in 7th place was back in 2013 — with the team finishing in lower positions in the seasons that followed. “It’s a shame that we have fallen down as a team,” summarised Alfa Romeo’s veteran driver Kimi Raikkonen. As for Force India, the team finished in 4th place in the last two seasons (2017 & 2018). The last time they finished in 7th place in the championship, it was back in 2012. The constructors’ championship is the main business for the Formula 1 teams — one where they earn money from. So expect them to fight tooth-nail for every position that can be gained.

Sergio Perez vs. Lando Norris – Fight For 10th 

Winner: Sergio Perez

In the fight for 10th place in the drivers’ championship were Perez and Norris and the two battled together in the closing stages of the race in Abu Dhabi. Perez’s tyre management (he went 37 laps on the medium tyre) brought him into contention and he pulled off 5 overtakes in the last 17 laps – including a last lap move on Norris. In the end, it was Perez who finished ahead of Norris after a hard-fought battle at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Lando Norris vs. Carlos Sainz Jr. – One-Lap Battle

Winner: Lando Norris

Even though Norris lost the 10th place in the drivers’ championship to Sergio Perez, it was the qualifying battle against his team-mate Sainz that he won in the session on Saturday. After 21 races, Nando out-qualified Sainz 11 times to 10 – a much-worthy position to finish in one’s debut season.

All drivers scoring points

Williams’ George Russell is the only driver among the 20 to have not scored a single point this season. There were concerns around his fitness in the days leading up to the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, however, the young British driver did drive in both free practice sessions on Friday. Although an insurmountable task, if Russell were to score a point in the race on Sunday, 2019 will be only the second season after 2018 to see all competing drivers score at least one point through the season.

This post was first published on Firstpost

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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