RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton may have claimed the 2019 drivers’ world championship, while also finishing on top of our expert panel-voted Power Rankings list. But when we put the vote to you the F1 fans, the results were a little different…

    Once the season had been wrapped up in Abu Dhabi, we asked F1 Fan Voice members to rank each of the 20 drivers on the 2019 grid’s performance this season out of 10, taking machinery out of the equation. Here’s how that top 10 looked once your results had been totted up…

    READ MORE: Check out our final Power Rankings from the end of 2019

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    2019 was something of a breakthrough season for Max Verstappen, the Dutchman claiming his first pole positions in the sport while also taking three victories – the most he’s ever scored in a year – to beat both Ferrari drivers to third in the drivers’ standings, his highest ever finish. Verstappen led much of the 2019 expert-voted Power Rankings, and was never classed lower than second, with Hamilton just beating him at the final round. The fans, however, sided with Verstappen for the season, with the Red Bull driver claiming top spot in your rankings.

    READ MORE: How the Fan Power Rankings looked at the halfway point in 2019

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    While Verstappen might have nicked the fan vote at the end, there’s no taking away from another season of staggering achievement from Lewis Hamilton, best summed up by the fact that he took 11 wins out of 21 this year. Yes, there were low points – his illness-ridden nightmare in Germany a particular nadir – but on the whole, we saw another year from Hamilton that added weight to the claim of him being F1’s G.O.A.T.

    READ MORE: Could Ferrari sign Hamilton for 2021?

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    While Verstappen was having a breakthrough year in 2019, so too was his old Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz – albeit slightly lower down the order. Fernando Alonso has called the performance of Sainz in 2019 “phenomenal” and it’s hard to argue, especially given that, as an individual, the Spaniard scored more points than the likes of Renault, Toro Rosso or Racing Point. You clearly agreed that his first year with McLaren had been a bit special, awarding Sainz – who also claimed his maiden F1 podium – an incredible third place in your standings, matching his finishing position in the expert-voted rankings.

    READ MORE: Behind the scenes with Carlos Sainz... Movie night, testing and P6 in the championship

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    Charles Leclerc is not the complete package in F1 just yet – but the glimpses we got in 2019 of the colossus of the sport he could become were tantalising. In his maiden year with Ferrari, Leclerc – just 21 when the season started – took seven poles to the five scored by Lewis Hamilton (F1’s most successful-ever qualifier), while also notching up his first two wins in the sport. It was enough to give Leclerc a highly credible fourth in the fan-voted standings. You’ll also notice he’s the only Ferrari driver here…

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    Lando Norris may have garnered as much attention for brightening up your Instagram feed as he did for his on-track performances in 2019. But make no mistake: behind the funny radio messages and constant references to milk, Norris’ debut season in Formula 1 was excellent, with the Briton the highest ranked of all the rookies this year by both you and our judges. Stand-out performances in Bahrain, France and Belgium, to mention just three, all marked Norris out as a potential world champion of the future.

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    Compared to his win-less 2018, 2019 was a runaway success for Valtteri Bottas, the Finn ending his year with five pole positions and four wins. But those four wins seen alongside Hamilton’s 11 make the achievement pale slightly, with the Finn still needing to unlock more from himself to take the fight to his team mate across a whole season – with his win-less run of 12 races between Baku and Japan effectively putting paid to any serious championship bid. Nonetheless, Bottas’ most successful season to date in F1 sees him claim a respectable sixth in the fan-voted rankings.

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    A year of two halves from Alex Albon, who went from Toro Rosso driving underdog trying to prove his F1 worth to occupying one of the hottest seats in the sport with Red Bull. Ironically, Albon – who only drove an F1 car for the first time in February – was arguably at his most impressive at the beginning of the year, with his recovery drive in China a particular highlight. Still, the FIA’s Rookie of the Year laid some solid foundations in 2019, with you voting him your seventh best driver of the season.

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    2019 probably wasn’t quite the inaugural year with Renault Daniel Ricciardo had envisaged, with the Australian understandably disappointed that the team dropped from ‘best of the rest’ in 2018 to fifth behind customer team McLaren in 2019. Despite that, we witnessed some class performances from Ricciardo to remind us why he’s so highly thought of, with fourth place in Italy and a superb sixth in Austin the stand-outs. He’ll doubtless be hungry for more in 2020 – but still a decent season from Ricciardo, who beat Nico Hulkenberg 54 to 37 in the drivers’ standings to claim P8 in your rankings.

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    The narrative of Kimi Raikkonen’s season would have been much simpler if the year had ended after Hungary, when he sat eighth in the drivers’ standings: Kimi was thriving again in the smaller, Lotus-like atmosphere of Alfa Romeo, away from the pressure cooker atmosphere of Ferrari etc. etc. But then Alfa stumbled out of the blocks in the second half of the year, with Raikkonen scoring just once after Belgium – albeit with a fine fourth place in Brazil. Kimi therefore drops from P4 in the fan rankings after Hungary to P9 at the year end. Our judges, meanwhile, only ranked the Finn – who spent the majority of the season in the Power Rankings top 10 – the 15th best driver of 2019 after Abu Dhabi, the biggest fan/judge discrepancy of any driver on the grid.

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    Not even featured in the mid-season fan-voted rankings, largely thanks to his barren run of eight races from Spain to Hungary, Sergio Perez had arguably the biggest turnaround of any driver in the second half of the year. Having scored just 13 points by the summer break, Perez shovelled on 39 more from Belgium (where he finished sixth) onwards to climb from P16 to P10 in the drivers’ standings by the end of the year. The Mexican duly rounds out your top 10.

    Dropping out (since the mid-season Fan Power Rankings) and on the bubble

    George Russell and Daniil Kvyat are the two drivers who’ve fallen out of the fan-voted top 10 since the summer, dropping down to P13 and P14 respectively. Meanwhile, after probably the most dramatic season of anybody – from a Red Bull demotion to a first F1 podium with Toro Rosso – Pierre Gasly claimed the proper ‘on the bubble’ spot in P11, just 0.1 points behind Perez.