The final race of the 2019 season is upon us. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of a year featuring some of the best F1 races in recent memory.
But while the championship was decided a month ago, the Brazilian Grand Prix was a reminder that there are plenty of contenders waiting to knock Lewis Hamilton off the mountain — and one, in particular, showed himself again at Interlagos.
Previous rankings: Australian GP | Bahrain GP | Chinese GP | Azerbaijan GP | Spanish GP | Monaco GP | Canadian GP | French GP | Austrian GP | British GP | German GP | Hungarian GP | Belgian GP | Italian GP | Singapore GP | Russian GP | Japanese GP | Mexican GP | United States GP | Brazilian GP
1. Max Verstappen (Last week: 2)
Verstappen was sublime at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Dutchman has claimed many great wins in his young career, but this felt like the most significant, battling wheel-to-wheel on two occasions with Lewis Hamilton, the greatest driver of the modern era, and coming out on top. He’s seemed like a champion-in-waiting for a while now, and with each race like Brazil, the desire to see him given the car his talent deserves only intensifies.
Don’t be surprised if Verstappen puts an exclamation point on a stellar year with another good result in Abu Dhabi.
2. Lewis Hamilton (Last week: 1)
Hamilton made a rare mistake in Brazil, clumsily ramming Alexander Albon out of podium contention at the end. But Hamilton is a newly minted six-time world champion and goes into 2020 looking to equal or break Michael Schumacher records once thought unbeatable. He remains the benchmark everyone must emulate going into next year.
The next big things?
3. Carlos Sainz (Last week: 8)
A podium in Brazil was the perfect way to cap the breakout season of Sainz’s career. McLaren looks to have a real gem on their hands and he’s only going to keep getting better. He sits above Pierre Gasly as he did it from the back of the grid and has had the better calendar year.
4. Pierre Gasly (Last week: 12)
It’s been a roller-coaster 2020 for Gasly and he’s actually looked better at Toro Rosso than he did at Red Bull. Arguably, his podium in Brazil was proof he was promoted too early in the first place.
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Last week: 3)
An error ruined the prospect of Ricciardo toasting his first champagne-soaked boot in Renault colours, but the Australian continues to perform at a high level.
6. Alexander Albon (Last week: 4)
Unlucky not to have a maiden podium to his name, but he continues to accumulate credit in the bank with Red Bull bosses, and we know how valuable that is to a driver long-term.
The Power Ranking midfield
7. Lando Norris (Last week: 9)
He might not be the best McLaren driver of the year, but Norris has every reason to be pleased with his rookie campaign. He visited the podium to celebrate with Sainz in Brazil, but I don’t think it will be long before he’s up there for real himself.
8. Antonio Giovinazzi (Last week: 13)
He finished behind Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Brazil, but it was the best result of his F1 career and came two weeks after news of a contract extension for 2020.
9. Sergio Perez (Last week: 10)
The king of being there on the grid without always being noticed, Perez continues to be solid; he has scored points in seven of the last eight races.
10. George Russell (Last week: 11)
The future looks bright for Russell, and he has made the best of a bad situation throughout the year.
11. Kimi Raikkonen (Last week: 17)
The Iceman scored a strong fourth position at Interlagos, propping him up above two of the biggest fallers on the list …
On the naughty step
12. Charles Leclerc (Last week: 5)
13. Sebastian Vettel (Last week: 6)
The Ferrari pair’s embarrassing clash in the closing laps of the race in Brazil will have been dissected at the team’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy, in the week and a half since. While Vettel looked more to blame, Leclerc was not completely without fault. However you slice it, teammates shouldn’t be colliding like that, especially when a late charge through the field for a win was still possible.
Ferrari has had a roller-coaster year, but the increasingly tense Leclerc/Vettel relationship is like a cloud hanging over the team going into the offseason. Until we know which driver team boss Mattia Binotto sided with, assuming he even sided with either of them, it’s hard to put one higher up the list or too far removed from the other. Expect both to be in a contrite, diplomatic mood throughout the build-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Can’t wait for the end of the season
14. Valtteri Bottas (Last week: 7)
An engine failure at the Brazilian GP, where he was running off the pace of Lewis Hamilton, seemed to sum up Bottas’ 2019 quite well. One more race before he can try to reset his focus for a crucial 2020 season.
15. Daniil Kvyat (Last week: 15)
He was never going to replicate the highs of the German Grand Prix in this final stretch.
16. Kevin Magnussen (Last week: 16)
Haas can’t wait for the winter break. Magnussen might not be sad to see the back of the team’s 2019 car when he leaves Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit.
17. Lance Stroll (Last week: 14)
Continues to get shown up by Racing Point teammate Sergio Perez.
18. Romain Grosjean (Last week: 18)
Copy and paste from teammate Magnussen above.
19. Robert Kubica (Last week: 19)
20. Nico Hulkenberg (Last week: 20)
You know the story now — both are entering what is almost certainly their last race in F1. Both carry a huge “what might have been” story with them for very different reasons. For Kubica, it’s a story about what he could have achieved were it not for the 2011 rally crash that derailed his F1 career; for Hulkenberg, it is still baffling that a driver who tore up the junior categories is leaving with the record of most race starts without a podium finish.