It was a masterful performance in an entertaining and chaotic 2019 Brazil Grand Prix by Max Verstappen at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo to claim his third race victory of the season, the eighth win of his career after starting from pole position for the second time, and while Verstappen produced one of the great drives in his young career to date, others had problems with Valtteri Bottas retiring from the race with an oil pressure issues on Lap 52, both Ferrari’s taking each other out with arguably the most innocuous collision in Formula One history, and Lewis Hamilton making a rare mistake in taking out Alexander Albon from podium contention for what would have been Albon’s first podium, and after Hamilton’s five-second penalty after the race allowed both Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr. to claim their first podium’s in Formula One.
Now, the grid heads to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the 21st and final round of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton (387 points), despite finishing seventh in Brazil after the five-second penalty for the collision with Albon, still extended his lead over his Mercedes teammate Bottas (314 points) to 73 points, and now has the opportunity to not only match his race victory tally in 2014 and 2018, as well as score 400 points or more for the second-straight season, but also finish every race of a season for the second time in his career.
Hamilton will also have the opportunity to equal his own record of most consecutive points finishes in Formula One history with 33-straight points finishes. Hamilton, coming into this weekend, has finished 65 of his last 66 races inside the points, with his retirement at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix being the only race he hasn’t finished inside the points since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, where his engine and ultimately his world championship hopes went up in flames after leading the race comfortably!
Bottas will also be looking to finish his season on a high, and prove to himself that he has the capabilities to challenge Hamilton in 2020!
Verstappen (260 points) moves up into third in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda, and will be battling for third-place in the standings this weekend with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (249 points), who surrendered third in the world championship to Verstappen after his collision with teammate Sebastian Vettel in Brazil.
For Verstappen to finish third in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship:
1. If Leclerc wins the race (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish in second.
2. If Leclerc wins the race (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish third or higher (with or without the fastest lap).
3. If Leclerc finishes second (with or without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish sixth or higher (with or without the fastest lap).
4. If Leclerc finishes third (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish seventh or higher.
5. If Leclerc finishes third (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish eighth or higher (with or without the fastest lap).
6. If Leclerc finishes fourth (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish ninth or higher.
7. If Leclerc finishes fourth (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish 10th or higher (with the fastest lap if he finishes in 10th).
8. If Leclerc finishes fifth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).
Vettel (230 points) is fifth in the championship after losing his chance to finish third in the final standings after his race-ending collision with Leclerc in Brazil, but still has the opportunity to finish fourth in the world championship in front of his teammate if he can out-score Leclerc by 19/20 points in Abu Dhabi.
Behind the Top Five, there is the battle for sixth between Gasly (95 points) of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, Sainz (95 points) of McLaren-Renault, and Albon (84 points) of Red Bull Racing-Honda, while Daniel Ricciardo (54 points) from Renault, and Sergio Pérez (46 points) from Racing Point-BWT Mercedes complete the Top 10, with Lando Norris (45 points) from McLaren-Renault, Kimi Räikkönen (43 points) from Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Nico Hülkenberg (37 points) from Renault, and Daniil Kvyat (35 points) from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda still a realistic chance of finishing the championship inside the Top 10 in the standings.
Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (701 points) will finish in first, ahead of Ferrari (479 points) in second, Red Bull Racing-Honda (391 points) in third, and McLaren-Renault (140 points) in fourth. The battle remains open though for fifth between Renault (91 points) and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (83 points), as well as the fight for seventh between Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (67 points) and Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (57 points). Haas-Ferrari (28 points) will likely finish in ninth, ahead of Williams-Mercedes (one point), who will finish in 10th, barring a minor miracle!
So, who will win the final race of 2019?
I feel like at a circuit which typically offers little shocks or surprises, that a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton, especially given the race he had in Brazil, would be expected, but you cannot rule out Ferrari, or Max Verstappen from Red Bull Racing-Honda giving him a run for his money in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!