After another thrilling season of Formula One closes and we reach the new year we take a look at who were the biggest performers of the 2018 grid. We will consider their on track results, comparisons to teammate and how they’ve performed despite any bad luck or car performance that have affected them.
10. Esteban Ocon
Competing in his second full F1 season and his second with Force India it was important that he came out ahead of his highly regarded teammate Sergio Perez. The Mercedes junior would endure a car that was underfunded and lacking downforce in the first part of the season, despite this he would finish an impressive 6th in Monaco but would throw away a potential podium in Baku in a first lap collision with Raikkonen.
Esteban would out-qualify his teammate 16-5 but would have to contend with much speculation about his future for the second half of the season with Force India under new ownership. Even though he finished behind Perez in the championship he was the faster of the two Force India drivers but mistakes like his unnecessary collision with Verstappen in Brazil have meant he hasn’t featured higher on this list.
Best Finish: 6th/Championship Position: 12th/Points: 49
9. Nico Hulkenberg
After a very strong first season with Renault Hulkenberg would face a bigger challenge with new teammate Carlos Sainz. Nico would eventually come out on top and would prove why he was once considered by Ferrari as a potential driver. Hulkenberg suffered the bulk of the Renault unreliability with 8 retirements but uncharacteristic mistakes in Spa and Abu Dhabi saw Nico throw away points.
A season best finish of 5th at his home race in Germany would help see him to finish best of the rest in the championship but will do well to beat that when Daniel Ricciardo joins the team in 2019.
Best Finish: 5th/Championship Position: 7th/Points: 69
8. Pierre Gasly
There were high hopes for the Toro Rosso-Honda partnership in 2018 but Pierre Gasly would almost single-handily save their season. Honda would treat the 2018 season as an experimental one, there would be regular changes to the power units which would result in regular grid penalties but when everything came together Pierre delivered.
Bahrain, Monaco and Hungary would be where we would see the best from Gasly; scoring big points in these races would save Toro Rosso’s blushes as they would struggle for the best part of the season and Hartley had no luck and struggled more than Pierre to get the best out of the car. Gasly now faces the biggest challenge of his career in 2019, partnering Max Verstappen in a front running car, Pierre will need to find consistency if he wants to match the Dutchman.
Best Finish: 4th/Championship Position: 15th/Points: 29
7. Kimi Raikkonen
2018 would be Raikkonen’s strongest season with Ferrari since his return to the team in 2014 but it would in turn be his last. 12 podiums, 1 pole position and a supreme victory in the USA would see Raikkonen back on form and a real match for Vettel come race day. Qualifying would be his Achilles heel with mistakes in Q3 costing Raikkonen chances of front row positions. Raikkonen will relish a first challenge at Sauber next season and we will surely see some stand out performances from the popular Finn.
Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 3rd/Points: 251
6. Sebastian Vettel
After the defeat that Vettel suffered in last season courtesy of reliability issues and on track mistakes from Vettel 2018 would need to see a more slick operation to come out on top.
2018 was arguably worse than 2017, the beginning part of the season was strong despite far from ideal results in China and Baku but incidents during wheel-to-wheel combat would characterise Vettel’s season. Germany would signal Vettel’s downfall in 2018 with an unforced error seeing him throw away an almost certain victory but spins after close quarters combat in Italy, Japan and the USA would see Vettel once again finish the season second best. Strategy errors by the team did not help but these combat errors would cost him the most. Strong qualifying pace and exceptional victories in the first half of the season would show what could have been for the German and will need to look at improving his race craft in 2019.
Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 2nd/Points: 320
5. Daniel Ricciardo
The start of 2018 looked like it could be Ricciardo’s year, not necessarily for the championship but as a regular contender for podiums and victories. China would demonstrate why Ricciardo is the undisputed best overtaker on the grid while Monaco would show his mental strength as he wrangled his sick Red Bull to victory.
After Canada Ricciardo would find himself behind his teammate more regularly than expected but poor reliability from his car would all but wreck his season. 8 retirements and many grid penalties would prevent Ricciardo from reaching the podium again in 2018 but we would still see flashes of his speed in Japan and Mexico but it was far from the send off he wanted in his Red Bull career.
Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 6th/Points: 170
4. Max Verstappen
For the first time in his career Verstappen managed to beat Ricciardo across an entire season and claim two commanding victories on his way but it wasn’t the smoothest start to the season. Mistakes in the first 6 races would leave many calling for Max to change his approach, he would bounce back in Canada and from then on find himself regularly on the podium.
Max still isn’t yet the finished article and would need to play it safely if he wants to challenge for the title next year as unnecessary mistakes like his collision with a lapped Ocon in Brazil cost him victory and he can ill-afford to do that in a championship fight. Overall 2018 saw a smarter and faster Verstappen and if the Red Bull-Honda partnership flourishes then we will see him soon crowned as world champion.
Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 4th/Points: 249
3. Charles Leclerc
It is very seldom that a driver with just 1 seasons experience would find themselves a Ferrari driver but that is the position that Charles Leclerc finds himself in for 2019. An impressive rookie season last year in Formula 2 where he took the title in dominant fashion was backed up by a very strong rookie campaign in Formula One.
The opening first 3 races would see Charles struggle as he found the leap to Formula One a bigger challenge than expected but quickly turned things around. 6th place in Baku would be the turning point and Charles would be a regular points contender in a Sauber going from strength to strength. Charles would hustle against Fernando Alonso on a regular basis and would often impress the paddock putting in performances not fit for the car he was driving, he was as consistent as he was quick and it’s easy to see why he is a Ferrari driver for 2019.
Best Finish: 6th/Championship Position: 13th/Points: 39
2. Fernando Alonso
10 points in the final 10 races of the season do not sound like the results of someone ranked as the 2nd best driver of 2018 but Fernando Alonso once again proved why he is one of sports greatest ever. Despite a McLaren that lacked straight line speed as well as downforce Fernando was one of the stand out drivers of the season. He would out-qualify his highly rated if not out of sorts teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in every race of the season and would score points even when the car wasn’t fast enough.
Fernando would once again show his never say die attitude in Baku wrangling his heavily damaged car back to the pits and eventually to 7th position. Updates did not come regularly to the McLaren and would result in Alonso finding the points further out of reach but that did not stop Alonso performing at his peak if not being the voice of pessimism on team radio. It’s a shame to see Fernando bow out of Formula One at the end of the season as he embarks on his quest for the triple crown but I’m sure we will see him return to win that elusive 3rd word title.
Best Finish: 5th/Championship Position: 11th/Points: 50
1. Lewis Hamilton
11 victories and a 5th world championship would see Lewis Hamilton on his best ever form, he had to overcome an early season slump and a points deficit to Sebastian Vettel but Hamilton would eventually win the title early in Mexico. While rival Vettel would make on track errors Hamilton kept his nose clean picking up podium positions when he could not win.
Hamilton would dominate his teammate forcing Mercedes to put their full support behind the Brit, it’s difficult to say what Lewis Hamilton did well this season as this level of performance is what we have come to expect from Hamilton as he continually raises the bar in a very competitive Formula One grid.
Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 1st/Points: 408
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