Insight: Who led the way in Formula 1 qualifying in 2019?

They say the best way of being measured in Formula 1 is the performance compared to your team-mate, and while points make prizes, one-lap displays are also taken into account.

Motorsport Week has crunched the numbers and taken a look at the respective qualifying performances within each team to see who held the edge, and by how much, across the course of the 2019 campaign.

NB: Overall pole positions in 2019: Leclerc 7, Bottas 5, Hamilton 5, Verstappen 2, Vettel 2

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 14 – 7 Valtteri Bottas

Average advantage: Hamilton, 0.122s per lap

Hamilton: Q3 21 | Q2 0 | Q1 0
Bottas: Q3 21 | Q2 0 | Q1 0

Lewis Hamilton wrapped up the title with two rounds to spare for a third straight season and held a one-lap advantage over Valtteri Bottas, out-qualifying his team-mate more often than not. But it was Hamilton’s consistency, rather than outright pace, that assisted his cause. Hamilton took only five pole positions, his lowest tally since 2011, and the least for a champion in the past decade. But he qualified inside the top three at each grand prix aside from Japan (fourth) and the US (fifth). Hamilton’s largest advantage was 0.655s, in Canada, with Bottas 0.634s ahead in Spain. On eight occasions the pair were split by less than a tenth in Q3, with Bottas taking pole honours in Britain by a season-closest 0.006s.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel 9 – 12 Charles Leclerc

Average advantage: Leclerc, 0.100s per lap | Monaco, Austria and Germany discounted

Vettel: Q3 20 | Q2 0 | Q1 1
Leclerc: Q3 20 | Q2 0 | Q1 1

One of the tantalising prospects heading into 2019 was the battle between four-time champion Vettel and new recruit Leclerc. Vettel held a sizeable advantage early on, out-qualifying Leclerc 5-1, with the run interrupted only by Leclerc’s Bahrain pole. Leclerc was hamstrung by his Azerbaijan crash, Q1 Monaco exit, and a realisation he had to work on Q3. Once he cracked Q3 he defeated Vettel for nine straight sessions, a streak that included five pole positions, four of them in a row. Vettel stopped the rot in Japan – his second pole of the campaign after Canada – and held the edge during the closing events, until Abu Dhabi, when Leclerc inched clear once more.

Leclerc took a grid-best seven pole positions

Red Bull

Max Verstappen 11 – 1 Pierre Gasly
Max Verstappen 8 – 1 Alexander Albon

Average advantage: Verstappen (over Gasly), 0.425s per lap | Verstappen (over Albon), 0.433s per lap | Azerbaijan, Belgium, Italy, Russia discounted

Verstappen: Q3 19 | Q2 1 | Q1 1
Gasly (12 races): Q3 9 | Q2 2 | Q1 1
Albon (9 races): Q3 7 | Q2 1 | Q1 1

It is fair to say that Max Verstappen comprehensively out-performed his team-mates in 2019. Verstappen crushed Pierre Gasly on a regular basis and was only beaten in qualifying by the Frenchman when a team misjudgement left Verstappen out in Q2 in Canada. On five occasions the gap was over half a second, reaching a season-largest 0.878s in Hungary, where Verstappen claimed his maiden pole position. Verstappen was fastest twice more, in Mexico and Brazil, and maintained his fine record, falling behind Albon only due to his Italy engine penalty.

McLaren

Carlos Sainz Jr. 10 – 11 Lando Norris

Average advantage: Sainz Jr., 0.042s per lap | Canada and Brazil excluded

Sainz: Q3 13 | Q2 5 | Q1 3
Norris: Q3 15 | Q2 5 | Q1 1

This one has been a closely-fought battle all season long, with Norris making a mockery of his inexperience and substantially inferior points position against ‘Sunday Sainz’. Only once has the gap between the pair exceeded half a second, in Singapore, though that discounts the anomalous Canada display in the interests of fairness. Sainz Jr. wrestled back the upper hand through the latter events to level the scores. In Abu Dhabi Norris edged Sainz Jr. by just 0.023s to win the intra-team head-to-head fight by the tightest of margins, but in terms of overall pure pace Sainz Jr. fractionally edged the scrap, just showing how close they were!

The McLaren drivers were exceptionally closely matched

Renault

Daniel Ricciardo 13 – 8 Nico Hulkenberg

Average advantage: Ricciardo, 0.074s per lap | Singapore excluded

Ricciardo: Q3 12 | Q2 8 | Q1 1
Hulkenberg: Q3 9 | Q2 9 | Q1 3

In their sole season as Renault team-mates Ricciardo claimed the authority early on, emerging as the faster driver for six events in a row after Hulkenberg’s marginal advantage on the Australian’s home ground. The nadir for Hulkenberg came in Azerbaijan, where he lacked feel all weekend, falling almost a second behind Ricciardo. It was more even thereafter, with Hulkenberg’s largest gap – almost half a second – coming in Hungary, where Ricciardo was hindered by a Q1 mess with Sergio Perez.

Racing Point

Sergio Perez 18 – 3 Lance Stroll

Average advantage: Perez, 0.200s per lap | United States excluded

Perez: Q3 4 | Q2 11 | Q1 6
Stroll: Q3 2 | Q2 5 | Q1 14

One-lap pace remained a relative weakness for Racing Point through much of the 2019 season, and it was regularly Sergio Perez who led its charge. On just three occasions did newcomer Lance Stroll get the better of his team-mate, and one of those opportunities was in Austin, where Perez already faced a pit lane start due to a weighbridge transgression. Stroll had the most Q1 knockouts of any midfielder though his relatively encouraging head-to-head lap time score was accounted for his two ‘wins’ being a substantial six-tenths in Italy and seven-tenths in Japan.

Perez shaded Stroll at Racing Point

Toro Rosso

Alexander Albon 6 – 6 Daniil Kvyat
Pierre Gasly 7 – 2 Daniil Kvyat

Average advantage: Albon 0.011s (over Kvyat) | China excluded

Average advantage: Gasly 0.211s (over Kvyat)

Kvyat: Q3 5 | Q2 10 | Q1 6
Albon: Q3 2 | Q2 7 | Q1 3
Gasly: Q3 4 | Q2 3 | Q1 2

Rookie Alexander Albon and the returning Daniil Kvyat were the closest-matched team-mates across the opening half of the campaign, with Albon holding a slender 0.011s advantage, discounting China, where he crashed in practice. In their final race as team-mates just 0.005s split them in Hungary. Pierre Gasly then stepped back into life at the junior team with ease and held a comfortable advantage over Kvyat. A near nine-tenths gap was the largest, in Singapore, while in Japan Gasly also saw off his team-mate with a sizeable advantage.

Alfa Romeo

Kimi Raikkonen 13 – 8 Antonio Giovinazzi

Average advantage: Raikkonen, 0.015s per lap | China and Belgium excluded

Perez: Q3 9 | Q2 7 | Q1 5
Giovinazzi: Q3 4 | Q2 13 | Q1 4

Veteran Raikkonen and full-time rookie Giovinazzi have been closely matched in qualifying this season, in terms of pure lap time the closest team-mates on the grid, with the Italian coming on stronger after a tough start. At over half of the races, in sessions where comparisons can be made, they have been separated by less than two-tenths of a second. The closest was in Italy, where Raikkonen lapped the high-speed venue just 0.002s faster in Q2, earning himself a spot in Q3 (though he later crashed!)

Raikkonen beat Giovinazzi but the experience vs youth battle was close

Haas

Kevin Magnussen 13 – 8 Romain Grosjean

Average advantage: Magnussen, 0.101s per lap | China and Japan excluded

Magnussen: Q3 9 | Q2 9 | Q1 3
Grosjean: Q3 9 | Q2 6 | Q1 6

Haas struggled in race trim this year but in qualifying it remained a potent threat. Both Magnussen and Grosjean made it through to the top 10 shootout on nine occasions, giving it one of the best records in the midfield of making the final session. Magnussen fell at the first hurdle on just three occasions. If only the one-lap pace could have been converted in race trim then Haas would have vaulted several spots in the standings. The Dane, as in 2018, was the faster of the Haas representatives, taking a standout fifth on the grid in Austria, before the inevitable race plummet.

Williams

George Russell 21 – 0 Robert Kubica

Average advantage: Russell, 0.565s per lap | Belgium and Japan excluded

Russell: Q3 0 | Q2 0 | Q1 21
Kubica: Q3 0 | Q2 0 | Q1 21

This was a comprehensive annihilation by Russell of the returning Kubica. The season-opening round in Australia set a trend that continued through to Abu Dhabi. At times the disparity between the racers was cavernous, over a second on five separate occasions. The closest battles came very early, with just 0.040s separating them in Bahrain, and only 0.029s in China. All of their head-to-heads came in Q1 due to Williams’ dismal pace, with the team failing to make it through to Q2 all season, coming closest in Hungary courtesy of Russell.