Motorsport review 2019: Lewis Hamilton to Ott Tanak
We take a look back at the biggest motorsport moments on track around the world in 2019
Motorsport has been experimenting with different calendar formats and new markets in recent years. Both Formula E and the World Endurance Championship are now running to an autumn-to-summer schedule, and other series don’t wrap up until well into November and even December, which makes racing a year-round affair these days.
There’s no shortage of great racing to be found in various series, and even Lewis Hamilton’s dominant run to a sixth F1 title was not without some occasional flashes of interest as the sport’s next big things, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, began to assert themselves.
Scroll down for our full rundown of what happened in the major series over the last 12 months...
Hamilton sees off challenges for sixth title
Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton clinched his sixth F1 world title in dominant fashion this season, racking up 413 points to his team-mate and closest rival Valtteri Bottas’ 326. There were, however, some highly entertaining races during the year, as the fortunes of the other two ‘Big Three’ teams, Red Bull and Ferrari, waxed and waned.
Hamilton and Bottas emerged from the first four races with two wins and two seconds apiece, and for the first time since he joined the team, it looked like the Finn was about to put up a proper championship challenge to his team-mate. But a run of victories in Spain, Monaco, Canada and France enabled Hamilton to gradually pull away, and he never looked back.
At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc underlined his speed and maturity with seven pole positions and two race wins, but he missed some other chances as the team continued to suffer strategic and tactical slip-ups.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the podium three times as the team’s Honda partnership began to bear fruit, but there continued to be flashes of immature arrogance from the Dutchman, suggesting Leclerc is currently closer to being ‘the full package’.
Sebastian Vettel was the only other driver to take a race win in 2019, with a lone triumph in Singapore. He brushed off suggestions of retirement at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, but clearly has some thinking to do over the winter if he’s to present any sort of a challenge to Leclerc in 2020.
In the midfield, McLaren completed a remarkable turnaround from the misery of its Honda years by finishing ‘best of the rest’: fourth in the constructor’s championship. A near-perfect season from Carlos Sainz and an impressive rookie campaign by Lando Norris were instrumental in securing this result.
Renault, Toro Rosso and Racing Point were a little further back in fifth, sixth and seventh, Alfa Romeo had a lonely run to eighth, and Haas underperformed badly to wind up ninth on just 28 points. Williams never looked like moving off the back of the grid all season, scoring just a single point, but Briton George Russell still impressed in difficult circumstances.
Vergne does the double for DS
The fifth season of Formula E wrapped up in New York back in July, with DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne being crowned the electric single-seater series’ first-ever two-time champion, following on from his triumph in the 2017-18 season. The former Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver didn’t win a race until round six at Sanya in China this time around, but followed that with victories in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Bern, Switzerland, to edge ahead of his closest challenger (and Formula 1 contemporary), Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi, in the final standings.
This was one of the most competitive Formula E seasons to date, with eight different drivers from seven different teams winning the first eight rounds as the second-generation car made its debut. Season six is already under way, with the opener at Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, having taken place at the end of November.
Le Mans wins and a title for Toyota
The 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours in June marked the conclusion of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s ‘Super Season’, which had run from May 2018 as the series shifted from a traditional annual calendar to an autumn-to-summer schedule similar to Formula E’s.
With no factory opposition, Toyota was the dominant force in the top LMP1 category across the season, with the exception of the Silverstone round in August 2018, when Rebellion Racing inherited the win after a post-race penalty for the Japanese manufacturer.
Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima triumphed in both editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours that formed part of this season, with Alonso subsequently calling time on his sportscar endeavours to focus on the Dakar Rally and a return to IndyCar.
Hansen just beats Bakkerud
World Rallycross took a step back to its privateer roots this season, as manufacturers Peugeot, VW and Audi left in the wake of a failed attempt to switch the series to electric power. That didn’t affect the competition on track, and the final result couldn’t have been closer.
Timmy Hansen, driving a Peugeot for his family team, and Andreas Bakkerud, in a Monster Energy-backed Audi S1, were tied on points after the final round in South Africa, with Hansen taking the title on countback by virtue of having won four times to Bakkerud’s one.
Hansen’s brother Kevin, along with Niclas Gronholm, the Russian Timur Timerzyanov and Swedes Oliver and Sebastian Eriksson, also topped the podium during the year, with Kevin Hansen and Gronholm finishing third and fourth in the final drivers’ points standings
Tanak on top for Toyota as Citroen bows out
For the first time since 2003, the World Rally Championship was not won by a Frenchman named Sebastien. Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in his tenth year of WRC competition, strung together an impressive campaign in his Toyota Yaris WRC that included victories in Sweden, Chile, Portugal, Finland, Germany and Wales, as well as a further three podium finishes to take him beyond the reach of his closest challenger, Hyundai team leader Thierry Neuville, who won in Corsica, Argentina and Spain.
Six-time champion Sebastien Ogier flattered his Citroen C3 WRC to take third in the championship, tasting victory in Monaco, Mexico and Turkey, while the season ended on a sombre note with the cancellation of the final round, Rally Australia, because of the enormous bushfires affecting New South Wales. This blow was shortly followed by the announcement that Citroen would not be back for 2020 after Ogier’s decision to leave for Toyota, where he’ll join forces with young guns Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera.
Rast takes his second title after series comes back from the brink
Germany’s DTM touring-car series came perilously close to not having a 2019 season at all, following Mercedes’ pull-out to focus on its efforts in Formula E. Of the two remaining manufacturers, Audi in particular was adamant that it would also exit if a replacement couldn’t be found.
A solution was reached in the form of the privately run R-Motorsport Aston Martins, with engines developed by former Mercedes partner HWA. In the end, the four Swiss-backed cars were well off the pace and Audi generally had the upper hand over BMW at the front of the field.
Its star driver Rene Rast took his second title in the series following his triumph as a rookie back in 2017. Nico Mueller finished second and the 2014 and 2016 champion Marco Wittmann was the highest-placed BMW runner in third.
Newgarden takes second title; Pagenaud wins 500
The biggest news story of the 2019 IndyCar season happened shortly after the last race was run, when it was announced that hugely successful team owner Roger Penske would become the new owner of the series and the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway venue, taking over from the Hulman-George family after nearly 75 years.
On track, it was American Josef Newgarden, driving for Penske, who won four times on his way to clinching the title for the second time, backing up his 2017 triumph for the same team. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (another Penske driver) won the Indy 500 in May and took another two victories on his way to second in the overall standings. The 2019 Indy 500 was also notable for a shambolic second attempt at victory by McLaren and Fernando Alonso, who failed to qualify.
World Touring Cars
Four-way title showdown in prospect at Malaysian finale
The 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) had yet to conclude as Auto Express went to press, with the final round set for the Sepang track in Malaysia on 15 December.
Going into the finale, Hungary’s Norbert Michelisz, driving for Hyundai, heads the drivers’ standings on 316 points to Honda man Esteban Guerreri’s 308. Lynk & Co’s Yvan Muller is third on 306 points, while Thed Bjork is the outside shot in fourth on 288. Muller is coming off a double victory in Macau, while Michelisz has won in Japan, China, Portugal and Germany.
British Touring Cars
BMW ace Turkington matches Andy Rouse's four titles
Northern Ireland’s Colin Turkington has been a consistent presence at the sharp end of touring-car grids since his debut in the early 2000s. This year, he solidified his status as one of the discipline’s all-time greats by taking his fourth BTCC title, adding to triumphs in 2009, 2014 and 2018, and becoming the first to match the achievement of 1975, 1983, 1984 and 1985 champion Andy Rouse. Turkington’s BMW team-mate Andrew Jordan finished in second, two points behind; 13 drivers won at least once during the season.
What was your favourite motorsport moment of 2019? Tell us in the comments below...
Review of the Year 2019
• Best car news stories of 2019• Best car reviews of 2019• Best car group tests of 2019• Best long-term tests of 2019• Best motoring features of 2019• Best car videos of 2019• Best motorsport stories of 2019• Our highlights of 2019