Whilst many of the F1 championship battles were concluded before the end of the season, there was still plenty to fight for between team-mates.
Some had secured their Formula One futures earlier in the year, whilst others still had a battle on their hands to prove that they still deserved a place in the sport.
So who managed to round off their campaign with a flourish, and which drivers were left begging for the season to end? Here are the verdicts for the final third of the season, to give us the final JAonF1 team-mate battle results for 2018.
Winning Driver: Stroll
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Stroll
As many predicted, Williams’ season was written off early in order to focus on development of the 2019 car, which they’ll be hoping will be a massive step forward.
Starting at the back for almost every race, Williams had to rely on mixing up their strategies in order to have any chance of claiming shock results. Their only successes came in Azerbaijan and Italy, where the Mercedes power unit helped drag them back into point-scoring contention.
It was in these races where Lance Stroll had the edge, beating team-mate Sergey Sirotkin on the scoreboard by six points to one.
The contest between them, however, was closer than the scores suggest. Sirotkin took the qualifying honours at Williams and performed well at Monaco, where he started five places ahead of his team-mate only to have his point-scoring chance undone by ten-second stop & go penalty for a team error. He drove admirably in Singapore too, but his race was hampered by a reckless Sergio Perez.
Despite knowing the reasons for why Stroll will end up in Force India next season, it’s no less disappointing to see two similarly-matched drivers have such contrasting fortunes for 2019; one will likely be promoted further up the grid, and the other finds himself out of Formula One.
Winning Driver: Gasly
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Gasly
In this particular battle, the point-scoring damage was done early, despite the pace difference between Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley reducing as the season progressed.
Gasly’s hefty points finishes in Bahrain, Monaco and Hungary meant that he scored the vast majority of Toro Rosso’s 33 points, and that the young Frenchman was certainly somebody who could take advantage of golden opportunities which fell his way – a good trait to have in Formula One which has ultimately earned him a promotion to Red Bull Racing.
By contrast, Hartley couldn’t take advantage of his impressive qualifying performances in Hungary or Japan, and ended the season with far too many ‘what ifs’ for Toro Rosso to consider keeping him on for another year.
Winning Driver: Leclerc
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Leclerc
The Swiss team are strong candidates for ‘most improved team of 2018′ and transformed themselves from one of the primary Q1 candidates to frequently challenging for double-Q3 results.
Charles Leclerc continued to lead the team in the closing stages of 2018, justifying to many why Ferrari have opted to take a chance on this young charger for next season. He led Sauber’s fight to beat Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, and came close to surpassing Force India in the closing stages.
The improved car also brought out better performances from Marcus Ericsson, who took his best-ever Formula One qualifying result with seventh at the Brazilian Grand Prix, an event which saw Sauber’s best team qualifying result since 2012.
Despite not enjoying the same level of success as Leclerc, Ericsson has landed on his feet with an IndyCar drive for 2019 alongside Sauber reserve driver duties, whilst the team have opted for an intriguing driver pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, who finally gets his first proper chance in Formula One.
Winning Driver: Perez
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Ocon
Despite Sergio Perez taking the only podium for a team other than Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull, the experienced Mexican was under considerable pressure from highly-regarded team-mate Esteban Ocon in 2019.
Ocon looked to be slowly recovering the ground he lost after failing to make the most of Force India’s quick pace in Baku. He scored big points over Perez in Monaco, Austria and Britain, and continued to assert his qualifying advantage.
He would go on to win the qualifying battle 16-5 – including a memorable P3 on Saturday in Belgium – but Perez’s stronger performances on the race days in the final third of the season meant he was the Force India driver to challenge for P7 in the drivers’ championship, and not Ocon.
Without a retirement at his home Grand Prix in Mexico, Perez would’ve scored points in the final six races of the season. He scored sixteen points over that period – bettered only by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc – which went some way to making up for his disastrous Singapore Grand Prix, where he tangled with Ocon on lap one and took out Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin mid-race. Ocon scored four in the same period, but was unfortunate to be disqualified from a further four points in the US Grand Prix due to breaking fuel flow limits.
Leading Driver: Alonso
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Alonso
Many expected that after a tough first season, Stoffel Vandoorne might show more signs of progression in his second full season in Formula One and put more of a challenge on Fernando Alonso in 2018.
However, the advantage held by the two-time champion only increased, and it was one of the most one-sided battles of the year.
He out-qualified Vandoorne in every single event this year, and went on to out-score him by fifty points to twelve, leading McLaren to a somewhat surprising sixth place in the constructors’ championship.
Vandoorne will not be retained at McLaren for 2019, but instead he will compete in Formula E for the Mercedes-affiliated HWA team when season five starts in December, along with securing a role as a simulator driver for the work Mercedes F1 team.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
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