Formula 1, 2019. Oh yes, bring it on. Every year there are driver or regulation changes making us salivate at the prospect of it being a golden year for F1. There are regulation changes designed to encourage overtaking particularly in the front wing area but for the most part, it’s the driver changes and with it potential fireworks we are hoping will materialise.
Some teams didn’t have their car ready or sponsors sorted before preseason testing, while others preferred to reveal only digital renders. Not so Mercedes Benz, sticking the middle finger up in defiance of secrecy while stoically revealing their W10 to the world in all its glory during their allocated filming day. Now that’s confidence. Despite a new engine, they still have to be the team to beat.
Lewis Hamilton looks relaxed but as motivated as ever meaning the rest of the field will have to bring something special. He is so dialled in to the Mercedes Benz team, the car, and winning he will be difficult to usurp from the top step.
Hopefully Valtteri Bottas has found that something special so we can see Lewis pushed a little bit. Surely this is the Fin’s last chance to impress? Doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong at Mercedes Benz but he does need to be closer to Lewis.
Putting a 2nd year driver in their car is not the Ferrari way, but with the talent of Charles LeClerc and the wishes of the departed Sergio Marchionne the rookie has the chance of a lifetime. Vettel seems to already be on the back foot claiming they need to ‘work together’ yet recently the team have outwardly spoken through new team principal Mattia Binotto that Sebastian will get preferential treatment as early as the first part of the season. Has Seb been rallying management behind the scenes? It might not matter if he consistently places behind his teammate. It will be fascinating to see how the ‘new’ Ferrari team operate and bring the fight to Mercedes Benz.
Verstappen says the RB15 brought a smile to his face already during a filming day but read into that what you will. The big question is already around the Honda engine and whether or not it will perform to Red Bull’s (and Adrian Newey’s) exacting standards, reliably.
The other question is around how Pierre Gasly will perform. It’s hard to buy into the downplay of expectations by Christian Horner and co unless they see a clear division between Gasly and Verstappen. Red Bull are impatient and surely won’t give Gasly too much grace. I’m hoping the Frenchman can stick it to Verstappen for the interest of all. It will be an intriguing match up. Verstappen meanwhile will push like nothing else to unsettle the other ‘big two’ as he successfully did in the second half of 2018. If the Honda engine turns out to be a bit of a dud either in performance or reliability, Max’s response will be popcorn worthy.
Rich Energy who? Plenty of discussion around the title sponsor and their legitimacy but Haas don’t seem to be worried. Probably one of the best liveried cars so far for 2019, the Haas team have been slightly bullish in their confidence. Here’s hoping they produce a car that hushes the doubters and enables the drivers to shine. Both drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have been with the team for some time adding much needed stability but both will need to have a solid year without dropping pace or crashing into random things, randomly.
With a new title sponsor ROKiT, and a new driver line up of George Russell and Robert Kubica, Williams are hoping these changes and internal reshuffles will be enough to pull them off the bottom of the barrel. Showing a 2018 car at launch with new sponsor graphics is not exactly confidence inspiring, neither is missing the first couple of days of testing. Adding more salt into the wound is the rumour Paddy Lowe may be ejected from the team if the FW42 falls short of targets.
The drivers are uniquely positioned. Russell will be getting himself acclimatised with zero expectation while Kubica will be focused on development by bringing his brilliant engineering nous to the role. Hopefully these two can drag poor old Williams up out of the gutters.
Out with the old, in with the…oh wait. Welcome back Daniil Kvyat. Toro Rosso’s STR14 challenger sees a continued use of Honda engines, much of it shared with senior team, Red Bull. Because of this, Torro Rosso are usually right in the thick of things. Quite how Alexander Albon delivers as a driver is unknown but he will have a stern test against Kvyat who previously gave Daniel Ricciardo a solid run for his money at Red Bull before two unfortunate mistakes resulted in a demotion to Torro Rosso, sapping all of his confidence. But Daniil is back, and needs to throw everything at it while keeping it clean on track. And avoid Sebastian Vettel.
Hopefully racing points, plural. Is Racing Point the most despised team on the grid from a fan point of view? There certainly isn’t much (social media) love for Stroll Jr or Sr but they’ve saved a team from oblivion and kept one of the best drivers on the grid in the team in Sergio Perez. Lance is quick, make no mistake, and the team are bullish about their intentions but they need to deliver week in and week out. They’ll certainly get into the midfield scrap and who knows who else they can unsettle.
Bonjour Daniel! Everyone’s keen to see how Ricciardo will get on at Renault but to be honest, there probably won’t be many fireworks initially. Despite Renault being a factory team and not having to supply ‘that other team’ with engines, they are still heavily focused on development keeping their chances realistic but hopeful. And Nico Hulkenberg. The guy is fast and hopefully the two drivers can push each other up the grid and not off the track. Renault have so far been quietly confident their new spec engine will deliver the power needed to get that little bit closer to the front. But an engine is one thing, a top chassis is another. Just ask McLaren…
So which team with the rich and storied F1 history will you be rooting for in 2019? Williams or McLaren? McLaren have had a rough time of it the past few years first with Honda, then being exposed through chassis deficiencies after throwing a Renault engine in the back. Oops.
But 2019 could be exciting. Much like Ricciardo at Renault, Sainz goes to McLaren hoping to build into something that can deliver a Drivers Championship down the line. The MCL34 dipped in orange and blue has the minds of James Key and Andreas Seidl behind it, so it could spell trouble for other midfielders and be the start of a McLaren resurgence. Please. Lando Norris joins the team as a rookie but will need to be close to Sainz for pace quick smart.
Ciao! Gone is the Sauber name, and with it a great history, but it’s carried on through the Alfa Romeo name, arguably a more historic and victorious name at that. Last season Charles LeClerc ignited the team and F1 with his performances and this season with the inclusion of Kimi Raikkonen could be equally mesmerising. Something tells me he will perform better at Alfa Romeo that his entire time at Ferrari (take two). Without the Ferrari BS and zero pressure he will most likely elevate his performance.
At least Alfa Romeo have respected the Sauber history by keeping the chassis naming tradition (C38).
So which driver is going to come out on top and win the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship? Which driver is going to be top rookie? Which driver or what team will be the biggest disappointment? Who will come out of nowhere and be a star?