As the 2019 Formula 1 season zooms off this weekend in Melbourne, Australia, we preview the season and make our predictions for the Championship.
SECOND SEASON FOR CHASE CAREY, ROSS BRAWN AND CO.
Formula 1 enters its second year of the post-Bernie Ecclestone era after its acquisition by Liberty Media for $4.4bn. Chairman Chase Carey promised lots of changes as they aimed to make the sport more appealing to the young. Lots of positive changes has been seen on F1’s social media presence but Liberty still has the serious task of reaching a settlement with the teams for new regulations for 2021.
2019 RULES AND REGULATIONS
The 2019 cars, compared to 2018 cars have smaller barge boards and higher, wider, simpler wing, all this to enable closer racing and overtaking. The brake ducts are now simpler to reduce aerodynamic exploitation, the cars now spot two additional rear lights to increase visibility of cars in poor weather.
Then, there has been a change of the Pirelli tyres names and colours. Now each Grand Prix will feature simply a white-marked hard tyre, a yellow-marked medium, and a red-marked soft. However, the actual compounds used for those three designations will change depending on the circuit, with Pirelli having five to choose from – C1 being the hardest, C5 the softest.
NEW DRIVER LINE-UPS AND NAME CHANGES
Just two teams retained their 2018 driver line-up as four rookies are on this year’s grid; and based on pre-season testing results, it surely would be another exciting season with lots of surprises, especially in the middle of the field.
Scuderia Ferrari once again led in testing in Barcelona with new principal Mattia Binotto and a new driver lineup with Charles Leclerc replacing Kimi Raikkonen to partner 4-time champ Sebastian Vettel. They hope to banish their demons of development issues and poor strategies this season as they wrestle current champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. Probably sandbagging all through testing, the Brackley-based team showed their stuff on an excellent last test day with the same driver lineup of 2018: current and 5-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. They are still the team to beat.
Team Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is excited with their Honda engines for now as they push to be more than just no. 3 in the Big-3. It is hoped the petulant Max Verstappen gets along fine with Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement.
Obviously benefitting from its Ferrari partnership, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has had a solid pre-season. The second team retaining the same driver line-up from last season, they hope to better their sensational rookie season and beat Renault to top the middle pack.
Daniel Ricciardo replaced Carlos Sainz in Renault F1 Team but he would find strong competition for number 1 driver status in Nico Hulkenberg. The line-up has the potential to go past Haas and give Red Bull headaches on race days.
Alfa Romeo Racing has been on the rise since last season, courtesy of a stronger Ferrari alliance and financial support from Alfa Romeo with Sauber Motorsport AG still operating the team. Kimi Raikkonen’s arrival to partner rookie Antonio Giovinazzi has started yielding fruits, judging from their good outing in Barcelona. The Iceman gives the Swiss team a boost to better last season’s 8th position.
The return of Daniil Kyvaat to partner rookie Alexander Albon in a new line-up for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda may translate to the Red Bull B-Team having a slow start to the season. SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team may not fare any better but Sergio Perez should surely bring the needed points home while Lance Stroll will try to prove a point.
McLaren F1 Team’s switch to Renault engine last season took them back to the midfield but they wanted more. With a completely new driver lineup, Carlos Sainz is expected to emulate idol Fernando Alonso and lead the charge for a McLaren renaissance with rookie Lando Norris backing him up.
ROKiT Williams Racing has had a very rough start to the season after a disappointing 2018. Starting practice two days late, car parts coming late, it’s going to be another poor season for the UK-based outfit. The return of Robert Kubica to full F1 racing after seven years endears the team to all. The Pole will be partnering rookie George Russell to save the team from another bottom-place finish.
QUESTIONS SEEKING ANSWERS
- Will Vettel equal Hamilton’s five titles or Hamilton get his sixth?
- Will LeClerc be allowed to race teammate Vettel?
- Will Bottas rise above the wingman tag and challenge Hamilton?
- Will Haas and Renault challenge Red Bull for a top 3 finish?
- Will the Honda engines deliver for Red Bull?
- Will Kubica prove that his return to F1 was well-deserved?
- Will Verstappen get along with Gasly?
- Did Alfa Romeo flatter to deceive in pre-season?
- Will a rookie pull a Leclerc?
- Will Ferrari banish their reliability woes of 2017 and 2018 to beat Mercedes?
All these, and more, we will find out in Melbourne this weekend.
On a sad note, we remember the irreplaceable race director Charlie Whiting whose death on the eve of the new season, following a pulmonary embolism in Melbourne, shocked the F1 universe. His safety policies, which he policed personally, have saved lots of lives in F1. Our thoughts are with his family.
Formula One will surely give Charlie a show this weekend.
We can’t wait!
By Osy Oby Ernesto