F1 Season Preview

By Archie Griggs

The 2019 Formula 1 season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting campaigns of racing in the sport’s recent history. With new rule changes meaning the cars will be flying round the tracks faster than ever, plus a number of switches in the driver line-up, the new season promises to be a cracker.

Lewis Hamilton looking to retain the drivers’ championship for a third consecutive year. However, the man from Stevenage will face a fight for the title; Sebastian Vettel will be hunting a first championship since his move to Ferrari in 2015, and Mercedes are also likely to have one eye on Red Bull, who will be looking to put the pressure on the top two teams following their switch to Honda power units.

Let’s take a look at the contenders for 2019. Who will have a stellar season and will be left in the pits following the final race at Abu Dhabi.

MERCEDES

The Silver Arrows are in a fantastic position going into the new season, retaining Hamilton and Valterri Bottas from last campaign. Bottas will be aiming to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish and establish himself as a genuine contender for the world title. Last the 29-year-old played second fiddle to Hamilton without putting up much of a fight, and he knows he needs to improve if he is to retain his seat for 2020 and beyond. But the car is good, and with both drivers within three-tenths of pacesetter Vettel in pre-season testing, Mercedes look a strong bet to finish top of the tree once again.

FERRARI

The Italian constructor has not masterminded a championship-winning campaign for eleven years, or seen one of its racers lift the drivers’ title since 2007, but will be confident that they can end their dry streak in 2019. Vettel, the only driver to come within 100 points of Hamilton last year, retains his seat, along with 21-year-old Charles Leclerc, who joins the Prancing Horse from Alfa Romeo Sauber, where he enjoyed a fantastic first season in the sport in 2018. The Monaco native finished in the points on ten occasions and impressed with his formidable ability despite his tender years, earning a move to Ferrari, and will feel that he can compete with his more experienced teammate in what is arguably the fastest car on the grid. Ferrari have yet another good chance to topple Mercedes this campaign, and if both drivers can perform and maintain consistency, the battle between Vettel and Leclerc could be the story of the season.

RED BULL

Team principal Christian Horner will be hoping for a strong debut campaign from new recruit Pierre Gasly as they look to fill the hole left by Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise exit. The Frenchman has been promoted from junior team Toro Rosso after showing promise in 2018, and will be looking to pile the pressure on Max Verstappen and establish himself as a threat to his teammate. After struggling on occasion last season, Verstappen has a chance to lead from the front this time out and fly the flag for Red Bull as they seek to bridge the gap between themselves and the top two teams. And with the new Honda engines looking promising in pre-season, there is an air of optimism around the camp as the Milton Keynes-based team looks to bring back the glory days of the early 2010s in 2019.

RENAULT

Finishing as the ‘best of the rest’ last time out as they took fourth place in the constructors’ championship, Renault will be confident of another solid season this year. New recruit Daniel Ricciardo, having joined from Red Bull in a big-money deal worth a reported £27m a year, will be the team’s main focus, and he will be eager to make an impression with his new team right from the off at his home race in Australia, where no native has ever finished on the podium since it became a championship round in 1985. Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg retains his seat for 2019, and will be looking forward to battling his new team-mate as the French outfit looks to pull away from the midfield and trouble the top three.

HAAS

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will remain behind the wheel for the US-based team this season, as they look to build on an interesting 2018 campaign which produced a fifth-place finish in the constructors’ championship. Consistency will be key to the team’s successes or failures in 2019, with Grosjean’s five retirements last year costing valuable points. It seemed as if the experienced French driver had managed to find some form at the back end of last season, rounding off with two top-ten finishes, and it will be a massive boost for Haas if he can carry this over. But 2019 is likely to be another season of battling for that coveted fourth place in the constructors’ championship, and if they can push Renault all the way we may see some fierce and exciting racing from the American outfit.

MCLAREN

Despite losing Fernando Alonso at the end of last season, there is plenty of reason for McLaren to be optimistic. They boast an all-new driver line-up, with Carlos Sainz making the switch from Renault, and rookie Lando Norris looking to burst onto the scene with style in the MCL34 after impressing in Formula 2 last season. And after a decent showing in pre-season testing, it seems as if McLaren will be at least competitive in the midfield this season, but they will need to iron out any lingering issues from last year’s lacklustre campaign in order to be successful. It may be that 2019 is a season of transition for the Woking-based team, as they look to improve in their second season with Renault power and begin their climb back towards the right end of the table.

RACING POINT

With a chance to start afresh as they embark on their first full season since being taken over by billionaire Lawrence Stroll, Racing Point will be aiming to enjoy a decent year in the middle of the field. However, there are a lot of question marks hanging over the team as the new campaign approaches, including the potential impact of new driver Lance Stroll. The young Canadian, son of team owner Lawrence, moves from last year’s bottom team Williams after a rather uninspiring 18th-placed finish in the drivers’ championship, but will be hoping to make a mark on his new team with a better car this time around. Racing Point will be looking to bounce back from a difficult campaign in 2018 which brought about administration and a name change, but new owners with deeper pockets than ever before has the potential to be a recipe for success.

ALFA ROMEO

Like McLaren, Alfa Romeo will also field an all-new driver pairing in 2019, with racing legend Kimi Raikkonen returning to the Swiss-based outfit to drive alongside Antonio Giovinazzi, who will be competing in his first full season of F1. The 25-year-old Italian hopeful will be determined to prove himself in the sport after his most recent race ended in disaster; he retired early during the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix while racing as a stand-in for Sauber, rounding off a crash-filled weekend. Meanwhile, in Raikkonen they have a driver with championship-winning experience which could prove vital to their season and Giovinazzi’s development as Alfa Romeo aim to better last campaign’s eighth-placed finish.

TORO ROSSO

Red Bull’s junior team will be cautiously optimistic about the new season after strong performances in pre-season testing. They were the third fastest team overall at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, behind only Ferrari and Mercedes, and will be looking to carry their form into the new season with a new-look driver line-up. Daniil Kyvat returns to the team following Brendon Hartley’s release at the end of 2018, with rookie Alexander Albon also looking to contribute in his debut season in F1. Toro Rosso can expect to be around the lower mid-table mark once again, but expect some strong racing from the two drivers as they aim to prove their worth in the sport and give sister team Red Bull some food for thought.

WILLIAMS

Williams are a historic team that can boast nine constructors’ championships and over 115 race victories, but it has all gone pear-shaped for the British outfit in recent seasons. They ended 2018 propping up the rest of the table after a hugely disappointing season, with their car barely even competitive. However, they have added some serious talent to their ranks in preparation for 2019, with last year’s Formula 2 champion George Russell set to take the hot seat alongside veteran racer Robert Kubica, who returns to F1 for the first time since 2010 following his devastating injury in what is one of the most admirable sporting comebacks of recent years. But after a dismal display in pre-season testing with the car not being ready until the end of the first week, and their rapid decline showing little sign of improvement, Williams will be facing an uphill battle in 2019 as they strive to rise up from the foot of the leaderboard and restore some pride within one of motorsport’s most iconic teams.

Edited by Harry Trend

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