Image Credit: “F1 race – into 1st lap they go” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by JaffaPix
Formula One (F1) looks as exciting as ever in 2019, and Jamie Downes previews the season coming up.
Ah, the joys of spring. The days are longer. The weather is brighter. And of course, Formula One is back.
With the first lot of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya complete, lights out in Melbourne is a mere three weeks away.
So join me as we take a look at the comings and goings on in the F1 paddocks.
What’s changed in the regulations?
The rule book has been subject to sweeping changes, designed to promote closer, faster, more entertaining racing between drivers.
The changes include widening the front wing and rear wings, which increases speed but decreases downforce in the corners.
The driver is now excluded from the overall vehicle weight, which is beneficial if you’re a larger driver such as Nico Hulkenberg.
Cars can also carry more fuel, for racing at the limit for longer.
What’s been going on with the teams?
With team lineups being announced, now is a good time to take a look at the drivers for the forthcoming season.
Mercedes have, unsurprisingly, kept their pairing of World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. It’s hoped that the pair can secure the constructors’ championship for a 5th consecutive season.
But the silver arrows face strong pressure from Ferrari.
Four time world champion Sebastian Vettel keeps his place as team leader, but is joined by Charles Leclerc.
This follows the Monegasque’s enormously impressive debut season with Sauber.
The Prancing Horse hope that they can finally end Mercedes’s recent dominance of the sport.
Red Bull are now with Honda power following their disastrous previous season with Renault.
The 2013 champions are sporting promising Dutchman Max Verstappen and Frenchman Pierre Gasly. They are hoping that this is the season they can close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.
McLaren are sporting an all new driver line up for 2019.
Gone is the mercurial Fernando Alonso and the frankly hopeless Stoffel Vandoorne.
Rookie Lando Norris makes the step up from Formula Two, and Carlos Sainz Jr, son of rallying royalty, makes the switch from Renault.
McLaren are hoping that their Renault power can help them fight with the big boys again, after several years of midfield anonymity.
Alfa Romeo (formerly Sauber) have signed 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen from Ferrari.
The Finn, who never really got the better of Vettel during his time in red, is partnered with the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi.
Racing Point (formerly Force India) have signed former Williams driver Lance Stroll (which is unsurprising considering his father now owns the team).
Stroll, who apart from a third place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017, hasn’t really impressed during his time in the sport, will be next to veteran driver Sergio Perez.
Haas keep the line up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
The two drivers, despite a couple of blooper moments last year, formed a promising partnership.
Renault surprised many by announcing the signing of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull.
The perpetually smiley Australian, who was hamstrung by reliability issues last year, is a blisteringly fast racer and arguably the best overtaker in the sport.
Ricciardo will be partnered by Nico Hulkenberg, still waiting for a podium finish after nearly 8 years in F1.
Torro Rosso’s drivers this year are Daniil Kyvat, fresh from his F1 exile following poor performances with Red Bull in 2016.
The Russian, while nicknamed “The Torpedo” for his crash heavy driving style, is a very fast racer and intelligent driver. Kvyat’s opposite will be Thai-British driver Alexander Albon.
And last but by no means least, Williams. The struggling British team also have an all new driver line up for 2019.
GP2 champion George Russell makes the move to the top tier of motorsport. Russell is joined by none other than Robert Kubica.
The Polish driver was one of the most exciting prospects in the sport back in 2011. However a near fatal crash whilst rallying left Kubica with severe hand injuries. Following a lengthy recuperation, the Pole is back in F1, but questions remain if he is still the same driver.
What’s happened in the first test?
The first test of the year, which takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya, is for teams to get a feel for their new cars, and to hopefully iron out any reliability and driveability issues.
It’s difficult to take away a clear picture of a hierarchy amongst the field. However some things have been noticed.
Mercedes and other front-runners are quietly worried about Ferrari. Their SF90 has been fast and reliable.
The ease of which it’s been putting in consistent lap times has been eye-opening.
Williams on the other hand, have had a dreadful first test, with the team only getting some limited running done on Wednesday afternoon (the third day of the test).
With the second test currently ongoing, I cannot wait for the flag to drop in Melbourne.
For the race report from Australia, and all things F1, Nerve Sport is the place to be.
By Jamie Downes (@JamieDownes11)