If this year’s offseason for Formula 1 could be defined by two words it would be “team changes.” Out of the 20 driver field, 12 of them find themselves in a different position than last year. Some left, some moved up or down the totem pole, and some made the rare return to the top tier of motorsport. The two most focused on teams will, of course, be Mercedes and Ferrari, but everyone has their own unique story heading into this weekend in Melbourne.
Fans of Formula 1 have been given a TV series to watch ahead of the 2019 season called “Formula 1: Drive To Survive.” The series followed teams throughout the 2018 season, chronicling struggles through 10 episodes. The first episode focused on Red Bull Racing and Haas during the 2018 Australian Grand Prix. The show mostly focused on the bottom eight teams in the series, as Mercedes and Ferrari initially opted to not participate in the show.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
Mercedes come into the 2019 season being champions of the past five seasons. Being the most dominant and successful team also makes them the least interesting one. The team is one of the only this year to keep their previous lineup. Five-time champion Lewis Hamilton will team with Valtteri Bottas, looking for a third trophy in a row in the World Drivers Championship. Bottas did not win any races last year but had consistent point placings within the top 10. Both drivers will be behind the Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+ car. It has the Mercedes M10 EQ Power+ power unit, which ROKiT Williams Racing will also be using this year.
Veteran Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel will be joined by Charles Leclerc this year. Leclerc previously raced for Sauber in the 2018 season, being a rookie in the tour. His best placing in the year was 6th, placing in the points 10 times in the year. He is replacing Kimi Raikkonen, who drove under Ferrari for five seasons. He essentially swaps places with Leclerc as he is going to Alfa Romeo Racing (formerly Sauber). Vettel is going into his fifth year with Ferrari, finishing 2nd in the Driver’s Championship in his past two years. Vettel stayed in the fold of the championship last year until the third last race, the Mexican Grand Prix. He had a successful first half of the season, winning five of 11 races. Lewis Hamilton had only won four at that point. In the second half of the season, Vettel only won one race while Hamilton won seven. The battle for the championship was much more intense at the start of the year. With a clean slate, Vettel will aim to keep his streak going through the whole season this year. Vettel and Leclerc will drive the SF90 car this year with the Ferrari 064 engine, which two other teams also use.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
This year, Red Bull Racing saw a change in their driver line-up and engine brand. The team formerly ran the Renault R.E. 18 which was called a TAG Heuer engine, but this year they have a Honda RA619H in their RP19 car. This came after the team had 11 DNFs in the 42 times their cars were entered in races last year. What’s interesting is Honda hasn’t had great engines in the past either, with McLaren ending the partnership after the 2017 season to go to Renault. How Honda’s reliability will hold up against Renault will be a story to follow in the season. The lineup for Red Bull is Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen. Gasly comes from Toro Rosso, the team which he attained 29 points for in 2018. The season was his first full one in F1, although he did race five near the end of 2017 for the team. Max Verstappen stays with Red Bull this year, making it his fourth year with the team. In 2018 he was the highest ranked driver that didn’t come from Ferrari or Mercedes, placing fourth.
Renault F1 Team
In 2018, Renault was the top team that wasn’t in the top three. From one of those top three teams, that being Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo will be coming down to Renault for this season. He is joined by Nico Hulkenberg, who is going on his third year with the team. Ricciardo will be, ironically, leaving his Red Bull car that gave him tons of troubles for another car which is also Renault powered. Ricciardo is the only driver in the field that has home field advantage at the first race of the season in Australia. The chassis for this year is called the R.S. 19, and the engine is the Renault E-Tech 19.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
The only current North American F1 team Haas is one of the only teams to have the same lineup as last year. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will drive for the team as they have for the past two years (and a third for Grosjean). The team secured a new title sponsor for this season called Rich Energy. The team will be using their VF-19 model with a Ferrari 064 engine.
McLaren F1 Team
McLaren has a lineup of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. in 2019. Norris did a slew of test drives for the time last year while placing second in Formula 2. In his F2 season he had one win and five podiums. Sainz is participating in his fifth year of F1, but joining McLaren for the first time. He drove with Renault and Toro Rosso in the past. McLaren is using the MCL34 chassis with the Renault E-Tech 19 engine.
SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team
After Lance Stroll drove for Williams for two years in a pay driver position, his father has purchased Force India for this year. The pink car duo found itself under huge financial troubles in the 2018 season. Lawrence Stroll, whose net worth is 2.6 billion US dollars, bought the team, securing a seat for his son in the next season. He’s filling in for Esteban Ocon, who doesn’t find himself in the 2019 Formula 1 lineup. Stroll’s teammate is Sergio Perez, who is staying with the same team. The team went by Force India last year but now go by Racing Point, also securing the title sponsor of SportPesa, a sports gambling website.
Alfa Romeo Racing
Alfa Romeo Racing takes on a completely new lineup with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi flying the team’s colours this year. Raikkonen, the now 39-year-old will drive for the team after being with Ferrari for five years. He placed third in the 2018 Drivers’ Championship, behind Lewis Hamilton and former Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel. Raikkonen’s teammate Giovinazzi will be a rookie in the series after being a Ferrari and Haas test driver in the past. He also participated in the 24h of Le Mans in 2018, placing 5th in the LMGTE Pro category with the AF Corse team. The team has dropped the Sauber part of their name and now just goes by Alfa Romeo. They will drive a C38 which sports a similar livery to the year before, and a Ferrari 064 engine.
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
Toro Rosso said goodbye to both their past drivers this year, bringing in Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat is one of the two drivers this season who are returning to the tour after an absence. Kvyat was present in Formula 1 since 2013 but disappeared in 2018. In that time he was a development driver for Ferrari. He has now found himself back on the grid alongside Alexander Albon, who is set to make his F1 debut. Albon is an example of someone who has climbed up the open-wheel ladder. He was in the regional F3 series in 2015, and then GP3 in 2016, and just finished his second season in Formula 2. In the 2018 season, Albon won four races for the team DAMS. This year he will be driving a STR14 with a Honda RA619H engine, as will Kvyat.
ROKiT Williams Racing
Williams has had a rough start to the 2019 season even though no racing has taken place yet. In the February testing at Barcelona, the team only started to drive on the third of 10 testing days due to the car not being ready yet. Their lineup this year will be rookie driver George Russell and the returning Robert Kubica. Kubica is making his Formula 1 comeback after suffering major injuries from a crash while rally racing in 2011. A report from Autosport in 2011 said he suffered “multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand.” He was a test driver for Williams all of last year, but will finally get to race this year. His teammate George Russell is a 21-year-old who has been dominant in the Formula 1 feeder tours. In 2017, Russell won four races and became the GP3 Series champion. In 2018, he won seven races in the Formula 2 series and placed first once again. His skill will be tested once he steps into the big league for the first time. Williams will be the only team on the grid besides Mercedes themselves to be using a Mercedes M10 EQ Power+ engine. The chassis for the car is the FW42. The team lost longtime sponsor “Martini” at the end of the 2018 season, but have partnered with ROKiT, a smartphone company that have yet to launch products.
The Graduating Class of 2018
Formula One said goodbye to five drivers this year. The graduating class of Formula One for 2018 was Marcus Ericsson, Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Ocon, Sergey Sirotkin, Brendon Hartley and Fernando Alonso. The biggest name on the list is easily Alonso because he is a former World Drivers’ Champion and veteran of the sport. If this was an actual graduation, he would be the valedictorian.
Big and Small Changes
Formula 1’s tyres will undergo a change in their presentation in 2019. There will be five types of tyres, but the three ones used on any given race weekends will be called Soft, Medium and Hard tyres. This is done to make it easier to understand the tyres and their meaning, because in previous years there were many tyres all with unique names.
This year the Mexican Grand Prix will go ahead of the United States Grand Prix on the calendar.
Different from previous years, in this season if a driver weighs below 80kg, weights will be put in their car to make them that weight. This rule was put forward so that weight cutting isn’t as much of a factor in the sport. The weight of the driver is measured separately from the car that he drives in.
Cars are allowed more fuel at the start of the race so that preserving fuel isn’t as much of a factor.
As Australia Approaches
It is only days until we will see Formula 1 cars back on the track. The season kicks off in Albert Park, Melbourne, with the first race on Sunday at 1 AM EST (4 PM local time). If you’re even more eager to see the cars, the first practice session will be on Thursday at 9 PM EST (Friday at noon in Melbourne). The points board is wiped, everyone’s slate is clean, and now people have another chance to prove themselves. Will it be another year for the Silver Arrows? Or will Ferrari break their streak? Can another team come in and be a top tier competitor? We will have to watch and see.