The Formula 1 Championship begins in earnest with a St. Patrick’s Day Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Here, we take a look ahead to the main storylines to look out for in the 2019 F1 Championship.
There have been a number of driver changes in the 2018/2019 off season. Most notably Australian Daniel Ricciardo ended his five year partnership with Red Bull Racing and moved to Renault. The man he has displaced, Carlos Sainz Jr. has moved to McLaren to take the place of two-time champion Fernando Alonso who will not compete this year.
Reigning Formula 2 champion George Russell will race with Williams this year while Robert Kubica makes a long-awaited return to the F1 circuit. The Pole returns from an eight-year absence after suffering serious arm injuries in a near-fatal rally crash.
Kimi Raikkonen will return to the team he started his career with in 2001 with Alfa Romeo (formerly Sauber). Charles Leclerc will fill his seat at Ferrari. Elsewhere, veteran Esteban Ocon left Racing Point Force India to take the position of reserve driver at Mercedes.
As always with F1, a new year means new rules. This year’s changes focus on aerodynamics. You’ll notice the change in car shape with a wider, higher front-wing which should increase overtaking in this year’s championship if all goes to plan. They have done something similar with the rear wing and the DRS opening has been increased for this season. The fuel allowance has also been increased, from 105kg of fuel to 110kg.
Fans and drivers have also welcomed the new safety regulations that have been introduced for the 2019 season. This includes stronger helmets, additional mirrors and lights. Wearing biometric gloves is now compulsory for all drivers. These monitor the driver’s vitals during the race and will help to ensure driver safety at all times.
For the history makers, the late brakers, the risk takers, the limit breakers.
21 races. 1 goal.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 11, 2019
Can Mercedes win a Sixth?
If Mercedes are to continue their winning streak they will become only the second team ever to win the Constructor’s Championship six years in a row. Ferrari managed to give the Germans their toughest challenge during their run last year, finishing only 84 points behind the Silver Arrows. Having swapped Kimi Raikkonen for the impressive Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari will be hopeful of picking up their 17th Constructor’s Championship in 2019.
Outside of the top two, Red Bull seem to be the most likely challengers. It’s hoped that their switch from Renault engines to Honda engines will provide them with more reliability and more power and they will be looking to mount a challenge for this year’s title.
The feeling is that this year’s drivers championship could be sorted out between Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) so it will be interesting to see if the combined might of Ferrari’s drivers can beat the dominant Hamilton who will again be supplemented by Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo?
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton is bidding to win his fifth title in six years this season. His main challenger from the last two seasons, Sebastian Vettel, will rival the Englishman again. Should the Ferrari driver cut down on the many unforced errors he has made over the last two years, he should run the champion a lot closer that last year’s 88 point differential.
Vettel’s new teammate, Charles Leclerc, is also tipped to challenge for the crown in this year’s championship. After impressing with Alfa Romeo Sauber, he takes the place of veteran Finn Kimi Raikkonen as the Scuderia’s second driver.
Another youngster, Max Verstappen, will be hoping for a podium finish in the 2019 F1 Championship. The Red Bull Racing man will benefit from the switch from Renault engines to Honda engines for this year’s championship.
Perennial nearly man Daniel Ricciardo has transferred to Renault Racing for this year’s championship. The fan favourite Aussie will do well to repeat his 6th place finish from last year but he has promised that he wont be holding back in this year’s races. With the added incentive of bonus points for the fastest lap, expect to see plenty of Ricciardo overtaking in this year’s championship.
The chance of any of these drivers offering a realistic challenge to Hamilton is slim. The man from Stevenage is chasing the all-time F1 Championships and win records for a 21-race season. He looks set to win his sixth championship and lead his team to a sixth consecutive constructor’s title.
Things to look out for in 2019
So, to summarise, what will be the main storylines of the 2019 F1 Championship?
- Champion: Hamilton strives for his sixth
- Leclerc vs Vettel: Who will be Ferrari’s top driver?
- Overtaking: New rules and increased DRS should lead to more overtaking.
- Red Bull Racing: Can Verstappen & Co. benefit from the switch to Honda engines
- Movers: Will Daniel Ricciardo regret his move down to Renault’s factory team?