The 2019 Formula 1 season is almost upon us. Testing has been going on over the last few weeks, but now it is time to see if any of those early promising signs will come to anything. In this preview, I will analyse each team, highlight which drivers each team will have this season, and where I think they will finish roughly in the Championship at the end of the season.
ALFA ROMEO RACING
2018 DRIVERS: Charles Leclerc and Marcus Eriksson
2019 DRIVERS: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 8th (of 10)
Alfa Romeo have a very exciting line-up this year, with the experience of Kimi Raikkonen and the relative rawness of Antonio Giovinazzi meaning that they could have a very interesting season ahead. They finished 8th last season – I can see them getting a few more points here and there this time out. Last season they had one driver in Leclerc who was driving well and finishing constantly in the top 10 of most races, but they had one driver in Ericsson who finished 17th out of 20 in the Drivers’ Standings, and who got a couple of 11th places and a couple of 9th places, but other than that, wasn’t really creating too many headlines.
Now, though, with two good drivers each hopefully finishing inside the top 10, Alfa Romeo as a team should have a good season and I can very easily see them finishing higher up the table than 8th.
2018 DRIVERS: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
2019 DRIVERS: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 2nd (of 10)
Ferrari are a team that have another very promising line-up, and I would even go as far as to say it is better than last season. Leclerc is a very promising driver who made waves at Sauber last season, including three consecutive 7th placed finishes at the Mexican, Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s. Considering the traditional top 6 of the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers usually expected to be in the places above that, 7th is definitely a finish that every other team strides for. To be there in a Sauber when other cars such as the Renault and the Force India are perhaps stronger overall is a huge plus. I am saying this because I think Leclerc in a Sauber was good. Now imagine that talent allied with the power of a Ferrari car, and it is a really interesting prospect.
Vettel had a mixed season last time out, because before the mid-season break it looked like they were actually having a better season than Mercedes were, but something changed over the break and Mercedes got better but Ferrari started to get more unreliable and a few more errors crept into their strategies. It was surprising to see, but I also think Vettel caused a few of those problems by being a little too hot-headed and just making mistakes at crucial points in races. It wasn’t a huge change in fortunes, and it wasn’t like Ferrari were suddenly finishing 7th or 8th in races, but it was just things like pit stops that started to ensure that they finished on 571 points, compared to Mercedes who finished top on 655.
This season, I think Ferrari will do a little better in terms of strategy – they do have a new man at the top, after all, with Mattia Binotto coming in to replace Maurizio Arrivabene. I still don’t think, though, that they will have quite enough to topple Mercedes’ reign at the top, so for me they will finish 2nd, but I do think it will be a closer finish than last season turned out to be.
2018 DRIVERS: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
2019 DRIVERS: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 5th (of 10)
Haas are a very good team and a team capable of finishing fourth if they can keep up their impressive form from last season. To this end, they haven’t made any changes to their driver line-up, which will definitely help their hopes of doing this. Their season last year was solid and spectacular, in terms of the placings of each race. They consistently finished in the top 10, but the thing that I feel kept them from really challenging Renault who finished in 4th was that they had a couple of disqualifications from races, which meant they finished around 30 points behind them. However, if this season they can address those issues, and they may be able to make the battle for 4th a much more interesting spectacle this year.
Magnussen finished in 9th last season, and Grosjean in 14th, so we can probably expect that they will do something of the same this time, with the potential to possibly finish a few places higher.
2018 DRIVERS: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne
2019 DRIVERS: Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr.
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 6th (of 10)
Firstly, last season was such a huge improvement for McLaren. They had a new Renault engine and improved on their 2017 performance no-end. This year, they have another new line-up, with last year’s test driver Lando Norris coming in, as well as Carlos Sainz, who raced really well for Renault last season. Alonso has retired from F1, whilst Vandoorne has moved onto Formula E. It is safe to say that there is some interesting talent in this new lineup.
They have been fastest in testing, but the thing is that testing often doesn’t reflect too much on how the season actually finishes once racing gets properly underway. I personally can’t see them troubling the top two or three, and I think they will finish mid to low table, so around where they finished last season.
2018 DRIVERS: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
2019 DRIVERS: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 1st (of 10)
This should be the same again from them – a first place finish is the only thing I can see from them. Last season they had a slightly slow start to the season, not with Hamilton but with Bottas, as they struggled to get two cars into the top two positions. But once they had started doing that, and Ferrari had started having their tactical problems, it became a much more easier one horse race to the finish. Mercedes did still have to work for each individual race, but overall it wasn’t too tricky for them.
This time around, if they can address and correct some of the strategic errors they made last season – France in particular comes to mind as one race that they didn’t quite get it right – then they should have this one sewn up at the end of the season.
That is not to say that they will find it easy this season though. I would obviously expect Ferrari to push them all the way, but I do think that Max Verstappen and Red Bull could prove to be more competition this year if they can sort out their reliability problems, whilst I think Renault might be a surprise package this season as well, getting in and around those three teams quite a bit.
2018 DRIVERS: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon
2019 DRIVERS: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 7th (of 10)
Last season was a strange season for Racing Point, last season known as Force India, because halfway through the former Indian owners fell into administration and the team was bought by a consortium named Racing Point UK, led by Lawrence Stroll, father of the team’s new driver Lance Stroll.
They are a team that just seem to get points without really doing that much – they finished 8th (Perez) and 12th (Ocon) last season in the Drivers’ Championship, and they are a team that always finish just inside the top 10 of every race, occasionally edging upwards towards 5th or 7th, and so I would expect that they would do the same thing this season. However, they may do better than this with their new management and new driver in Stroll.
I do think that Esteban Ocon not staying will be a miss for them, and its a shame that they never got another seat. However, looking at their current drivers, Perez is a bit of a hothead when it comes to driving, and is usually involved in crashes (not always), so that will be something to keep an eye on. Stroll finished 18th out of 20 in the Drivers’ Championship, above only Brendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin, and gained only 6 points all season in the Williams car. This season, I would have thought that he would improve on his personal total if nothing else.
ASTON MARTIN RED BULL
2018 DRIVERS: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen
2019 DRIVERS: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 3rd (of 10)
Red Bull are a team that have had a decline in recent years, and have definitely lost ground on the top two of Mercedes and Ferrari. Last season, for instance, they finished on 419 points, whilst 2nd-placed Ferrari finished on 571 points – a difference of 152, which is huge and, for Red Bull, very disappointing. However, this was mainly down to major reliability problems in their car. The number of times that Ricciardo in particular, but also Verstappen, didn’t finish the races was unbelievable – they had 11 DNF’s between them.
This season, I see them being much more of a threat. They have switched their engines to Honda from Renault, which is an interesting move, the opposite to the way in which McLaren went, so that is going to be interesting to see whether Red Bull have any more luck with Honda than McLaren did. If they can get this reliability issue sorted, then I see them finishing 3rd in the table but much closer to 2nd place, and I also think that Verstappen in particular will be up with Hamilton and Vettel challenging them for race wins a lot of the season. Gasly as well is an exciting driver who has a future in the sport, and with a more powerful car than the Toro Rosso which he has been driving since 2017. However, two crashes in testing in Barcelona have shown that he still has much to learn before he can really start to compete this season.
2018 DRIVERS: Carlos Sainz Jnr. and Nico Hulkenberg
2019 DRIVERS: Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 4th (of 10)
Renault are going to really be a team to watch this season, for definite. They had a really good season last year, and with Ricciardo in their ranks, they could very easily have another good one this year. His move surprised many, including me and I didn’t think it was the right move for him personally, but Red Bull’s form last season was perhaps what convinced him to ditch the Austrian constructor for the French one. However, he has added really good experience and it’s a real shame that he and Red Bull didn’t work out, but for Renault I do think getting his signature was a steal.
Hulkenberg, his new driving partner, finished 7th last season in another good effort, so put the two of them together and Renault will definitely be up there challenging. They finished a long way behind 3rd-placed Red Bull last season – just under 300 points behind – and whilst I don’t think that that difference will be made up to the extent that Renault will finish 3rd, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish a little closer to Red Bull this season. They could genuinely be a surprised package this season with some exciting times ahead this year possibly.
SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO
2018 DRIVERS: Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley
2019 DRIVERS: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 9th (of 10)
Unfortunately, for Toro Rosso, I can only see a difficult season ahead. They have had to replace both of their drivers, with Gasly moving to the senior Red Bull team, and Hartley being left out after never really shining last season, picking up just 4 points in all races and finishing second bottom of the Drivers’ Championship. In their place, they have brought in a rookie in Albon, who had been scheduled to race for Nissan e.dams in the Formula E, and Kyvat, who had been released from his Red Bull contract after spells with both Toro Rosso and Red Bull, and not really taking his chance at either.
It will be interesting to see what they do this season, but a 9th placed finish last year is going to be difficult to beat this year if I’m honest. However, we will know more about their plans after this weekend’s first race in Melbourne.
2018 DRIVERS: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin
2019 DRIVERS: George Russell and Robert Kubica
2018 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION: 10th (of 10)
Last season Stroll finished third bottom and Sirotkin finished bottom, and between them they gained just 7 points. It was a really disappointing year for them. Stroll has now departed the team for Racing Point, which is run by his father, whilst Sirotkin has been dropped altogether and has since returned to Renault as a reserve driver. The Russian in particular came with little known about him, and even though I think he had some good moments last year, they were few and far between and the team overall just lacked any kind of quality across the season.
This season, they have brought in George Russell, who is the reigning Formula 2 champion, and also Robert Kubica, who has made his expected return to Formula 1 after several years away following his horrific crash. Russell will take some time to get used to F1, but what needs to be remembered is that F1 is completely different to F2, and a lot of drivers have not adjusted soon enough. Kubica’s return is surely just a short-term fix because he is now 34 years old, but it is good to see him back behind the wheel of a racing car after his accident.
As far as the team is concerned, I don’t think they can avoid finishing bottom of the table again unless they really do have a good season and another team has a dire one.