The long wait is over and on Friday March 15, practice will begin for the Australian Grand Prix. There have been many changes made for the new season, so this article will look at some of them and the new-look teams.
Sadly, just before the new season begins, the news has broken that Charlie Whiting, the head of Formula 1 for the FIA, has died at the age of 66. Whiting was the official race starter and oversaw all rules matters in F1. Our condolences to his family and friends.
Teams for 2019
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton (defending champion) and Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc
Red Bull – Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly
Alfa Romeo – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
Haas – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnusson
McLaren – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris
Racing Point (formerly known as Force India) – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg
Toro Rosso – Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon
Williams – George Russell and Robert Kubica
March 17 – Australian Grand Prix
March 31 – Bahrain Grand Prix
April 14 – Chinese Grand Prix
April 28 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix
May 12 – Spanish Grand Prix
May 26 – Monaco Grand Prix
June 9 – Canadian Grand Prix
June 23 – French Grand Prix
June 30 – Austrian Grand Prix
July 14 – British Grand Prix
July 28 – German Grand Prix
August 4 – Hungarian Grand Prix
September 1 – Belgian Grand Prix
September 8 – Italian Grand Prix
September 22 – Singapore Grand Prix
September 29 – Russian Grand Prix
October 13 – Japanese Grand Prix
October 27 – Mexican Grand Prix
November 3 – United States Grand Prix
November 17 – Brazilian Grand Prix
December 1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The testing sessions in Barcelona proved to be successful for Ferrari. They had the quickest lap with a time of 1m16.221s and that’d been a faster time if carrying less fuel. That’s despite Charles Leclerc saying that they haven’t been running “flat out yet.” Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari are half a second faster than Mercedes so could this be the year they turn the tables on Hamilton and Bottas? They may be doing well in terms of speed, but testing did reveal a few reliability problems that could again prove costly for the Italian team.
There’s a “hill to climb” for Mercedes according to Lewis Hamilton. Although Mercedes seemed to be doing plenty of sandbagging with their new car, they put in some good times towards the end of the second week of testing on the softest tyre, but the time set by Bottas was still 0.3s behind Ferrari. Changes have been made since Barcelona so that gap is likely to be narrower this weekend.
Red Bull will again be contenders with their Honda engine being successful in testing. Max Verstappen could well finish In the top three and their cars proved to be reliable. New recruit Pierre Gasly needs to cut out crashing into the barriers as he did in testing on more than one occasion. They look to be behind the top two though.
Haas showed good pace in testing, but reliability looks to still be a problem, though week two proved more successful with more laps completed. They’ll have a shot at being the best of the rest outside the top three.
McLaren had some good moments in testing but see this as an interim season. There’s no Fernando Alonso (at least not in the races) and their team of Sainz and Norris may struggle. Another sixth place in the constructors’ championship would be a good result.
Williams look destined to have a poor season. Not turning up on day one of testing was a nightmare for them. It didn’t get much better when they finally got on the track with no times under 1m 18s.
New Points System
Don’t worry it’s not the return of double points but an extra point for the driver setting the fastest lap in each race. That will only be awarded though if they finish in the top ten in the race, so set the fastest lap, retire or finish 11th and you get nothing.
It’s not a completely new rule though, the extra point was part of the sport until 1959 and now after sixty years it’s back. F1 managing director Ross Brawn believes this could “improve the show while maintaining the integrity of the sport.” Speaking about the new rule, he added that drivers often ask who’s had the fastest lap and now they’ll get points rather than just “prestige.”
He hopes that this will “make the final part of the race even more interesting.” That could be the case, imagine a scenario where one car is clear of the rest and looks assured of victory. There will still be the interest in who might get the fastest lap and that additional point. If the rule had been in force in 2008, we’d be calling Lewis Hamilton a four-time champion as he’d have lost to Felipe Massa.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on the first and second practice sessions as the new season gets underway, till then enjoy your racing.