As the sun goes down on the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, six of its drivers will not be returning in 2019. Here’s a look ahead of where to follow them next season…
Esteban Ocon – 2019: Mercedes Reserve Driver
It’s hard to believe that Ocon will be out of a drive in the 2019 season, the highly talented French driver should have been a shoo-in for a drive next season.
As part of the Mercedes-Benz driver development programme the youngster was let down as he was forced out of the door at Racing Point Force India F1 Team to make way for Lance Stroll.
While Ocon will not be in a racing seat in Formula 1, he will be waiting in the wings as reserve driver for the Mercedes, and with Valtteri Bottas’s contract up at the end of the 2019 season, it would come as no surprise if Ocon was to replace the Finn.
Stoffel Vandoorne – 2019: HWA Racelab – Formula E
A case of the wrong place at the wrong time for the Belgian, after breaking in to Formula 1 following his GP2 title in 2015, Vandoorne couldn’t have joined the McLaren F1 Team at a worse time.
Currently a shadow of its former championship dominating form, McLaren prioritised their number one driver Fernando Alonso during his time at the team, leaving Vandoorne to make to with older components on his car.
While some say his tenure in Formula 1 has disappointed, it is clear to see at times the flashes of brilliance that carried him to his GP2 title.
For 2019 the Belgian leaves Formula 1 after two-full seasons, heading off to Formula E to join the HWA Racelab team. For those who don’t know, this is the team that will be rebranded Mercedes in the future, after the 2018-19 season, in a move that could see Vandoorne as a major player for the German marque if he plays his cards right.
Fernando Alonso – 2019: FIA WEC, Rolex 24, Indy 500 and more?
Alonso needs no introduction here after leaving Formula 1 after 314 Grand Prix weekends.
The formidable Spaniard took 32 victories in his seventeen years in the sport in a career that has with the benefit of hindsight could have been a lot better.
Following his back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006 with the Renault team it seemed as if Alonso would go on to be a dominant force in the sport.
After failing to deliver a title to the Scuderia Ferrari team Alonso joined McLaren in a partnership that seemed doomed from the start after crashing in testing, forcing him to sit out the first race of the season in 2015.
A handful of fifth place finishes was the best that could be achieved in poor machinery, leading Alonso to announce his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of 2018.
A day after his last race for the team he was out on track again… in a Formula 1 car as he teamed up with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson for a car swap, and while Alonso will not be present on the grid come the Australian Grand Prix in 2019, a test in the new car hasn’t been ruled out.
Away from the Formula 1 circus and the ties that may remain, he will continue his drive for the triple crown, returning to the Indianapolis 500 again in 2019 with a specially formed McLaren Indycar team.
Alonso will also continue his sports car career with Toyota in FIA WEC and will join the Wayne Taylor Racing team for the Rolex 24 of Daytona in January alongside former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi, and Jordan Taylor.
Marcus Ericsson – 2019: Indycar
Talking of Indycar, Ericsson is another driver heading stateside as his five year Formula 1 career draws to a close.
A year with the Caterham F1 team before moving to Sauber saw the Swede compete in a total of 97 Grands Prix.
With a largely underwhelming Formula 1 record, Ericsson heads to Indycar to try to make a name for himself with the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team.
Brendon Hartley – 2019: ?
After being drafted in to the Scuderia Toro Rosso team in 2017 to replace Pierre Gasly, the New Zealander returned at the start of the season to form a partnership with the Frenchman.
A best finish of ninth place and two other top-ten finishes were the highlight of the season for Hartley, in a year that saw the Toro Rosso team acting as a test bed for the Honda engine, prior to the switch to the Japanese power-plant for the main Red Bull Racing team in 2019.
From the outside it seems the relationship at Toro Rosso hasn’t been the smoothest, looking ahead to 2019 there is a big question mark over where Hartley will end up.
With nothing publicly announced, the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans winner could call upon his ties with Porsche, and while there may be no room at the inn for a factory drive, Hartley may end up switching to GT cars in the near future.
Sergey Sirotkin – 2019: ?
Another racer out of a drive, and perhaps unfairly criticised in his debut year.
The young Russian had the unfortunate accolade of finishing the year at the bottom of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship tables with just a solitary point to his name, following his tenth place finish in Italy.
Another victim of underperforming machinery, Sirotkin was up against the critics from day 1, as they wrote off his season as just another ‘pay driver’ joining the grid.
While he hasn’t set the grid alight, to judge his season against that of his team-mate Lance Stroll would be unfair.
The Russian finished the majority of the season in the lower part of the results sheets, but at times did show a flash of passion to be more than he was showing.
It is rumoured that Sirotkin’s Russian backers were unhappy with the results this season, and even less happy with the Williams team, having given them a much-needed cash injection at the start of the year.
With his sponsors not willing to increase their offer, Sirotkin found himself without a drive for 2019.