SEASON REVIEW: The Ten Biggest News Stories From The 2018 Formula 1 Season

by Aaron Gillard
Daniel Ricciardo - Abu Dhabi - F1

The 2018 FIA Formula 1 Season proved to be an action-packed year, both on and off the track. The year was filled with some big news stories that shook the F1 and Motorsport world. News in the sport is always circulating but there are some that really shook and made a mark in 2018, especially some that fans and critics will look back in time.

As we reflect back on the 2018 season, lets look at some of the biggest news stories that took place in Formula 1 in the 2018 season. Some that shook the world of the sport whilst others are something to look forward to in the future. You can re-visit the stories picked on our list by clicking on the headline to get a full rundown of the story.

10. Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon Clash… On and Off Track!

At the Brazilian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen was set to take an easy victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The Dutch driver was on fire that day and managed to place his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing car in a comfortable position to take back-to-back victories. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon was struggling in the race and made a pitstop for fresher tyres, coming out behind Verstappen and a lap down. Ocon found himself to have more pace than the Dutch driver and chose to un-lap himself. Ocon made a move on Verstappen around the outside of Turn 1, but the door was closing and the pair were still together before eventually they would make contact. Verstappen spun round facing the wrong direction as Hamilton steamed his way passed. The Brit in the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport would go on to win that race, whilst a angry Verstappen looked to find Ocon.

He found the Frenchman in Parc Ferme, exceeding to push him multiple times as they argued before being escorted away. The pair were later sent to the Stewards and Verstappen was found guilty of the confrontation after the race, sentenced with two-days of community service with the FIA over a six month period. We’ve seen a fiery Verstappen before during races on team radio, but never towards a driver in person. The pair have a old rivalry from their FIA Formula 3 European days, where Ocon became champion but Verstappen was gifted a seat to F1. It created arguments over the paddock whether Ocon did the right thing in passing the leader, despite being a lap down or whether Verstappen cost himself the race win for simply being too aggressive over a back marker being quicker?

9. F1 Announces 2021 Car Concepts

F1 2021 - Ferrari Mercedes Concept

Credit: Formula 1

Formula 1 set a deadline to introduce a new era of cars and regulations in a bid to attract new fans and improve the quality of racing on track. The aim is to make the next generation of cars a standout, a poster in a child’s bedroom. Formula 1’s Managing Director of Motorsport, Ross Brawn presented different concepts at the Singapore Grand Prix of various designs on their vision of what F1 2021 will look like. The designs present a futuristic feel to how F1 is aiming to look, a bid to create closer racing and create equal chances for teams to win races and championships.

The new designs will feature 18-inch wheels by Pirelli, who are confirmed to supply tyres for F1 from 2020 and beyond. Teams are contributing to the future designs of the 2021 cars with F1 and the FIA allow the teams to research on 2021 designs with unlimited CFD testing. This is the first glance everyone has seen on what the future of F1 will look like and whilst it did create some mixed reactions, this is isn’t fully set. Changes and adjustments will come into play in the future as the sport grows nearer to 2021 before we get a final design the teams will follow.

8. Kimi Räikkönen Returns To Sauber After Ferrari Exit

Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari - PC

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

At thirty-nine years old, it was expected soon that Kimi Räikkönen would be calling time on his F1 career, and that he would end his career at Scuderia Ferrari. The Finnish driver had multiple winless seasons with the team, but remained as consistent in the championship by finishing in the top end of the championship. In 2018 after five years with the team in his second stint, Ferrari announced they will let go of Räikkönen. The news was told to Räikkönen at the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix, where he clinched pole position for the race.

Shortly after the news of Räikkönen’s departure from Ferrari, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team announced that Räikkönen is signed as one of their drivers, agreeing to a two-year deal for 2019 and 2020. He’ll return to the team he started to his F1 career back in 2001 when he was just 21 years old. Eighteen years later, he will return and race with the Swiss team. In his final races at Ferrari in 2018, Räikkönen clinched a memorable win at the United States Grand Prix, his first win since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. The news of Räikkönen’s departure from Ferrari and his announcement to Sauber got fans excited and curious whether we’ll see the same Kimi in the midfield. At 39 years old, normally drivers would expect to lose their touch but Kimi hasn’t been like that. He finished third overall in the 2018 Drivers’ championship and still has plenty left in the tank. It’ll be an exciting watch to see how he will fair with Sauber in 2019 and 2020.

7. Vietnam Gets a Grand Prix in 2020

Hanoi Vietnam Circuit

Credit: Formula1.com

Liberty Media are looking to introduce the sport to new regions of the world and increase their profile into new countries. F1 has looked into countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark to expand its calendar beyond the 2020 season, but their first confirmed new race for 2020 was announced in November with Vietnam. Formula 1 will visit the city of Hanoi for the first time in 2020 around April, taking place in a street track inspired by several classic F1 circuits such as Monoco, Sepang, Suzuka and the Nurburgring.

The circuit is expected to be 5.5Km long featuring two long straights, multiple hairpins and a twisty final sector. Vietnam will join alongside Miami as new races for the 2020 season and will become the sixth race to take place in the Asia region. This deal by Liberty Media marks their first race they introduce into F1 since their purchase in 2016 and a result that the sport is increasing its interest into bringing races into new places. Vietnam and Hanoi is expected to produce an atmosphere and a Grand Prix for the 2020 season and has already received mixed reviews relating to the track, mainly due to the long back straights which will run next to each other. But this is a first sign that F1 is now breaking new ground with its new owners.

6. Red Bull Switch To Honda Engines

Red Bull - Honda - Japan

Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Racing throughout the 2018 season were debating whether they should stick with Renault engines for the 2019 season onwards. But the possibility of Honda engines coming to the Milton Keynes team were on the brink since Red Bull’s sister team Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda joined with the Japanese engine manufacturer at the end of the 2017 season. Red Bull’s and Renault’s relationship had been shaky since the introduction of the V6 Hybrid era and questions were raised whether the pair would split.

Ahead of the French Grand Prix, Renault’s home race, Red Bull announced they would end their tenure with Renault and join Honda for the 2019 season. The deal with Honda is expected to last for two season, until the 2021 regulation changes come into place, but the deal could see Red Bull improve or demote their position within the F1 paddock. This will be the first time Honda will power a top three team and the pressure is on to ensure the team will remain fighting for wins and championships. 2019 maybe a learning year for the pairing, but it’ll be interesting to see how it will play out.

5. Charles Leclerc Joins Ferrari For 2019

Charles Leclerc - Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari - PC

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

It was a switch that near everybody wanted to see happen. Charles Leclerc in his first season of Formula 1 Racing was exceeding expectations and impressing everyone in the paddock. It was only a matter of time beforehand that he would be linked with a seat at Ferrari in the near future. At first, it was speculated that he would join Haas F1 Team for 2019, before eventually making a move to Ferrari.

But after one year, Ferrari decided to make a change with their line-up for the 2019 season, signing Leclerc to partner alongside Sebastian Vettel. He’ll replace Kimi Räikkönen, who takes Leclerc’s seat at Sauber alongside Antonio Gioviniazzi. Leclerc has pushed the Sauber into positions that the car wasn’t meant to be in and frequently got into Q3 and was the best of the rest in most occasions. Next year will be interesting to see how Leclerc will do in his first season with a top team. He has already said that he’s aiming for two wins for the 2019 season, but fans want to see the young Monegasque driver compete for the World Championship despite Vettel being in the team.

4. Robert Kubica Completes His Comeback

Robert Kubica - Williams Martini Racing - 2018 Austrian Grand Prix - Formula 1

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Everybody loves a comeback story, especially in sports. Robert Kubica‘s story has been one that has been developing over the years since his rallying accident in 2011. After suffering injuries in his accident, his F1 career was put on halt and due to his injuries on his hand the possibility of racing in F1 again looked unlikely due to the small cockpit environment an F1 car. He returned to rallying between 2013 and 2016, but tested an F1 car with Renault in 2017. His chance of returning to the sport full-time came in 2018 when Williams picked him as an option to drive for them, but chose Sergey Sirotkin as their second driver, with Kubica as the teams’ test driver.

Three practice appearances came for Kubica in 2018 and at the final race in Abu Dhabi, Williams confirmed that Kubica will be back racing in F1 for the 2019 season. The comeback story is complete. Many drivers in the F1 paddock rated Kubica as one of the best drivers from his generation, alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The Polish driver isn’t expected to be fighting at the front next year in his first year back in the sport, but will have to be on his toes against his younger team-mate George Russell.

3. Force India Falls Into Administration

Force India - Trucks - Belgium

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Just before the summer break at the Hungarian Grand Prix, news started to speculate over Sahara Force India and their financial situation relating to their owner Dr Vijay Mallya. Mallya has been wanted by the Indian Government since 2016 for financial crimes and fled to the UK in 2016. Since then, he has limited his attendance in the F1 paddock but he remained the owner and team principal of the team. But in 2018, the team owed money to several key parties, including sponsor BWT and Force India driver Sergio Pérez. Pérez took the matter to court in the UK, in which the team was placed into administration and took control away from Mallya.

Shortly after the Grand Prix, Its assets were purchased by a consortium set up by Lawrence Stroll, named Racing Point UK Ltd. The team remained as Force India, but their points were reset and the team officially began as new life as Racing Point Force India F1 Team. Stroll re-paid all parties who were owed money and ensured all jobs at the team were secured. After the 2018 season strongly where the team ended the season seventh overall with 52 points, Racing Point dropped the Force India name for the 2019 season, with a new name pending. Lance Stroll, son of Lawrence joined the team with Pérez for next year. This is the first time an F1 team has fallen into administration since the beginning of the 2017 season, when Manor Racing fell. It raised concerns over the costs of running an F1 team, but Force India’s situation was unique as they were confident that the team would be picked up by a new owner. Pérez’s clever tactics of using the British legal system saved the team from collapse under the control of Mallya and allowed the team to resume its operations for the season and beyond thanks to Stroll and his consortium.

2. Fernando Alonso Calls Time on F1 Career

Alonso - Donuts - Abu Dhabi

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The news of Fernando Alonso calling it a day from F1 was bound to happen one day, but the news came this year and it created a lot of emotion around the Motorsport community. During the summer break, Alonso made the announcement that he will not race in F1 with McLaren F1 Team for the 2019 season, but he didn’t specifically call it a retirement. Alonso stated that if McLaren were competitive again, he would aim to make a return. But in his final race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it felt like this was Alonso’s ride into sunset. A special livery, a paddock party and tribute hats were sold in honour of Alonso.

McLaren will field a new line-up next year with the departure of Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. Carlos Sainz Jr. joins the team whilst British driver Lando Norris gets a promotion, having spent 2018 as a test driver and racing in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. The Spaniard now will concentrate rounding off the 2018/2019 World Endurance Championship SuperSeason with Toyota and will compete at the 2019 Indianapolis 500, the final race to win in order to complete ‘The Triple Crown’.  Although Alonso maybe have announced his exit from F1, he is still part of the McLaren family and could even help the team test the 2019 car during the season.

1. Daniel Ricciardo Leaves Red Bull for Renault

Daniel Ricciardo - Japan - Red Bull

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The move that shook the whole driver market to pieces like an Earthquake. Daniel Ricciardo‘s shocking announcement during the summer that he would be leaving Red Bull to join Renault had to be number 1! It was unexpected, surprising, and it would pay way to many moves within the driver market. Ricciardo had initially planned to stay at Red Bull for the 2019 season as they would begin new life with Honda. But during a flight, Ricciardo had a sudden change of heart about the deal and decided to make a move away. Red Bull even had Press Releases and photos ready for Ricciardo’s contract extension announcement. Let’s say I think those were quickly put in the draft bin quickly when he made his change.

Ricciardo’s move kick started a change of line-up on the grid. Sainz joined McLaren as Alonso’s replacement, Gasly earned a promotion to Red Bull whilst Leclerc joins Ferrari. Toro Rosso brought back Daniil Kvyat and signed Alexander Albon. Ocon was rumoured to take the Renault seat, but lost out due to the Ricciardo move as well as McLaren as Sainz joined the team. The French driver will spend the year on the sidelines at Mercedes. The move by Ricciardo will be interesting next year as the Australian driver will pilot a black and yellow car, with an engine he has raced with throughout the V6 Hybrid era. As for Red Bull, Gasly and Verstappen will join together as they’ll race with Honda next year. Which one will come out on top at the end of the 2019 season? We’ll know the answer to that question next year.

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