What To Look Out For During The 2019 Formula 1 Season?

by Aaron Gillard
Charles Leclerc - Ferrari

The 2018 FIA Formula 1 Season has come and gone. Lewis Hamilton has taken the title, completing his strongest season to date and helping Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport capture their fifth consecutive constructors’ championship. Preparation is well underway for the 2019 season, with plans on the 2019 cars already done and under construction before the chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi.

In 2019, teams and drivers will enter new relationships as they all aim to clinch the world title and new rules will come into play in a bid to make the competition more closer. There is plenty to look ahead for the 2019 season and here at The Checkered Flag, we have compiled a list on what to look out for next year in Formula 1.

How Will Charles Leclerc Fair At Ferrari?

Charles Leclerc - Ferrari

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

One of the biggest news from the 2018 season was the announcement of Charles Leclerc to Scuderia Ferrari for 2019 in only his second season. The Monegasque driver impressed in his rookie season with Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, regularly making Qualifying 3 appearances and scoring points throughout the season. He was that impressive in his first year in F1, that Ferrari decided to take a gamble and make a change to their line-up for the first time since 2015. Leclerc will replace Kimi Räikkönen and will partner alongside four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

The twenty-one year old will have a great teacher in Vettel at Ferrari and will help Leclerc settle in at the team during the beginning stages of the 2019 season. But Leclerc is expected to help Ferrari pursue for their first title since 2008, and will have to deliver results. Leclerc has personally aimed for two wins during his first year with the Italian team, but it’ll be interesting to see how long it will take for Leclerc to get settled in and start performing. Back in 2015, it took two races for Vettel to start winning at the Italian team. Could Leclerc join the likes of Nigel Mansell and Kimi Räikkönen by winning on his debut?

How Will No Free-To-Air TV Go Down In The UK For F1?

David Coulthard - Canada GP

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The 2019 season will see changes all around the paddock, but there will be a big notice on how you’ll tune into the sport this year. From this year, there will be only one channel UK viewers can watch Formula 1 live all season long. Sky Sports F1 will begin their exclusive live coverage of the sport in 2019, ending the free-to-air TV era. Channel 4, who previously shown a mixture of live races and highlights, will only show the British Grand Prix live alongside Sky Sports. Sky signed a deal back in 2016 that would make them the exclusive broadcasting channel, which would end coverage on free-to-air channels such as ITV, BBC and Channel 4.

Some fans rely on free-to-air coverage as the price of a Sky broadband deal isn’t affordable for them, so some passionate fans will have to settle with late coverage of the sport compare to those who can. Liberty Media have released F1 TV and throughout the 2018 season, have been experimenting with the streaming channel. F1 TV is available in the UK, but does not broadcast live races due to the Sky deal. But in the future we could see change that allows users to stream F1 on their TVs, Phones, Tablets etc. But this year, no doubt we will see a dip in viewing figures in the UK throughout the year. Channel 4 will continue to show qualifying and race highlights throughout the season, with the exception of Silverstone which will be live.

Daniel Ricciardo To Renault: Right Or Wrong Move?

Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull - Italy

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Daniel Ricciardo‘s shocking announcement during the summer break of the 2018 season that he would leave Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for Renualt F1 Team will be a talking point throughout the 2019 season. The Australian decided for a change of scenery for 2019 by joining the Enstone team that finished fourth place in the constructors’ championship in 2018. Ricciardo raced with Red Bull since 2014 and has claimed seven wins, competing with the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen in his stint with the team. But last year Ricciardo suffered numerous reliability issues that resulted in eight retirements in 2018. Only two trips to the podiums, both coming at wins in China and Monaco.

The move by Ricciardo will be watched closely whether he made the right decision or not to leave Red Bull. Renault made a jump last year with Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. to record their best season since their return in 2016. But Renault haven’t made a podium appearance since then, but ambitions will be high with Hülkenberg and Ricciardo in their roster. It could be a matter of the team jumping up to third if Red Bull’s move to Honda doesn’t work out. We’ll have to see if Ricciardo’s move turns into like Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes, or Fernando Alonso‘s move to McLaren in 2015.

Will The New Aero Changes Improve The Quality of Racing?

Kubica - 2019 Wings

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

One of the new changes coming into 2019 is the change of the aerodynamics on the cars in a bid to increase more overtaking opportunities. Last year, Ross Brawn and his team announced that several key changes regarding the front wing, barge boards, rear wing and DRS will be made in a bid to allow the cars to follow each other and not be affected by the dirty air. The front wing platforms will be changed to a more wider, simplified design to alternate the airflow and reduce aerodynamic turbulence.  Smaller barge boards are being made to open more sponsorship opportunities for the teams to add on their cars. The rear wing are now simplified with limited development being made on the wings and will be taller and wider.

These changes will help with research over the upcoming 2021 regulation changes that are set to take place. In a bid to improve the quality of racing and overtaking, F1 has decided to change the philosophy with the aero. Several teams have tested the new front wings already with prototype designs but we won’t know the real outcome until lights out in Albert Park in March. Brawn says the changes should improve the quality of racing by 20%, but he has also stated that if the changes do not work out, they will keep on experimenting to find the right solutions in F1 problems relating to following one another. A real concern is that some teams have found ways to keep the level of downforce the same from 2018 with the new 2019 wings, meaning the changes could prove to be just an appearance change. Will the quality of racing change? We won’t know the full answer until the end of the year.

Will Red Bull Succeed With Honda Engines?

Red Bull - Honda - Japan - Toro Rosso

Credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull not only lose Ricciardo, but the Renault engine as well as the team decided to end their relationship with the French engine manufacturer, who helped them win four consecutive titles between 2010 and 2013. Now, Red Bull will join forces with Honda as they’ll kick start a brand new era in F1 alongside Verstappen and his new team-mate Pierre Gasly. Honda spent the 2018 season with Red Bull’s sister team Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda and throughout the year, Red Bull have been keeping a close eye on the Honda engine to see its performance and how the Honda engineers work ahead of their move. This will be Honda’s first crack at working with a top three team since their return in 2015.

This move however, comes with a big risk. Honda are the only engine manufacturer in F1 under the V6 Hybrid era to not record a win or a podium finish since 2015. Their return to F1 with McLaren F1 Team was filled with turmoil as the relationship between the two broke down. After reliability issues and lack of performance, McLaren decided to cut their deal short and swapped for a Renault engine whilst Toro Rosso took the Honda engine. McLaren finished sixth overall whilst Toro Rosso ended in ninth. Whether Honda and Red Bull will be able to connect together and find a blueprint for success will be watched closely. The deal has to work if Red Bull want to challenge for titles in the future. If Honda doesn’t work out, Red Bull could be falling down towards the midfield.

Will Kimi Räikkönen Perform Well In His Return To Sauber?

Raikkonen Sauber - Abu Dhabi

Credit: Sauber Motorsports AG

Kimi Räikkönen will return to Sauber in 2019, eighteen years since he started his F1 career with the Swiss team back in 2001. His move came when Ferrari decided to change their line-up, ending his tenure with the team after five years. He was able to pick up one last win at the United States before his move to Sauber. He will join alongside Antonio Giovinazzi, a colleague Räikkönen worked with at Ferrari for the last two years as the Italian worked as the teams’ simulator driver.

Räikkönen’s move to Sauber maybe the end of his time at the top but it’ll be fun to watch and see whether the Finn still has the talent to battle in the midfield with a smaller team. At 39 years old, Räikkönen is nearing the end of his career but the Finn isn’t showing any signs that he wants to retire in a hurry. He still says that he still has the motivation to race and for the next two years, he will do so with Sauber. Where he will finish next year in conjunction to his third place in 2018? Who knows.

Is 2019 Valtteri Bottas’ Last Year At Mercedes?

Valtteri Bottas - Japan - Podium

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Ferrari and Red Bull have made changes to their line-up for 2019, with fresh blood coming into the team ahead of the new season. One team who decided to stick with their drivers was Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will stay on for one more year together, both signing new contract extensions during the 2018 season. Hamilton always has question marks whether he wants to stay in the sport but no doubt the Brit will still be here aiming to win a sixth title. It’s his team-mate who has a future in doubt at the team. Last year, Bottas had one of the most unluckiest seasons when he failed to snatch a win in multiple occasions. Bad strategy calls, punctures, mechanical failures and team orders prevented him from stepping on the top step of the podium.

Fans felt sorry for Bottas at the beginning of the season but towards the end, they feel Bottas hasn’t done much since he joined the team. Bottas plays a perfect number two role to help Hamilton towards the end of the season, when it is crunchtime for the two titles. But there will be pressure on Bottas as Esteban Ocon will spend the year on the sidelines at Mercedes after missing out on a drive. Bottas is currently on a one-year deal at Mercedes, with an option for 2020 if the team want to activate it, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that Ocon will be a Mercedes driver one day. Could that ‘one day’ be in 2020?

Will The British Grand Prix Be Saved?

Red Arrows - 2018 British Grand Prix - Silverstone

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The British Grand Prix has been one of the crown jewels of the sport since its formation in 1950, hosting the first ever race at Silverstone. Since then, the Northampton circuit has been the home of British Motorsport and the place for Britain’s home for a F1 race. But in 2019, this could be the last ever British Grand Prix at Silverstone for some time. In 2017, the BRDC decided to activate its clause on its current contract, which would end their deal to host the British Grand Prix in 2019. The decision was made due to the increase in cost to host the race, an amount the BRDC couldn’t afford yearly.

No news over a deal with F1’s new owners Liberty Media has been made yet and concerns start to grow whether a race will happen beyond 2019. This isn’t Liberty Media’s fault that the deal is becoming non-affordable. The deal was signed back in 2010 when the Donington Park deal fell through, agreeing to a 17-year deal and a new circuit layout would be introduced. Silverstone is also a circuit where it isn’t Government funded, meaning the BRDC have to provide the costs of hosting a Grand Prix. Throughout the year and leading up to the British Grand Prix, questions will be made over whether a new deal will happen and if so, what are the options? Some alterations could be made in where the British Grand Prix will be hosted. London has been long discussed over hosting a race, but a race in the capital city will create problems and planning in a largely populated city will cause some headaches.

Which Rookie Will Perform The Best?

Lando Norris - Alex Albon - George Russel - Baku - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

F1 will see new faces enter the grid for the first time in 2019, with three new rookies entering the sport straight out of the FIA Formula 2 Championship. The top three from the 2018 season will enter the sport, making it the first time since 2010 where the top three in GP2/F2 go on to enter F1 the following year. George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon will become F1 drivers at Williams Racing, McLaren and Toro Rosso respectfully and will be looking to replicate their talents into F1 like they did in F2 last year. The two Brits and Thai driver will be looking to place their foot into the sport at the midfield and cement their place in F1.

Russell, the F2 champion, will race alongside Robert Kubica, who himself is returning to the sport after an incredible comeback story. The Brit from King’s Lynn will hope to lead Williams back into the heart of the midfield after a difficult 2018 season. Norris spent the last two years at McLaren testing with team alongside his FIA F3 and F2 duties, now Norris will get the chance as he’ll race at the Woking based team in 2019. Norris is highly rated and will look to show his skills in his rookie season as McLaren aim to re-build. Albon will race at Toro Rosso with Daniil Kvyat, who returns to the team for a third time. Albon initially agreed to race with Nissan e.Dams in FIA Formula E, but Toro Rosso called his name for 2019 and agreed to race with team. Albon had a strong season in F2 and was a title contender, finishing the year third overall in the drivers’ table. All three drivers will hoping to put a ‘rookie of the year’ performance in their debut season, but they’ll have to find their feet in the sport first before they can think about wins and titles. All three join midfield teams, which could mean we’ll see all three jockeying positions over the course of the season.

Who Will Lead The ‘Battle In The Midfield’?

Renault - Haas - F1

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Last year saw multiple teams fight within the midfield. Outside of the top three teams, all teams were squabbling among-st one another at every Grand Prix, with a new winner coming out on top. Renault and Hülkenberg were the best of the rest in the standings but a close battle between Haas F1 Team fueled the battle towards the final races. McLaren ended the year in sixth, with Racing Point Force India in seventh, despite started scoring points since Belgium when the team had to reset its points count due to a change of ownership. They scored 52 points as Racing Point, but if their points as Sahara Force India stayed (59 points), they would of jumped Haas. Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams followed them up.

The gap between the midfield is closing up and no doubt in 2019, the battle for fourth place or beyond could be a close fight in 2019. The gap to the top teams maybe big, but F1 and Liberty Media are trying to ensure the midfield teams get a chance to battle for wins and possible titles in the future. That may not come as early as 2021, but current fight within the midfield looks promising and should provide fans some entertainment for the year. At the moment, the momentum swings to Renault’s favour due to their talented line-up and performance in 2018. But a change in aerodynamics and new cars could shake up the order of the pack.

Daniil Kvyat: Is He Worth A Third Chance?

Daniil Kvyat - Red Bull - Abu Dhabi

Credit: James Bearne/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

This is the year Daniil Kvyat needs to show the world that he is worthy of an F1 seat. The Russian returns to F1 and Toro Rosso after a year away from the sport. Kvyat’s time from the sport has been anything but rocky. He was handed a seat at Red Bull in 2015 after one year, where he claimed two podium finishes between 2015 and 2016. But after two clashes in China and Russia, Red Bull traded him to Toro Rosso for Verstappen. A demotion that hit Kvyat hard, as his results tumbled down. At the end of the 2017 season, Kvyat was dropped completely by Red Bull and lost his F1 drive. After a year away spent at Ferrari as their simulator driver, Kvyat is back at Toro Rosso for a third crack at the team.

This has to be the year Kvyat is back to the glimpse we saw back in 2015 at Red Bull. In that season, he beaten Ricciardo in the championship as the Russian finished seventh overall. But ever since that season and the demotion, Kvyat was lost and couldn’t score points regularly. Now back to partner alongside Albon, this is the year Kvyat can re-launch his F1 career and prove to everyone that he still has the talent. With British driver Dan Ticktum waiting in the wings for a shot in F1, both Kvyat and Albon will have to show that they are worth their place in the sport. Can Kvyat showcase the talent he saw at Red Bull and earn his place in the sport?

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