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With the first qualifying session of 2019 behind us, the lights are officially out and we’re off on the new season! For many of us, it has been a grueling 111 days since the checkered flag dropped in Dubai. With Mercedes and their top driver Lewis Hamilton having claimed their fifth constructors and drivers championships respectively. That was last year; what will 2019 have in store?
With a sundry of changes leading to a monumental shift in 2019, lets quickly recap the biggest ones. Firstly, some of the biggest variances came from the teams: Force India, no longer able to financially support themselves, sold to Canada’s Lawrence Stroll who has rebranded the team as Racing Point. Williams, a once-elite name in the Formula One realm, has given their sponsorship nod to ROKiT, steering away from the lucrative deal dissolved by Martini. While Williams sponsorship dried up, Haas F1 dove into the energy drink Rich Energy as their new title sponsor complete with a completely new livery. Ferrari, despite coming second in the Constructors Championship and having their drivers finish in second and third in the Drivers Championship, decided to part ways with former team principal Maurizio Arrivabene in favour of Mattia Binotto. More shocking than these were the multitude driver changes heading into 2019.
Every team on the grid saw a shake-up except for World Champion Mercedes, in hopes their duo can bring a sixth Constructors Championship home. Understanding the sixth Constructors Championship is within grasp, Ferrari took a stunning jump letting Finish sensation Kimi Räikkönen slip away to Alfa Romeo, formerly Sauber, allowing Charles Leclerc to hop in the saddle alongside 4-time champion Sebastien Vettel. Red Bull Racing lost veteran Daniel Ricciardo to Renault after their relationship slowly soured. That wasn’t all that transpired between the two teams after Red Bull experienced multiple power unit failures from the engines provided by Renault. Red Bull jumped ship to Japanese manufacturer Honda for this year's engine. Not all was lost for Red Bull though as Ricciardo’s exit meant that a ride opened for up and comer Pierre Gasly following natural progression from their B team Torro Rosso.
Aforementioned Racing Point also saw some driver changes with Lance Stroll following his father Lawrence Stroll to the team in hopes of gaining more than one ‘Racing Point’ this season. Both Williams and McLaren saw a pair of new faces in their machines. Williams decided to pair veteran Robert Kubica with rookie George Russel. After an unthinkable rally accident nearly severed the arm of Kubica, he has returned to F1 in the hopes of being able to make a comeback, and share some wisdom with the young Russel. His return clearly prompts a new path of resilience to the downtrodden Williams team. Finally and most notably, after Fernando Alonso managed to win the 24 hours of Le Mans with Toyota while his F1 team couldn’t scrounge together a win, let alone a competitive car, Alonso moved on to try and capture the elusive triple crown leaving only the Indy 500 off the checklist. Alonso’s exit and an underperforming Stoffel Vandoorne’s booting gave way for Carlos Sainz to compete for the once legendary team with Lando Norris.
With all of the machine and driver changes leading into 2019, what can we expect of the driver line-up? Will Mercedes and Ferrari continue to dominate the field with Red Bull following close in their draft? Will Haas continue to be the ‘best of the rest’ or will we see some drastic changes in the leaderboard? It's bound to be an exciting season, ride along with me when round 1 begins Sunday!