Formula 1 2019 Season Preview

The months of waiting are over as the new Formula 1 season kicks off in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

The new season brings new faces across the F1 paddock as well as a raft of regulation changes.

Here’s a complete guide to get you up to speed for the new season.

New rules & regulations:

A new year means new rules. Those for 2019 may not be the wholescale changes due for 2021 – all aimed at making F1 racing even more competitive – but they are laying the all-important groundwork. Some will be obvious – the cars will look noticeably different – but others are subtler, though no less notable. Here’s a round-up of what you need to know about the new season’s regulations.

New front wing 

Williams test a 2019-spec wider front wing during testing in Hungary last July.

What’s the change: A wider, higher – and much simplified – front wing

Why has it been made: To help chasing drivers follow the car in front more closely – and in turn increase the possibility of overtaking.

The wing’s width is increased by 200mm, its height by 20mm, and it’s moved forward by 25mm.

Complex endplates that outwash airflow around the front tyres are banned. Instead, much simpler endplates mean almost the full width of the wing is devoted to direct downforce generation.

The wing’s added height further enhances its power and make it less sensitive to stall – so drivers are less likely to suddenly lose front-end grip when they close up on another car.

The multiple under-wing strakes seen on 2018 cars are now limited to two each side, meaning more of the airflow is fed to the underbody. This is less sensitive to aerodynamic disturbance and so creates a less choppy ‘wake’ for a following driver to deal with.

New barge boards

What’s the change: Smaller – and repositioned – barge boards

Why has it been made: To make them less powerful and less aerodynamically disruptive. The barge boards are reduced in height by 150mm, and moved forward by 100mm to better join up the airflow from the front wing. This ultimately helps make the flow coming off the rear of the car less problematic for following drivers, meaning they should be able to get closer to the car in front.

New rear wing

What’s the change: A higher, wider, simpler wing

Why has it been made: Like the front wing, to help promote even closer racing. Height is up by 20mm, taking the ‘rooster tail’ wake coming off the back car higher into the air. Combined with a width increase of 100mm, the larger wing assembly creates a bigger hole in the air – to the benefit of cars trying to slipstream behind.

Furthermore, the DRS opening is increased by 20mm, boosting its potential power by around 25 percent, and a limitation has been placed upon the pressure-equalising endplate slots of 2018.

New break ducts

What’s the change: Simplified design

Why has it been made: To reduce the aerodynamic exploitation of brake ducts. Restrictions on complex designs mean less surface area for aerodynamicists to play with. The change also means less downforce reduction when that area of the car is in disturbed air – something else that, again, should help drivers when following another car closely.

Revised tyre colours

What’s the change: Rather than the rainbow of tyre colours used in 2018, Pirelli have cut that down to three for 2019

Why has it been made: To make understanding strategy easier for fans, the terms hypersoft, ultrasoft and supersoft have been consigned to the history books. Now each Grand Prix will feature simply a white-marked hard tyre, a yellow-marked medium, and a red-marked soft. However, the actual compounds used for those three designations will change depending on the circuit, with Pirelli having five to choose from – C1 being the hardest, C5 the softest.

Rear wing endplate lights

Mercedes tests F1 rear wing endplate lights.

What’s the change: Two additional rear lights, one on each endplate

Why has it been made: To increase visibility of cars in poor weather conditions, and hence improve safety. As well as the traditional rear central light, cars must also have an additional LED light on each rear wing endplate. These must be illuminated at all times when a driver is using intermediate or wet-weather tyres.

Fastest lap reward:

An additional point will be available this season for setting the fastest lap but only drivers who are classified in the top ten at the end of the race will be eligible to receive it.

Revised tyre colours

What’s the change: Rather than the rainbow of tyre colours used in 2018, Pirelli have cut that down to three for 2019

Why has it been made: To make understanding strategy easier for fans, the terms hypersoft, ultrasoft and supersoft have been consigned to the history books. Now each Grand Prix will feature simply a white-marked hard tyre, a yellow-marked medium, and a red-marked soft. However, the actual compounds used for those three designations will change depending on the circuit, with Pirelli having five to choose from – C1 being the hardest, C5 the softest.

Biometric gloves

What’s the change: Drivers are required to wear biometric gloves

Why has it been made: To increase safety and help facilitate medical rescue. The gloves – developed by the FIA Safety Department – feature sensors stitched into the fabric that monitor the driver’s pulse rate and the oxygen levels in his blood. They transmit that potentially life-saving data back to the at-track medical team, before, during and after a crash.

Increased fuel allowance

What’s the change: Drivers may use up to 110kg of fuel – previously 105kg – in the race.

Why has it been made: To allow drivers to use the engine at full power at all times. They should no longer have to worry so much about conserving fuel – and will hence be able to push harder, especially in the closing stages of a Grand Prix.

Car and driver weight

What’s the change: Driver weight will now be considered separately to the car

Why has it been made: So that heavier drivers are no longer disadvantaged by the weight regulations. The minimum weight of the car, without fuel, has gone up slightly from 733kg to 740kg. More importantly, at least 80kg of that must be made up of the driver, his seat and driving equipment. Lighter drivers can bring themselves up to the 80kg threshold by adding ballast, but crucially this ballast must be positioned in the immediate cockpit area – and cannot be used elsewhere on the car to help improve its balance.

The teams:

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas are now five times Formula 1 World Champions and along with their lead driver Lewis Hamilton they will be starting the 2019 season very much as the team to beat.

The team is just one of two in Formula 1 that hasn’t changed its driver lineup coming into 2019 of course Lewis Hamilton returns fighting for a sixth Formula 1 World Championship which would put him second in the all time list and he’s joined once again by Valtteri Bottas who’s hoping to make up for a disappointing 2018 and get back to the top step of the podium.

Team management hasn’t really changed, Andy Cowell, still running the engine side of things, James Allison is the tech boss and Toto Wolff head of the team and the pit wall.

It’s very much evolution over revolution in terms of car design with the team stating what they’ve really worked hard on is the power unit in the back of the car. The team hasn’t had many struggles in recent years but if there’s one thing that’s not quite been perfect it’s fair to say that’s tyre wear. Thats something the team will hope to be on top of in relation to its previous cars which the team themselves have labelled to be a diva.

The W10 retains an identical wheelbase to its two predecessors and of course the low rake which Mercedes has run in contrast to Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. One visible difference is the sidepods they remain low, a difference to almost every other car in the pit lane, but this year far narrower than we’ve ever seen before.

With the team gunning for a sixth consecutive constructors’ and drivers’ championship in 2019 it’s safe to say that expectations are high at Mercedes but have they done enough to ward off the threat posed by their two biggest rivals, Ferrari and Red Bull?

Scuderia Ferrari 

Scuderia Ferrari enters its ninetieth year with a new team principal, a new driver, a new car but the same objective – to wrestle the championships away from the might of Mercedes.

There’ve been some big changes to personnel over the winter, team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has departed replaced by the team’s technical chief Mattia Binotto. There’s also been a shakeup on the driver front Sebastian Vettel returns for a fifth year at Ferrari but is joined by last season’s rookie sensation Charles Leclerc.

The SF90 has much in common with its predecessor and as such carries over much of what has made Ferrari such a potent force in recent years. The front wing elements trail off and droop down towards the endplates seemingly at odds with the design adopted by Mercedes and yet fascinatingly the end result is believed to be exactly the same.

In terms of wheelbase and rake the team finds itself pretty much in the middle of Mercedes and Red Bull in what could be described as the Goldilocks principle – not too long, not too short, not too steep, not too flat but the team hopes just right.

For the past two seasons the team has been the one which arriving in Melbourne has arguably been the one to beat. They’ll be hoping that they continue this into 2019 and most importantly are able to continue that through the entire season. With a fast and thus far reliable car is this the season that it all comes good for Ferrari?

Red Bull Racing

2019 brings some big changes for Red Bull Racing but as always and, as one would expect, expectations remain high for the four-time world champions.

There’s just one personnel change of note coming into the season but it’s a significant one. Daniel Ricciardo has left the team meaning that Max Verstappen is now the most experienced driver at Red Bull racing. He is joined in the sister car by Pierre Gasly who did so much to impress in Formula 1 in his rookie season for Toro Rosso in 2018.

And so to the car but first the power unit because Red Bull have split from Renault, the company with which they won all of their Formula 1 world championships. For 2019 and beyond Red Bull link up with Honda. Team principal Christian Horner has described the power unit as a thing of beauty and its compact architecture has allowed the team to explore a size zero approach at the rear of the RB15.

The car itself maintains the high rake which has been the hallmark of all of Red Bull’s recent racers. Meanwhile on the nose there’s a new vent which looks set to increase the efficiency of the s-duct and improve front end grip.

Success or failure in 2019 will rest almost exclusively on the team’s new partnership with Honda. The faster that relationship gels the faster the team can get back to winning ways and fighting for the world championships which have been lacking for the past half a decade.

Renault

2019 is set to be an important year for Renault and with a big name driver signing grabbing much of the headlines hopes are high for a return to podium contention.

The team stunned the F1 driver market by signing Daniel Ricciardo to partner Nico Hulkenberg for 2019. With the German yet to record a Formula 1 podium and the Australian more used to fighting for grand prix victories both will be hopeful that team principal Cyril Abiteboul has overseen the creation of a car that’s capable of both.

As with many of this year’s contenders the RS19 is an evolution of last year’s car as the team aims to build on the solid steps forward they’ve made in recent years. Where they hope they have made a big step forward however is in the power unit, the evolution made there over the winter the team hopes brining an increase in both performance and reliability.

It’s a make or break for many of the elements within this team and with drivers of the calibre and hunger of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg the spotlight is on Renault like never before.

Haas

One of only two teams to stay true to its driver lineup into 2019 Haas enters the new year hoping to prove that last year was no fluke.

With Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen back onboard, Gene Haas still at the helm and Guenther Steiner as team principal the only really noticeable change at the team is in its car livery. A new sponsor means a new if slightly retro colour scheme. Testing saw a number of small but recurring issues blight the team’s run plan but as a still young team the ironing out of these kinds of creases which will allow them to confirm themselves as an upper midfield contender.

There’s seemingly little in the way of massive innovation on the 2019 team car but that’s not necessarily not a bad thing. Haas has been measured and methodical in its approach to the sport since day one.

Having let fourth place slip through their fingers last season Haas are determined to show once again in 2019 that they can shock the establishment .

McLaren

Of all the teams in Formula 1 it is perhaps McLaren that has the most to prove in 2019 not just to its legion of fans but most importantly to itself.

2019 brings massive changes on the personnel front beginning with the drivers. Stoffel Vandoorne is out replaced by fellow McLaren junior and feeder series sensation Lando Norris. And in the sister car Carlos Sainz replaces his boyhood hero Fernando Alonso. Zak Brown still heads up the McLaren organisation but it’s IndyCar legend Gil de Ferran that’s in charge of the sporting side. Meanwhile Andreas Seidl comes into the team from the World Endurance Championship and McLaren have managed to lure design genius James Key away from Toro Rosso.

With so many changes at so many levels questions have been posed as to whether it’s too much, too fast or if such a wholesale shift is just exactly what the team needs. Ultimately it’s how the whole thing gels that will determine its success or failure.

The teams come out with a novel and innovative approach to the design of their car for this season with particular attention being paid to the cavity between the front wheel and the sidepod. A lot of work has gone into this area and they’re hoping that it will reap rewards.

Its been a rough few years for McLaren but their mission in 2019 remains clear: to get themselves from the bottom of the pit lane back to the top.

Racing Point

Some marked changes at Formula 1’s most pluckiest of underdogs, but can new investment start their fight back in a congested midfield?

Sergio Perez stays at the team for a sixth season and is joined by Lance Stroll, the duo together having taken every non big three podium in the sport since 2016. Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, leads the team of investors who saved the team and one of the first appointments was to make Otmar Szafnauer team principal.

Force India is no more the team rebranded as Racing Point. An odd name one might think until you realise graphically the point becomes a dot enabling simple team rebranding dependant upon title sponsor. So for this year the team simply known as SportPesa racing.

The new investment means that for the first time in years the team will enter the season without the financial headaches of the past. That being said hangover from recent years means that it is still half a step behind. The car we saw in testing was ostensibly the 2018 car albeit modified for the 2019 regulations. There are however a raft of developments and upgrades expected for the first race in Australia.

Given the recent history of this team there’s much anticipation as to what it can achieve with a proper budget. Theres certainly a great feeling around the team that Formula 1’s underdogs could become the sport’s giant killers.

Alfa Romeo

It’s the return of a big name to Formula 1 and Alfa Romeo are already under the spotlight in the Formula 1 pit lane after the unveiling of an innovative, potentially game changing car.

Fred Vasseur remains at the helm of the team which features an all new driver lineup. Kimi Raikkonen returns to the where he made his Formula 1 debut and he’ll be joined by Italian youngster Antonio Giovinizzi. Italian design chief Simone Resta came over from Ferrari midway through last season and the car that he’s created for 2019 has got people talking the length and breadth of the pit lane.

The intrigue around the car is focused on the front wing. Now Alfa is unique in the sport in that their wing has elements that don’t actually extend all the way to the front wing endplate.

Now there was some fear at the team when rivals started launching their cars that their novel design wasn’t seen anywhere else but thankfully those worries became relief when both Toro Rosso and Ferrari launched a similar although not quite as advanced design concept.

Critically it isn’t easy to change a front wing design without also effecting the design of the rest of the car so if Alfa Romeo have found a silver bullet it won’t be quickly or easily replicated by their rivals.

The team’s aim for 2019 is to be fighting in the upper reaches of the midfield battle but there’s a feeling that they could achieve far greater success on track this year. For a team which just a few seasons ago was fighting over the last row of the grid it could be quite an incredible turnaround.

Toro Rosso

Some big changes at Toro Rosso but Red Bull’s sister team are entering 2019 as a team who many anticipate could surprise.

Two newish drivers for Toro Rosso in 2019. Daniil Kvyat gets a third bite of the Formula 1 cherry and will be joined by Formula 2 standout Alexander Albon. Both drivers have been let go by Red Bull in the recent past and yet both deserve their place at the top table.

This year’s car is the last that will feature a design influence from James Key who has departed for McLaren. Interestingly though and like the other Italian teams the front wing design is similar to that we’ve seen at Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.

The rear of the car comes almost entirely from Red Bull this year given their now shared relationship with Honda, yet some in the pit lane have a suspicion that given the differences at the front of the car on occasion it could be Toro Rosso who have the upper hand.

The team’s objective in 2019 is of course to move up the midfield order but for its drivers in the shark pit that is Formula 1 it’s just to survive.

Williams 

New livery, new sponsors and new drivers at Williams but can the team pull itself back into the fight in 2019?

Robert Kubica marks a quite incredible return to Formula 1 racing action leading Williams charge into what will be a pivotal season. He’ll be joined by George Russel, Formula 2 champion, with both drivers hoping that the team can provide them with a car that can showcase their talents.

Williams were late to the preseason party missing the first two and a half days of testing and with neither driver able to put any serious mileage on the car it’s the lessons learned in week two that will prove to be pivotal.

After the difficulties of 2018 compounded by the headlines in early 2019 pressure is mounting on the team’s technical chief Paddy Lowe who has taken a leave of absence from the Grove squad for personal reasons days before the first race of the season. Both Lowe and team leader Claire Williams will be under increasing pressure if performance and results don’t meet expectations.

It’s no exaggeration to say this could be one of the most important years in the history of this once mighty team. It simply has to turn a corner and begin its road to recovery.

Race Calendar:
Date Grand Prix Venue
March 17 Australia Melbourne
March 31 Bahrain Sakhir
April 14 China Shanghai
April 28 Azerbaijan Baku
May 12 Spain Barcelona
May 26 Monaco Monaco
June 9 Canada Montreal
June 23 France Le Castellet
June 30 Austria Spielberg
July 14 Great Britain Silverstone
July 28 Germany Hockenheim
August 4 Hungary Budapest
September 1 Belgium Spa
September 8 Italy Monza
September 22 Singapore Singapore
September 29 Russia Sochi
October 13 Japan Suzuka
October 27 Mexico Mexico City
November 3 USA Austin
November 17 Brazil Sao Paulo
December 1 Abu Dhabi Yas Island

Last season’s standings:

 

 

Be sure to visit this site for full qualifying results, race reports and all the latest news as it happens.

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