Formula 1 in 2019 – What do we know so far?
The 2019 Formula 1 season is underway, with testing in Barcelona completed and the Australian Grand Prix just around the corner. So what do we know so far? Here are six things to look out for during the forthcoming season.
Scuderia Ferrari ’s fightback
Could this be the year when it all comes good for Scuderia Ferrari? It’s been talked about many times before, but this might be the season when it finally happens. Sebastian Vettel was fastest during the pre-season Barcelona test, but what’s more revealing is an analysis of race pace. During one race simulation when both Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) were on track, the result of the ‘race’ was Ferrari winning by 23 seconds! Of course, you never know all the different parameters at work during testing, but Scuderia Ferrari’s pace seems genuine. Even Lewis Hamilton suggested that the red team could be up to half a second per lap ahead.
The rise of Honda
Honda’s return to Formula 1 ended in acrimony with McLaren but looked much stronger following a partnership with Toro Rosso last year. Now, Red Bull Racing has signed up with the Japanese manufacturer too, which means that the rate of development will accelerate. More importantly, the lap times and the reliability are all there, with Red Bull saying that they’ve never had a better pre-season testing campaign. Don’t discount the team for race wins this year. It looks like Honda is back.
There are new aerodynamic rules in F1 this year designed to encourage overtaking and spice up the show. In particular, the front wings are less complex, which makes it easier to get close to the car in front and pass. According to Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, it seems to be working. “I followed a car today and it really feels a lot better than last year,” said the Dane in the second week of the test. “I could actually follow and pass.” Hopefully, F1 will be more spectacular as a result.
New lap records
This year, the cars are around 10 kilograms heavier, with extra fuel allowed. Around Barcelona, that’s worth around 0.3s per lap by itself. Despite that, the brand new cars went significantly faster in this year’s test than they did at the same test in 2018, even coming close to last year’s Spanish Grand Prix pole time. Nobody really saw that one coming. Expect more lap records to fall this year.
An even tighter battle in the midfield
It’s pretty clear that Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes – in that order – seem quickest so far, with Red Bull a bit behind them, while Williams is a clear last. But what’s going on in the middle is much harder to detect. Renault, Haas, and Alfa Romeo seem closely matched. Toro Rosso appears to be edging Racing Point (formerly Force India) and McLaren slots somewhere in between. But the gaps are so finely-poised in the midfield that even the smallest gain during the season will make a big difference. It’s too close to call.
The top three drivers in Formula 2 this year – George Russell, Lando Norris, and Alex Albon – all graduate to Formula 1 and so far they have done a stellar job. Norris and Albon were at the top of the timesheets at various points during the Barcelona test, while Russell adapted so quickly to Formula 1 that he was even able to complete 140 laps in a single day. The current generation of rookies seem very well prepared for the next step. Watch them closely.