By Neil Leverett and Nicola Kenton

  • The 2019 F1 season returns with the Australian Grand Prix on 17th March
  • The teams have had two weeks of pre-season testing in Barcelona
  • Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will be looking to win his sixth World title
FORMULA 1 – After two weeks of pre-season testing, the F1 2019 season is nearly upon us. Here’s what you need to know before the opening race in Australia this weekend.


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Hamilton reigns again

Lewis Hamilton clinched his fifth Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship title last season with his team Mercedes claiming their fifth consecutive World Constructors’ Championship. Hamilton won the championship at the Mexican Grand Prix, despite finishing fourth in that particular race.


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It was a tight race between the Brit and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel throughout the season with momentum swinging one way and then the other. However, after the summer break Hamilton won four races in-a-row to assert his dominance while Vettel faltered. Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen came third while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished fourth after recovering from a poor start to the season.

One of the main changes to the cars last year was the introduction of the halo device to increase driver safety, which had been trialled at tests in previous years.


Rules change for 2019

There have been a few tweaks to the rules and regulations for F1 in 2019. The most notable change is the front wing, which is wider and higher than previously. It’s much simpler than previous versions and has been changed to allow drivers to follow more closely behind other cars and therefore have more chances at overtaking.

Similarly, the rear wing has also been changed to be higher and wider with the hope that more overtaking will happen because of the slipstream effect. Tyre choices have been regularly discussed in Formula One over the past few years and last season Pirelli had tyres with different colours on and it began to get confusing – terms such as ultrasoft and hypersoft will no longer be used. Each race will see a hard, medium and soft tyre; the compounds will differ from race to race but the terminology will stay the same.

Other changes include the stipulation that drivers are required to wear biometric gloves, which transmit data back to the at-track medical team if a crash occurs. The amount of fuel in the cars has increased from 105kg to 110kg in the race. Finally, the amount of weight for the car and driver will be considered separately, instead of a combined number so as not to disadvantage heavier drivers.


Points system

The other big amendment in F1 this coming this will be a points-based incentive for the fastest lap of the weekend. Coming into effect during the open race in Melbourne on March 17, the driver will be awarded a extra point to his weekend tally, providing said racer finishes inside the top ten also.

This season will be the first time points are awarded other than drivers who finish within the designated allotted points total for a race week since 1959, almost six years ago, Not only will the individual win and extra point for their lap time, but the winning constructor of that round of the season also. In total, an extra 21 points can be won across the course of the season.


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Former racer turned pundit Martin Brundle is amongst those who are in favour of one of the tweaks for 2019, and as the commentator told Sky Sports, he feels that even with races determined at the head of the pack, the chance to grab that extra one for the total should prevent coasting on race day.


“It’s another dimension to look out for and rewards speed, which is what Formula 1 is all about. I like the concept, especially if somebody like a Ricciardo, a Raikkonen, or whoever, can sneak in and steal an extra point off the front-runners because they’re watching each other too closely and pacing themselves.

“I quite like the idea of pushing people along so they can’t coast too much.


All change in paddock

Not only having changes been made for the new campaign, in the paddock there has been a sizeable shift on the makeup in the drivers’ parade. No less than four new names will be bled this season, with the returning Robert Kubica driving for Williams after his near career-ending rally accident over five years ago.

There will be three Britons on the grid in 2019; With Hamilton looking to win a third-straight world title, both Lando Norris and George Russell will compete for McLaren-Renault – with the latter Kubica’s team mate at Williams. Russell steps up to the top table of motor racing after winning last season’s F2 title, whilst Bristolian Norris also switches from F2, having won Formula 3 in 2017.


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In the cockpit for newly named Alfa Romeo – formerly Sauber – Raikonnen steps in after leaving Ferrari, with Antonio Giovinazzi making the grade as a two-term test driver to earn the number two drive for the Swiss manufacturer. Elsewhere, Alex Albon joins Toro Rosso with Daniil Kvyat.

The perhaps more fascinating tale lies at Ferrari and Renault. With Ricciardo hvaing made the switch to the French car with Renault, Charles Leclerc also takes up the occupied seat for the Italian Red. Leclerc showed excpetional promise in glimpss last season, and given a more powerful and more reliant engine, the Frenchman may have a big say in the destination of the Drivers’ Championship come November.

Ricciardo meanwhile, having left the angst of Red Bull behind after a turbulent season with team-mate Verstappen may also now have a better shot at consistent podium places with the new spec of the French manufacturer. Should that come to pass, then the Perth driver may finally be able to achieve his goal of being a legitimate candidate for a title tilt.


Ferrari dominate pre-season testing

Two pre-season tests have taken place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in the weeks leading up to the Australian Grand Prix. Results show that Ferrari topped both tests. The Prancing Horse ran reliably and the team managed to complete 598 laps in the first test and 401 laps in the second. Vettel posted the quickest time of testing with a 1m 16.221s which was just 0.003s ahead of Hamilton’s fastest lap in his Mercedes.

The second test wasn’t as successful for the Italian team with Vettel crashing into the barriers on day two alongside an investigation into the cooling systems and exhaust problem on Charles Leclerc’s car. However, Ferrari still looked the best on track and the engine reliability for their customers teams: Alfa Romeo and Haas also looked impressive.  Likewise, Leclerc also looked at home in the Ferrari and stated the team were ‘not flat out yet’.

One team who had a horrible time testing was Williams. They missed the first two and a half days of testing because the car wasn’t ready. On top of that, there was a fault in the car in the first test which slowed the team’s progress and in the second, they had to stop running because of bodywork degradation issues. The number of laps completed will be concerning as the team don’t have the bank of data needed to make changes ahead of Australia.

The Australian Grand Prix takes place in Melbourne, between the 15th and 17th of March.


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