Summer of 2018 has unquestionably been the wildest ‘silly season’ for the Formula One driver market in recent memory. All began by Daniel Ricciardo’s shocking move from the current race win contenders, Red Bull, to the languishing midfield team, Renault, and Fernando Alonso’s rather less shocking decision to retire. Here is the F1 2019 driver line-up as of the 2018 Russian Grand Prix:
Lewis Hamilton’s place at the reigning champions was never really in doubt as arguably the current best of the best. Valtteri Bottas’ place seemed slightly more in doubt but ultimately has been retained thanks to his good overall speed and sportsmanship.
Sebastian Vettel simply has no reason to leave the team that has been improving rapidly since the 2017 aerodynamics regulation change. However, Kimi Raikkonen having been a less consistent but admittedly quick on-his-day driver will be replaced by young Sauber points scorer Charles Leclerc. What was more interesting was Kimi’s next move…
ASTON MARTIN RED BULL RACING HONDA
A decision that Christian Horner thought was a joke- Daniel Ricciardo going to Renault has meant an early call-up to Red Bull in the career of the promising young Red Bull junior and Toro Rosso driver, Pierre Gasly. Gasly has consistently beaten Toro Rosso teammate Brendon Hartley and scored most of the only Honda powered team’s points. Max Verstappen, the youngest ever race winner will lead the team as the most experienced.
HAAS F1 TEAM FERRARI
Both drivers will continue for their third season together at the only fully American team, it was announced prior to the Russian Grand Prix. Magnussen’s position was barely in question, unlike the seemingly erratic Frenchman, Romain Grosjean who’s string of incidents in the past could have possibly worked against him.
RACING POINT FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM (Name to be changed)
Sergio Perez (Expected)
Lance Stroll (Expected)
The complicated saga of possible closure during administration in the Summer Break for Sahara Force India, will, it seems, ultimately lose the pink panthers their star upcoming Mercedes junior driver, Esteban Ocon. The team being bought by a consortium of buyers headed by Lawrence Stroll and Racing Point should cause Lance, Lawrence’s son to make the move from Williams. Sergio Perez’s incidents in Singapore will do little to mean a replacement is needed.
RENAULT SPORT F1 TEAM
Some believe that the money-infested manufacturer Renault will have the ultimate driver line up. Ricciardo with his mix of youth and experience should bring more publicity and potential sponsors to the former champions, but having a car at the pace level of Red Bull, the obvious main target, seems impossible in the near future. The solid finisher and consistent points finisher, Nico Hulkenberg, having yet to score a podium will be hungrier than ever to end his unwanted record.
ALFA ROMEO SAUBER F1 TEAM
A completely new line-up for 2019 is hoped to revive the glory days for the team, of which their were not many. The unbelievable Kimi move to Sauber from championship contenders Ferrari still seems utterly ludicrous to most. Maybe he seeks to help the team who brought him into F1 to get to the front of the grid, or a bit closer to it. A behind the scenes deal having been ruled out by Ferrari, must have occurred. Sauber will also recruit Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi to a full race seat after various race weekend outings for Haas, Ferrari and Sauber.
SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA
TBC- Brendon Hartley (Possible), Pascal Wehrlein (Possible), Stoffel Vandoorne (Unlikely),
Announced at his home race, Daniil Kvyat will return to the team where his career was in jeopardy. Joining Toro Rosso’s driver line-up for 2014, he impressed so much that he was promoted to Red Bull after Sebastian Vettel’s departure for 2015 and 2016. A scrappy few races in 2016 led to him being swapped with Max Verstappen and having to return to Toro Rosso. Eventually being dropped completely after the US GP of 2017, he will return in 2019. Brendon Hartley seems the most likely to join him but no exceptional results can be put to his name.
Another team with a new line-up is the team that has been controlled by fear of Alonso’s departure for three years. After historically always making the strange decision to remove a driver after the team has a bad season, McLaren after one torrid season with Renault power units has had nowhere to hide from their awful pace. Stolen from Renault and the Red Bull junior programme, Carlos Sainz needs to pray for an improvement from the second-oldest team still racing. McLaren’s own extremely young driver, Norris, joins him.
WILLIAMS F1 TEAM
TBC- Sergey Sirotkin (Likely), Robert Kubica (Possible)
TBC- Esteban Ocon (Possible), Marcus Ericsson (Unlikely)
Esteban Ocon confirming that he has been pushed out of contention at Force India could mean a temporary one year seat at Williams could be finalised by his manager, Toto Wolff. Sergey Sirotkin, as a current Williams driver would be a relatively safe option and Robert Kubica could arguably be faster. However, his physical limitations could be pivotal in the decision.
I would love to know your opinions in the comments section: