2019 Formula 1 Silly Season Synopsis
As the Formula 1 season nears conclusion in just one week, the announcements have continued to flood out, with a couple moves for drivers to the Verizon IndyCar Series shifting the landscape. As details are revealed, along with those on the outside discussing their hope, or lack there of, it only increases the speculation for the few remaining rides on the grid.
MERCEDES: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both signed and secured for the future. Are we really surprised based on their success?
FERRARI: Sebastian Vettel is signed through 2020, but will see a new teammate with the squad promoting Charles Leclerc up the ladder. Leclerc spent this year with Sauber, scoring nine top-10’s with a season-best seventh. The move came as a surprise as Kimi Raikkonen has performed well this season with 12 podiums, including his victory in the United States.
RED BULL: Daniel Ricciardo may be leaving, but Max Verstappen is staying and he will be joined by Pierre Gasly, who has posted five top-10’s this season with Toro Rosso, including a season-best fourth-place finish. The routine of promoting young drivers up through the system continues.
RENAULT: Daniel Ricciardo will be joining Nico Hulkenberg, who remains with the team after posting 11 top-10’s in 20 races, including a season-best fifth.
HAAS: After speculation the American team may change their line-up for 2019, that is not case as both drivers will return. Romain Grosjean has been with the organization the longest, but just six top-10’s this season brought speculation after team principal Guenther Steiner told F1.com recently that they have interest from drivers due to their increased performance. That guideline, by the way, has been established by Kevin Magnussen with 11 points-scoring finishes, leaving him probable to remain with the team. The bigger news was the announcement that Pietro Fittipaldi has been named the official test driver.
FORCE INDIA: The team’s finances have been leaving the seas questionable for awhile, but that looks to be solved, thanks to consortium of investors led by Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll. That easily makes you believe that Lance Stroll would be joining the team after driving for Williams. So what happens to Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez?
Ocon expressed enjoyment of being part of the rumor mill discussion previously, as he was glad to see people were interested in him beyond just the team he was racing for. However, with the possible rides being scooped up, his optimism seemed to shrink. Now if you combine that with Toto Wolff’s comments to F1.com, the fire could easily be put out.
“No [update] – I think we’ve just kind of settled in the situation where we might need to find the right seat for him in 2020 and have a gap year and integrate him a lot in the team, and he can contribute to the team performance,” he said. “He and us, we’ve kind of got our head around it, even though it’s not perfect, unless a last-minute opportunity opens up at Williams. But it’s not in our hands. It’s for the team to decide.”
Wolff went on to add that Claire Williams “will take a decision that is in the best interests of Williams commercially and driver-wise, and she hasn’t come to that point yet. It’s not going to happen any time soon.”
Perez, meanwhile, stated that he has “a couple of options” but would not elaborate, either.
MCLAREN: Carlos Sainz now knows who his teammate will be, as it was announced at the beginning of September that F2 Championship front runner Lando Norris will join the team. The speculation began surrounding Norris after he drove Fernando Alonso’s car in the first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Stoffel Vandoorne has yet to announce plans for 2019 but said he “will announce my plans for next season in due course” following just four top-10’s in 2018. As previously covered, Fernando Alonso announced that he will not compete in Formula 1 in 2019, but confirmed his intentions to run the Indianapolis 500.
TORO ROSSO: If everything falls in place, you won’t see Pierre Gasly back with Toro Rosso in 2018. That leaves a lot of questions. There’s still questions as Brendon Hartley’s future isn’t determined yet either. With only three top-10’s thus far this year, he hasn’t written himself the best proposal when you’re looking at a group that has a wide array of talent to choose from in the Red Bull motorsport junior program. But who could replace either driver? There hasn’t been many names mentioned openly quite yet.
SAUBER: Kimi Raikkonen will return to the team that he made his Formula 1 debut 17 years ago, and will be joined by a rookie driver. Antonio Giovinazzi has driven for Sauber at times this year and has strong connections via being Ferrari’s reserve driver.
Marcus Ericsson, meanwhile, will take a new direction with his career in 2019, running the full IndyCar Series schedule with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He will remain involved in Formula 1, taking on the role of Sauber’s reserve driver. Though how many races he will attend and the details of the role, that is something Team Principal Frederic Vasseur will need to work out.
“He will be linked to the team in any case. We have a strong relationship and we will keep a similar relationship,” he told F1.com. “He wanted to stay in the single-seater world, and after F1, it’s [IndyCar] probably the most competitive one. He had a lot of opportunities to do something else – Formula E or endurance [racing]. He wanted to stay in the most competitive series. I think it will fit well with Marcus.
“It’s quite tough to do nothing and to wait for nothing, however, Paul di Resta did it two years ago [when he filled in for Felipe Massa in Hungary] and he was impressive, but it’s not an easy situation. To stay with the pressure of the race is probably the best option.”
Vasseur did note that if necessary, the team will bring in someone else to be a second reserve driver.
WILLIAMS: A season full of struggles, combined with Lance Stroll’s father buying a stake into another team make you ask a lot of questions. The first of those has been answered as the team revealed George Russell will drive for them in 2019. Russell currently leads the F2 standings and impressed Mercedes testing in Budapest.
As far as the second driver, it’d be easy to see Stroll jump ship. So that’d leave Sergey Sirotkin, which should be confirmed soon as he originally signed a multi-year deal before his 2019, supposedly, but nothing has been made official. The other possibility is team reserve driver Robert Kubica, who has been doing whatever he can to try and get back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
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