2019 Formula 1 Silly Season Synopsis
After months of rumors being spread through the paddock, the Formula 1 Grid is set for 2019 – all except for one seat, which many could say it locked down solely based on suspicion.
With the last official test of the 2018 season conducted, here is the updated breakdown as of November 30, 2018.
MERCEDES: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both signed and secured for the future. Are we really surprised based on their success?
Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon will be the team’s official reserve driver after failing to land a ride this past year; Ocon ran the full schedule in 2018 for Williams.
“His plans are pretty clear,” Toto Wolff said in Abu Dhabi. “He is going to be pretty close to the Mercedes team – he will be our reserve driver and third driver. We hope to do the odd test with him. We are looking at pre-season and in-season but it’s not sorted out yet. He will do a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for a seat in 2020.”
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 eight 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 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 seven 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 12 points-scoring finishes. 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. As expected, the team confirmed on Friday that Lance Stroll will drive for the team in 2019. He will be joined by Serio Perez, who returns once again.
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: The team will feature a pair of youngsters in 2019 in the form of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon. For Kvyat, it marks a full circle motion as he lost his Red Bull backing and Toro Rosso seat at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign, though has made his way back after spending 2018 as a development driver for Ferrari. Meanwhile, Albon showcased his ability behind the wheel in F2 after just losing out on the title to George Russell.
This will leave Brandon Hartley without a ride in 2019, and it isn’t surprising considering he only posted three top-10’s through the past season.
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: The months of speculation have ended as Williams announced their pair of drivers for 2018. George Russell will be behind the wheel of the first entry after a successful F2 campaign, with Robert Kubica behind the wheel of the other. Kubica had been doing whatever he could to get back behind the wheel for the first time since 2010.
The move now leaves this year’s pair of pilots on the outside – Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin. Stroll’s future is just about set via his father’s investment, however nothing has been stated about Sirotkin. The move does come as a surprise, though, as he originally signed a multi-year deal that should have taken him into 2019.
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