Another season of Formula One racing is here, and the gap continues to close between Mercedes and the rest of the top teams, at least as far as preseason testing indicates. It promises to be an exciting season, with some serious driver changes, including the young Charles Leclerc now driving for Ferrari alongside Sebastian Vettel.
The biggest change, other than the numerous team and engine differences, is the addition of a point being awarded to the driver and constructor who manage to set the fastest lap in each race and finish in the top 10 while doing so.
From Lewis Hamilton all the way on down to the return of Robert Kubica, we have all you need to know going into the 2019 Formula One season, which gets underway on Sunday, March 17 with the Australian Open.
What happened last season?
Mercedes once again had the best car, but there were times when others shined. Ferrari was their top challenger, while Red Bull was occasionally in the mix on the tracks where their cornering-centric aero helped them take it to the top two teams. Mercedes didn’t run away with every race, but, by and large, when they didn’t have a Lap 1 incident and they had pole, they went on to win it.
Lewis Hamilton wasn’t challenged by Valtteri Bottas, his teammate, but by Sebastian Vettel, and at points was trailing Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship. That said, down the stretch, it was clear Hamilton was going to win it, even if Vettel wasn’t mathematically eliminated until the final two races.
Throughout the rest of the grid, it was more a story of incremental improvements and some regressions. Force India, now Racing Point, regressed, as did the Williams team. Renault picked up some steam here and there when the track suited their car, and battled with Red Bull occasionally. McLaren wasn’t a factor, and Fernando Alonso retired from the sport after the team failed to make meaningful improvements to the car.
Mercedes won 11 races in 2018, with Ferrari taking six of them and Red Bull winning four. Only Hamilton, Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen won races last season.
Who can challenge Mercedes in 2019?
It might not even be about challenging Mercedes — it might be about challenging Ferrari. Throughout preseason testing, Ferrari has been consistently faster than Mercedes, and Hamilton has admitted already that this season could be Mercedes’ toughest in a long time. Of course, we thought Ferrari was close last season, and Mercedes found enough pace to routinely stay ahead of them. But if the gap is further narrowed, as it seems to be, then Vettel could certainly be pushing for a title.
It will also be interesting to see if Bottas, after a disappointing 2018, can challenge Hamilton, and if Vettel is at all challenged by the young Charles Leclerc. Both of the top drivers may get challenged more than they’re used to.
Red Bull hopes to be in the mix, but the Honda engines have a lot to prove after the company returned to the sport and fell well short of expectations. Toro Rosso performed well with the Honda power units a season ago — or better than expected — which is at least a good sign.
And the rest of the teams?
- One of the bigger risers may be Haas, the only American-owned team on the grid. The team was fairly steady as a middle-of-the-pack player last year, and preseason tests have shown them to be gaining on and even surpassing their 2018 competition, namely teams like Racing Point and Williams. Haas finished last season fourth, behind only the big three, and their car looks to be much-improved from last year.
- There will be a lot of hope for Renault after they went out and got Daniel Ricciardo, regarded as one of the better drivers currently in the sport. They are making big moves, but the car may not be ready to take it to the big three.
- Toro Rosso is looking to build on a better-than-expected 2018 with an improved Honda engine, but their ceiling is still an unknown as Red Bull itself has a lot to prove.
- Alfa Romeo, formerly Sauber, went out and signed stable veteran Kimi Raikkonen, and for that reason, they shouldn’t be written off as contenders in the mid-field.
- Racing Point seems to be falling, and falling fast. Formerly Force India, Racing Point looked like they were well on their way to a fourth-place finish in the standings just a couple years ago, but they’ve looked slow and uncertain in testing.
- Finally, Williams — one of the more storied teams yet one that has looked downright bad in testing. The Robert Kubica comeback story is a great one, but it’s hard to imagine him or anybody leading the Williams cars to significant points in 2019.
Notable team and engine changes
Sauber, building off an Alfa Romeo sponsorship from last season, has fully removed Sauber from their name and now race as Alfa Romeo Racing, with a Ferrari 064 power unit. Force India is gone, completing their transition to SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team, using a Mercedes power unit.
The most notable change, though, is Red Bull Racing moving on from Renault, ending a 12-year partnership to make the switch to Honda engines, which have been particularly terrible since Honda rejoined Formula One, though not for lack of effort.
Notable driver changes
There was a ton of shuffling near the end of the 2018 season and throughout this past offseason. There are a bunch of new drivers and we’re going to run down the changes. The biggest saw Ricciardo of Red Bull move on to Renault, replacing Carlos Sainz Jr., who will race for McLaren in 2019, taking the spot of former champion Fernando Alonso, who left the sport. He’ll be partnered with Lando Norris, 2017 European Formula 3 champion.
To replace Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly was promoted from Toro Rosso. Daniil Kvyat rejoined Toro Rosso after racing for the team in 2017. Alexander Albon, a former Formula 2 driver, will pair with Kvyat, and in doing so will become only the second Thai driver to race in Formula One, and the first 65 years.
The other big change is Leclerc moving up from Sauber to Ferrari, taking Kimi Raikkonen’s spot. Raikkonen, not yet ready to retire, moved over to Sauber (now Alfa Romeo), where he started his career in 2001. He’ll be partnered with Antonio Giovinazzi, who has made emergency starts in the past. Lance Stroll of Williams moved over to Force India (now Racing Point), where he’ll race alongside Sergio Perez.
Finally, reigning Formula 2 champion George Russell will join Williams, and he’ll be racing alongside Robert Kubica, who is making his return to Formula One after an eight-year absence brought on by a near-fatal rally car crash in 2011.
2019 F1 Entrants, Drivers and Cars
F1 2019 Roster
|Lewis Hamilton||44||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport||F1 W10 EQ Power+/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
|Valtteri Bottas||77||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport||F1 W10 EQ Power+/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
|Sebastian Vettel||5||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||SF90/Ferrari 064|
|Charles Leclerc||16||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||SF90/Ferrari 064|
|Max Verstappen||33||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||RB16/Honda RA619H|
|Pierre Gasly||10||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||RB16/Honda RA619H|
|Daniel Ricciardo||3||Renault F1 Team||RS19/Renault E-Tech 19|
|Nico Hulkenberg||27||Renault F1 Team||RS19/Renault E-Tech 19|
|Sergio Pérez||11||SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team||RP19/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
|Lance Stroll||18||SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team||RP19/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
|Romain Grosjean||8||Rich Energy Haas F1 Team||VF-19/Ferrari 064|
|Kevin Magnussen||20||Rich Energy Haas F1 Team||VF-19/Ferrari 064|
|Lando Norris||4||McLaren F1 Team||MCL34/Renault E-Tech 19|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||55||McLaren F1 Team||MCL34/Renault E-Tech 19|
|Kimi Räikkönen||7||Alfa Romeo Racing||C38/Ferrari 064|
|Antonio Giovinazzi||99||Alfa Romeo Racing||C38/Ferrari 064|
|Alexander Albon||23||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||STR14/Honda RA619H|
|Daniil Kvyat||26||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||STR14/Honda RA619H|
|George Russell||63||ROKiT Williams Racing||FW42/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
|Robert Kubica||88||ROKiT Williams Racing||FW42/Mercedes M10 EQ Power+|
A look at each team’s 2019 car
Here are the sporting and technical changes
- Once again, Formula One is changing up how the tires are viewed and presented to the audience. All of the types of compound return for 2019, but instead will simply referred to, on race day, as soft, medium, and hard. So what were called the yellow soft tires in 2018 could be considered the hard compound on race day if last year’s supersoft and hypersoft tires are among the three available compounds that Pirelli designates for each race.
- For the first time since 1959, Formula One will give a bonus point in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships for those who set the fastest race lap, but only if the driver finishes the race in the top 10.
- There were some changes to bodywork regulations. A series of aerodynamic changes were agreed upon for the front and rear wings to increase the potential for overtaking. The front wing endplates were reshaped, while the rear wing slot was widened, giving a boost to DRS performance. Some other changes were made to the bargeboards and rear wing to add further space for sponsorships. The maximum fuel levels were also raised from 105 kg to 110 kg, giving the drivers some breathing room when it comes to conserving fuel (and making themselves dangerously skinny to offset the heavier engines of today’s Formula One).
- This is a behind-the-scenes change, but the FIA recently introduced a new standard for driver helmets with stricter safety testing, and plan to implement those standards through all of their racing events, not just Formula One.
How can I watch F1 in the United States in 2019?
Starting last season, ESPN acquired the broadcast rights for Formula One. The first broadcast included commercials and was a disaster as it used the Sky Sports F1 feed, which is commercial-free. Fortunately, ESPN chose to broadcast the rest of the season commercial-free, and plans to do the same in 2019, thanks to a sponsorship with Mother’s Polish.
Races will primarily be broadcast by ESPN2, though there are a handful that will appear on ESPN proper and ABC. Last season, races in many European countries were pushed back an hour to make the sport more convenient to watch for those on the other side of the Pacific.
Live streaming of ESPN’s coverage, including practices and qualifying, can be had via WatchESPN.
Remember these calendar changes
The only notable calendar change is the swapping of the United States and Mexico Grands Prix. The Mexican Grand Prix will take place Oct. 27, while the United States Grand Prix will take place Nov. 3.
Here is the 2019 race calendar, including US viewing information.
Note: full broadcast schedule has yet to be announced by ESPN, only confirming channels and times through the Monaco Grand Prix.
We are using the networks from last year’s schedule on the other races, and will update when they’re confirmed, if necessary.
2019 F1 Schedule
|Australian Grand Prix||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne||March 17||ESPN, 1 a.m.|
|Bahrain Grand Prix||Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir||March 31||ESPN2 11 a.m.|
|Chinese Grand Prix||Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai||April 14||ESPN2, 2 a.m.|
|Azerbaijan Grand Prix||Baku City Circuit, Baku||April 28||ESPN2, 8 a.m.|
|Spanish Grand Prix||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona||May 12||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|Monaco Grand Prix||Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo||May 26||ESPN, 9 a.m.|
|Canadian Grand Prix||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal||June 9||ESPN, 2 p.m.|
|French Grand Prix||Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet||June 23||ESPN2, 10 a.m.|
|Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg||June 30||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone||July 14||ESPN, 9 a.m.|
|German Grand Prix||Hockenheimring, Hockenheim||July 28||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring, Budapest||August 4||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot||September 1||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|Italian Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza||September 8||ESPN2, 9 a.m.|
|Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore||September 22||ESPN2, 8 a.m.|
|Russian Grand Prix||Sochi Autodrom, Sochi||September 29||ESPN2, 7 a.m.|
|Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka||October 13||ESPN2, 1 a.m.|
|Mexican Grand Prix||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City||October 27||ABC, 3 p.m.|
|United States Grand Prix||Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas||November 3||ABC, 2 p.m.|
|Brazilian Grand Prix||Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo||November 17||ESPN2, Noon|
|Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi||December 1||ESPN2, 8 a.m.|