So with 2018 gone another championship won and lost. With 2019 testing now just 45 days away I take a look at what the upcoming season has to offer from new and upcoming drivers, and what the teams have to improve on.

Mercedes

Mercedes have their team running like a well-oiled machine currently, and I like many others expect much of what we saw in 2018 in 2019, well with a bigger challenge from Ferrari and Red Bull hopefully.

I only had two issues with the team across 2018. One being their strategy calls throughout the season as they had got it wrong rather largely and it had cost them race victories such as the opener in Australia.

The second being using team orders in Russia which for me just wasn’t needed that far into the season as they already had a large gap to Ferrari at that stage and to deny Valtteri Bottas’s only victory was to say the least rather cruel. I do hope we see less of both of these in 2019.

Speaking of 2019, the Champions will I’m sure come back stronger and better prepared especially for a much stronger challenge from other teams and with these new aero regulations I certainly hope they will be better for the sport in general.

Ferrari

Ferrari has once again let the title slip through their fingers with strategy and driver errors. However that is in the nature of racing.

I’m sure this team with such passion and winning the very core of this team they will come back fighting for 2019. In 2019 we will have Sebastian Vettel once more however unlike the usual Ferrari they have opted for a relative rookie to partner him in the form of Charles Leclerc.

This driver line up has certainly got me very excited as for me, Leclerc was just outstanding in 2018 bringing a Sauber home in the points on many occasions. For me, his best race last season was Azerbaijan coming home in 6th! For me that was just outstanding regardless of all other DNFs that happened.

This will be undoubtfully be a challenge for Vettel as well as Hamilton and Verstappen.

Red Bull

Red Bull has been a near split story season in 2018 with Ricciardo having such horrible reliability and cruelly robbing him of podiums and clear victories, whilst Verstappen usually gaining those podiums and victories as a result.

2019 will be a season of uncertainty with the new Honda PU coming into play no one really knows how that will pan out for them. Will it be a season like McLaren has had in recent seasons? Or will it be a complete success for the team that surges them up to level or above Mercedes and Ferrari?

With Pierre Gasly coming aboard to partner Verstappen this could also prove to possibly become an issue for the team as both are very competitive and hungry for podiums and victories, however the two are an exciting pairing for this exact reason both pushing each other and the team to produce a championship winning formula.

For 2019 Red Bull’s main aim will be to plug the gap that is between them and the top two teams which I hope is going to be with this Honda partnership as it would be better to have three teams fighting instead of just two at the current stage.

I for one just hope this Honda PU does hold up to the expectation we all had when Honda announced its return to F1.

Toro Rosso

Speaking of Red Bull brings me to think of Toro Rosso, It’s sister team.

They didn’t have a great season in 2018 with ten DNF’s and finishing only one place above bottom with thirty three points, twenty less than 2017.

However they do have a completely new driver line up. One being Alexander Albon someone who personally I didn’t even know much about, finishing third in 2018’s Formula Two championship does say that he will be someone to watch for with Daniil Kvyat returning to the team after one year out.

Fun fact! Albon will be only the second driver in Formula One history to race under the Thailand flag.

For 2019 I hope their results improve but even more so that their reliability improves as well as I’m sure they would have finished way higher had they not suffered so much last season.

Another thing I’d like to see is more consistency and getting into the points more regularly as only Hartley scored just three times throughout 2018, while Gasly scored five times including the teams best finish of fourth in Bahrain. Now with him now gone, only time will tell if Kvyat will improve on that.

Racing Point

Here are the not so newcomers to the sport.

After being rebranded and being saved, Racing Point (formally Force India) brings what is arguably a great team full of character and at a fraction of what the big teams have in spending, this team churns out a great car for the budget they have so its no surprise that they had been struggling but after being bought and saved by Lance Stroll’s Father and others they are still here for 2019.

We welcome of course Lance to the team alongside Sergio to drive for the team.

Lance who will have the means necessary to show just what he is capable of in a good midfield car.

The biggest thing they must improve on in 2019 is not only the car as that did have its issues, is consistency to score points throughout the first half of the season.

They only scored three double points finishes with the highlight of the season of course being getting on the podium in Azerbaijan however this being discounted after entering administration and being rebranded.

The point however still stands for a team that is usually fighting much bigger teams, the points weren’t coming regularly enough to fights the likes of Renault and Haas.

This I feel they will achieve if the car is better than last seasons and if Lance can deliver.

Haas

If anyone hopes to start the season off better than 2018 it’s Haas.

Two botched pit stops ended their Australian GP rather abruptly and quiet sadly. Both drivers not having their wheels secured properly only to drop out whilst in a high points position.

Haas has been a good team to watch for ever growing in the knowledge to grow more and improve since its first season.

It’s main concern for me would be its driver Romain Grosjean. Having not scored a single point in the first eight races, crashing out (rather embarrassingly) in Azerbaijan he has a lot to make up for, especially considering many other drivers have lost their seat for less.

The next being the car itself just improving little by little could see them be in front of Renault this season if not right up their gearbox, finishing only twenty nine points off them in the championship.

If Grosjean scored in all those races in my mind they would already be in front of them. Grosjean will be a driver to watch as he will have a lot of making up to do for what happened in 2018.

Williams

Now this team is who I’m most excited for as I’m sure lots of others are as well. I’m of course talking about their 2019 driver line up – George Russell F2 champion and the returning Robert Kubica. What an exciting line that is!

After what is unquestionably Williams worst season finishing dead last with just five points, we see light at the end of the tunnel with Stroll off to Racing Point whilst Mercedes junior and F2 champion, Russell make his F1 debut with the team because he is a such and exciting prospect.

We also see the return of Kubica which is something nothing short of a miracle after his rally accident in which he almost lost his right hand.

After such a horrible car last season, Williams can only get better. For me the entire car was just a shambles and something we really shouldn’t see from a team of this stature.

Prospects for the team are high however with having a Mercedes PU, they already have the tools they need to have a great mid field car to fight for points positions question is can they make something to give Kubica and Russell a decent chance to fight for those points?

McLaren

McLaren did have a better year, having thrown out Honda and taken up with Renault PU.

However the points only came regularly in the first half of the season with Alonso outscoring his teammate most of the time.

For 2019 with Alonso and Vandoorne now gone, it’s up to Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris to help McLaren reach the heights it was once at.

For me McLaren has got to improve its car as it was clear for all to see in 2018 that the engine was not the sole issue. With the Renault powering them an already race winner, they were still struggling to make up to Red Bull at all and now with Alonso gone, it’s hard to see where their point haul is going to come if they don’t improve on last season’s car.

It’s in speculation that Alonso will help McLaren and possibly even test their 2019 racer but however that has yet to be made official but with Alonso being close to Sainz and becoming a shareholder, it would be in McLaren’s favour to let him give his feedback and drive the new car.

McLaren really do need to turn the wick up and make something special to at least rival Red Bull as they are not in a position where they need to be at all and I hope that the speed of Norris and advice from Alonso will help that happen.

Renault

So here are the midfield winners.

The fourth placed Renault, another team to have just improved season by season and with Daniel Ricciardo now coming aboard things on the surface at least can only get better for the team.

It’s no simple task to make a team successful in f1 but Renault has clearly made a good promise to Riccardo otherwise I doubt he would move unless he wanted a new challenge, which may be the case after all the reliability issues he has had. People have also looked at the move as a silly decision but Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was looked that way and looked how that turned out.

Now for 2019 Renault has to give something to Daniel and Nico Hulkenberg to fight with. otherwise they may was well and pack up now as their sole intention is to win once more as they did in 2005 and 2006 with Alonso and I think they might in a few years given the regulation shake up for 2020.

For 2019 however it’ll be about engine and aero package. Something I think Renault are capable of.

Sauber

So we come to the final team but they do have some excitement about them.

With the return of Kimi Raikkonen along with Antonio Giovinazzi as well, we have an exciting lineup.

Kimi will bring much need experience to the team as they look to improve on their success of 2018. As a Ferrari alley they will be looking to rival Haas on performance and set them as a clear benchmark for 2019.

The Ferrari links with young Antonio will mean they will be keeping a close eye on his performance over the coming season and will maybe nurture him to be a possible replace for Vettel when the time comes and follow Leclerc’s path to the team.

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