The music has stopped and all 20 drivers have taken their seats for the 2019 F1 season.Formula 1’s annual game of musical chairs was livelier than usual this year, largely due to two major developments in the driver market. The first was Daniel Ricciardo’s departure from Red Bull, which RaceFans revealed at the beginning of the summer break.
Ricciardo jumping ship was a disaster for Esteban Ocon. Moves to Renault or McLaren were in the offing for him at different stages, but those seats were filled by Ricciardo and the driver he displaced at Renault – Carlos Sainz Jnr. And when Force India was purchased by a consortium managed by Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, Ocon was doomed to a season on the sidelines.
Red Bull, as ever, promoted from within. Pierre Gasly, who wasn’t even on the grid at the beginning of last season despite having just won the GP2 title, has therefore earned a rapid promotion to the top team.
That left Williams and Toro Rosso each with a vacancy for 2019. There was a time when teams preferred not to change both drivers at once to ensure some continuity from one year to the next, but that appears not to be a concern any more, for both teams replaced their other drivers as well. In fact, four teams will have completely new line-ups next year.
Williams chose not to retain Sergey Sirotkin, choosing instead to sign a long-term deal with Mercedes junior driver and F2 champion George Russell. Ocon only wanted a one-year arrangement in case he has a shot at Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes drive in 2020.
The other FW42 will be driven by Robert Kubica. His fairytale return from the terrible injuries he suffered in 2011 has been facilitated by the backing of PKN Orlen, a Polish oil company.
Toro Rosso decided not to take up their option on Brendon Hartley, though as late as last weekend that hadn’t been confirmed to him. Alexander Albon was told on Monday he will replace Hartley, while Daniil Kvyat has remarkably been called back to the team yet again, and is set to become their longest-serving driver next year.
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Sainz’s move to McLaren ensured the team replaced on Spaniard with another, as Fernando Alonso has finally had enough of treading water in the midfield. As RaceFans revealed earlier this week, he’ll started next year at the Daytona 24 Hours.
Stoffel Vandoorne failed to win a third season at the team and will be replaced by the highly-rated Lando Norris. The 19-year-old may have failed to emulate Vandoorne’s dominant GP2 (now F2) title win, but he’s not short of championship silverware from his junior career.
Finally, Sauber will also have a completely new line-up as Ferrari chose to honour the preference of its late CEO Sergio Marchionne to promote Charles Leclerc in place of Kimi Raikkonen. In a surprise move, Raikkonen agreed terms to move the other way, signing a two-year deal with the team which brought him into F1 and race on into his fifth decade.
However Raikkonen is not taking up the ‘Ferrari seat’ with their engine customers: he is replacing Marcus Ericsson, who’s off to IndyCar, while Antonio Giovinazzi will get his first full-season shot in an F1 car.
That leaves Mercedes and Haas the only ones missing out on the fun, both heading into their third consecutive season with the same driver pairing.
With just eight drivers in the same seats at the beginning of next year as they were 12 months ago, this is the most upheaval we’ve seen in the driver market since 2010, when only six drivers were unchanged from year to year:
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2019 F1 season
- McLaren Racing reports reduced £71 million loss in 2019
- Kvyat: Hockenheim podium last year was “my biggest achievement” so far
- How the FIA’s new encrypted fuel flow meter targets Ferrari’s suspected ‘aliasing’ trick
- “He smashed my office door”: 23 must-see moments from ‘Drive to Survive’ season two
- ‘I should have done a better job. There’s things that I know I can do better’
33 comments on “Why that was F1’s ‘silliest’ silly season since 2010”
30th November 2018, 15:27
Stroll actually getting promoted in a year of tremendous upheaval pretty much sums up silly
OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
30th November 2018, 15:34
So Kimi is 48 or 49 now?
30th November 2018, 15:39
@omarr-pepper – It is a bit of an odd choice of expression, but it is correct. The decade from 40-49 (or 41-50 depending on your count preference) is your fifth decade.
0-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
30th November 2018, 15:59
@omarr-pepper @hobo It’s definitely not the case that the author is hurtling towards a similar landmark and is painfully aware of it. No. Not at all.
30th November 2018, 16:12
@keithcollantine – In the same boat. Keep rowing.
30th November 2018, 16:21
It’s not that bad once you get there, it is a bit like walking into the sea – at some point you feel the cold very acutely, around the, eh, middlle, and after that it gets better (being numbed by the cold?) @hobo, @keithcollantine
30th November 2018, 19:04
@bosyber – only with aging, you can’t backpedal the heck out once the water hits you there. 🥶
@bealzbob – heh, it’s like how Y2K occurred at the turn of the millennium, according to some.
30th November 2018, 23:32
The Beatles were still releasing albums when i entered stage right
30th November 2018, 20:03
Just wait till you’re getting more or less used to the idea and suddenly realise your sixth is careening towards you at breakneck speed. (To be honest, I only just got over turning 30. Took me 17 years, but I did it.)
30th November 2018, 20:32
@keithcollantine @hobo guess there’s a lot of people here on that same boat
1st December 2018, 8:55
30th November 2018, 16:06
@hobo As soon as I read it I knew some people wouldn’t get it :)
30th November 2018, 19:00
Trayambak Chakravarty (@major-dev)
30th November 2018, 17:29
I loved watching the drivers go through the maze this year, but I’m really upset Ocon isn’t in a team whereas Stroll literally strolled into a good seat. Otherwise, I really admire the fact that so many teams chose to gamble on young drivers.
30th November 2018, 18:56
Ocon is liability at the moment. He’s better off being a test driver. Stroll has calmed down a lot and time will tell if he’s as slow as the jealous trolls on here make out.
1st December 2018, 4:44
He is slow, but he has already had aot of races and is getting up to speed, others would never have got an opportunity in f1 the way he has. He will keep getting faster which is natural, and now he has a faster car also. Its pretty obvious to anyone he’s not as fast as gasly, verstappen, leclerc, plus all the older drivers. Hell be a solid midfield career driver.
30th November 2018, 22:45
I understand the Stroll hate, but i can not accept hating on Lawrence buying and rescuing a great team that basically was about to not exist. As much as Williams loves their independence (we all know why from the walter wolf history and forcing frank out) i really think it was a mistake on their part for not allowing Lawrence to invest more and “buy” them. I feel like they are at very high risk to go under which would be a total shame.
Darryn Smith (@darryn)
30th November 2018, 17:49
A bit off topic, but do the drivers usually switch teams the day after the season ends? I seem to remember this all happening after the calendar year ends. I don’t ever remember this happening before. Perhaps because I am also in my 5th decade.
1st December 2018, 20:20
I also don’t remember a season where all the same drivers lining up for the first GP, lining up for the last GP and every other between the two. Maybe this “calm” foreshadowed the “storm” as well. 2008 was similar, except for the disappearance of Super Aguri midseason, but the other drivers carried, no teams replaced their drivers. It’s also unique, that all the 20 drivers that contested, scored also.
30th November 2018, 19:01
Technically, Raikkonen takes Leclerc’s place at Sauber, though, as they switch teams for next season while Giovinazzi replaces Ericsson to be perfectly precise.
30th November 2018, 19:42
Sauber had one position to fill in themselves, and one for Ferrari. Kimi solicited at Sauber all by himself, so when Sauber took him in only the Ferrari appointed seat remained which was vacated by Leclerc. And Ferrari chose to fill it with Giovinazzi.
Kimi therefore took the seat of Marcus, and Antonio took the seat Charles vacated.
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
30th November 2018, 21:27
Exactly – Ferrari didn’t put Raikkonen in the Sauber, they put Giovinazzi in.
30th November 2018, 19:56
It’s a good start, but we can do better. I want to see a 0 on that graph next season!
Jay Menon (@jaymenon10)
1st December 2018, 0:51
I’m going to look ahead to the end of next year and predict each team’s driver situation:
Hamilton – Fresh from winning his 6th WDC decides to go for record equalling 7th in 2020 with Merc. Rumours about a possible retirement deal at Ferrari for 2021 are starting to grow
Bottas – Underwhelms again, finishing a distant 5th in the championship. Is relegated to reserve with Ocon promoted for 2020
Vettel – Once again fails to capitalize on a quick car, and is soundly beaten by his new teammate, decides to take a “sabbatical” for 2020 with the aim coming back in 2021
Leclerc – Very strong debut season with Ferrari and pushes Hamilton hard to finish a close runner up, and is going nowhere
Max – Finishes a distant 3rd in the championship due to reliability issues with the Honda and engine and repeated clashes with his equally quick teammate. Spent most of his weekends cursing his team, teammate and of course Honda, folks in Sakura were starting to miss Fernando. Christian Horner’s hairline has visibly receded
Gasly – Revels in his debut for the senior RB team. Seemed to take pleasure in upsetting Max from time to time. Played to the chaos created by the Verstappens and scored a fair number of good results when his car did manage to finish. A solid 6th the championship
Ricciardo – Solid first season for Renault. Pulled off some shock podiums and consistently scored points all season. With his teammate suffering the brunt of reliability issues, Dan finishes a surprising 4th in the championship. Seemed to settle in Renault well and struck a great partnership with Hulk
Hulk – Finally breaks his Podium hoodoo with a solid drive in Singapore, but suffers from reliability of his PU. Finishes 7th in the championship
Perez – Quite a bland season, no change, status quo for 2020
Stroll – Proves to be a slightly better driver than anticipated, but is soundly beaten by his more experienced team mate. Remains in team for 2020 (obviously)
Sainz – Delivers some swashbuckling drives reminiscent of his idol. Mclaren of 2019 proves to be quicker than its predecessor, but Sainz does not extract its potential consistently. Will stay on for 2020
Norris – Proves to be quick at times but very inconsistent. Has a number of high profile shunts. Mclaren’s pace improves steadily through the year and the rumours around the paddock is that Alonso will return in 2020, with Norris taking a reserve/test/ simulator role
Grosjean – Has a horrific season and is finally dropped by Haas. Giuliano Alesi an Antonio Fuoco rumoured to be replacements. Alexander Rossi also in the fold after winning the Indycar title
KMag – Typical stuff from KMag. Good solid season peppered with some stand out drivers. Will stay with team for 2020
Kimi – Puts in some stellar drivers, but not often enough. However, very closely matched with his teammate and appeared to get the most out of the car on most weekends. Will continue his contract in 2020
Giovanazzi – Matched up well to Kimi. Contributed to the very positive environment in the team. Will continue with the team into 2020
Kvyatt – Not a welcome return to F1 for the Torpedo who was essentially sunk by terrible reliability of the Honda PU (partially because once again, TR was treated as the sacrificial lamb to try new Honda parts). Only finished a handful of races due to reliability and some questionable driving. Dropped by Red Bull and one suspects he will not get a 4th chance. Replaced by Dan Ticktum for 2020
Albon – Similar to his teammate, suffers from reliability, but appears to be a bit more consistent. With talks of a Thai Grand Prix swirling around the paddock once again, Albon will continue for 2020
Kubica – Proves the world wrong, has a successful season and beats his very competitive teammate over the season in both qualy and points. Gets his dream move by signing and multiyear contract with Ferrari to replace Vettel who will be on a year’s “sabbatical”. Rumour is that if Vettel does not return, he will continue for one more season before switching to Ferrari’s Le Mans program in the new Hypercar era. Rumours are that Bottas may return to Williams in light of his recent relegation
Russell – A great debut season for Russell although he was beaten by Kubica. Drove well in a Williams that was not the quickest car on the grid, but kept it clean and seemed to get the most out of the car regularly. Will stay on at Williams for 2020.
Sundar Srinivas Harish (@sundark)
1st December 2018, 1:19
I’d like to change Bottas’ scenario a bit, since he’s one of my favourite non-favourite drivers.
Bottas spends the off-season training physically and mentally to beat Hamilton, and his preparation shows. Has a solid first few races, and is third in the championship by midseason, just behind Lewis and Leclerc. Ferrari’s mid-season updates falter yet again, and Valtteri overtakes Charles. Ferrari reverts to its old package after the summer break, and Leclerc is back in the game, and Vettel has a sudden mid-season resurgence. Bottas ignores multiple team orders and steals some much-needed wins from Hamilton, finally breaking the cordial environment at Mercedes. Bottas finishes a sold second to 6-time WDC Hamilton, and is rumoured to be out of contract, but mentor Wolff convinces management to keep him on in case the Hamilton’s blood flows just a little more scarlet.
1st December 2018, 10:26
I agree with most of that, but think Russell will beat Kubica, Vettel will win the championship, Bottas will be closer to Hamilton, Grosjean will have one of his best seasons in the sport and Gasly will beat Verstappen.
1st December 2018, 18:36
Phil Norman (@phil-f1-21)
1st December 2018, 11:26
I enjoyed reading this. Quite a few ideas I think are a bit off the mark though.
I doubt very much that Vettel will be beaten by Leclerc in his first season. They may be quite close though by the end of the season. Leading on from this I doubt that Kubica will be replacing anyone at Ferrari or anywhere else for that matter.
The other one is I cannot see Daniel finishing as high as 4th in the championship. I like Daniel but I just don’t think the car will be that competitive. He might have a shot at 5th and I think he will beat Hulk.
It’s a bit of fun though.
Longer term I can see Vettel leaving Ferrari and Daniel replacing him after 2 frustrating years at Renault. Maybe?!
1st December 2018, 12:21
This very entertaining. I especially liked the part about Gasly, which is both humorous and very likely.
While I found the part about Vettel a little funny, I think the thoughts about him melting down are misplaced. There is lots of this sentiment out there. Vettel has proven very successful. 4 titles and a mountain of cash from Ferrari. I don’t see him going anywhere unless he is ill. But I do agree Leclerc could beat him, and there could be heartbreak from team orders.
3rd December 2018, 6:27
I am going to bookmark your comment.
I want a lot of your predictions to come true and although some of them seemed a little bit impossible/impractical, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
1st December 2018, 4:51
I somehow don’t believe that Hamilton will join Ferrari at any point in his career. I think the idea of creating an era with Mercedes appeals to him more. And Mercedes suits him to a tee, and I’m not sure Hamilton’s personality will necessarily be as well-suited to the pressure-cooker environment at Ferrari. And I also think he’ll feel a sense of loyalty towards Mercedes. Moving to their only rivals currently would certainly disappoint more than a few at Brackley.
1st December 2018, 12:34
Red Bull could provide some real drama next year. I think Ricciardo managed himself very well against two better rated teammates, often beating them. But Verstappen could barely take it in Brazil when he was beaten to pole.
I think if Verstappen doesn’t dominate Gasly from the start there will be turmoil at Red Bull.
2nd December 2018, 19:55
“… when Force India was purchased by a consortium managed by Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, Ocon was doomed to a season on the sidelines.”
Which demonstrates that Stroll Sr. is more a fan of his son than he is of F1.
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