Sunday March 17th 2019 is the date that all Formula One enthusiasts will have marked on their calendar for a while, as that signifies the start of the 2019 F1 season with the Australian Grand Prix kicking things off.
Lewis Hamilton (above) won the 2018 season, and his fifth drivers title overall, finishing the season on 408 points in his Mercedes – 88 points clear of Sebastien Vettel in second. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished in third, but even despite this, Ferrari couldn’t stop Mercedes also claiming the Constructors title. Of the 21 race season, only the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen (2) and Daniel Riccardo (2) prevented Mercedes and Ferrari claiming victory in every race – and of their combined 17 victories, Hamilton (11) and Vettel (5) accounted for 16 of these…Raikkonen’s sole victory coming in the United States Grand Prix
CAN FERRARI STOP THE MERCEDES DOMINANCE?
Ferrari announced last September that Kimi Raikkonen would be joining the Alfa Romeo/Sauber outfit, with 21 year old Monaco native Charles Leclerc taking his place and becoming Vettel’s partner in crime. Leclerc made his Formula One debut in 2018 for Sauber and clearly impressed enough to take the number 2 Ferrari. Another big move for the iconic Italian constructors was the replacement of team principal Maurizio Arrivabene with former technical director Mattia Binotto – Binotto expected to bring more harmony and focus to Ferrari than Arrivabene had been able to do with his rather polarising ways. Its unlikely that these changes will be enough this season to push Ferrari ahead of Mercedes, but there is no doubt they should be much closer – and the future looks more Ferrari red than before.
SO ITS LEWIS HAMILTON AGAIN?
On the face of it yes – although his Mercedes partner, Valtteri Bottas, may well feel he has every chance also. Although Bottas has been on the Formula One circuit since 2012/13, he has only three F1 wins to date, but has proved a valuable asset to Mercedes, and he may well claim his share of podiums and points enough to become a viable challenger. Of the rest, Max Verstappen will again be competitive and be the fly in the ointment where Mercedes and Ferrari are concerned. It is tough to see anyone else making a significant challenge across the season…the once dominant McLaren team will look to continue to rebuild and make progress and maybe get a few podium appearances….but really, it does seem that Lewis Hamilton has everything he needs to claim his sixth Formula One drivers championship.