1. Red Bull’s fireworks
Young gun Pierre Gasly replaces Danny Ricciardo at Red Bull, joining the Dutch wunderkid Max Verstappen. The duo have traded verbal barbs in the media before the season has even begun, with newcomer Gasly refusing to be relegated to support-driver status, and Verstappen attempting to assert dominance within the team. While the two drivers may have a clash of egos, the team’s engineers will be working to ensure their engines don’t explode every third lap. Red Bull has switched from Renault to Honda power for 2019. The gamble could backfire, with uncertainty surrounding Honda’s reliability.
2. The grid reshuffle
Of the 10 teams on the 2019 F1 grid, just two will have the same driver pairings from last year (Mercedes-AMG and Haas F1) when they line up for the opening round. Fresh blood has been injected into the grid with rookies Lando Norris, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon and George Russell making their debuts. Reshuffled line-ups at McLaren, which will pair rookie Norris with Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr, and Williams, where Russell is partnered with returning veteran Robert Kubica, are unlikely to change fortunes. Both teams will hope to reignite the glory of days past, but are probably going to be squabbling over single-digit points.
3. Vettel’s worst nightmare
Sebastian Vettel’s major concern for 2019 won’t be someone draped in Mercedes colours, but the scarlet red of his own Ferrari team. Replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari for 2019 is Charles Leclerc, who was promoted at the wishes of the late Sergio Marchionne. It wouldn’t be the first time Vettel has been trounced by a younger teammate – Daniel Ricciardo embarrassed the four-time champ when he joined Red Bull in 2014.
4. It’s make or break for Daniel Riccardo
Daniel Ricciardo is in for a year that could either make his F1 career, or cripple his reputation. A shock move to the mid-field Renault team for 2019 has left many in pitlane scratching their heads. Two scenarios can play out. Ricciardo could help build Renault into a race-winning squad as a team leader, a la Hamilton at Mercedes, or the French team’s woes could continue, and the Aussie’s stock within the paddock could plummet.
5. New looks, but will they work?
F1’s new head honchos rushed through a bevy of regulation changes for the 2019 season in the hopes of improving racing. The most important are the aerodynamic changes, which mean ’19 cars will have larger, simpler front wings, and wider rear ones, in an effort to mitigate the effect of ‘dirty’ air. However, the regulations were hastily scripted, prompting some to cast doubts over their effectiveness. As per every year.