“The fond farewell may yet be premature”
s soon as the flag had fallen on the 2018 Formula 1 world championship, thoughts immediately turned to 2019. There are 12 weeks until the first test in Barcelona next February, when the new cars will be unveiled to the world.
For the crews that have travelled to 21 races around the globe, they will welcome the short respite as the holiday season approaches, but for the factorybased personnel, the hours and pressure ramps up as they strive to build their new machines for 2019.
During the Abu Dhabi weekend, a number of outfits bid farewell to their drivers. It was Daniel Ricciardo’s last at Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen’s final race for Ferrari and for Fernando Alonso – an emotional race – as he quit Formula 1 after 311 grand prix starts.
On the Saturday evening in the Yas Marina paddock, a BBQ was held for everyone to say farewell to the man who, despite only two world titles, is considered one of the very best drivers of his generation. But the fond goodbye may yet be premature. He’s not hanging up his helmet, rather leaving F1 because there are no competitive offers. If that changes, you bet he’ll be back.
“The door is not closed,” said Alonso last weekend. “Maybe I will find a way to comeback somehow…”
While the departures became a focus for the weekend, by the Tuesday after the race, they were forgotten as drivers began to integrate themselves with their new teams. Remarkably only two F1 squads, Mercedes and Haas, will carry over the same driver line-up into next year, while four teams on the grid will have a completely new pairing.
There is a wave of bright young talent that should set pulses racing next year. Along with Charles Leclerc getting his big break at Ferrari, he’ll be accompanied on the grid by two British hotshoes: Lando Norris and newly-crowned F2 champ George Russell (at Mclaren and Williams respectively).
In contrast there is a small number of drivers who have been given a second chance in the sport. Raikkonen returns to Sauber, the team with which he made his F1 debut for 17 years ago. Daniil Kvyat has been given another shot at Toro Rosso, a little over a year after he was dropped, while most dramatically of all Robert Kubica returns to a Formula 1 race seat, eight years after the rally crash that severed his arm and almost cost him his life.
While we’ll mourn the loss of one superstar from the Formula 1 grid, there is still plenty of talent that will ensure 2019 will be as intriguing as ever. Start counting down the days to Melbourne…
New BRDC British Formula 3 team JHR Developments had its first test with one of its newly-purchased F3 cars at Donington Park last week.the squad’s British F4 racer Josh Skelton – who finished 10th in the standings – had a run in the car as he evaluates the series.“it was my first time in an F3 car, but I would really like to race this,” he said.