JAMES ROBERTS

“The fond farewell may yet be pre­ma­ture”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - Photo: Mick Walker

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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.

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