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GPFans predicts the 2019 F1 season

GPFans predicts the 2019 F1 season

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GPFans predicts the 2019 F1 season

GPFans predicts the 2019 F1 season

We’ve had the long wait, the bluster of pre-season testing, but now the 2019 Formula 1 campaign is upon us. Just ahead of on-track action getting underway for 2019 at the Australian Grand Prix, Rob Watts looks into his crystal ball to predict exactly how the next nine months or so will pan out.

Who will be the 2019 drivers' champion?

Sebastian Vettel will finally bring the world title back to Maranello this season at the fifth time of trying, but reigning champion Lewis Hamilton will put up a spirited fight and find a way of taking his challenge alive until the final round.

However, it strongly looks as though Ferrari's advantage in pre-season is real and will carry through to the start of the season as Mercedes are reluctantly forced to play catch up.

With Charles Leclerc taking a little time to settle in, I expect Vettel will hold a comfortable lead heading into the summer break but Hamilton will fight back in the second half of the year with some memorable drives.

Unlike recent seasons though, Vettel will keep a cool head his time, thriving in Ferrari's calmer and more harmonious team atmosphere, and will clinch a dramatic and emotional title win under the lights in Abu Dhabi.

Who will be drivers' champion in 2019?

704 votes

Who will be the 2019 constructors' champion?

It feels like a different Ferrari this year for many reasons, but one change, in particular, will make the biggest difference of all to F1's most famous team. New team principal Mattia Binotto will bring a calming influence to the Scuderia, and their new, more open approach to PR will help to ease the pressure when things don't go to plan.

A change in approach, and a strive to empower key members of the team and give them the freedom to take risks and to innovate, will see Binotto's Ferrari maximise their car's potential on a much more consistent basis throughout 2019 and will invariably see them throw podiums away through their own undoing - as they did with frustrating regularity in recent seasons.

The refreshing, un-Ferrari-like atmosphere will also bring out the best in Vettel, while Leclerc will prove a vital cog in securing the team's title and will be comfortable enough in his role to support his team-mate when asked. For many reasons, this will finally be Ferrari's year.

Will Red Bull-Honda win races this year?

Yes, and more of these wins will be on merit this year than in recent seasons.

In the past, victories such as Daniel Ricciardo's in Baku in 2017 and Max Verstappen's in Barcelona the year before, were as much down to the misfortune of those ahead as it was Red Bull having the pace or strategic nous to beat the likes of Mercedes or Ferrari.

This season, however, Red Bull will gradually narrow the gap on the front two enough to be a constant thorn in their side, especially in the second half of the season as the Red Bull-Honda partnership develops.

Honda appear to have built a solid and reliable power unit this time, and the talk coming out of Red Bull is that it has more development potential than the Renault unit they let go at the end of last season. Expect Verstappen to write a few headlines this year.

How will the tight midfield pack shake out?

Renault have the momentum, the resources, and now the driver line-up to compete, so anything less than leading the midfield pack will be deemed as a failure this season.

If things shake out as expected, Renault will retain their position as 'best of the rest' and I think they might just have a little extra this season to pick up a podium if we have a mixed-up race somewhere along the line.

Once again, Haas look to be in decent shape to challenge Renault, and providing they can avoid the operational mistakes from last year, I expect they'll have another strong season toward the front of the midfield.

There are still some question marks over reliability after one or two frustrating issues that cropped up in testing, but there does seem to be some solid pace in their 2019 car and Haas won't be too worries as it's easier to resolve teething troubles at this stage than it is to make the car go quicker.

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Behind them, it's quite difficult right now to separate the likes of McLaren, Toro Rosso, Alfa Romeo and the newly rebranded Racing Point team – the latter especially as the car they had in Barcelona is likely to bear little resemblance to the one they'll start the season with, so we really don't know where they stand at the moment.

With their increased investment, Racing Point should get gradually stronger as the season goes on, but realistically, it could be 2020 before we see the results of Lawrence Stroll's investment in the team.

Will Williams recover from their pre-season disaster?

Yes, but they'll still finish last in the constructors' championship this year.

They can still have a respectable season, though, and may even score a few points more than last year, but I don't expect to see too many results in the first half of the year.

Their car, while underdeveloped, does not seem to have the same major aero flaws as last year so, hopefully for them, there should be greater development potential in this one as the season progresses.

How will the rookies perform this year?

I think they'll all perform well and it seems to be a very solid bunch graduating to F1 this year. Lando Norris might get overshadowed by Carlos Sainz – and he should, to be honest, given the Spaniard's experience, but I don't think he will get hammered and providing McLaren have a reasonably stable season, he should be fairly solid himself.

Alexander Albon will do well if the car is reliable, which it appeared to be during pre-season, and may even edge out Daniil Kvyat too. Give his late signing by Toro Rosso, and the fact that he'd seemingly committed his future to Formula E before the call came, there seems to be little hype surrounding Albon at the moment, but that might just benefit him.

For me, George Russell was very impressive during pre-season testing.

Not necessarily in the lap times that he did, as his Williams team weren't in a position really for him to impress in that manner, but more in his approach, and the way in which he handled the media under such intense scrutiny and through what was clearly a very difficult time for the team.

He comes across as a very mature, hardworking and intelligent driver, and I think he will prove to be a real asset to Williams this season.

Who or what will be the surprise of the season?

Overtaking will be improved, and we'll see lots of it in the midfield (hopefully).

I won't be getting carried away if there's no significant improvement in Melbourne though as that's never historically been a great track to pass on. Let's judge it after five or six rounds, but I'm optimistic we'll see some gains compared to last year.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

The 2021 rules won't be what F1 really wants as the team's hold too much power these days, so getting them to all move in one direction is very unlikely.

I think we'll, unfortunately, see more bickering amongst the top teams, and maybe even a quit threat or two (Christian Horner has already got one in early) while the smaller teams will fiercely defend their corner and will try to put pressure on Liberty Media to do the right thing for the future of the sport.

This has the potential to drag on for much of the year, and I expect what we'll be left with will be fairly uninspiring.

Which team-mate pairing will be the most evenly matched?

The Renault pair of Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg might be more evenly matched than people expect.

It will take time for Ricciardo to settle into a new team after spending his entire career under Red Bull's management, while I expect Hulkenberg to hit the ground running and the motivation that comes with having higher profile new teammate may make him raise his game a bit.

Long shot prediction - Renault will get more than one podium this season, but the first of those won't be for the driver you'd expect.

Which team-mate paring will produce the most fireworks?

Verstappen and his new stable-mate Pierre Gasly.

We all know what Verstappen is like, and he'll expect to be the de-facto number one now that Ricciardo has moved on. Gasly, however, has more than a point to prove and the criticism he faced from within the team for his two testing crashes means he's already starting on the back foot a little.

He certainly won't be intimidated by Verstappen, and I expect they'll come to blows on track at some point.

Shout out too for the Racing Point drivers - as we've seen on numerous occasions, Sergio Perez is not shy in getting his elbows out when needed and there'll be a fascinating intra-team dynamic if he and the owner's son fall out.

What will be the biggest move announced during silly-season?

There'll be two. Esteban Ocon's faith in Mercedes will be repaid and he'll replace Valtteri Bottas for 2020, while Russell will move on from Williams and find himself a seat higher up the grid.

Constructors' standings (just a hunch)

1. Ferrari 2. Mercedes 3. Red Bull 4. Renault 5. Haas 6. Alfa Romeo 7. Racing Point 8. McLaren 9. Toro Rosso 10. Williams

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