by H. Mayor – photos: f1.com | With just 45 days to go until the start of the new F1 season we are eagerly awaiting for the scuderias to reveal, over the coming weeks, all the hard work they have carried out behind closed doors. The official launching of the new vehicles for the upcoming season is due to start in the next few days. With no major regulatory changes for this year, we are not expecting any radical new development but are still curious to know what the different F1 scuderias have come up with. For instance; Will the new Mercedes be able to keep their hegemonic reign (Toto Wolff had these rather enigmatic words to say: “We are all starting from scratch” a few days ago)?, Will Ferrari continue its ascent? and more importantly, What is McLaren going to bring forth after their beyond troubled past year.
The driver’s moves of the last couple of days have at last sealed the make up of the grid for next season. The latest one, confirmed only last week, was that of promising young driver Sergey Sirotkin (22 years old) who will debut for Williams in replacement of retired Felipe Massa. He will, together with Lance Stroll, make up a team of equal talent and boldness, very fit for the legendary British scuderia. Another piece of good news for Williams is the comeback of Robert Kubica. Although he has only been signed as a back up and development driver, it is likely that we will see his skills on the track again at an official race this season. Williams will also be the first one to officially present their new single-seater on the 15th this month, marking the start of a stream of official launches. The Britons have been the main players at a less than usually active drivers’ market this year. The only other news in this respect is that of Charles Leclerc teaming up with Sauber and the (not exempt of risk either) signing of 2017 finishers, couple Gasly and Hartley, by Toro Rosso. The big fish haven’t made any changes this time. In Renault the spotlight is closing in on the promising duo that finished their last season, Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, which hopefully this year will be given a machine to match their skills.
Sights set on 2019
It could be argued that this unusually quiet driver’s market pre-season is due to the scuderias having their sights set on the foreseeable upheaval of next year. Nearly all big names on the grid will then come to the end of their contracts and be free to move around, making for a very exciting puzzle to solve. According to Wolf however, Lewis Hamilton’s renewal will be a “mere formality”, but there is always that shadow of a doubt, even more so with his loyal squire Bottas not having his seat guaranteed either yet.
Ferrari is bound to capture most of the attention. It is highly likely that they will have to let an increasingly faltering Raikkonen go. Also, the long standing rumours of Daniel Ricciardo’s transfer to Maranello will have to be confirmed or put to rest. If the move is confirmed, it will trigger an exciting domino effect across the teams. Everything remains open for Force India and of course, everyone will be looking very closely at Fernando Alonso, whose future with McLaren is probably tied to the quality of the car that they are able to offer him.