No sooner did the checkered flag fly to end the 2018 season, engines roared again to test the 2019 tire compounds for Pirelli and teams spared no expense to gain useful knowledge in the ever-changing world of F1.
We got to see the new faces in their new places, indications of what the 2019 cars will look like, and Kimi taking a trip back in time with his new (old) team of Sauber. With 106 days until FP1 in Australia, I couldn’t resist. This list is in no particular order of importance but made with 100% feeling of the heart and not the head.
1. Leclerc will challenge Vettel and make him uncomfortable at Ferrari.
I’ve written about this before, but the more I see Leclerc, the more I believe it. He had a breakout season at Alfa Romero Sauber and has been labeled as the future of Ferrari. I think that Ferrari will give him a fighting chance at race wins, and his speed and racecraft will challenge Vettel. We’ve seen how well Vettel deals with inner team pressure before and I believe we will see it again. If Vettel doesn’t win the championship next season, does he go?
2. Ricciardo will grab podiums at Renault.
Not a win. The top-3 teams are currently WAY too good for them to grab a win but with them finishing the 2018 campaign 4th in the constructors’ championship means that they were best of the rest as constructors and in the drivers’ championship. Ricciardo making the jump to Renault was a surprise, but I think Renault has more up there sleeve for the 2019 campaign than they are letting on. Power failures were his nemesis the second half of 2018 at Red Bull and with their new engine manufacture, that might continue, leading for Renault to sneak back into their glory days of old.
3. Kubica will outscore his young teammate George Russell.
The feel-good story of perseverance, determination, and the money of Lance Stroll’s father has opened the door for Kubica to show that he can still drive at the highest level of competition. It will be a challenge to score points as Williams has taken several steps backward in terms of car development, but he has proven that he can make small miracles from cars that are less than ideal.
4. Honda will leave us with the same amount of doubts.
Verstappen has been praising the job Honda has done since joining Toro Rosso, but they haven’t exactly lost their reputation from their time at McLaren. I’ll admit, they have done better since leaving McLaren but will move to a truly top team show the wrinkles in their performance as they continue to try to impress the senior Red Bull team? Red Bull will be trying to prove to everyone that they made the correct decision, and that may mean unnecessary chances will be taken to eke outperformance. Only time will tell.
5. Hamilton will win his 6th championship
The best driver in the best car will equal championships in Formula 1. There are no signs of Mercedes slowing down, and Hamilton’s record-breaking career is far from over. He outdueled Vettel on the track while Mercedes embarrassed Ferrari strategically. They are the perfect pairing, and they will continue their dominance together in the V-6 turbo-Hybrid era once again. Appreciate their greatness and what they have brought to the sport. They set the bar and dare for others to raise it.