F1 2019: SMB Pre-Season Thoughts

Hello Everybody and welcome to another edition of #SMB! I hope you all have noticed the new look over here! I thought it was about time to update the layout and the looks, especially after I changed the site logo in the middle of last year. Let me know how you guys think of it! Now to the good bit of this post!

Today I’m going to be talking about F1 and what I think of the pre-season happenings along with a prediction on who will do well this year.

2019; a year of new beginnings (technically) for some, a year of comebacks for some, and a year of “IT’S GOTTA BE THIS YEAR FOR SURE!” for one certain team (guess which one).

A lot happened over the off-season, most good, but some troubling as well. First let’s recap the crazy happenings that occurred over the winter months:

  1. [Racing Point] Force India becomes Sport Pesa Racing Point F1 Team
  2. Sauber becomes Alfa Romeo Racing
  3. Williams found another title sponsor in Rokit
  4. Red Bull switched engines from Renault to Honda, joining Toro Rosso
  5. Alfa Romeo, McLaren and Williams have all new driver lineups
  6. Kvyat and Kubica make their returns to F1

First I will say, that being Canadian, I can’t help but feel a little pride in that we can say there’s a Canadian team on the grid this year (or at least in spirit, I believe it’s registered as a UK team). This hasn’t happened since the Wolf Team folded at the end of the ’79 season. Racing Point also have the clear distinction of being the first team to unveil an F1 car in Canada at the Toronto Autoshow prior to the first pre-season test. I don’t exactly have high hopes that they will do well this year, as multiple teams seem to have leap-frogged them on pace so far this pre-season. Time will only tell how well they will do, but I’ll just appreciate the nationalistic pride for now.

Sportpesa Racing Point F1 2019 Livery Reveal Car

Getting into the nitty gritty now, there are some really good points that have come out of pre-season testing, and that’s that the mid field is getting REALLY strong, probably the strongest it’s been in at least a decade, when Sauber last had OEM backing and Williams were occasionally contending for wins. Renault appear to finally have a chassis that can contend for podiums, McLaren have gotten their ducks in a row, Alfa Romeo (Sauber) finally have a decent chassis after years of falling farther and farther behind, and FINALLY Honda seem to have produced a competitive engine for the first time in the V6 era.

Ok breathe….that was a lot to take in. So where do Haas, Racing Point and Williams fit in? Well, Haas seemed to have produced another competitive car this year, so I would imagine it will be much the same this year as last year. I think that Racing Point will not repeat last year’s relative performance. With the whole drama surrounding ownership changes and lack of funding, I think that they were behind the ball on car development over the winter. They’ll likely spring back by the summer break with upgrades, but I don’t think they’ll crack the top 10 all that much before then.

The big item for me is Williams. I find it crazy that a team that has been in the business since the 70’s were so behind on car development and construction that they missed the first 3rd of pre-season testing. In today’s era with restricted testing times (remember that we used to have 3 bespoke sessions between Catalunya and Jerez/Paul Ricard not too long ago) that they would have whipped people to death to get parts on time.

They struggled so much last season, only scoring a handful of points to finish dead last in the constructors championship, a far cry from finishing 3rd only a few short years before. You can blame their inexperienced driver lineup for a lot of their woes last year, but still something seemed off. It’s not even like they had money problems either, with Martini and the Stroll family pouring huge money into the team over the last few years.

Sportpesa Racing Point F1 2019 Livery Reveal Car

It’s honestly a huge mystery as to what happened there. Surely Paddy Lowe’s head is on the chopping block if they can’t get their act together in a timely manner. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he was fired by summer break if they are constantly at the back of the pack again this year. Although I don’t actually blame Paddy, he may design the car but Claire is responsible for getting everything together in the end.

Now let’s look at the top of the order. Mercedes, as usual, like to sandbag their car during testing, so we really won’t know that car’s true performance until Melbourne in a few weeks time. That being said, it doesn’t look all that promising for them right now. Ferrari look incredible right now; constantly in the top region of the time sheets and logging an incredible amount of laps. Especially when Haas and Alfa Romeo have been looking good as well, it leads me to believe that Ferrari have made significant gains to their engine this winter. If I had to guess ahead of Melbourne, I would say that Ferrari have the upper hand right now.

Red Bull seem to have no better relative performance right now with the Honda engine than last year with the Renault engine. This certainly bodes well for Honda, since they seem to have proven to make a competitive engine this year. We’ll find out come Australia of course, but it looks promising.

Renault and McLaren seem to be on comparable pace to each other. At this point, I can’t tell if that is a good thing for Renault or McLaren. It could mean that the Renault chassis has caught up to McLaren (assuming that McLaren have produced a comparable chassis to Mercedes/Ferrari/RB), or that McLaren are still lagging behind in chassis development and Renault still have a little ways to go on chassis development.

My most exciting part so far has been the story of Alfa Romeo. Last year they were the 3rd worst team, despite using the same engines as Ferrari and Haas, who were both scoring points finishes on the regular. Perhaps this amazing show of force can be attributed to that insanely different front wing, or maybe the infusion of money from FCA actually went somewhere (looking at you Williams).

Sportpesa Racing Point F1 2019 Livery Reveal Car

So before we head to Melbourne for the first race, here are my predictions for the season. This is aside from my 2019 predictions, but here we go!

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

Here’s the Top 5 in drivers:
1) Lewis Hamilton
2) Sebastian Vettel
3) Charles LeClerc
4) Valteri Bottas
5) Max Verstappen

That’s a wrap for my pre-season F1 talk. We will have to see how Melbourne and the first few races go before we have a better idea of who the top dogs are likely to be this year.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope to see you back here soon!

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