2019 French Grand Prix – Preview

The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix was largely uneventful, but in the end, it proved very controversial with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel given a five-second time penalty by the race stewards for re-joining the track unsafely at Turn Three, and forcing Lewis Hamilton off the track on Lap 48, with Hamilton being forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting the wall, and Vettel, which would have resulted in a massive accident!

This meant that Hamilton claimed his seventh Canadian Grand Prix victory to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, in terms of race wins, at the Canadian Grand Prix, despite Hamilton crossing the line in a close second behind Vettel.

However, Ferrari have requested their right to have the decision reviewed, and is arguably the biggest subplot heading into the 2019 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet for Round Eight of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (162 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by 29 points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (133 points) after claiming his fifth race victory in the opening seven races of 2019, and it is the ninth-straight race that Hamilton has finished either first or second. And, in the six previous occasions that Hamilton has won five or more races in a season, he has gone onto win the world championship five times.

While for Bottas, you feel that the French Grand Prix has turned into a must win race for him after finishing 51.043 seconds behind his teammate in fourth at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. If Bottas can’t win this weekend, and is beaten by his teammate, you sense that his world championship hopes might start to slip away.

Vettel (100 points) is third in the championship after having the almost perfect weekend, claiming pole position ahead of Hamilton by a margin of 0.206 seconds, and then led 63 of the 70 laps to cross the line first ahead of Hamilton. However, Vettel made a mistake on Lap 48, running wide at Turn Three, missing the corner, and then in the opinion of the race stewards, re-joined the circuit unsafely, and almost causing what would have been a massive accident with Hamilton, with Hamilton having to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

Looking at the incident over and over again, I feel like it was one of those 50/50 incidents where you could argue that Vettel did all he could to re-join the track safely and not have the situation of a potential collision, but you could have also argued the opposite.

I think though what the race stewards (and in large the FIA) are trying to say is that if a similar thing happened involving one or two inexperienced drivers (in terms of Formula One experience), especially if the inexperienced driver had been in Hamilton’s position, it would have almost certainly have resulted in a massive accident, and with safety being absolutely paramount in the sport today, the race stewards really had little choice but to penalise Vettel, much to the disgust of most fans, and most certainly to the anger of former Formula One drivers, most of whom participated in the sport in an era(s) where safety was of lesser consideration than it is today, and no matter how they justify their opinions on this and similar incidents, they cannot remove the fact that they participated in the sport in an era(s) where danger was almost at every turn, and that their opinions are shaped by those experiences, even if it is merely subconscious.

In the end, I don’t think Ferrari’s chances of overturning the penalty are that strong, and will have to regroup after Vettel’s “near perfect” race, and unfortunately in this era of Formula One with a team like Mercedes producing the results they are producing right now, being “near perfect” is just not good enough!

Max Verstappen (88 points) is fourth in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fifth in Canada from ninth on the grid, and the last car on the lead lap, and remains ahead of Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc (72 points) in the standings despite Leclerc finishing a close third in Montréal.

Behind the Top Five in the championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (36 points) is 36 points behind Leclerc, and seemingly a mile away from being in contention for a race win, but remains ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (18 points), and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (16 points), who put in a magnificent performance to finish in sixth after qualifying in a remarkable fourth! Ricciardo is now eighth in the standings, ahead of Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (14 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes driver Sergio Pérez (13 points), who is equal on points with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen (13 points).

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (295 points) still dominate to the tune of a 123-point margin ahead of Ferrari (172 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (124 points) in a lonely third. Behind them, McLaren-Renault (30 points) are still in fourth, but Renault (28 points) are right behind them, and are starting to show the form that we were expecting, with Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (19 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (16 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), and sadly Williams-Mercedes (zero points) behind them.

So, who is going to triumph at the 2019 French Grand Prix?

Although I think the characteristics of the Circuit Paul Ricard could potentially suit Ferrari, I still think it will suit the characteristics of the Mercedes even better, and I feel like Lewis Hamilton will make it four wins in a row this weekend!

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2019 Canadian Grand Prix – Preview

It was arguably one of the best performances of his career! It was a drive that would have made three-time world champion and Non-Executive Chairman at Mercedes, the late-great Niki Lauda hugely proud! It was a gutsy, tough, strong drive which enabled Lewis Hamilton to win the Monaco Grand Prix for a third time, and allow him to take a relatively firm grip on the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which heads to Montreal in Canada, and to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the seventh round of 21.

Hamilton (137 points) leads the championship by 17 points for Mercedes over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (120 points) after a champion-like drive on the streets of Monaco, putting together his best lap at the right time to claim pole position, and then holding off Max Verstappen, who had a five-second time penalty hanging over him for an unsafe release into Bottas in the pit stop under safety car conditions, on the medium-compound tyres to take a memorable race victory dedicated to Lauda.

Meanwhile, Bottas had some troubles of his own after pitting under safety car conditions on Lap 11 for medium-compound tyres, and having his tyres punctured after Verstappen was released into the path of Bottas in the pit lane, forcing Bottas to pit again, this time for hard-compound tyres, and losing track position, coming back out in fourth behind Hamilton, Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel, and while he was able to gain a place after the race due to Verstappen’s penalty, he was unable to pass Vettel, and for the first time in 2019, Mercedes weren’t able to finish first and second. It is a huge blow for his championship challenge against Hamilton, although largely not his fault, but you sense he needs to respond in Canada against his teammate who has now got all the momentum!

Vettel (82 points) is third in the world championship for Ferrari after finishing second in Monaco in what was an underrated drive, but the championship hopes for Vettel are largely up in smoke, and they will need improvements fast just to get close to Mercedes on a consistent basis.

Verstappen (78 points) is fourth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth after his five-second time penalty despite putting in a sterling drive, applying extreme pressure on Hamilton on the more ideal hard-compound tyres, but despite a late attempt heading into the Nouvelle Chicane, was unable to pass the five-time world champion, and therefore unable to gain enough time to remain on the podium, or drive away and win the Monaco Grand Prix in what was his best drive of the season.

Charles Leclerc (57 points) is fifth in the standings for Ferrari after a horrible weekend, failing to get out of the first part of qualifying after a tactical error from Ferrari, and in the race as he took a hero or zero approach, after a few great overtakes, he collided into Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg into La Rascasse on Lap Nine, damaging his car extensively as he tried to take his car back to the pits after a tyre puncture that became apparent on the following lap, and his race was effectively over at this point.

In his situation, while you could understand his desperation to get back to the front, patience might have been the better part of valour, something which he has learnt the hard way here, and you sense has now made him the clear second driver at Ferrari going forward into the rest of 2019.

Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (32 points) is sixth in the world championship after finishing fifth in Monaco, ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (18 points), who finished in sixth on the streets of the principality, while Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (14 points), Sergio Pérez (13 points) of Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, and Kimi Räikkönen (13 points) of Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari complete the Top 10 in the standings after finishing outside the points in Monaco.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (257 points) have a dominant 118 point lead over Ferrari (139 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (110 points) closing in on Ferrari in third. Then, it is slim pickings for McLaren-Renault (30 points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (16 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (16 points), Renault (14 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), and unfortunately no points as of yet for Williams-Mercedes in 2019.

So, who will win the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix?

You feel like this should be one of Ferrari’s best chances of halting the winning run of Mercedes, due to the straight-line speed advantage Ferrari have had, but Mercedes are on such a crest of a wave right now, and I think Lewis Hamilton’s win in Monaco, especially in the way it was done, will give him such a boost, and given Hamilton has won six of the 11 races he has competed in at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he is going to be such a hard man to beat this weekend!

2019 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview

Another race, another dominant performance from Mercedes, and a fifth-straight one-two finish with Lewis Hamilton finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas after beating him off the line from second on the grid, while Ferrari continue to underperform in contrast to expectations prior to the season, and would need a massive change in fortune to get on terms with Mercedes when Round Six of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway from the iconic streets of Monaco.

However, before I move into more of the preview, I would like to pay tribute to former three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who has sadly passed away at the age of 70. Lauda was quite simply a Formula One legend, winning the world championship with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977, and one with McLaren in 1984, claiming 25 wins, 54 podiums, 24 pole positions, and 24 fastest laps across a 177 (171 starts) race career.

However, Lauda was also amazing in his entrepreneurial pursuits in the aviation industry in particular, but came back to work in Formula One later in his life, being employed as a consultant for Ferrari in the 1990s, and was the team principal of Jaguar from 2001 to 2002, but most successfully as non-executive chairman of Mercedes since September 2012, and played a huge role in the signing of Lewis Hamilton, and as they say in the classics, the rest is history! It was a life well lived, a winner, a fighter, a legend! The great Niki Lauda! Rest In Peace!

Looking ahead to the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton (112 points) leads the championship by seven points over his teammate Bottas (105 points) after his third race victory of the season, and the 76th win of his career. Hamilton will be looking to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time in tribute to the man who helped get him to Mercedes, while Bottas will be looking to bounce back after finishing second in Spain, and continue his sublime qualifying form, having taken pole position in each of the last three races.

Max Verstappen (66 points) is a distant third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda, 46 points behind the five-time world champion Hamilton, while Ferrari continue to struggle in contrast to their expectations with Sebastian Vettel (64 points) and Charles Leclerc (57 points) 48 and 55 points behind Hamilton respectively after the opening five races, and face an uphill battle to get somewhat back into contention for race wins, and the championship against the might of Mercedes.

However, the top five currently in the standings have finished inside the top five in each of the opening five races of 2019, and have pulled away from the rest of the grid, with Pierre Gasly (21 points), the teammate of Verstappen, now 36 points behind Leclerc in sixth in the world championship after a disappointing start to his time at Red Bull Racing-Honda.

Behind the top six in the championship, Kevin Magnussen (14 points) is seventh for  Haas-Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Pérez (13 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, while Kimi Räikkönen (13 points), and Lando Norris (12 points) complete the Top 10 in the standings for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, and McLaren-Renault respectively.

However, beyond the Top 10 in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, we find last year’s Monaco Grand Prix winner in Daniel Ricciardo (six points) in 12th position in the standings for his new team Renault after just one points-scoring finish, which was back in the third race of the season in China, the 1000th race in Formula One history, wearing the Jack Brabham tribute helmet, but have largely struggled for speed, and have struggled to be regularly inside the Top 10.

So, how do I think Ricciardo is going to go in Monaco?

I think it is going to be tough for Ricciardo to win for a second-straight year on the streets of the principality, but I think he will be in the thick of things for a high points-scoring finish!

Looking at the Constructors Championship, Mercedes (217 points) lead by 96 points over Ferrari (121 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (87 points) in a comfortable third. Then in the battle of the rest, McLaren-Renault (22 points) is fourth ahead of Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (15 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), Renault (12 points), and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (six points), with Williams-Mercedes (zero points) sadly at the back of the field, and looking unlikely to score points anytime soon!

So, who is going to win the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix?

I feel like Mercedes have the strongest car to tackle the slow and tight corners around the streets of Monaco, ahead of Red Bull Racing-Honda, while the understeer balance in the Ferrari will hurt them this weekend, and certain teams, in particular Renault, will move up closer to the three front-running teams.

So with that, I am tipping Lewis Hamilton will win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time, with Valtteri Bottas coming home in second, while Max Verstappen will grab his first Monaco podium in Formula One ahead of the amazing Daniel Ricciardo in a brilliant fourth!

2019 Spanish Grand Prix – Preview

Another race, another Mercedes 1-2, and another race where Ferrari need to look deep within themselves, and ask themselves why they can’t live up to the potential that they had shown during pre-season testing? And you sense their championship chances are slipping away heading into Round Five of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas (87 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by a single point over his teammate five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (86 points) after taking victory in Azerbaijan over Hamilton, with the difference between the two after the opening four rounds being the fastest lap achieved by Bottas in the first race of the season in Australia. However, you sense that there are a number of tracks coming up which have generally suited Hamilton in the past, and it is going to be interesting to see whether Bottas can keep pace with the defending world champion over the coming rounds.

Sebastian Vettel (52 points) has moved up into third in the world championship for Ferrari after finishing in what is now becoming a disappointing third place behind the Mercedes in Baku. Serious questions have got to be asked internally at Ferrari as to where their speed continues to go because other than in Bahrain with Charles Leclerc, they haven’t looked like having race-winning speed.

Max Verstappen (51 points) is an impressive fourth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, ahead of Leclerc (47 points) in fifth after he came back from his crash in qualifying to finish in fifth and with the fastest lap, and like Vettel, is under pressure to deliver Ferrari their first race victory of the season in Spain this weekend.

Behind the Top 5 in the world championship, Sergio Pérez for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes after finishing an impressive sixth, Pierre Gasly for Red Bull Racing-Honda after retiring with a driveshaft issue, and Kimi Räikkönen for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari after sneaking into the points in Azerbaijan are tied for sixth in the standings on 13 points, with Lando Norris (12 points) for McLaren-Renault and Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari completing the Top 10 in the standings after the former finished eighth, and the latter finished outside the points in 13th.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (173 points) lead by 74 points over the underachieving Ferrari (99 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (64 points) a further 35 points behind in third. Behind them, it is McLaren-Renault (18 points), followed by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (17 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), Renault (12 points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (four points), and Williams-Mercedes (zero points).

So, who is going to win the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix?

Mercedes have to be the favourites after four-consecutive 1-2 finishes, and while Ferrari were strong at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during pre-season testing, they haven’t been able to translate this into consistent race-winning performances, while Red Bull haven’t really looked like challenging for victory at any of the opening four races.

I think Lewis Hamilton is the favourite to win here, and I think he will be followed closely by his teammate Valtteri Bottas in second-place, with Charles Leclerc to come home in third.

 

 

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in the 1000th championship race in Formula One history, the 75th of Hamilton’s legendary career, and his fourth victory in the last five races. As a result, he takes the lead of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship heading into the fourth round of the season, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend at the Baku City Circuit in the capital of Azerbaijan.

The defending and five-time world champion Hamilton (68 points) leads the championship by six points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (62 points) after Mercedes took a third-straight one-two finish to start the season, the first time that Mercedes as a team has achieved this since the start of the turbo-hybrid era back in 2014, and the first team to achieve this in Formula One since Williams with Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese back in 1992, but it hasn’t necessarily been anything but dominant.

In Australia, they certainly dominated, with Bottas claiming victory over Hamilton in what was arguably the best performance of his career, but in Bahrain, Ferrari were dominant, with Charles Leclerc taking his first-ever pole position, and should have taken his first-ever race victory in Formula One, before mechanical issues stopped him almost in his tracks, allowing Hamilton to take his first win of 2019, and Bottas to slip past into second spot, but Leclerc managed to hang on for his first Formula One podium in his career.

However, the form guide in China returned back to the one that we saw in Australia, with Mercedes being dominant! So, what form guide will we see in Azerbaijan?

More on that later!

Max Verstappen (39 points) is currently third in the world championship believe it or not for Red Bull Racing-Honda, 29 points behind Hamilton, and ahead of both Ferrari drivers in Sebastian Vettel (37 points) and Leclerc (36 points). Red Bull haven’t really been in the front-runners fight so far in 2019, but Ferrari have failed to capitalise on the potential that they seemingly showed in pre-season testing, and the form they showed in Bahrain, and as a result, the difference between themselves and Mercedes looks like a chasm!

Ferrari really need to hit back in Azerbaijan, otherwise their championship hopes will seemingly start slipping down the drain!

Behind the top five in the world championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (13 points) is sixth in the standings, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (12 points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lando Norris (eight points) for McLaren-Renault, Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, while Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo are locked on six points for Renault after the latter’s first points-scoring finish of 2019, and the former’s retirement from the Chinese Grand Prix due to a power-unit issue (the third mechanical retirement for Renault in 2019), but Hülkenberg remains ahead of his teammate due to being classified higher than Ricciardo in Bahrain after both retiring within metres of each other with separate mechanical issues.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (130 points) leads by 57 points over Ferrari (73 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (52 points) a further 21 points behind in third. Then, it is slim pickings, in terms of points, for Renault (12 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (12 points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), McLaren-Renault (eight points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (seven points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (four points), and Williams-Mercedes (zero points).

So, back to the earlier question of what form guide will we see in Azerbaijan? And, who is going to win on the streets of Baku?

The Baku City Circuit is a technical, but fast street circuit, which should suit Ferrari on paper compared to Mercedes, especially considering the smooth surface, but the cooler temperatures this weekend could swing the balance back in Mercedes favour. However, I think it will come down to which driver from the top two teams gets into a good grove.

With plenty on the line, Ferrari need to win in Azerbaijan to keep their championship hopes alive, and I think Sebastian Vettel will respond to give Ferrari their first victory of 2019.

2019 Chinese Grand Prix – Preview

It was heartbreak in Bahrain for Charles Leclerc as a first-ever win in Formula One disappeared due to an engine issue, it was devastation for both Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo for Renault, who were heading towards points finishes before they retired at the start of Lap 54 (and within metres of each other) due to power-unit and power loss issues respectively, with Ricciardo lucky not to be electrocuted by his own car, but it was joy once again for Mercedes as Sebastian Vettel succumbed once again to the pressure that Lewis Hamilton applied to him, and then took advantage of Leclerc’s problems to take the 74th race victory of his career in a Mercedes 1-2.

So, what will happen this weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit in Round Three of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which is also the 1000th race in the history of Formula One?

Looking at the championship standings, Valtteri Bottas (44 points) leads the championship by a single point over teammate Hamilton (43 points) after finishing second at the Bahrain Grand Prix after taking advantage of Leclerc’s issues. However, you sense Mercedes have plenty of work to do as Ferrari showed the speed that they had during pre-season testing, and without the problems for Leclerc, would have won in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen (27 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth in Bahrain, but Red Bull right now don’t look like serious championship contenders, and maybe, despite the reliability of the Honda power-unit compared with the Renault power-unit, may not be getting the results from it that they have been looking for.

Leclerc (26 points) is a point behind Verstappen in fourth, ahead of teammate Vettel (22 points) after a performance throughout the weekend in Bahrain, which included him becoming the second-youngest driver in history to take pole position in Formula One, that should have been rewarded with his first-ever race win.

However, Ferrari have at least shown the speed that everyone was expecting from them, but they must sort out any niggling reliability issues they might have because they can’t afford to give a team like Mercedes any sort of advantage, and have now given themselves a bigger mountain to climb than what it should have been.

As for Vettel, he was dominated by his teammate in Bahrain, and then had his pants, figuratively speaking, pulled down by Hamilton. Vettel really needs to win in China to reassert his authority over teammate Leclerc, and lay down some kind of marker towards Mercedes in the championship battle.

Behind the top five in the world championship, Kimi Räikkönen (10 points) is sixth in the standings for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, ahead of Lando Norris (eight points) for McLaren-Renault, who claimed his first-ever points finish in Formula One after finishing sixth in Bahrain, while Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, Hülkenberg (six points) for Renault, despite stopping near the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix, and Pierre Gasly (four points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda complete the Top 10 in the championship after the opening two rounds.

Gasly has struggled so far to match the performance of his teammate Verstappen in his first two races with Red Bull, and really needs to put in a great performance in Shanghai to keep any doubters at bay.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (87 points) leads by 39 points over Ferrari (48 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (31 points) a further 17 points behind in third. Behind them, Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (10 points), McLaren-Renault (eight points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), Renault (six points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (three points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (three points) have all scored points in 2019, while Williams-Mercedes (zero points) don’t look close to scoring a single point right now with a best finish of 15th through George Russell in Bahrain proving how far the once mighty team have fallen.

So, who will win Formula One’s 1000th race?

It is looking like a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and quite possibly, the straight-line performance of Ferrari might show through this weekend, but you cannot rule out Lewis Hamilton, and I am predicting a battle between him and Sebastian Vettel, the most successful drivers currently in the sport with five and four world championships respectively, and 74 and 52 race victories respectively, to decide who will win the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, and the 1000th race in Formula One history.

2019 Australian Grand Prix – Preview

It has been an interesting off-season in Formula One, with a number of big changes. Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull Racing-Honda to join Renault and being replaced by Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc joining Ferrari to replace Kimi Räikkönen, who has join Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lance Stroll joining Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, and new driver pairing at McLaren-Renault (Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr.), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat), and Williams-Mercedes (George Russell and Robert Kubica).

However, the most decisive change may well be the addition of a championship point for the driver who sets the fastest lap of each race in 2019, as long as the driver who sets it finishes the race inside the Top 10, and with an extra 21 points potentially on the line, could this decide who wins the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which starts this weekend at Albert Park in Melbourne?

Possibly, but who are the championship contenders?

Realistically, based on the results of testing, three teams are capable of challenging for the world championship.

Mercedes are obviously going to be right up there, and are chasing an unprecedented sixth-straight drivers/constructors championship double. Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly in career-best form as he looks to hunt down a number of records held by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, including most championships, most race wins (Schumacher 91 to 73), most podiums (Schumacher 155 to 134), and most races led (Schumacher 142 to 129), while his teammate Valtteri Bottas will be looking for a vastly-improved performance in 2019 after finishing fifth in the world championship in 2018.

However, Mercedes face a huge battle to maintain their superiority against Ferrari, who have been very quick in testing in the hands of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, and his new teammate Charles Leclerc, who will become the youngest driver to race for Ferrari since the late Ricardo Rodriguez (19 years and 208 days) in 1961 at the age of 21 years and 153 days.

Vettel, who is looking for a third-straight win in Australia, will be desperate to deliver Ferrari their first driver’s world championship since Kimi Räikkönen back in 2007, and the Prancing Horse have been quick in testing, leading the timesheets on four of the eight days of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and if that is anything to go by, Ferrari will be serious championship contenders to Mercedes in 2019, but the obvious question marks will be whether Vettel and Ferrari can sustain a championship challenge for a full season against the juggernaut that is Hamilton and Mercedes, and whether Leclerc will prove a handful for Vettel, and deny the German the fifth world championship that he has been seeking since joining Ferrari in 2015?

The third team that appears to be a championship contender is Red Bull Racing-Honda with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. Verstappen is perhaps the most natural talent in Formula One today with the possible exception of Lewis Hamilton, and if he and Red Bull can get on a good run, they can challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the world championship. However, the jury is still out on Gasly, and whether he can fill the large shoes of Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

Talking about Ricciardo, he is now with Renault for the 2019 season, driving alongside Nico Hülkenberg, and on the face of it, they look like they may well be the fourth-quickest, and the best of the rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. However, I don’t think Renault are quite at that level of being a championship contender just yet, but if there is a chance of a really strong result, you know Ricciardo will be there to take the opportunity, and maybe a race victory, which would be the eighth of his career, isn’t out of the realms of possibility!

However, a team that won’t be challenging anywhere near the front is Williams-Mercedes. It was a disastrous off-season for the great British team, with the team not getting their car out onto the track until the second half of the third day of testing in Barcelona, and appear comfortably behind the rest of the field, which is a shame considering the miraculous return to Formula One of Robert Kubica for the first time since 2010 after the shocking rally accident in February 2011, which he came close to losing his life.

Hopefully at some point in 2019, we can see Kubica and Williams in a competitive position, but that seems unlikely at the moment.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, and perhaps the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship?

In regards to both, it is going to be battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, as well as Max Verstappen from Red Bull Racing-Honda, and despite speculation that they have been knocked off their perch, I think Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will rise to the top, and dominate the weekend at Albert Park, and the two times when he has won the Australian Grand Prix (2008, 2015), he has gone onto win the world championship, and if he gets off to the perfect start, it is going to be a tall order for anyone to stop him winning his sixth championship, and moving to within one of Michael Schumacher!