Meet the teams and drivers who Lewis Hamilton will hope to fend off in trying to win his sixth Formula One title
- The new Formula One season gets underway in Australia on Sunday
- Lewis Hamilton heads into the new year looking for a sixth world championship
- Ferrari and Red Bull will be looking to challenge Brit over the 2019 season
- Sportsmail looks at all the teams and drivers who will line up in Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have dominated Formula One since the start of the turbo hybrid era in 2014, but the pair may now be set for their toughest season yet.
There have been changes among their rivals over the winter, with Ferrari and Red Bull both making alterations to their driver line-up in a bid to challenge for both world championships.
It’s not just up front where changes have been made and there are even a couple of new team names that will line up at Albert Park for the Melbourne opener as Sportsmail looks at every team and driver ahead of the 2019 season.
How do you improve on a fifth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship double? Only another season of dominance will do for Mercedes – No 6 would break the record set by Ferrari during the Michael Schumacher era. The Brackley-based team generally hold back during testing, so we may not have seen their true force after pre-season.
Mercedes head into the 2019 season having won both championships for the last five seasons
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain)
Age: 34 Titles: 5 Wins: 73 Podiums: 134
GP starts: 229 GP debut: Australia 2007
After steamrollering the field to win world title No 5 last season, like his team, only the best will do for a driver now seriously mentioned in the ‘greatest of all time’ debates. Impressive in testing and as cool as ever off the track, Hamilton is once again the man to beat.
Valtteri Bottas (Finland)
Age: 29 Titles: 0 Wins: 3 Podiums: 30
GP starts: 118 GP debut: Australia 2013
The greatest concerns for Mercedes surround their No 2 driver, for Bottas is very much that – second fiddle to Hamilton and the Brit’s talent and ego. But is he good enough? Winless in 2018 and outperformed by Charles Leclerc in testing, Bottas’ career is on the line.
Lewis Hamilton (left) and Valtteri Bottas have formed a terrific driver partnership at Mercedes
Frustration is building at Ferrari and not just because they threw away decent opportunities to win the drivers’ and constructors’ championships last term. It’s been 10 seasons since they last won a title and frustrations over the 2018 collapse have seen Mattia Binotto take over as team principal from Maurizio Arrivabene.
Ferrari appeared to have the edge over the rest of the field during pre-season testing
Sebastian Vettel (Germany)
Age: 31 Titles: 4 Wins: 52 Podiums: 111
GP starts: 219 GP debut: USA 2007
Looking to bounce back from arguably his worst season after an error-strewn year in a competitive Ferrari led to a series of mistakes that effectively handed Hamilton an easy championship win. The four-time world champion has a point to prove this year, especially with a promising young talent as a team-mate.
Charles Leclerc (Monaco)
Age: 21 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 21 GP debut: Australia 2007
F1’s next big thing? Impressed in helping Sauber off the back of the grid in his rookie season and it has earned the Monegasque driver a coveted spot at Ferrari. Will start the season as the team’s No 2 but it should not come as a surprise if he matches Vettel or even surpasses him at some races.
Sebastian Vettel (left) is joined at the team for the season by the highly rated Charles Leclerc
All eyes – especially those of McLaren – will be on the performance of the new Honda engine. If it proves a success – and testing has been mostly positive – then the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari could be a lot slimmer. A vibrant but notably young driver line-up could similarly go either way.
With a move to Honda power, Red Bull are looking to become serious title challengers
Max Verstappen (Holland)
Age: 21 Titles: 0 Wins: 5 Podiums: 22
GP starts: 81 GP debut: Australia 2015
If – and it’s a big if – Verstappen can keep on the track, and if – also a mighty if – the car is reliable enough, then the Dutchman has all the raw tools to win any race. F1 badly needs his spiky character, although shimmers of greater maturity are starting to shine through.
Pierre Gasly (France)
Age: 23 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 26 GP debut: Malaysia 2017
The Frenchman easily outshone Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso, and after Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise defection to Renault, was the obvious choice to step up to the senior team. He will be expected to play second fiddle to Verstappen but Gasly is no shrinking violet. Expect fireworks.
Max Verstappen (left) will hope to contend for the title along with new team-mate Pierre Gasly
Since taking over struggling Lotus before the 2016 season, Renault have made steady progress up the field. The glory days of Fernando Alonso winning titles are still a long way off, but establishing themselves as best of the rest and inching closer to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would be a successful year.
Renault’s target for 2019 will be closing the gap towards the top three teams in Formula One
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany)
Age: 31 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 156 GP debut: Bahrain 2010
Arguably no one has slipped under the F1 radar quite like Hulkenberg. Still waiting for his first podium after starting 158 races, an unwanted record. But rarely has the German looked well off the pace of a team-mate as he looks to finally break his top three duck. The talent is certainly there.
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia)
Age: 29 Titles: 0 Wins: 7 Podiums: 29
GP starts: 150 GP debut: Britain 2011
Rolled the dice by ditching a spot at the highly competitive Red Bull team for Renault. The popular Australian knows the ‘double six’ he wants won’t necessary happen this term in the form of race wins and title challenges, but a few battles for the podium should keep him content… for now.
An experienced driver line-up sees Nico Hulkenberg joined by Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull
Thanks to their close links to Ferrari, Haas look well set to once again be a contender for ‘best of the rest’, with strong testing performances indicating they have the fourth fastest car on the grid. The new Lotus-esque livery is eye-catching, now they need results to match. A first podium would do.
The Haas team have seen a livery change in 2019 by moving to a black and gold design
Romain Grosjean (France)
Age: 32 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 10
GP starts: 143 GP debut: Europe 2009
A season of two halves for the combustable Frenchman in 2018 – a series of errors in the first half threatened his race seat, some magnificent drives down the home straight a timely reminder of his talent. When he joins all the dots, few can live with him – but can he ever do it consistently?
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)
Age: 026 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
GP starts: 81 GP debut: Australia 2014
The Dane partners Grosjean for a third year running, and it’s easy to see why – Magnussen is as consistent as Grosjean is unpredictable, as cool as the Frenchman is fiery. Magnussen beat his team mate in the drivers’ standings last season, although whether he is good enough to challenge the best is debatable.
For the third season running Haas will line up with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
It’s been a woeful half-decade for McLaren who finally might be heading in the right direction after the shambles of their dealings with Honda as well as design and reliability issues. It’s too late for star drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to take advantage, but a fresh new pairing brings hope of a first podium since 2014.
McLaren enjoyed a more productive pre-season programme compared with previous years
Carlos Sainz (Spain)
Age: 24 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 81 GP debut: Australia 2015
Sainz has big shoes to fill following the departure of Spanish compatriot Fernando Alonso. But he has already impressed in spells at Toro Rosso, where he proved competitive against Verstappen, and also at Renault. In a season where he will hit 100 races he will target a maiden and overdue podium.
Lando Norris (Great Britain)
Age: 19 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 0 GP debut: N/A
The new kid on the block and one of the brightest talents who could take the baton off Hamilton as Britain’s No 1 driver once the world champion retires. Finished as runner-up in F2 last season and will come out his rookie season well if he can at least provide strong competition for Sainz.
A new driver line-up sees Carlos Sainz (left) come in as team leader with rookie Lando Norris
On the face of it there is not much change on the shopfront from the team formerly known as Force India. The car is still pink and the lead driver is still Perez. But they are now owned by billionaire Lawrence Stroll and his cash injection could help the team fight for ‘best of the rest’ once again.
Racing Point took over the team formerly known as Force India midway through 2018
Sergio Perez (Mexico)
Age: 29 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 8
GP starts: 155 GP debut: Australia 2011
It was little surprise to see Perez survive the transition from Force India to Racing Point given his impressive track record with the outfit. One of the best drivers outside the top three teams, but an ill-fated spell at McLaren in 2013 has perhaps harmed his hopes of ever breaking back into the higher echelons.
Lance Stroll (Canada)
Age: 20 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
GP starts: 41 GP debut: Australia 2017
Jumping ship from a sinking Williams outfit and into a promising team now owned by his father is a good bit of business from Stroll. The Canadian has endured mixed fortunes in his first two years in F1 but he has on merit earned his opportunity to go head-to-head with Perez and prove his worth.
Sergio Perez (left) will be looking to come out on top against new team-mate Lance Stroll
It’s Sauber but not as you know it. They may still own the team but for the first time since 1992 the F1 grid will not feature the Sauber name following the Alfa Romeo makeover. It aligns with the team’s closer relationship with Ferrari and the transformation of becoming their ‘B-team.’
Alfa Romeo have made the seamless transition into a team after being title sponsors to Sauber
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)
Age: 39 Titles: 1 Wins: 21 Podiums: 103
GP starts: 291 GP debut: Australia 2001
It’s back to where it all started for Raikkonen who returns to the team where he began his career in 2001 when they were known as Sauber. The Finn will turn 40 this season but his upturn in form for Ferrari last term perhaps shows there is still plenty of speed left in the ‘Iceman’.
Antonio Giovinazzi (Italy)
Age: 25 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 2 GP debut: Australia 2017
Italy finally has its first full-time driver on the grid since Jarno Trulli in 2011, but Giovinazzi is no stranger to the F1 track having stood in at Sauber for two races in 2017. Beating Raikkonen will improve his chances of staying on in F1 much longer than one season.
Veteran Kimi Raikkonen leads the team and is joined by the inexperienced Antonio Giovinazzi
With the new Honda engine partnership, Toro Rosso’s role as Red Bull’s guinea pigs is even more pronounced than usual. However they have bought more parts than ever from their big brother – the 2019 TR car is very similar to the 2018 RB drive. A top half finish in the constructors’ table is again the target.
Toro Rosso will be hoping that a boost in Honda power can fire them up the grid
Daniil Kvyat (Russia)
Age: 24 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 2
GP starts: 72 GP debut: Australia 2014
A rare gap in the Red Bull talent production line gives a second chance to the talented but wildly inconsistent Russian, who will surely be fired up after being humiliatingly dropped in 2017. However, he has been outshone by his rookie team mate in testing, so those questions have not yet been answered.
Alexander Albon (Thailand)
Age: 22 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 0 GP debut: N/A
A month after signing for Nissan in Formula E, this 22-year-old London-born talent becomes the first F1 driver in 65 years to race under the Thai flag. He impressed in Catalunya during testing, his fastest time quick enough to put Toro Rosso fourth in the time charts. Very much one to watch.
Daniil Kvyat (left) returns to Toro Rosso where he will team up rookie Alexander Albon
How do you get lower than rock bottom? Williams gave it a good go by following finishing dead last in 2018 by missing most of the first testing session because their car wasn’t ready. Once the beleaguered Grove outfit got on track they looked quick enough, but we remain yet to be convinced.
Williams look on the back foot having already been forced to play catch up in winter testing
Age: 34 Titles: 0 Wins: 1 Podiums: 12
GP starts: 76 GP debut: Hungary 2006
The Pole’s return to the top of racing eight years after almost losing his arm is a wonderful story – but the cold reality of F1 is one where fairy tales are rarely allowed to occur. Kubica looked well off the pace for much of testing, and could face a long, hard season.
Age: 21 Titles: 0 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
GP starts: 0 GP debut: N/A
Has earned his seat at the top table thanks to a brilliant season in F2, beating Lando Norris and Alex Albon to the title. Quietly confident and immensely talented, the Brit is set for a big future. Should he impress in a troubled team, Mercedes may take an interest.
Robert Kubica will compete in F1 for the first time in nine years alongside Brit George Russell