Formula One: What to look out for in 2019

The champagne has barely dried on Lewis Hamilton's overalls after his victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but thoughts are already turning to the 2019 campaign.

Hamilton chalked up his fifth drivers' title this year and could go within one of Michael Schumacher's record of seven if he repeats the feat next season.

But there are plenty of points of intrigue in addition to Hamilton's bid for a sixth F1® crown.

Here we take a look at five of the storylines that could feature heavily over the course of the 2019 season.

 

DRIVER SHAKE-UP

The grid will have an unfamiliar look about it when the drivers return for the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 in March, with only two teams – Mercedes and Haas – retaining their 2018 driver line-up.

Daniel Ricciardo surprised many by announcing he would swap Red Bull for Renault, with Pierre Gasly moving from Toro Rosso to fill his place in the senior team.

Another shock move was Kimi Raikkonen's switch to Sauber, which will see Charles Leclerc head the other way to Ferrari.

George Russell and Lando Norris will make their F1® debuts for Williams and McLaren respectively, with Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber) returning to the grid.

The changes promise to give the grid a different dynamic next season.

 

KUBICA COMEBACK

Another driver change comes in the shape of comeback king Robert Kubica, who has been signed up by Williams to race alongside Russell.

The 33-year-old Pole has not raced in F1® since 2010 due to the life-changing injuries he sustained in a rally crash seven years ago.

The former Sauber and Renault driver has been reserve and development driver for Williams this season after impressing during testing in 2017 and is determined to grasp his opportunity next year.

"It has been a challenging journey to make it back to the Formula One grid, but what seemed almost impossible is now beginning to feel possible, as I am excited to be able to say that I will be on the Formula 1® grid in 2019," he said.

"For sure, it has been a long road to get to this point, but as that challenge now comes to an end with this announcement, a new challenge begins working with Williams on track."

RED BULL-HONDA LINK-UP

All F1® fans want to see a more competitive battle for the drivers' and constructors' titles, or at least one that lasts to the end of the season.

Red Bull, who have struggled to truly push Mercedes and Ferrari in the past two years, have severed ties with Renault ahead of the 2019 campaign to join forces with Honda.

The Japanese manufacturer does not have the best record since returning to the sport in 2015, from a dismal partnership with McLaren to a non-competitive showing with Toro Rosso this season.

But the hope will be that Honda can forge a more fruitful relationship with Red Bull and propel the team back into contention at the top of the standings, challenging Mercedes and Ferrari in the process.

The element of the unknown should make Red Bull's story a fascinating one to follow early in the season. They certainly cannot afford for Honda to fall flat again.

 

WEIGHT OFF DRIVERS' SHOULDERS

Among the regulation changes for 2019 is a move to limit the disadvantage to heavier drivers, such as Renault's Nico Hulkenberg – one of the tallest men in the sport.

Under current rules, the weight of driver and car are considered as a combined figure, allowing teams to use the ballast that brings the car up to weight to optimise its balance and set-up.

A minimum driver weight will now be introduced and anyone who does not meet that marker will have ballast placed adjacent to the driver's seat, reducing the advantage enjoyed by lighter drivers.

Other rules changes will see fuel allowance upped to 110 kilograms to ensure drivers can push for the duration of the race, and new biometric gloves will allow things like heart rate to be monitored.

 

RACE 1,000

F1® reaches a significant milestone in 2019 as the sport stages its 1,000th world championship race.

The honour of hosting that landmark grand prix falls on China, after plans to take it to Silverstone were abandoned due to unpredictable April weather.

April 14 is the date you need to put in your diary for this third race of the season in Shanghai.

Expect Liberty Media to make a lot of noise around the milestone race as it looks to drum up interest in the opening rounds of the season.

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