This weekend’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Houston, Texas, could be the definitive race of the 2018 F1 Drivers’ Championship, plus the fate of its two main protagonists, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Englishman George Russell has signed for the Williams team in 2019.
Japan two weeks ago produced a result that handed an almost unassailable lead to the Mercedes driver. With just four races left, the Englishman has a 67-point advantage over the German, and Mercedes a healthy advantage over the Scuderia, heading the Constructors’ title chase by 78 points.
Ferrari is not admitting defeat despite these deficits and have stated they will fight to the bitter end. The Italian media have expressed their disappointment at the team’s recent lacklustre performance after such a promising start to the year.
The number of articles published supplying reasons for their loss of form has been incredible, blaming everything from Vettel’s attitude, Maurizio Arrivabene’s managerial skills, pit wall strategies, the sad passing of Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne and anything else you can imagine.
I am surprised that El Nino has not been included in the long and varied reasons.
I agree it has been a Maranello meltdown, taking the fire out of what was promising to be an exciting season, but surely we cannot exclude the fact that Mercedes has applied pressure on Ferrari in all areas.
Hamilton is at the top of his game and with the upgraded Mercedes appears unstoppable. Meanwhile, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas has had some solid results to give the team the edge.
A Hamilton victory this Sunday will mean that Vettel has to finish no lower than second to keep his title hopes alive – a tall order on current form.
With last week’s announcement by deputy team principal Claire Williams that 20-year-old Englishman George Russell has signed for the Williams team in 2019, the musical chairs for drivers continues.
Russell will be on the grid in Melbourne for his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix. He arrives at Williams with an impressive resume, having won the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Championship in his first year and also becoming the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner.
Moving to the European Formula 3 Championship for two years, he went on to win the 2017 championship in his rookie year. This year he joined the FIA Formula 2 championship, which he currently leads.
All this and being a test and reserve driver for Mercedes makes it easy to understand the team’s excitement at signing up this young talent. The number of seats left for the coming season has narrowed with this appointment – there are only three teams yet to announce their full driver line-ups.
McLaren on Monday confirmed rookies Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris will complete their lineup for 2019, replacing Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, who is moving to Formula E. Williams have one seat left to be occupied by one of several possibles, depending on current team driver Lance Stroll’s predicted move to Force India.
The candidates are present team member Sergey Sirotkin, reserve driver Robert Kubica, Artem Markelov, current test driver for Renault, and Esteban Ocon, who is the man most likely to be dropped from the Force India line-up.
My choice would have to be Ocon who, I believe, would be a driver who could assist in developing the new generation Williams. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso equipe still has a vacant seat available, after the return to F1 of Russian Daniil Kvyat.
2019 races confirmed
The FIA last week confirmed the 2019 F1 season will consist of 21 races.
- 2019 F1 calendar
- March 17: Australia
- March 31: Bahrain
- April 14: China
- April 28: Azerbaijan
- May 12: Spain
- May 26: Monaco
- June 9: Canada
- June 23: France
- June 30: Austria
- July 14: Great Britain
- July 28: Germany
- August 4: Hungary
- September 1: Belgium
- September 8: Italy
- September 22: Singapore
- September 29: Russia
- October 13: Japan
- October 27: Mexico
- November 3: US
- November 17: Brazil
- Dec 1: Abu Dhabi 2