Formula One heads to the streets of Singapore, for the start of the final flyaway leg of 2019 under the lights at Marina Bay.
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc head to Singapore on the crest of two wins on the bounce at Spa and Monza. But compared to those two high-speed circuits, Ferrari’s low downforce package won’t be anywhere near as effective on the tight Marina Bay Street Circuit.
As has been the case for most of the 2019 season, Mercedes is expected to be the team to beat this weekend. It was in Singapore last year, where Lewis Hamilton took pole position and the race win, that Mercedes finally seemed to understand what was needed to conquer one of its few “bogey” circuits. And judging by the fact Mercedes has won every street race since, there’s every reason for them to be confident about their chances on Sunday.
However, Mercedes does have one shadow looming over them this weekend—engine reliability. Since introducing their Spec 3 power unit at Spa three weeks ago, Mercedes have seen uncharacteristic failures in the customer cars of Sergio Perez’s Racing Point and Robert Kubica’s Williams. So far the works team has had no blowouts of its own, but after two demanding power tracks and with Singapore’s reputation for testing cars to their limit, there’s no room for complacency.
The other threat to Mercedes this weekend comes in the form of Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Verstappen has run well in in Singapore in recent years, qualifying second in 2017 and 2018 and finishing runner-up to Hamilton last year.
With the Red Bull-Honda package improving with every race, it would be no surprise to see Verstappen duelling with Hamilton for his third win of the season.
As always, the difficulty and unpredictability of Singapore will provide the midfield teams with plenty of opportunities to sneak away with big points hauls.
Renault took a double points finish at Marina Bay last year, but their RS19 has been much more at home on high speed and lower downforce tracks this year. Given their results from slower tracks like Monaco and Hungary, Renault will likely find themselves scrapping with or even behind the likes of McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Toro Rosso this weekend.
Haas will also be bracing themselves for another tough Grand Prix on Sunday. Although their prolonged dispute with former title sponsors Rich Energy has finally come to an end, their struggles with tyre degradation certainly have not. And in the heat of Singapore, there aren’t many worse problems to have.
However, Haas and Renault can both take some optimism from the fact that this is the Singapore Grand Prix. With tempers running high and the walls never far away, Singapore is the place where anything can happen.
After a summer break that always feels like a lifetime, Formula One is back, and the circus this time arrives at the 7 kilometre Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest.
The summer has seen a couple of changes. Pierre Gasly, who has endured a horrible season at Red Bull alongside the imperious Max Verstappen, has been dropped by Red Bull axe-man Helmut Marko and placed back at Toro Rosso. His replacement is Anglo-Thai driver Alexander Albon, who moves up from the junior team having impressed in his rookie season alongside Daniil Kvyat—although the Russian, having scored a podium in Germany and more points this season than his younger team-mate, will feel as though he should have been with the Austrian team heading into Belgium.
Albon joins the team for a race at which they are not expected to pull off the spectacular heroics that Max Verstappen has displayed in the first half of the season. Spa is very much a power track, but the tricky, twisty middle sector will provide somewhat of an opportunity for the Bulls to make up time on Mercedes and Ferrari.
Speaking of them, Ferrari need to establish some kind of foothold in this season’s championship, having failed to win a race in the first half of the season, with Charles Leclerc falling agonisingly short of victory in Bahrain and Austria, and Sebastian Vettel losing the win in Canada due to a penalty. The prancing horses, who have thus far been cantering ponies, are generally better in a straight line than Mercedes this year, and this weekend is a great chance to grab that first win.
As for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton certainly cannot be counted out of a win, and it is not as if the Mercedes is tremendously slower than the Ferrari on the straights. However, Hamilton will surely have one eye on the title with a 62 point lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and may opt to play the long game.
Bottas is in a different boat. Following a blistering start to the season, winning in Australia and Azerbaijan, the Finn has fallen back, and has since started to show the cracks that we have seen in the last two seasons partnered with Hamilton. No wins since race four, a crash in Germany and a clumsy incident with his team mate in Hungary has left his future in doubt, with Esteban Ocon among a couple of names potentially being lined up to replace him next year. Bottas is running out of time in the harsh climate of Formula One, and he needs a strong result at Spa to kick off the second part of the season and salvage his future at Mercedes.
Further back, Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both need strong weekends themselves. Several incidents between the two drivers have frustrated their demanding team boss Guenther Steiner, and neither of them currently have a safe seat for next season.
It was at this race 12 months ago where Racing Point, undergoing their transformation as Racing Point Force India, came close to a podium with Sergio Perez. A podium will not be expected this time, but points will certainly be the objective. So too will be the case for Renault’s drivers, who both failed to score points here last year after Nico Hulkenberg catapulted Fernando Alonso, and Daniel Ricciardo was caught up in the ensuing melee.
George Russell was hopeful that Williams were taking steps in the right direction following the last race in Budapest, but we should not expect them to be able to lift themselves off the bottom of the time sheets this time around.
Hamilton is back to defend his championship lead, Bottas and Ferrari need to bounce back, and Formula One is back, as is Eau Rouge, I mean Raidillon, oh forget it…
Follow full live text commentary of free practice, qualifying and the race on our Twitter account, @PitCrew_Online.
In 2019, Robert Kubica returned to racing in Formula 1. The 34-year-old Pole was the main star of this year’s edition of Verva Street Racing in Gdynia, Poland.
“I am glad that I am here and I am part of this event and I can once again present myself in an F1 car, although in compromised conditions,” Kubica said about the event.
“I think that for fans this is a great opportunity and I hope that I encourage new fans to watch motorsport and instil a passion for this sport into them.”
Before returning to F1, Kubica was to be the driver of the ByKolles team, which competes in WEC in the LMP1 class. The Pole gave up being part of the team, which cancelled his starts in this series. He commented his chances to start in the legendary 24-hour Le Mans race were as follows:
“My adventure [with ByKolles] ended quite early, actually before it began. At the moment I am focusing on my work and I don’t know what will happen in the future. I think the situation, where I was in three years ago and now where I am, is completely different.”
The 2019 season hasn’t been the most successful for Williams so far. The team from Grove for a long time was the only team which hasn’t scored a point during the first half of the season. After the rainy German Grand Prix and a penalty on both Alfa Romeo drivers, one point appeared on Williams’ account.
“I think the season started very hard,” Kubica said. I think that there were a lot of problems not only when it comes to the performance of the car, but also other problems that unfortunately disturbed the racing process and I think that it had the biggest influence of later driving and the result .
“The most emotional race so far was definitely in Australia, because it was the first race after a really long break, and when it comes to driving, I think the coolest ride was on the streets of Monaco.”
This week F1 returns after the summer break and the 13th race of the 2019 season will take place at Spa-Francorchamps. There are a lot of rumours about the future of 34-year-old Williams driver. When Kubica was asked about being in F1 in 2020, he answered:
Now that the 2019 F1 Championship is nearing its summer break, the traditional driver market rumours have started coming in thick and fast. To help sort the bluff from the believable, we’ve identified five key hotspots in this year’s silly season.
Esteban Ocon is expected to be the driver market’s dominant figure this year. Although his chances of a 2020 Mercedes drive have been slashed by Valtteri Bottas’ run of improved form, there is no shortage of teams to which the Frenchman has been linked.
If Mercedes were to release Ocon as they did Pascal Wehrlein last year, then he could prove the keystone for the midfield shuffle. Renault and Haas especially are known to be interested in a free Ocon, and both teams have drivers out of contract.
Although Sebastian Vettel has a contract with Ferrari for 2020, his distance from the title, infamous disagreements with the stewards and the rise of Charles Leclerc have all left him openly questioning whether F1 is still the place he wants to be.
At the moment Vettel is still expected to at least see out his contract rather than walk away early. But if he does call time on his F1 career this season, the most likely candidate to take his seat is thought to be Bottas or Daniel Ricciardo.
Nico Hülkenberg might have scored more than half of Renault’s total points since he joined them in 2017, but that hasn’t stopped team reportedly eyeing up Ocon for his seat next year.
If Hülkenberg were to lose his Renault drive, his only alternative on the 2020 grid would be a sideways move to Haas, Racing Point or Alfa Romeo. However, after nine seasons mired in the midfield he may decide to take his considerable talent to a more competitive series—Formula E, perhaps, or returning to Le Mans with Aston Martin’s hypercar entry.
Romain Grosjean is another driver under pressure from Ocon, with one wild silly season story claiming Haas were even trying to swap the two Frenchmen around for this weekend’s German Grand Prix.
But while that particular rumour has come to nothing, it is true that Grosjean is facing a lot of competition for his seat—not just from Ocon, but also Hülkenberg, Sergio Pérez and now-Ferrari development driver Wehrlein. Whether Grosjean remains on the F1 grid at all next year remains to be seen, with his best option likely swapping seats with Pérez and joining Racing Point.
There isn’t much space for new young drivers on the 2020 grid, but Formula 2 frontrunner Nicholas Latifi already has his feet under the table with a Williams reserve role. If Williams and Robert Kubica decide to part company at the end of a frustrating year for both parties, Latifi is next in line to replace the Pole.
Latifi has also been linked with Racing Point, forming an all-Canadian lineup with Lance Stroll should Pérez move on to Haas. However, Ocon is a much more likely alternative at present, given his fruitful past relationship with the team and his friendship with Stroll.
Formula 1 Pre-Season testing got underway in Barcelona this morning with a healthy mix of old and new faces racking up the laps. Rookies Lando Norris and Alex Albon for McLaren and Toro Rosso were first out on track.
Albon had the marshals on their toes after causing the first red-flag of the session, one minute after lights went green. Albon’s Toro Rosso was sat in the gravel facing the wrong way after having lost it upon exiting Turn four, and after a 20-minute recovery from the marshals, we got back into the session.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes were keen to begin testing the harder tyres this morning, running the C1, starting at a slightly slower pace than the previous day. After Bottas’s morning test yesterday, it was the turn of Hamilton to set an early alarm, and by 8:20am he had set the first time of the day at 1:32s.
Ferrari’s new driver Charles Leclerc got in the seat for the first time, initially taking a steady approach to handling his new car by setting a 1:42. He picked up the pace pretty quickly after that though, going from the bottom to the top of the table by setting a more-than-respectable 1:19 and showing the world he can match the pace of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel has already gone on record in considering Leclerc a ‘full rival … He got the seat for a reason and I’ve got to take him very seriously’. With a personal best of 1:18.2 this morning, it’s difficult to view Leclerc in any other way.
After Verstappen’s impressive performance yesterday, Red Bull’s number two driver Pierre Gasly took to the wheel for the first time at just after 8:30am, sharing the track with Alfa Romeo’s number two, Antonio Giovinazzi. Gasly put in a steady first lap on C3 tyres with a 1:37.5, before picking up the pace and putting in a 1:22, and a 1:21 shortly after. Giovinazzi puts in a 1:24 and continues to improve, achieving a 1:20 after 22 laps.
Like Hamilton, Ricciardo was also back in the driver’s seat this morning following yesterday’s afternoon session. Ricciardo’s Renault matched the pace of Red Bull and Gasly lap after lap, as both cars achieved a respectable 1:21s.
Meanwhile, it looked to be yet another slow start for Racing Point this morning after yesterday’s arguably disappointing session. The team managed to rack up a meagre 30 test laps across the whole day. Performance Engineering Director Tom McCullough summarised the day; ‘We had some teething problems, which caused us some downtime across the day, and a small oil leak, but nothing overly concerning’.
McCullough explained the teams aim for today’s session, focusing on aero data collection and giving Lance Stroll an opportunity to experience his new car, however by 8:50am, Stroll had only managed two installation laps. By 9:05am, Stroll had achieved his first timed lap, managing a 1:29 on C3 tyres. His pace improved quite quickly with a 1:21.6, coming second on the timing sheets over Hamilton’s 1:24.6. Stroll surpassed his teammates efforts yesterday, completing 45 laps before lunchtime.
Perhaps a little dubious to appear on track too early this morning, Kevin Magnussen and Haas finally ventured out to do an installation lap on intermediate tyres, before returning to the pits. Magnussen was back on track after 35 minutes in the garage, putting in his first flying lap of 1:23.4. He continued to build on this by following it with a 1:21.9, and a 1:21.6 moving ahead of Albon’s Toro Rosso.
Magnussen spent a further 20 minutes in the garage; the Haas social media team describing it as an ‘extended stay’, offering no indication of why the team have put in so few laps this morning.
Ricciardo’s Renault decided to spice up the morning by parting ways with its rear wing while using DRS, causing him to spin off track and into the gravel. Miraculously he managed to get the car out without causing a second red-flag in the session.
The lunch break came and went with some teams opting for a driver change, namely Mercedes and Renault. Bottas was the first man on track, followed closely by Charles Leclerc for Ferrari. Leclerc was the first man to break the 100-lap benchmark, followed by rookie Alex Albon for Toro Rosso.
Nico Hulkenberg settled down to test his Renault for a race distance and continued to knock out lap times in the 1:20s. Hulkenberg didn’t manage to top the timesheets, however Renault seem to have found consistent timing and distance of greater value than fastest car on track. He did eventually break free of the monotony and started pushing the car just a little bit, managing a personal best of 1:20.3 which put him in 8thposition.
Pierre Gasly spun out going in to turn 12 with only an hour and a half left on the clock. Though the damage didn’t look overly disastrous, it was a sorry end to Gasly’s otherwise smooth and steady session.
Pietro Fittipaldi took to the wheel in place of Kevin Magnussen who was forced to retire from the race early due to a seat-fit issue, which could explain the frequent ‘extended stays’ K-Mag was having in the morning session. Fittipaldi managed a total of 13 laps before the end of the session.
Sadly, we heard very little from Williams today. It is thought they will be arriving with the car very early tomorrow morning, with a view to joining in the testing tomorrow lunchtime.
McLaren are continuing to play the come-back kid by coming second only to Ferrari on the timing sheet. It’s an extremely positive start for the team, but ultimately Ferrari stole the show once again, taking fastest lap for the second day in a row (a 1:18.2) along with a healthy distance on track. With 157 laps under his belt, Leclerc has taken thorough advantage of his opportunity to get used to his new car.Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports
The first round of the 2019 Formula 1 season is complete – here we look at Australian GP driver ratings:
Valtteri Bottas – 9
Sunday was near perfect, with a lightning start allowing him to jump his team mate and from then he just went off into the distance, getting an extra point for fastest lap as well. He wasn’t necessarily the winner we expected from pre-season testing but he was without a doubt the driver of the day.
Lewis Hamilton – 7
Hamilton is well known for having the Saturday pace which generally puts him in good stead for Sunday, but he was beaten fair and square during the race. Still, he’ll take the podium along with the equal record for the most poles at one circuit.
Max Verstappen – 8
Verstappen put in the best performance for Honda in the whole of the hybrid era with his podium finish. He managed his tyres well and made an easy move on Vettel. A mistake at turn one hindered a late attack on Hamilton, but he will leave Melbourne with a smile on his face.
Sebastian Vettel – 7
Vettel had a solid start and was quick in the first stint, attempting to attack with an undercut which ultimately didn’t work. You can guarantee an investigation will be underway at Ferrari to figure out how they ended up 57 seconds behind the winner.
Charles Leclerc – 6
A great start by Leclerc but he was rather ambitious to attempt a move on his team-mate which could have ended in tears. Unlike his team-mate, he was slow in the first half of the race but fast in the second, and caught up to Vettel before being told to hold position. He showed he had speed in Q2 but the Ferrari doesn’t seem to be the package everyone thought.
Kevin Magnussen – 8
Magnussen was best of the rest in Australia, with solid pace and what seems to be the fourth quickest car. It was a better result than last year with no faulty pitstops, even if he was outqualified by his team-mate.
Nico Hulkenburg – 7
It was another result in a familiar place for the German. He started 11th so had free choice of tyres, which benefitted him in the race as he got the move on a few other drivers.
Kimi Raikkonen – 8
Raikkonen did exceptionally well considering where the team was last year, with a very aggressive package seeming to suit him well. He got the car into Q3 and kept that momentum going into Sunday.
Lance Stroll – 7
Stroll always raises eyebrows due to how he got into the sport, but in the race he showed he was fully deserving of the seat at Racing Point as he was in the thick of it all weekend. He scored the team’s only point, having some great battles whilst keeping the car clean.
Danil Kvyat – 6
A good return to the sport, ignoring a mistake at turn three. He was ambitious to run the hard tyre and defended well from faster cars behind, taking his car deeper into the race and allowing him to overcut the majority of them for the last point.
Pierre Gasly – 4
Australia will be a race to forget for Gasly. A mistake on Saturday by the team cost him dearly and he spent most of the race staring at Kvyat’s rear wing, unable to get past even on the softest tyre.
Lando Norris – 7
It was a great Saturday from Norris, but an early stop in the race in reaction to others put him in traffic. He was unable to pass Giovinazzi for several laps and just missed out on the points. Expect big things from Norris this season.
Sergio Perez – 5
It was an off-day for the Mexican on Sunday as he was classified down in 13th. He got caught up in the midfield battle which let others overcut him. The car looks great though, so there will be plenty more opportunities for him.
Alex Albon – 6
Despite being the first to spin this season in similar circumstances to his incident in testing, Albon did a good job. He matched Kvyat for outright pace on Saturday but was just caught up in the ever-so-tight midfield squabble. A good Sunday debut.
Antonio Giovinazzi – 5
The returning Italian was a pain for most at Melbourne, stuck on a confusing strategy with his tyres were ruined, and becoming a replacement for the infamous ‘Trulli train’. He showed true grit in terms of defence but not a lot of outright speed, though this is only his third ever race in F1.
George Russell – 6
Russell blitzed his much more experienced team-mate, but that’s not saying much considering Kubica is really the only competition he has due to Williams being so far behind the others. He finished his debut race and hopefully get in the mix, sooner rather than later.
Robert Kubica – 3
A race to forget and move on from for Kubica. He hit the wall twice on Saturday and then hit Gasly at turn one on the first lap of the race. Williams will have collected some data though, and Kubica will get quicker and quicker throughout the season.
Romain Grosjean – 7
Another pit stop failure resulted in early retirement for the Frenchman, after being on course for a good points haul. A long delay in the pits pushed him down the order, and he then had to stop the car on track due to a ill-fitted left-front tyre.
Daniel Ricciardo – 5
For the first time in Melbourne in the turbo era, Ricciardo failed to get through to Q3 on Saturday, and his race – his first for Renault – was pretty much over in a few seconds when he pushed wide onto the grass and broke his front wing. He decided to retire the car.
Carlos Sainz – 4
Sainz was beaten by his rookie team mate on Saturday comprehensively, and was the first to retire on Sunday. Because of the nature of the track he had been unable to make up much ground prior to the retirement. He is a fighter though, and will be back for Bahrain.
When it seemed like nothing else could go wrong for Williams after missing the first two days of pre-season testing, the team has just been beaten twice a week before the season kicks off in Australia. Despite the big effort they are putting in to find solutions, the end of what has been one of the most successful teams in Formula One history appears to be nearer than the turnaround they need to be fighting at the top again. After a terrible 2018 in which they was completely off the pace, the team claimed that they had identified the problem and it would be solved in the upcoming year. The truth is that we are already in 2019 and they have the slowest car on the grid and showing no signs of recovery in the near future.
The first troubles showed up quite early this year as the filming day planned at Silverstone got cancelled in order to ‘make the most of the time left before heading to Barcelona’, an inconvenience given that teams are only allowed 100km of running with special tyres, so the main purpose is to check every system to be ready to hit the track once the light goes green at Montmeló.
It was at this point that we realised they had suffered major setbacks. The car wasn’t ready, it wasn’t even in the circuit and their first laps wouldn’t take place until Wednesday afternoon. This was a complete disaster considering that private testing is forbidden nowadays. In addition to this, the legality of the mirrors and the front suspension has been questioned in the last few days. Some experts explain that the front suspension isn’t easy to redesign, so it may cause a new headache before Australia. Furthermore, Williams’ technical chief Paddy Lowe is taking a leave of absence which could lead into his departure after being pointed out as responsible for the team issues.
For some, the two main reasons that have placed Williams on the edge are money and the team’s attitude, both discussed in the following lines. Despite the team denying that the delay was related to issues with external suppliers or a lack of financial resources, it is hard to believe what they stated because of their well-known struggles to keep going through the last few years. Even if they got ROKiT (a telecommunications company) as new title sponsor and Orlen (an oil refiner company and Kubica’s personal sponsor), these brands aren’t expected to match the vast amount of money brought by Lawrence Stroll (Lance’s father) and Martini which left the team at the end of last season.
Having said that, the horizon doesn’t look really promising due to the fact that when you have the slowest car, you want is to develop it as quickly as possible and you need a lot of money to do so. We may have a look back at the beginning of the hybrid era, when the Mercedes engine brought some success to Grove. At that moment, they even managed to afford a big upgrade of their wind tunnel aiming to fight on top again, but their work didn’t pay off and not much more has been said about what was described as a massive step forward in terms of development capability. Since then, they are in freefall praying for the budget cap to come in on time to save the team. Examples like this one make us realise how difficult it is to reach the top and how easy it is to go back to the midfield when you don’t spend the budget correctly or simply don’t have it.
Secondly, the team is missing a captain who steers the project in order to get out of the hole in which they are in. With Sir Frank Williams out of the picture, it is his daughter Claire who actually leads the squad. She seems tired or at least that is the impression given every time she faces the media. Claire has mentioned many times that she doesn’t want to be the person who ends’ Williams long history, but when there is no passion there is nothing to do.
Moreover, Robert Kubica’s attitude towards the team isn’t helping, for sure. The Polish driver, who is coming back to the sport after a long period recovering from the injuries suffered in a rally crash in 2011, has criticised his team harshly over the last days as a consequence of the poor pre-season done. ‘The car was too tired to continue’ and ‘I only know 20% of the things I should know before Australia’ were some of the comments made by Kubica. Most likely, he expected too much from a team which is suffering the worst streak in their history. On the contrary, George Russell is doing exactly what Williams needs: he is always encouraging his guys on social media and making positive statements when he talks to the media. It might sound useless, but the atmosphere you create around you is very important get good results.
Taking all this into account, I have to confess that I fear Williams could not make it to the end of the season as I feel they are digging their own grave. The large number of issues they are facing, added to the lack of leadership and the fact that they remain adamant in their idea of building the whole car on their own and refusing to buy some parts to manufacturers, could mean the end for a team that has been competing in the championship since 1977.
Featured image courtesy of Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images
Williams’ George Russell has described the first day of the second pre-season test as “a huge relief” for himself and for the team, completing all the planned running with no issues.
“It was a good day,” Russell said. “Our plan was to get as many laps on the board, make sure we had no issues and that’s exactly what we did. We have learnt so much about the car on lower fuel and higher fuel which gives us a good indication moving forward into the next few days.
“All in all, it was a huge relief to have a day like today and we completed our test plan as intended.”
Russell posted the ninth fastest time of the day using the C5 tyre – the softest compound available – and also completed 119 laps, the third most of the day.
It comes after a less-than ideal first test for Williams, which saw delays with the production of parts for the car force the Grove-based team to miss the first two days of running.
Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe added, “It was a good day of testing with George driving the car. We completed 119 laps without any significant reliability issues, so we achieved the entire programme that we had planned from the start of the day.
“Well done to the team, a great job by everybody to get a car that can do the laps without incident to make a solid start to the second test.”
After an extraordinary start to 2019 that was described as “embarrassing” by team principal Claire Williams, the Williams team now faces uncertainty as F1 heads closer to the 2019 season and out of the crucial first test in Barcelona.
Williams missed the first two of the four days of testing due to a problem which they were extremely reluctant to specify, which put them a long way behind in terms of mileage and understanding the car’s reliability and handling. This, ultimately, will put them behind on pace come the first race in Australia in March.
This latest embarrassment comes after the backlash faced at the unveiling of the new blue and white livery with their new title sponsor Rokit, after which the team, who were once at the pinnacle of F1, were ridiculed. Of course, an opinion-splitting livery isn’t so bad; people won’t really pay much attention to the looks as long as the car is able to perform well, but it tends to become a fairly substantial issue when the team doesn’t only have problems making the car perform, but can barely get the car on track in the first place.
However, Williams is a 31-year-old team founded by two men in Frank Williams and Patrick Head who are simply too tenacious and ambitious to begin to understand the value of the term ‘giving up’, let alone merely disregard it. The team is based on overcoming hardship and fighting tooth and nail for any and every opportunity, and with the steadfast gene no doubt inherited by Frank’s daughter Claire, this fighting spirit is never far away.
Let’s not forget the last Williams lull. Having been one of the backmarker teams for several years prior to 2014, Williams would bounce back with the arrival of the V6 turbo era, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa securing podiums, two consecutive third-placed finishes in the constructors’ standings, and even a front row lock-out in qualifying in Austria back in 2014. No matter what comes at this team, they just never seem to go away.
Bottas finds himself in Mercedes and Massa is in Formula E these days, and Williams have turned to an old favourite of the sport, Robert Kubica, returning after a horrific injury in 2011 that kept him out of the sport for eight years, and young British star George Russell who won the F2 championship last year. Kubica, if not for his injury, would have found himself in Ferrari colours in 2012, after winning a race and performing with consistent proficiency and excellence for BMW Sauber (now Alfa Romeo Racing).
Of course, there is also some similar history to suggest that Williams may still be okay. Ferrari endured a torrid testing period of testing in 2012, but would come back to mount a title challenge with Fernando Alonso. The Brawn team of 2009 also deserve a mention. Heading into the season ten years ago, the redundant Honda team were miraculously transformed by Ross Brawn, and having struggled to even get the car to the track, Brawn would go on to win the drivers’ championship with Jenson Button as well as the constructors’ championship. Brawn would then transform in the Mercedes team we are all very familiar with today. These were different circumstances, but they were testing and extremely difficult times nonetheless. It takes a special kind of heart and courage to recover from situations like these, and that heart and courage is certainly embedded in Williams.
With two excellent stars – one old and one new – and the sheer tenacity that runs in the blood and the proud name of Williams, history has shown us that this remarkable spirit to keep going against the odds has seen Williams come back from many a setback. So, despite a seemingly disastrous start to 2019, why should this time be any different? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t keep Williams down.
[Featured image: Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42. Formula One Testing, Day 4, Thursday 21st February 2019. Barcelona, Spain]
It’s that time of the year – no, we’re not talking about the climate: no, this is about that special time when the garages are open, the engines are growling and racing tracks are once again put to good use.
But even earlier than this week, we had a few shakedown tests. The prequel to the pre-season, if you will. And two teams decided to treat us to some special liveries to mark the occasion – Red Bull and Alfa Romeo both ran unique testing liveries, masking their cars’ intricacies while offering the fans a welcome shot of variety.
But with them both joining the long line of testing liveries, can they be considered to be up there with the best of them? We’ll be ranking our top ten favourite test liveries, from eras far gone to the present day.
10 – Renault, 2002 pre-season testing
When we think back to Renault’s F1 beginnings, the original turbo era comes to mind. Alain Prost, unreliability, and yellow, white and black liveries were the main elements of Renault’s roots.
To celebrate their finally outright owning an F1 team for the first time since then the French manufacturer paid homage to their old-style liveries (no black though). Basic yet sleek, it would eventually be spruced up with dashes of blue.
9 – BAR, 2006 Friday running
Alright, so this one isn’t actually pre-season testing. But this unique 555 livery (part of British American Tobacco, team owners) replacing the usual Lucky Strike branding was a splendid sight to see.
It was used for Friday practice running, when third cars were permitted to be used by certain teams – Anthony Davidson was running the car in these colours at the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix.
8 – Red Bull, 2015 pre-season testing
Red Bull are no strangers to this ‘unique livery’ thing – they’ve done it four times now, and that’s excluding the one-off liveries they’ve tried out for size in races (the stunning Wings For Life designs in particular).
This black-and-white camo livery for 2015 was never going to be used full-time, as it was intended to hide important aspects of the car away from prying eyes. Not that it was all that useful, at least in this case; Red Bull came fourth in the 2015 standings.
7 – Spyker, 2007 pre-season testing
Spyker’s one-season stint in F1 may not have been bright, but their originally intended test livery certainly was. The strongest of orange tones, the Spyker in anything nearing sunny weather ended up looking red – not the result Spyker wanted.
The faux-Ferrari paint job was thrown to the scrapheap, in favour of a lighter shade of orange that would perfectly showcase the team’s Dutch flair. Fun Fact: they once led a race, Markus Winkelhock in the 2007 European Grand Prix.
6 – Williams, 2014 pre-season testing
Williams, for the last five years, have adorned a striking white Martini livery. It’s easy to forget that the Grove outfit’s adopted colour is actually blue – last seen on 2014’s barnstorming FW36.
The Martini deal was still to be negotiated when 2014 testing commenced, and so Williams ran this simple yet fetching dark blue design, signalling a back to basics approach that propelled the team back to the top of the grid. If they’ll ever get there again, we’ll have to see…
One of the two unique new designs we saw break this week, Alfa Romeo Racing’s hearts and clovers paint scheme was a reference to both Valentine’s Day and the team’s historic emblem.
The Hinwil-based team, finally ditching the iconic Sauber name for 2019, are hoping to make progress on their promising 2018 campaign. With a radical new design, maybe those hearts adorning it in the shakedown with foreshadow a lovely season ahead.
4 – McLaren, 2005 pre-season testing
McLaren brought back the iconic papaya colour schemes back full-time in 2017, but for many years the paint job was only used for test outings, like their 2005 title contender, MP4-20.
The striking presence the bright papaya gave was a stark contrast to the usual chrome and black McLaren were so synonymous for running in the Mercedes era, and it was always a refreshing sight.
3 – Red Bull, 2019 shakedown
Red Bull, as stated earlier, are no newbies to trying out a unique testing livery. This year’s such example centered around a striking red and dark blue combo, with everything made up of camo-esque lines designed to throw off prying eyes.
It marked the dawn of the Honda era, with Red Bull breaking away from previous suppliers Renault after a 12-year partnership. Can the Japanese manufacturer bounce back from their pain with McLaren, and create a winning combo with Red Bull?
2 – Renault, 2016 pre-season testing
The 2016 pre-season marked the third time Renaut would outright own its own F1 team (funnily enough, they re-purchased the team they sold to Genii Capital in 2010). And as such, they went back to basics with their livery.
2002’s homage missed out the black; 2016’s test livery was almost nothing but. There were yellow accents, but otherwise it was a smooth black paint job. When it came to actually racing the thing, Renault simply inverted the black and yellow colours.
1 – Red Bull, 2018 shakedown
Finding a top pick for this list was a hard one – the simplicity of the 2016 Renault, and the novelty of this year’s Red Bull were tempting, but it’s their design from last year that wins out.
The digital camo, designed in blue and grey, looks both menacing and stylish. It also compliments the car, helping to hide the halo while accentuating the main features of the body. It’s just a shame it was only used for one day…
Featured image courtesy of Getty images / RedBull Content Pool