The new year began with all 20 seats taken for the 2019 F1 season. All bar two of the teams have changed at least one of their drivers. But who has got the best line-up?
But which teams have the strongest and weakest driver pairings for 2019? Here’s a quick reminder of who’s in which colours this year:
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton goes into his seventh season at the team where he has won four world championships, while Valtteri Bottas is onboard for the third year in a row.
Ferrari – While Sebastian Vettel prepares for another crack at the title he is joined by Ferrari’s least experienced newcomer for 28 years, Charles Leclerc.
Red Bull – Max Verstappen has a new team mate with much less F1 race experience who is nonetheless older than him: Pierre Gasly.
Haas – The only team besides Mercedes to have retained its 2018 line-up: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen team up again.
Renault – Last year’s top midfielder Nico Hulkenberg is joined by race winner Daniel Ricciardo in what is surely Renault’s best line-up since they returned to F1.
McLaren – It’s all change at Woking where Carlos Sainz Jnr arrives from Renault to team up with rookie Lando Norris.
Racing Point – Sergio Perez begins year six at the team formerly known as Force India, and has a new team mate in Lance Stroll.
Sauber – The combination of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen plus promising rookie Antonio Giovinazzi means expectations will be high at 2018’s most-improved team.
Toro Rosso – Who would have predicted 12 months ago that Toro Rosso’s line-up for 2019 would be Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon?
Williams – Another all-new line-up. Robert Kubica makes his long-awaited return from injury while George Russell arrives with F2 and GP3 titles under his belt.
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Picking a strongest line-up for the year ahead is not as clear-cut as it seemed 12 months ago. Particularly as the pair who won this poll in the last two seasons – Verstappen and Ricciardo – are now at different teams.
So which is F1’s new power line-up? While Leclerc and Gasly showed clear signs of promise last year, it’s too soon to say with certainty they will immediately be at the level of Vettel or Verstappen in the front-runner teams.
Renault and Sauber both have promising line-ups. The new Williams pairing has perhaps the greatest capacity to spring a surprise. But in terms of proven credentials it’s hard to look past Mercedes, notwithstanding the tough second half of 2018 Bottas endured.
As for the weakest line-up, the Haas drivers clearly under-performed last year, particularly Grosjean who lapsed into his error-prone ways despite clearly begin quicker than Magnussen a lot of the time. And it’s been a long time since McLaren began a season with two drivers who have never stood on an F1 podium.
But the duo with the most to prove is probably to be found at Toro Rosso. Kvyat’s return is a surprise given he was dropped by Red Bull and Toro Rosso and was thrashed by Sainz during his last two seasons in F1. And while Albon deserves his F1 chance, the lack of championship silverware from his junior career does leave a question mark.
It is, however, a close call on both counts.
Which team has the strongest and weakest driver line-ups for the season ahead? Cast your votes below and explain your choices in the comments.
Which team has the STRONGEST driver line-up for 2019?
- Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (29%)
- Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc (37%)
- Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly (5%)
- Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo (25%)
- Haas: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean (2%)
- McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris (0%)
- Racing Point: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll (0%)
- Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi (0%)
- Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon (0%)
- Williams: Robert Kubica and George Russell (1%)
Total Voters: 412
Which team has the WEAKEST driver line-up for 2019?
- Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (1%)
- Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc (0%)
- Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly (2%)
- Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo (0%)
- Haas: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean (5%)
- McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris (7%)
- Racing Point: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll (10%)
- Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi (1%)
- Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon (63%)
- Williams: Robert Kubica and George Russell (11%)
Total Voters: 410
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Debates and polls
- Which of 2022’s four lost F1 drivers will return to the grid in the future?
- Was Verstappen’s penalty for Hamilton collision correct?
- Does Pierre Gasly deserve to be one penalty away from a race ban?
- Did the FIA get Red Bull’s penalty for 2021 budget cap breach right?
- Was Russell’s five-second penalty for Sainz collision the right call?