The start of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship season has seen the FIA introduce a number of changes to its technical and sporting regulations.
Additionally, this year’s driving line-up has come about through one of the greatest amount of seat-swapping in recent years. We give you the low-down right here…
New Rules and Regulations
A new seasons brings a host of new technical regulations, which have been ostensibly designed to lay the foundation for wholesale changes due in 2021 which Formula 1 leadership hopes will dramatically improve racing competitiveness.
This year’s car’s look noticeably different to their 2018 predecessors – the front and rear wings are the most obvious – but there are also a number of less-visible tweaks that have been introduced as well.
In a nutshell, they are as follows:
- New front wing: The front wings have been made 200mm wider, 200mm higher and much simpler. The complex endplates that helped outwash airflow around the front tyres have been banned. Increasing the minimum height of the wing will help improve front-end grip, meaning a car is less susceptible to the effects of the turbulent air from a car in front.
- Smaller bargeboards: The FIA has reduced the maximum height of the bargeboards by 150mm and moved them forward by 100mm. This will better connect the airflow coming off the front wing, and in turn reduce the turbulent air to following drivers.
- Higher rear wing: For the 2019 season, the cars’ rear wing dimensions have been increased by 20mm in height and 100mm in width. A larger wing assembly creates a bigger hole in the air for a chasing car trying to get a slipstream.
- Bigger DRS: The overtaking aid’s opening has been increased by 20mm – making it 25% more effective – which will increase the straight-line speed, and therefore overtaking benefit, to a driver who is able to use it.
- Increased fuel allowance: Cars will be permitted to run a maximum of 110kg of fuel in the race, which will avoid the sort of ‘fuel saving’ style of driving that has been a topic of criticism by drivers and fans since the start of the turbo-hybrid era.
- Revised tyre colours: Pirelli has dropped its rainbow smorgasbord of sidewall colours to identify its dry-weather tyre compounds. It has produced five different tyre compounds for 2019, with C1 being the hardest, C5 the softest. Three – designated as ‘Hard’ (white), ‘Medium’ (yellow) and ‘Soft’ (red) – will be made available every weekend, although the actual compound mix will vary from event to event.
- Rear wing endplate lights: To improve the visibility of cars in poor weather conditions, the FIA has mandated that every car must be fitted with an additional two LED lights – one on each endplate. They must be illuminated at all times when a driver is using intermediate or wet-weather tyres.
- Biometric gloves: All drivers’ racing gloves must be fitted with sensors that monitor their pulse rate and blood oxygen levels. They transmit that potentially life-saving data back to the at-track medical team, before, during and after a crash.
- Stronger crash helmets: Drivers’ race helmets will be further strengthened to deliver vital safety benefits, specifically with respect to ballistic protection and energy absorption. The front of the visor has also been lowered by 10mm to reduce the risks associated with impact from debris.
- Car and driver weight: The weight of the driver and car will be measured separately so as not to disadvantage heavier drivers. The minimum weight of the car, without fuel, has been increased to 740kg which includes an 80kg minimum for the weight of the driver and their equipment. Lighter drivers must bring themselves up to this 80kg minimum with the addition of ballast that can only be placed in the immediate cockpit area.
- Self-scrutineering: Cars will no longer be scrutineered in the traditional sense at the start of the Grand Prix weekend. Instead, competitors must sign a declaration that they are in compliance with the rules – and, of course, the stewards can make random checks at any time.
- No more botched chequered flags: The traditional chequered flag is still shown as well, but the official end-of-race signal is now a chequered light panel at the finishing line.
- Onboard cameras: The onboard camera regulations have been changed to reduce the visual obstruction created by the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection system.
- Race restarts: Overtaking after a Safety Car interruption will only be permitted after cars have crossed the start/finish line, rather than the Safety Car line as was used in previous seasons.
- Bonus point for fastest lap: A late addition to this year’s rules was the reintroduction of a bonus point to a driver who sets the fastest lap in a race, with the constructor of the driver also receiving the point. The point is only awarded if the driver is classified inside the top ten at the end of the race. This makes 2019 the first time since 1959 that a bonus point gets awarded for fastest lap.
New Driver Pairings
The 2019 ‘silly season’ was one of the busiest in years, to the point that only Mercedes and Haas are fielding the same driver pairings as they did last year. A further four drivers – Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Nico Hülkenberg (Renault), Sergio Pérez (Racing Point) – are staying at the same team that they raced for in 2018.
Headlining the major team swaps was Daniel Ricciardo, who sensationally parted ways with Red Bull Racing to join the factory Renault squad and spearhead its return to championship-winning glory. The Australian’s seat was taken over by Pierre Gasly, who was promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso to the ‘A’ team.
Kimi Räikkönen and Charles Leclerc effectively swapped seats from Ferrari and Alfa Romeo (nee Sauber) respectively, while over at McLaren the retiring Fernando Alonso was replaced by Spanish compatriot Carlos Sainz Jr., who moved from Renault in the wake of Ricciardo’s appointment.
The Stroll family’s acquisition of the Force India team and its rebirth into its new Racing Point moniker saw Lance Stroll exit Williams to join the team owned by his father.
The field will also feature a host of rookie drivers, with George Russell (Williams), Lando Norris (McLaren) and Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) – who respectively finished first, second and third in last year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship – all making their Grand Prix debut this weekend.
The grid will also see three drivers return after an extended absence. Daniil Kvyat will have his third foray with Scuderia Toro Rosso as he seeks to rebuild his Grand Prix career, while Antonio Giovinazzi will make his full-time debut after two stand-in races for Sauber in 2017. The biggest headline is the comeback of Robert Kubica, who makes his long-awaited return after recovering from his rally accident injuries.
Images via Ignite Image (© MotorsportM8)