The 2019 Driver Market exploded during the summer of 2018 and it has been the most dramatic driver changes the sport has seen in a while. Most of the teams had confirmed their line-ups for next year, Toro Rosso, Force India and Williams were the only exceptions until now.
Kubica makes his return to F1 with Williams – 22nd November
After missing out on a seat at Williams for 2018, Robert Kubica will make his Formula One return 8 years after his horrific rally crash. The 2008 Canadian GP winner will partner Mercedes young driver and Formula 2 champion George Russell at the British team who’ll both be tasked with brining Williams back-up the field. Kubica, who lost out in a head-to-head with Sergey Sirotkin for 2018, thanked everyone who helped him “during what was a difficult period of my life over these last few years.”
Kubica made his F1 debut in 2006, and has taken a total of 12 podiums – including victory in the 2008 Canadian GP – with a best finish of fourth in the drivers’ standings. Kubica raced for Renault in 2010 and in the pre-season before the 2011 F1 campaign, Kubica was rallying in Poland when he crashed and partially severed his right forearm. The Pole’s confirmation at Williams meant that it was the final nail in the coffin for Esteban Ocon’s 2019 racing chances…
Ocon named Mercedes 3rd reserve driver – 23rd November
What a difference a few months make. It was widely anticipated that Esteban Ocon would be moving to Renault for the 2019 season but instead he’ll be focusing on testing and simulator work for Mercedes. Ocon will be spending 2019 on the side-lines as the 3rd and reserve driver for Mercedes. Ocon raced for Force India in 2018 and finished in 12th with 49 points – 12 points and 4 positions behind team-mate Sergio Perez. Ocon had been rumoured to be in the running for the second seat at Williams but the Grove team gave the seat to Kubica instead.
Ocon, who is a Mercedes young driver, could have had a drive with a few teams in 2019 if it wasn’t for his ties to the Silver Arrows. Teams including McLaren apparently turned Ocon down because of this. Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, said “We hope to do the odd test with him. We are looking at pre-season and in-season but it’s not sorted out yet. He will do a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for a seat in 2020.”
Albon replaces Hartley at Toro Rosso for 2019 – 26th November
It was going to be “touch and go” for Brendon Hartley if he’d done enough to keep his seat for 2019 but ultimately the New Zealander lost out to the impressive London-born Thai driver. Alexander Albon was going to be racing with Nissan e.dams in Formula E for the 2018/19 season but when the call came, Albon decided to head back to F1 to give it another shot. Albon was part of the Red Bull Young Driver Program in 2012 but was dropped after a single year for the outfit.
Albon joins Toro Rosso alongside F1 returnee Daniil Kvyat after 2 impressive F2 campaigns. The 22 year-old will follow in the footsteps of fellow 2018 F2 drivers Lando Norris at McLaren and Russell at Williams. Albon will also be the first Thai driver on the grid since Prince Bira in 1955.
Stroll finally confirmed at Force India for 2019 – 30th November
F1’s worst kept secret of 2018 had been confirmed. 2018 Williams driver Lance Stroll was confirmed at Force India (Racing Point) for the 2019 season alongside Sergio Perez. This move had been predicted for a long time following the takeover of Force India earlier in the year by a consortium of investors led by Stroll’s father. Stroll finished 18th in the 2018 driver standings after scoring 6 of Williams’ 7 points but was beaten in the qualifying head-to-head against Sirotkin with the Russian beating Stroll 13 times to 8.
After making his debut for Force India at the post-race Abu Dhabi test, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, said “Lance is only 20 and already has two years of Formula 1 experience under his belt, as well as a podium finish and a front row start. We see huge potential in Lance and believe we can create an environment in which he can flourish.”
The 2019 F1 Grid
- Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas
- Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc
- Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly
- Renault: Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg
- Haas: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean
- McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris
- Force India: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
- Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
- Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon
- Williams: George Russell and Robert Kubica