The Championship lost by Ferrari, due to the mistakes of Sebastian Vettel but also of the team, despite a competitive car, have severed the last thread that bound the team principal of Maranello Maurizio Arrivabene and the technical director Mattia Binotto. On the eve of the new Championship, Scuderia Ferrari decides to weave its organizational web again, with a reversal: the one who leaves is Arrivabene, sixty-one years old, from Brescia, former number one in marketing at Philip Morris, member since 2012 of the board of directors of Juventus Football Club and since 2015 managing director and team principal of Ferrari Gestione Sportiva. His place is taken by Mattia Binotto, fifty years old, born in Switzerland, who after graduating from the Lausanne Polytechnic, in 1995 joined Scuderia Ferrari as an engine engineer for the team and from there climbed all the positions until becoming in 2016 Chief Technical Officer, the head of the engineers working on the car. The one that in the last two seasons, especially in the first part of 2018, had shown it could finally aspire to the title that has been missing since 2007. The change at the top of the Gestione Sportiva Ferrari is made official on Monday, January 7th 2019.
"After four years of commitment and tireless dedication Maurizio Arrivabene is leaving Scuderia Ferrari. The decision was taken by mutual agreement with the company's top management after deep reflection in relation to Maurizio's personal needs and those of Scuderia Ferrari. From today Mattia Binotto assumes the role of Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari. All technical functions will continue to answer to Mattia".
On February 15th 2019 the new single-seater will be presented, it will be driven always by Vettel and the young Charles Leclerc, the twenty-one year old Monegasque who from the Ferrari Academy, and after his first year as a rookie in Alfa Romeo Sauber, was promoted to the Ferrari seat in place of Kimi Raikkonen as Sergio Marchionne wanted. Impossible not to clarify before the start of the new adventure and not to dissolve the tensions that had been mounting in recent months. The disappearance of the Italian-Canadian manager more than halfway through the World Championship, at the end of July, between the Grand Prix in Germany and the one run in Hungary, has upset the team's balance more than it was made to appear. The appointments of Michael Manley as managing director of FCA and of Louis Carey Camilleri as Ferrari's managing director, which were promptly made by John Elkann, leave open the wound in the racing team that Marchionne firmly held in his hands. At Suzuka, in the first days of October, after having made a mistake in qualifying, Arrivabene summoned the journalists and vented his anger, pointing the finger at the team led by Binotto, responsible for the errors. He wasn't the first. And with the Championship almost over, Arrivabene's communicative approach would not have been welcome: instead of creating a square, he accentuated the distance and underlined the technical deficiencies of the car rather than addressing the reasons for the setback of the driver and the entire team. An inexorable decline followed: the former team principal began to lament the technical involution from Singapore, then in Japan - after a strategy error on Saturday - he summoned the press and pointed the finger at the person responsible for the failure, Mattia Binotto.
"We need a track man, someone with flair".
Vettel, now challenged by himself but also by the little internal cohesion, will later admit that something has changed and, at the end of the season, will say:
"We need to communicate better among the team".
The Swiss engineer has the necessary skills: esteemed among his colleagues and by the competition, he will also have to deal with the American owners of Liberty Media in order to make Ferrari's role count for the future, with the arrival of the new regulations in 2021. And the whole Ferrari, on the eve of a World Championship that will start in advance on March 17th 2019 in Melbourne, will need to have the solidity missed with the death of Sergio Marchionne. Binotto will have all the powers, including the political one in view of the change of regulations in 2021.
"It is either him or me".
He would have told Ferrari's top management, the man whom former president Sergio Marchionne had chosen to rebuild a Ferrari in ruins, fishing in the belly of the factory and finding this engineer born in Switzerland of Reggio Emilia parents. Orphaned by designer James Allison, who had moved on to Mercedes, Binotto made Sergio Marchionne's dream come true, creating a horizontal organization of second lines in charge, with Enrico Cardile and Corrado Iotti. Out of this came the best cars in a decade, which could have won if Ferrari had it not self-eliminated due to driver errors, but equally due to organizational and communication errors. The removal of Maurizio Arrivabene from the wheel of Ferrari, and his replacement by technical director Mattia Binotto, is a move that was both inevitable and late: inevitable because the coexistence of the two within the Gestione Sportiva had become impossible, with the former irritated by the recognition of the work of the latter and the latter impatient with the impetuosity of the former; late because, as is well known, Formula 1 is a sport in which the effects of decisions taken in the factory reverberate on the track with a four to six month delay. And so it is easy to imagine that the 2019 car, which is in fact ready, was created in a climate that was not exactly serene and through an organization of work set up by a different hand than that of those who will have to manage it.
The Arrivabene/Binotto change should have taken place as early as June 2018, when Marchionne confessed his intention to redesign the team's entire organizational chart by placing the Swiss engineer of Emilian origin, his protégé, at the center of the organizational machine. But then destiny blocked everything and Arrivabene found himself with another, unexpected chance. Louis Camilleri, the man called to replace Marchionne, had always been one of his greatest sponsors. Given the situation, Maurizio might not have won, even though Ferrari was undoubtedly the best seen on the track since the post-Schumacher era: in order to survive, it would have been enough for him not to look bad. Instead, Arrivabene played it very badly. He literally imploded. He has managed Vettel in the worst way possible, first overloaded with responsibility and then abandoned to his loneliness, and has left the field open to his rivalry with Binotto. Binotto, in the months following the umpteenth lost World Championship, was more than once on the verge of leaving - it is no secret that he had offers from Renault and the new Force India, as well as Mercedes - until the decisive aut aut. Compared to Marchionne's original plans, the situation that has arisen is very different. Because unlike what would have happened with Marchionne still in charge, today Binotto, who is not a politician (an indispensable characteristic for this role), cannot count on a strong, authoritative and univocal guide above himself: suffice it to say that his appointment itself was decided from Turin after a long tug-of-war with Camillieri, the president who many already consider to have his hours counted.
"The choice of Binotto was shared with Arrivabene, no overturning but a choice made in continuity".
This is the comment of the president of Ferrari, John Elkann, who adds:
"And the CEO Camilleri is not to be touched".
If there is someone who knows the internal dynamics of Formula 1 racing teams, it is Giancarlo Minardi, today 71 years old. Twenty-five years of management, plus his experience as a driver, founder of the team that bears his name, he was in the paddock from 1980 to 2005 and many drivers, from Trulli and Fisichella to Fernando Alonso, were practically raised in Faenza. Minardi, what do you think of this twist?
"Coup de théâtre? No, it was in the air. And don't be misled by the timing: if you think about it, the last Grand Prix of 2018 was held on November 25th 2018. If there's a delay, it's only by about ten days. These things are done when the dust settles, the decision was probably made in mid-December".
So you're saying you were expecting this?
"Well, in May the rumor was very strong. Then happened what happened to Marchionne".
Where does Minardi stand?
"Well, I'll say it right now so there's no misunderstanding: I approve. Because Binotto is someone who grew up with Ross Brawn, he's a down-to-earth guy".
Here, what kind of guy is Binotto?
"A closed-minded looking guy, but that's not the case. I know him, but I've never worked with him. He certainly knew how to manage the group of Italians in Ferrari, without the mercenaries".
And what was Maurizio Arrivabene's fault?
"A hundred, and none. He was the team principal, so everything and nothing. But the Italian Grand Prix at Monza is still in my eyes. That, in my personal opinion, is the key error".
What do you mean by that?
"That a technical director has to make decisions, and there never in life Hamilton should have had the chance of overtaking".
Now what will happen?
"Well, it's too early to say. I keep thinking about 2018, with recriminations".
Ferrari could have won.
"Absolutely. I say without a shadow of a doubt that Maranello could have, with two more drivers, taken home, if not the Drivers' title, then the Constructors' title".
This is a strong statement.
"But it's not me who says it, but the facts. Sebastian Vettel made nine to ten mistakes, and I don't have to repeat them right now. I think all fans remember Baku and Hockenheim, just to give a few examples".
"Vettel has to be recovered. He had some problems, at a certain point of the season he was no longer at one hundred percent, and in Formula 1 all it takes is nothing to lose precious tenths to his rivals".
All right, but what could/should Arrivabene have done?
"I don't have to point it out, but it was exactly his job. To act as a support for the team. The team principal is exactly the figure paid to decide and solve internal problems. I'm even thinking of the post-World Championship tests: Leclerc did better times than Vettel, and even then the German was not protected".
Do you remember Mauro Forghieri in the 1970s? Do you see similarities with today's Binotto?
"Yes, there are similarities. But Forghieri had an advantage because there were fewer people in Ferrari and, above all, he referred directly to Ferrari, whose emanation he was. Binotto's task today is more difficult, but not impossible. There's a lot to be done, but people with common sense know where to put their hands".
While this change at the top of Ferrari is taking place, Niki Lauda is back in the hospital. According to the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung, on Sunday, January 6th 2019, the former Austrian driver is admitted to the intensive care unit of the Allgemeinen Krankenhaus in Vienna, due to a flu that struck him during the Christmas vacations at his home in Ibiza. His immune system is still weak from the lung transplant he underwent in August of the previous year, and so Lauda - who will turn 70 on February 22nd 2019 - was taken to the hospital. According to hospital sources, the conditions are not worrying and Lauda should be discharged as early as next week. A spokeswoman for the university polyclinic would have told Orf, the Austrian national broadcaster, that this new hospitalization will last about a week. A precautionary hospitalization, then, but given the clinical situation and the proven physical, the fear inevitably returns. A few weeks earlier, the former Ferrari driver and current non-executive chairman of Mercedes had said he was optimistic about his recovery process, to the point of seeing himself back in the pits to follow the races live as early as next season. He promised:
"You'll see me again soon".
It was late November, it was on video, it was a celebration and at the same time a threat of his own:
"I'll be back and the pressure will start again".
Two marriages, five children and a business with two airlines later, Lauda is back where it all matters: on track. A consultant to various teams, since 2012 he has been the non-executive chairman of the Silver Arrows, of which he also holds a ten percent share, and it was he who led the negotiations to bring five-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to the team the following year. His protégé's last adventure was almost entirely seen from home; in the season that just ended, he quietly disappeared from the paddock almost immediately to face yet another challenge. At the end of which, he resurrected in a message on social media at the end of November with a red cap and blue shirt, praising the team for the robbery of the drivers' and constructors' titles:
"I've had a rough time from a health standpoint , the support I've had has been incredible. This year's success has been exceptional because it's the fifth in a row, we couldn't have done a better job. And now the important message is that I'll be there soon and we'll start again. The pressure will come for the sixth time".
He's to be believed. Thoracic surgery chief Walter Klepetko after operating on him said:
"The engine is running again. It will not be easy to find a fighter as tenacious as Niki Lauda".
After the appointment of Mattia Binotto as head of Ferrari's racing department, in Maranello they are reasoning about the structure for the 2019 World Championship. The new hierarchies may favor the rise of Leclerc. The work, the quantity and complexity of the work, does not frighten the Italo-Swiss engineer, who knows well the sense of the factory: teamwork, sharing, horizontal organization as imagined by his main sponsor, former president Sergio Marchionne. His umbrella vision, covering several areas and suggestions, have made him, in the eyes of the owners, the most suitable man to replace Maurizio Arrivabene. But Binotto is not a one man show, nor does he possess the political expertise required by the role, especially in view of the change in Formula 1 regulations in 2021, that his predecessor, a former Philip Morris, could boast. The engineer needs a trusted, internal prime minister.
As the revolution completes its rounds, Binotto could lean on or give more delegated authority to engine engineer Corrado Iotti and aerodynamicist Enrico Cardile, or hand over coordination to Laurent Mekies, the French engineer and former safety director for the FIA who joined Ferrari in Abu Dhabi as sports director. The team principal will have to immediately show strong shoulders and gentle hands with the new pair of drivers. Sebastian Vettel, who arrived in Maranello with Arrivabene and is now orphaned of a travelling companion, needs to recover confidence in himself and in the team. And face the rampant Charles Leclerc, twenty-one years old, an ambitious partner, who with Ferrari will not be walking around. And looking to the future, Mick Schumacher would be about to sign in the coming days for the Ferrari Driver Academy, offering him among other things the opportunity to carry out tests that will be held on the Tuesday and Wednesday following the Grand Prix of Bahrain and Spain. Of these four days, two will be dedicated to rookie drivers who have competed in no more than two Formula 1 races. Last year, this role was held in Ferrari by Antonio Giovinazzi, who will be an official Sauber driver in 2019. In 2018, Mick Schumacher won the European Formula 3 championship title and will compete in the Formula 2 championship this year. Forty Grand Prix in Formula 1, five victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, two engineer sons in Formula 1. Emanuele Pirro knows what we are talking about when it comes to sons of art. What do you think about the hypothesis of another Schumacher at Ferrari?
"If it were so, as a romantic racing fan, it would be a beautiful fairy tale. Motorsport has taught us that sons of fathers are good stories, we've had several. Of course, the test driver can now do little to help the team, but at Mick's career point, it means putting a foot inside Formula 1, gaining experience".
Is being a child of art more of a help or a pressure?
"No doubt, a help. Maybe some of them would like more tranquility. Then, fortunately, the racing world is still quite meritocratic. I would add that a son of art sees in his father the competitive culture that the others learn along the way. To put it simply, my two sons who are engineers got a leg up thanks to me. In the sense that a father tries to transfer his experience, and if his children know how to absorb it, they will benefit. Then, I repeat, they're called single-seaters, so it's up to them to get on with it. But Mick seems to me to be mature, he's in gear".
Some people think they are recommended.
"No, at the end of the day telemetry speaks for everyone, and you're on your own in the car".
Will he continue the lower series?
"That I take for granted. Because today the testing is contingent. At McLaren, I was on track three days a week. Not today, the space for young people is limited. But you are in the paddock, you breathe the air, you drive the simulator. But I repeat, his main activity, his season, will have to be supported by a Championship, the Formula 2 one with Prema, a structured team that can teach him everything he needs to learn. Of course, if he had his dad next to him, it would be much better".
Well, Schumacher will be happy.
"Eh, yes. I repeat: a beautiful story, in such a scientific and technological world. Believing, and getting excited about these kinds of stories, is something I really enjoy".
But are the children of art destined to be better?
"But no. There have been better sons than fathers, see Verstappen, but there have also been Andretti. So, nothing is taken for granted".
It is not long before this news becomes official: on Saturday, January 19th 2019, Mick Schumacher, son of the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion, joins the Ferrari Driver Academy, the nursery of the Maranello stable reserved for young drivers to grow and race. This was announced by Ferrari itself. Together with Schumacher, Giuliano Alesi, son of Jean Alesi, will also be part of the Academy.
"I am delighted to have reached an agreement with Ferrari and that my near future in racing will be in red, becoming part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and thus also of the Scuderia Ferrari family".
Mick Schumacher admits commenting on the officiality of his arrival in the Ferrari nursery.
"This is another step in the right direction, I will only be able to benefit from the immense expertise there. I will definitely do everything to be able to learn everything that can help me achieve my dream: racing in Formula 1. It is more than obvious that Ferrari has a huge place in my heart since I was born and in our family too, I am also happy on a personal level for this opportunity".
Scuderia Ferrari's new team principal, Mattia Binotto, explains:
"For those who, like me, saw him being born, it certainly has a special emotional meaning to welcome Mick to Ferrari. But we chose him for his talent and for the human and professional qualities he has already shown despite his young age".
A day blessed from afar, animated by reason and feeling, by formidable memories and great hopes, the one that brings Mick Schumacher into the Ferrari family. Twenty-four years after his father Michael, his heir officially opens the door of Maranello. After months of rumors, negotiations even on the table set by Mercedes' direct rivals, endorsements, flattery and nostalgia, it is Maranello that wins the first race of the 2019 championship that has not yet begun, winning the most precious pupil. In the academy of Maranello that has also raised the Monegasque Charles Leclerc, promoted starter with Sebastian Vettel after a 2018 rookie in Sauber, has as companions Giuliano Alesi and Callum Ilott, Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman, Enzo Fittipaldi, and Gianluca Petecof. Sunday, January 20th 2019 Mick Schumacher continues to prove that he is a predestined: the young German driver beats in the Race of Champions, race-show staged in Mexico, the first driver of the Scuderia Ferrari, namely compatriot Sebastian Vettel, which promotes him:
"His father would be proud".
Ok, the race even though is fun and very followed, it is what it is: exhibition and show. But the nineteen-year-old German took it seriously right away. At the Race of Champions in Mexico, which since 1988 has brought together the drivers of the various series, from Formula 1 to E, passing through Nascar, IndyCar, Rally, GT and sometimes even those of the two wheels, after having competed together with his compatriot four times champion to gain the second place in the tournament for nations, the next day in the individual clash he was not intimidated by the more experienced driver of Ferrari, and won the direct clash that placed second and was eliminated, returning home for the first time without a Roc trophy.
"The Roc was a great experience, all the more so because it was shared with Vettel. I go back to Europe with a big smile on my face".
Even Vettel, thirty-one, who on a mega kart identical to the others - 475 kg, four-cylinder engine that on a winding track built inside the circuit named after the Rodriguez brothers can reach a maximum of about 193 km/h - loses but happily welcomes the heir of his boyhood idol into the family:
"It's great for him. I hope he can stay with us for a long time and that one day he can drive with me, or maybe I can give him the wheel when I stop in the future. It's special to be on a team with Mick. In my Roc debut I was watching Michael with admiration, now I get to run it with his son. I'm sure Michael would be extremely proud of him".
Seb and Michael won together between 2007 and 2012 six times in a row. From pupil and partner of Michael Schumacher, to master of Mick Schumacher:
"Let's give him time and let him make his own way, he already bears quite a lot of pressure. But I think he can become a star in the future".
Mick wants to learn. European Formula 3 champion last year with Prema and from this year with the same team in Formula 2, for some it would be entered in the orbit of All Road Management of Nicolas Todt, son of Jean the FIA president, friend of the Schumacher family as well as former Ferrari team principal at the time of Michael's triumphs. Todt is already following Charles Leclerc, the 21-year-old Monegasque who has been promoted to Ferrari. Once the event in Mexico is finished, on Monday January 21st 2019, the first day of school for Mick Schumacher begins: this is the air you breathe in Maranello where Ferrari gathers its young students. Welcoming the young drivers of the Ferrari Driver Academy is Scuderia Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, as well as sports director Laurent Mekies, and FDA's Head of Technical Area, Marco Matassa. The management and drivers posed for a photo with the addition of Antonio Fuoco, who remains in the FDA orbit with an advisory role. Marcus Armstrong, committed in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series, is absent. The FDA drivers are expected to face a year full of challenges: Mick Schumacher will be engaged in Formula 2 together with his two teammates Callum Ilott and Giuliano Alesi; Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman will race in the FIA Formula 3 championship; Enzo Fittipaldi in the newborn Formula Regional and Gianluca Petecof in the FIA Formula 4 championship.
"I'm happy to be the son of the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time, I'm happy that he's the best Formula 1 driver of all time and I admire him for that, and even though sometimes it can be difficult, things are the way they are, it has its good side and its bad side".
Mick Schumacher will tell FIA magazine.
"Having the support of many people around the world can't be a bad thing, I'm grateful for that".
The young driver recalled that he loved going with his father to the kart circuit.
"I had a great time sharing these things with him, and I remember one time he asked me if it was a hobby for me or if I wanted to do it like a professional. And I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted to do it professionally. I never wanted to do anything else".
As the new season approaches on Thursday, January 31st 2019, CEO Louis Camilleri states during the 2018 accounts conference call:
"In 2018 we achieved the best result since we won the constructors' championship. For 2019, the goal is to win. There will be an increase in expenses that reflects this ambition".
The administrator explains that the increase in expenses is also due to the adaptation to the new 2020-2021 rules. The next day, Friday, February 1st 2019, it is announced that the Alfa Romeo brand is fully back in Formula 1, and no longer just as title sponsor: the Swiss team with Maranello engine registers for the 2019 Championship under the new name Alfa Romeo Racing. The managerial independence of the Swiss team led by Frederic Vasseur remains, but the synergy with Ferrari becomes stronger given also the technical area strengthened by Simone Resta, now technical director in Hinwil. After the eighth place finish in 2018, for the next championship:
"We will aim to say our own".
FCA CEO Mike Manley declares. At the wheel of the single-seater that will be presented on February 18th 2019 in Barcelona with a filming day scheduled three days before, there are Ferrari's latest champion, Kimi Raikkonen, and Antonio Giovinazzi from Puglia. Less than a month, and it will be Formula 1 World Championship again: waiting for the green light in Melbourne, it will be a crucial week that is about to begin: from Mercedes to Ferrari, all the most awaited single-seaters of the circus will be presented. However, Haas is playing in advance, and on Thursday, February 7th 2019, in London, it will unveil the new VF-19, which this season too will have the confirmed drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen at the wheel. News instead in the colors: goodbye to white-red, we move to the more attractive black-gold. On Wednesday, February 13th 2019, it will be Mercedes Day: as usual there will be live streaming where the W10 will be illustrated with the presence of the team principal, Toto Wolff, and Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. After two days here is the Ferrari-Day: appointment in Maranello on Friday 15th February 2019 at 10:45 am. The name of the single-seater is still top secret, but the fans expect that the new Ferrari will allow Vettel and the newly acquired Leclerc to break the hegemony of the Silver Arrows. First, however, on Monday 11th February 2019 it will be the turn of Toro Rosso and Williams, Tuesday 12th February 2019 of Renault, Wednesday 13th February 2019, in addition to the aforementioned Mercedes, it will also be the day of Red Bull and Racing Point. Thursday, February 14th 2019 down the veils from McLaren, Friday precisely the Ferrari and finally Monday, February 18th 2019 the Alfa Romeo. The engines will be turned on from 18th to 21st February 2019 for the first seasonal tests at Montmelò, the second ones are scheduled from 26th February 2019 to 1st March 2019 until the final start in Melbourne, on the 17th March 2019. With a video published on its website, on Monday 11th February 2019 Scuderia Toro Rosso presents the STR14, the single-seater with which it will take part in the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship. A season in which the team from Faenza aims at redemption after a disappointing 2018, closed with eighth place in the constructors' standings. Objective to be achieved exploiting especially the renewed synergy with Red Bull Racing, favored by the fact that in this Championship the two teams will return to have the same engine, supplied by Honda, as underlined by team principal Franz Tost:
"The components related to the power unit will be the same as those of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, as allowed by the regulations. Most of the remaining components we receive from Red Bull Technology are from last year's specifications".
A collaboration, that with the Japanese engine manufacturer, which Tost looks at with renewed optimism:
"The step forward that Honda has made in just one year is testament to the enormous commitment they have put into the project with us. Aston Martin Red Bull Racing's decision to use their supply will give a further boost to further improvement".
Essentially unchanged in its livery, which retains the predominant electric blue with silver and red inserts already seen on track last season, the STR14 designed by Jody Egginton, the new head of technical development after the departure of James Key to McLaren, has some interesting innovations in its overall design. In particular, the adoption of a longer wheelbase is evident, a solution that allows to accommodate the greater fuel capacity in the tank (110 kg instead of the 105 kg of 2018), and with which Toro Rosso, which last year was the shortest car on the grid, adapts to the characteristics of Red Bull. The rear end also follows that of the RB14, adapted to the needs of the Honda power unit. The most significant innovations, as known, are however in the line-up of drivers called to bring the new single-seater on track. For Daniil Kvyat it is a return home, after a 2018 lived as a Ferrari test driver:
"Daniil showed from the beginning his speed skills. The moment he switched to Red Bull Racing, he seemed to be ready. He showed good performances, but racing under pressure is always a big challenge: now, with hindsight, we can say it was too early. When he came back with us in 2016 he had to face a difficult moment, psychologically tough, but nobody ever questioned his driving skills. I firmly believe that he deserves another chance in Formula 1 and I feel that for him the best is yet to come".
Alongside the Russian, an absolute rookie like Alexander Albon, who came back from a third place finish in Formula 2 last season:
"Alex will have a lot to learn, like any rookie in Formula 1, but he has already made his mark in other categories such as European Formula 3, GP3 and especially in Formula 2, where he also won races. In the second half of the Formula 2 championship, last year, his performance was remarkable and this convinced us to bring him on board".
After Haas and Toro Rosso, the livery of the ROKiT Williams FW42 is presented, which is linked to a telecommunications company. As for the other teams, the unveiling shows only the new color of the car, while there are few other details that at the moment it is possible to grasp on the British single-seater, in an attempt to keep hidden as much as possible the innovations related to aerodynamics that will be known in the Barcelona tests. The FW42, unveiled in the Groove headquarters, is the first single-seater of Sir Frank Williams' team to no longer have the historic logos of the sponsor Martini. This season also marks the return of Robert Kubica, who will be joined by rookie George Russell. Powered by Mercedes, Williams will have to try to improve the disappointing last place in the standings and the only seven points gained by Sirotkin and Stroll. Light blue dominates the base of the FW42: on the airscope, on the end of the nose, on the sides and on the bellies of the car. The same color for the wing. White for the central part of the nose, the Halo and the hood. Claire Williams, vice president of the team, says when asked what her father, Sir Frank Williams, thought about the break with the livery tradition:
"We are delighted to welcome ROKiT to our team as our main partner for the 2019 season and beyond. We share many values and aspirations with them. First and foremost putting engineering and innovation at the heart of everything we do in our ongoing quest to become the best - this is the perfect foundation from which to begin a new partnership".
In Enstone, around 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12th 2019, the new Renault is unveiled, whose livery is actually very similar to that of the previous year. The single-seater is entrusted to the driving of the confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, called to redeem a last difficult season at Red Bull. Renault, which comes from the fourth place obtained in the 2018 Constructors' standings, will try to confirm and if possible improve this placement. Prospects and ambitions related to the reliability of the French engine, which will have to prove to be more competitive than that of Red Bull passed, from Renault precisely, to the Honda supplier. In this sense, the Barcelona tests, with the first round from 18th to 21st February 2019 will be a first and important test bench. The arrival of Ricciardo and the confirmation of the 31-year-old Hulkenberg represents a considerable guarantee for Renault. Without a doubt, in fact, this is one of the best line-ups in the World Championship. The speed and overtaking ability of Daniel and the constancy of Nico. Now that the pair is made, all that remains is to understand how much the work done by the engineers in Enstone can pay off. Once the presentation is finished, the confirmed Nico Hulkenberg, declares:
"As a team we have grown a lot since the beginning of 2017. It's all part of the road we have to travel to achieve our goals. When I arrived the team was still young, but since that day we have made a lot of progress. I want to give the best of myself and be able to get as much out of the car as possible, the important thing as a team is to continue on this path and constantly push forward the development".
The most awaited words, however, are those of Daniel Ricciardo, who, comparing his new environment to the one he left after five years at Red Bull, immediately made the French smile:
"From what I've seen, there's really nothing missing here. I bet when I get in the car I'll know more but I've seen beautiful things here. I came here in December and everyone was very busy. They worked hard all winter and that's the first good thing I noticed. I know a lot of people didn't even go on vacation, their dedication should be rewarded. Since 2016, Renault has made big strides, although making the leap from fourth to third is not so easy. But if Red Bull beats us in Melbourne I won't be disappointed, because I simply started on a different path, but I'm not going to stay in fourth place forever".
The next day the new Mercedes is presented: the Anglo-German team shows the first images of the W10, and then takes the single-seater on track at Silverstone for a shakedown behind closed doors. The team that has dominated the last five years of the Formula 1 World Championship will try to conquer its sixth consecutive success relying on the British driver Lewis Hamilton, reigning World Champion, and the Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas. The philosophy of the car does not change much although, like Ferrari in 2018, Mercedes is doing the same work on the high radiators. Very narrow rear end and very high bellies characterize the new W10, as well as the front arm that is very raised, while the nose remains unchanged, with pylons. New, simpler front wing and higher rear wing complete the new W10.
"2019 will be a new challenge for all of us. The rules have changed substantially, we have to start over and test ourselves again to exceed our own expectations and our rivals. We all start from zero points, so nothing is given even more so with the new rules. We will only focus on ourselves and on building performance, hoping to be ready and competitive from the very first race in Australia".
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits.
"I am looking forward to doing, with Mercedes, what has never been done before".
Lewis Hamilton says, referring to the sixth driver-constructor double in the team's sights for this 2019, after the ten titles won in the last five years.
"It will be my seventh year with the team, but there is certainly no lack of stimulation and determination within the team. Driving the new car is like getting to know someone new for the first time, you can't wait to learn about everything".
Valtteri Bottas, looking for redemption after a dull 2018, states:
"I received some criticism last season, but for me it's just a positive push to make me do better. The car has changed a bit due to the change in regulations, so it will be interesting to see how it performs, I can't wait to get started".
After that, the team performs a 100-kilometer shakedown to check that all systems, electrical and mechanical, are working aboard the W10, with the Finnish driver on board.
After the Silver Arrows, Red Bull shows itself to the world. On the English circuit of Silverstone the RB15 completes its first laps with Max Verstappen and newcomer Pierre Gasly at the wheel, and Honda is supplying the engine. The new livery, defined as a special edition (in other words provisional: for some years now, in fact, the team from Milton Keynes prefers to carry out pre-season tests with cars with particularly garish and almost camouflaged liveries, to camouflage as much as possible any aerodynamic innovations), is red and black, with the Aston Martin logo appearing on the sides of the cockpit and above the nose.
"The RB15 takes the team into a new era thanks to the power of the Honda engine and the exciting driver pairing".
They explain at Red Bull commenting on the first images, shown on twitter, of the car that will participate in the 2019 World Championship. The one to take it to the track for the first time is Max Verstappen.
"Goals? I suppose until Australia none can be set. We're a bit blind, in Formula 1 it all depends on the package you have available but I'll try as always to do my best. We have a new partner, Honda, and we expect a lot. We are all very positive but I think we will need time. Certainly everything cannot be perfect from the first race. There will be times when as a team we will make mistakes or things that don't go our way. But I think the most important thing as a team is that with Honda we push hard to improve the development. At the moment I am very optimistic but also realistic. I think only time can tell us what level we are at".
In the meantime, directly from the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, the new president Lawrence Stroll takes the wraps off the new Racing Point, which takes the place of Force India in the Formula 1 World Championship. In the lead of the team there will be the Mexican Sergio Perez, already with the team last year - which will retain its operational headquarters in Silverstone - and the boss's son, the Canadian Lance Stroll, from Williams. The presentation begins at 10:00 am. The single-seater keeps the pink color, but the blue of the sponsor SportPesa is added on the wings and on the engine hood.
"A young, dynamic and growing company, with values in line with our vision, that of becoming a team capable of competing for the top positions. We are proud to have such an ambitious partner with us who will help us achieve our mission as a team".
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer explains.
"We are delighted to join the big Formula 1 family, this perntership is very important for us because it creates diversification into new territories and allows us to reach new audiences around the world, all while staying true to our mission of building and developing amateur and professional sports in the countries where we operate, bringing new opportunities to local communities".
The show starts on time with a film introducing the team's mission and new sponsor: David Croft, the historic voice of the Formula 1 broadcaster for BBC and Sky, hosts the show. The first to take the stage are team principal Otmar Szafnauer and technical director Andrew Green. Szafnauer captivates the Canadian audience by telling an anecdote from his childhood:
"I grew up in Detroit, so our accents are similar. Moreover, when I was nineteen years old, I used to cross the bridge to come and buy alcohol in Canada because in the USA the limit was twenty-one years old...".
Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll take the stage shortly after.
"It's a special day, we can't wait to get started. We intensely want to go to the next level and show what we can do. We prepared physically and technically, we know how much work they did in the factory. With Lance everything is fine, it's nice to have a driver of his talent in the team, he pushes you to improve".
The Mexican driver explains, while Lance Stroll, excited about the event at home, adds:
"We have recharged our energy during the summer, we just want to get started. I've known Sergio for a long time. It will be great to race with him. It's a new chapter and an exciting journey, it's a dream come true to be here".
The single-seater looks very similar to the 2018 one, and many parts are the same as last season so as not to reveal its secrets. The final version will be seen on track in Barcelona.
"We've been working hard over the winter, hopefully it will be fast right away as soon as we put it on the track. After the excellent last season we had even more pressure, we aim for podiums and to take advantage of opportunities".
The team's technical director, Andrew Green, admits.
"I love the color combination, we are ready for a good season".
Perez, while Stroll jokes, adds saying:
"Can I get on it now and go for a ride on the streets out here?"
Thursday, February 14th 2019 sees the unveiling of the new McLaren MCL34, and the new drivers, Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr. and Briton Lando Norris. On Valentine's Day a new McLaren story is born with the renewed pair of drivers. So this is the first car after Fernando Alonso, who has left (perhaps momentarily) the Circus after the last difficult seasons especially related to the vicissitudes of the Honda engine. The unveiling took place in the Woking headquarters in England: the MCL34 is equipped with the Renault E-Tech 19, while the livery continues to sport the iconic McLaren papaya orange color, echoing that chosen by Bruce McLaren for the first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1966.
"We have a new pair of drivers, who together represent the next generation of Formula 1 talent. They are an integral part of the team and our collective effort to move McLaren forward".
Zak Brown, Ceo McLaren Racing, states.
"The MCL34 is the result of the immense hard work and dedication of everyone at McLaren, we have a pair of new drivers who represent the talent of the future. Our family will continue to grow thanks to its many fans who have remained loyal despite difficult times, and I want to thank them before starting this 2019 season that we are sure will be full of progress".
James Kay, picked up by Zak Brown at Red Bull, where he worked until last season, states.
"I like the new car, the colors. My new partner? I'll tell you in a couple of months if I like it or not. I've been following the work very closely this winter, I think the team has done a great job, the factory has been my second home, I've gotten to know everyone in the team and we're all rowing in the same direction".
Carlos Sainz Jr. admits, joking with Norris, who adds:
"I can't wait to get in the car, it's a whole different thing compared to Formula 2. This is the next level, now we're going to Barcelona, I've worked hard all winter to prepare for the category jump to Formula 1 and spent a lot of time in the factory learning a lot of things".
On Friday, February 15th 2019, at the presentation of the new SF90, which celebrates its 90th birthday, the question is being asked in Maranello: will it be the good one? The last team to present the 2019 car is therefore Ferrari, and the answer to Mercedes is placed in the 670 project, made under the new regulations that have imposed changes especially to the front and rear wings, both enlarged. The SF90 is the sixth car of the hybrid generation of Formula 1 that began in 2014, from an aesthetic point of view we notice a less bright red hue, black inserts and simple lines, especially in the front wing to go along with the new regulatory rules on aerodynamics.
"I would like to welcome everyone on this special day, thank our many guests and sponsors, government representatives and the press. Piero Ferrari has seen so many presentations, more than we have all seen together. The car we will see in a moment is the result of the great work of all the talents working at Ferrari. This year is very important for us because we're celebrating the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari, founded in Modena in 1929. We are well aware of the enormous responsibility that our glorious history entails and we understand that there are great expectations of us. We represent the pride of a nation, we have millions of fans all over the world, and we accept this responsibility with joy, trusting in the talent of the men and women who work to make our ambition a reality. The last season was the best in the last ten years but we failed to reach the ultimate goal. It is not easy to overcome this situation but we have continued to work with commitment and determination".
This is the comment of Ferrari's CEO, Louis Camilleri, who below thanks Maurizio Arrivabene and Kimi Raikkonen for their work, and welcomes Mattia Binotto.
"I have great confidence in him, I know he will lead the team to ever greater success. We are privileged to have two extraordinary drivers, Vettel despite his four titles is always hungry of victories and I know he is firmly determined to achieve our ambitions. He will be flanked by Charles Leclerc, he has great talent and has already shown his ability, maturity and speed. We are confident that he has a bright future ahead of him".
While Ferrari president John Elkann states:
"I would like to dwell briefly on what has already been said, being Ferrari is something special, unique. The history of this team began ninety years ago thanks to the tenacity of our founder Enzo Ferrari, driven by passion he founded a team that has always pushed to meet challenges and be at the forefront. Being Ferrari means being a team and a team, Mattia has been here for twenty-five years, he knows very well, how important it is to collaborate all together. This is what it means to be Ferrari. The pride of a team that manages to unite an entire country and that represents the best of Italy, for its desire for invention, innovation and initiative with its Ferrari red heart, and for this reason it is very important that all our fans stay close to us and make us feel their affection, because we are beginning an important season and a decade that will take us towards the hundred years, and for this reason we need to win all together".
During the presentation, Mattia Binotto, team principal and technical director, explained and reassured that the red is still the same, simply with one less coat of paint to lighten the car.
"The livery? I prefer to focus on the less visible parts, which are more important. Starting from 2018, we got some very good results, and this car is an evolution of last year's car. So it's not a revolutionary car, we simply tried to evolve it to achieve even better results. We've worked on the front end, the regulations have changed and so the nose is a little bit different. Going into the details, you'll see that we tried to push a lot on innovation. The rear is very tapered, thanks to the great work under the body, with the installation of the power unit and the attention on all the components, and that's why we see such a result. It's a dream our driver pair, they are the best that exist today in Formula 1. We are very proud to have them with us".
Then, speaking about the event, he states:
"Definitely a special day, I am very excited, but also proud. Proud of our team, of driving the Scuderia Ferrari and, most importantly, of carrying on Enzo Ferrari's dream, this is the reason why we are here. The role of team principal? I look ahead, there is not much to think about, we simply have to work as best we can".
"Being Ferrari is something unique, in this sense we are unique, nobody is like us. Being Ferrari is passion, determination, belonging, integrity, courage, competition, excellence. We could go on and on, being Ferrari has to do with traditions, we know, the Scuderia is ninety years old. We are proud to be part of it, but perhaps even more so, we have a duty. A duty to continue the tradition of this Scuderia and of our Founder. For all of us who work at Ferrari, this duty becomes a mission".
So, talking about testing, the team principal admits:
"Testing starts in a week, the Australian Grand Prix is in twenty-seven days, so we have time. Of course we are not quite ready yet, but we still have some time. We have to work hard, we are all focused and of course we are eager to start. In 2018 clearly we didn't win the title, however there are many positive aspects, for example I think of the Australian Grand Prix with a great strategy that led to Sebastian's victory, but also the Austrian Grand Prix, with Sebastian's overtaking with two wheels on the grass. I don't think there are many drivers who can do this kind of maneuver, so chapeau to Sebastian, we expect more of these maneuvers in the future. Then I think about Silverstone, where we won after many years, a success there is always special, because it's a very demanding circuit for the car and the tires. In Monza we didn't win, but we had a very good car, we got the first row in qualifying, then the fastest lap. In Brazil we got the fastest pit stop in history, so congratulations to our mechanics, under two seconds. Three words to sum up 2018? Efficiency, power and team".
While Sebastian Vettel confesses:
"We all are very excited, we have already seen some components at the end of last season, unfortunately I don't have the suit and put myself immediately in the cockpit, however really we are excited and I can't wait to start, it's nice to see the fruit of the work of the whole team. Relations with Charles and Mattia? Things are off to a good start, everyone is playing their role, Mattia has been part of this team for many years, he's been here longer than anyone else, except for Piero probably. With Charles it will be a new way of working together, for him it is a very important step, I know he is very excited, I can't wait to get started, I believe that as a team we are on the right track, we hope to continue to improve".
The German champion will be flanked by Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque driver - just 21 years old - who is in his second year in Formula 1, his first at the wheel of a Ferrari. But the one with the Maranello team is a long-standing love: in fact, Leclerc had joined the Ferrari Driver Academy's forge of talent back in 2017, and to date he is the first driver to come out of the prestigious sports program to be chosen to drive Ferrari in Formula 1.
"I'm very excited about this new adventure, I've always hoped to get into a Ferrari, I grew up in the FDA which helped me tremendously to grow as a driver with the ultimate goal of driving this car. I made it and today I am really very proud and can't wait to get going. I'm not nervous to race with Sebastian, for me it's a great opportunity, I can learn a lot from him, I'm sure ours will be an exciting season, the key will be to work together, I'm sure we will make it. I'm sure it will be an incredible season".
At Maranello, there is a sense of detente, or at least that is the message that is intended to get across. On the day in which the new creature is revealed to the world, the 65th in the history of Maranello in its 90th year, from John Elkann to Louis Carey Camilleri, everyone expresses positive concepts: family, unity, team, tradition, excellence, pride, team spirit. These are not casual words: the winter has been a source of reflection for the Scuderia Ferrari, a general rethinking of every strategy.
On Monday 18th of February 2019 in Barcelona, the first outing is more than positive for the new Ferrari SF90 brought to debut by Sebastian Vettel. In the first day of pre-season testing, the German driver completes 169 laps, that is almost two and a half Spanish Grand Prix, without showing any sign of problems and getting the best time of the day with 1'18"161. As usual, the Maranello team has decided to divide the work of its drivers at the wheel of the new single-seater, alternating them, while in Mercedes they prefer to let both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas test the new W10. The Finn turns in the morning, completing 69 laps with a best time of 1'20"127, in the end eighth time of the day, ahead of the team mate who in the afternoon completes 81 laps, resulting eight thousandths slower. Different work, then, for the two top teams, with Red Bull aiming to get into this fight for the title, bringing Max Verstappen on track. If Kimi Raikkonen unveils (along with Antonio Giovinazzi) the new Alfa Romeo in Barcelona and then walks off the track, Sebastian Vettel on the other hand completes all his laps at Montmeló with the new Ferrari and struggles to contain his contentment.
"We couldn't have hoped for a better day than this. It was incredible, I think the car went really well. We weren't slowed down by any unforeseen events, we completed the intense program we had planned and went even further".
Ferrari's new course is taking more and more shape, according to the wishes and expectations of the men from Maranello. Vettel's post-test words are surprising, considering the German's proverbial caution.
"I went out on track and tried and pushed, and everything came in easy too. Obviously we're talking about the very first feedback, and what we say today won't make sense in a couple of weeks, but at the moment I think I have to give a big compliment to everyone who worked in the factory in Maranello for how they were able to interpret the rules. For once it's nicer to look at home and be able to say that, on the first test day of the year, we were very close to perfection. Not just the performance, but the number of laps completed and how the team managed the car: everything worked. Everything has been improved compared to last year's car".
And speaking of Charles Leclerc, the German driver admits:
"Charles will be a real rival. If he's in this team it's because he deserves to be there, so I'll have to take him very seriously. In general there is always a great rivalry with his teammate, but the number one priority is to make the team grow. I'm sure he'll be fast and put me under pressure, so we'll see how it goes".
McLaren, Haas, Red Bull and the two Alfa Romeos follow. Only eighth and ninth chrono for Mercedes, with Hamilton preferring a softer return, to regain confidence. The next days will tell if the Anglo-German team wanted to hide its potential. Tuesday, February 19th 2019 Antonio Giovinazzi tests the new Alfa Romeo Racing in the second day of testing at Montmelò. The previous day it was the turn of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished with a promising fifth time overall.
"Kimi will be my point of reference".
Giovinazzi, who is already in perfect harmony with the Finn, admits. Those who have seen them together say that Raikkonen has rarely been as nice and funny as when he is next to the Italian driver. It was in Barcelona that he and Kimi lifted the veil on the Alfa Romeo, the latest single-seater to appear before the eyes of Formula 1 fans.
"It's a dream come true".
These were Giovinazzi's first words when he learned in recent months that he had been entrusted with a steering wheel in the Circus. And the dreamer's eyes were clearly visible even on Monday, while dozens of cameras immortalized him wearing Alfa's red and white suit and with the C38 of the historic Italian brand next to him. Natural more than a pinch of emotion, also because after eight years he will bring back the tricolor in Formula 1. In fact, he had broken the expectation two years earlier with two appearances as a substitute with Sauber: he did very well when he finished twelfth, but in China he ended up twice with a wall in the same place both in qualifying and during the race.
"I knew very well that my chances to stay in Formula 1 were very few and for the first time I felt I had lost any chance. I was not happy with myself, I could have shown a lot more. I stayed stuck, still trying to improve myself, and I'm happy that today that work has paid off. But I am aware that the role of driver in Alfa Romeo Racing is above all a starting point. I will have to show on track that I have deserved this exceptional opportunity".
Previously Giovinazzi had shown all his talent by finishing second in the Formula 2 championship behind Frenchman Gasly. Since then, many fans, especially from his native Martina Franca, have been traveling around Europe to cheer him on. His is the classic story of a dream come true, even though he does not have a millionaire family behind him as it happens for other young Formula 1 rampols. That of the Italian driver is the classic story of the boy who made it on his own, conquering on the field the results that brought him so high. The intuition of his father, who gave him his first kart when he was three years old, turned out to be a winner, even though the first time little Antonio cried because he didn't feel at ease. But the very next day things went much better and since then Giovinazzi has cherished the dream that is now a reality. But in Barcelona the first pre-season tests still sees Ferrari extremely competitive: after Sebastian Vettel who on Monday puts everyone in agreement with his 1'18"161, it's Charles Leclerc's turn. The young Monegasque driver, at the end of Day2 prints an excellent 1'18"247 less than a tenth from his new teammate.
"I'm very happy with the balance of this day. Despite some red flags - neutralization caused by Pierre Gasly's exit from the track - we were able to complete the planned program and run 157 laps in which we have collected many useful data. In terms of sensations, I felt good right from the start on the SF90, and I must say that I had a lot of fun".
As far as Mercedes is concerned, Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon set 1'19"535, while in the morning Lewis Hamilton set 1'19"928. In evidence, as on the first day, is the McLaren with the young Lando Norris, who in the final minutes for just five thousandths better than the performance obtained on Monday by Carlos Sainz. Despite the problems with the seat of his Haas, Kevin Magnussen laps in 1'19"208, half a tenth off Grosjean's best lap. Space also for his grandson Fittipaldi. It is always empty the Williams box: the British team says that in the night should arrive at the Circuit de Catalunya the car transporter with the new car. The first laps on track, probably, will be done after the lunch break, since the whole morning should be used to set it up before giving it to Robert Kubica. Wednesday, February 20th 2019 the best time obtained during the morning by Kimi Raikkonen holds up almost until the end of the afternoon session of the third day of testing at Montmelò. But ten minutes from the end Daniil Kvyat, with the Toro Rosso, stops the clock on 1'17"704, overtaking for a handful of tenths the 1'17"762 marked by the Finnish with the Alfa Romeo. In in his record lap Kvyat uses tires with compound C5, the softest. Third time for the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo (1'18"164, with C4 compound), followed by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel (1'18"350 and 134 laps completed in total). Max Verstappen's Red Bull (1'18"7 (. 1'18"787). To be recorded also the first laps of the Williams FW42, twenty-three in total, with George Russell at the wheel during the afternoon.
Twelfth Lewis Hamilton: the British driver takes to the track after the lunch break and in race trim simulates a Grand Prix, completing 94 laps in all. With the 82 laps completed by Bottas in the morning (eleventh time for him), Mercedes completes 182 laps in one day. Ferrari still stronger and the world more competitive, is in summary the thought of Lewis Hamiton after three days of testing in Barcelona:
"Ferrari are very strong right now. They are also accumulating a lot of mileage and they seem to have a better package than they had last year, which means the challenge for us will be even more difficult this year. In recent seasons at the beginning of the year Ferrari has always shown themselves to be strong, so we expected that".
And speaking about Mercedes' work, the British driver admits:
"We are just going our own way. Everyone is working very hard, I'm not worried about anything at the moment. I just try to focus on our work. This is not the time when we need to focus on others. We are trying to raise the bar in all areas. It was really impressive to see the atmosphere within the team after all these years of success. The guys told me it was probably the most difficult winter since the rules have changed again".
As Sebastian Vettel comments on the third day of testing in Barcelona this way.
"With 303 laps under our belt I feel like saying that we are satisfied with how the development of the car is going. It was great to get back in the car today and grind out more kilometers. The day was very intense but we are happy because we completed our program, which included some new elements compared to Monday".
Thursday, February 21st 2019 brings to a close the first four days of winter testing at the Montmelò circuit, ahead of the season's start in Australia at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 17th 2019. With a Ferrari that appeared very competitive and a Mercedes careful not to show its potential, to take the scene in the last day of the first session is first the Toro Rosso with the Thai driver Alexander Albon, at the top of the timesheets for most of the day, and then the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg who sets the best overall time in 1'17"393. Times obtained by both with the softer tire (C5). In fourth and fifth position the two Mercedes drivers, who split the work: this time Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton, setting the best time even if he runs less; thirty-four laps for the Finnish driver against the fifty-eight of the English driver. The march of the Ferrari driven by Charles Leclerc continues, author of more than 130 laps and of the sixth best time (1'18"046), while the Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi with his Alfa Romeo Sauber stops behind the Ferrari with the seventh best time and 154 laps.
"My first sensations are very positive, I think that after many months I was able to drive fast. It was a dream come true for me, I'm driving one of the most beautiful cars in the world. Kimi is the best possible partner for me in my first year as a starter".
The fourth day of testing at the circuit about thirty kilometers from Barcelona was also an opportunity to wish Niki Lauda, honorary president of Mercedes, who is recovering from the aftermath of a delicate operation on his lungs. Lauda, given to be improving in the Montmelò paddock but who will not be in Melbourne for the first Grand Prix of the year, will be seventy years old on Friday, February 22nd 2019, and Bottas publicly turns his thoughts to him:
"I wish him all the best, he is a myth and a good man with a rich sense of humor. I phoned him to wish him all the best and I hope to see him back on the track soon".
Meanwhile, with a complaint to the Antitrust Authority and the Ministry of Health, the writing Mission Winnow appeared on the new Ferrari SF90 ends: to sign it is the National Union of Consumers, which asks to ascertain the regularity and compliance with current regulations, as explained by Massimiliano Dona, president of the association. The reason? It is a Philip Morris logo and it is not the first time that it is used in car and motorcycle races to advertise the sale of tobacco. As Niki Lauda celebrates his birthday, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are guests of Petronas at the Santena plant in Turin, Italy, on Friday, February 22nd 2019. The two Mercedes drivers are not scared after the Barcelona tests, in which the team did not seem to care about the fast lap.
"Testing is testing, we are still trying everything and no one is focusing on times but to understand the car, the performance, the engineering system and how long tires last. We will face the same things as every year: new tires, new vehicle. There is a lot to work on. It's not absolutely relevant right now how fast we go. What matters is how fast we go in Q3 of the first race".
The speed shown by the new Ferrari SF90 with both Vettel and Leclerc does not worry Hamilton.
"I don't look at what others are doing. I focus on my own work. They do things their way and we do ours. And it's worked great in the past. I don't look to see if there's another driver going really fast because it's irrelevant. At the moment, then, we are ahead of them, I don't know if by half a second. The numbers in this testing period leave time for themselves".
"In the first tests Ferrari seemed more ready, more ahead, but it's the first days and we know we can improve the car. We have work to do, but the sensations are positive. We need to improve some aspects, to find a good balance".
As far as the title fight is concerned, the two Mercedes drivers have no doubts:
"We aim to repeat. I don't think that this year it will be a head-to-head between me and Vettel".
Hamilton points out.
"There are at least six drivers that can fight for victory".
Obviously including, in addition to Ferrari, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Gasly. And as for Niki Lauda's birthday, the British driver admits:
"I wished him a happy birthday on social media and then talked to him a lot with face time. I think the path to recovery is quite long and it's not very easy with ups and downs. But he is incredibly motivated, he has a big heart and I think the whole team has missed him. Lauda is very relevant to this this team, he always gives great advice".
On Tuesday 26th of February 2019 we are back on track for the second test session, and at the end of the first day Lando Norris, newcomer at McLaren, amazes everyone on the Circuit de Catalunya, under the gaze of Fernando Alonso, former first driver of the English manufacturer. After having suffered hydraulic problems to the MCL34 in the morning, Norris obtains a brilliant 1'17″709, putting Pierre Gasly and his Red Bull behind him for only six thousandths. Third Lance Stroll on Racing Point-Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel, who runs eighty-one laps in one of his long-runs, stops two tenths from Norris with his best lap. It was a lighter day for the other Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc, who was in the pits for a long time in the morning for a check on the cooling system, and completed only twenty-nine laps. More serious problems for the Mercedes W10 of Valtteri Bottas, struggling with an oil pressure problem: only seven laps and the eleventh time. Long run for Lewis Hamilton that varies the use of tires, good day for Antonio Giovinazzi on Alfa Romeo: fifth place for the Apulian, ahead of the Toro Rosso of Alexander Albon. In the second day of testing at Montmelò, where the last tests are underway in view of the Formula 1 season that will open on Sunday 17th of March 2019 in Australia, in the morning Sebastian Vettel ends up off the track at turn 3 of the Catalan circuit, going to crash against the barriers of protection rubber. To betray Vettel, who came out however unharmed and independently from the cockpit, there's a mechanical problem, a rim that under pressure gives way and makes the German driver lose control of the car.
"We don't know much more about the accident than anyone else. I was entering Turn 3 and I felt something was wrong, there were problems on the front left side but at that point there was nothing more I could do to avoid the impact. I no longer had any control over the car and went straight out over the barriers. We are focusing on trying to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem. It would have been easier with a wider escape route if I hadn't crashed, because as you can easily imagine most of the damage there is on the car is from hitting the guards, so we have to be careful about how we assess how much we find damaged to isolate the original problem. Our goal is to complete the planned program, and certainly having only done forty laps this morning is not optimal for us. to do that. We lost some time".
In the meantime, on Wednesday, February 27th 2019 Fernando Alonso becomes a McLaren ambassador, a relationship that will also see him return to the track in selected tests to help develop the MCL34 and then the MCL35 in 2020. At McLaren in 2007 and then from 2015 to 2018, for a total of ninety-five races and four victories, the two-time World Champion will take part with the same team in the Indianapolis 500 in May, in an attempt to become the second driver in history to complete the Triple Crown after winning the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Thursday, February 28th 2019 Charles Leclerc with his Ferrari SF90 dominates the third day of practice at the Catalan circuit of Montmelò with a time of 1'16″231, obtained with the softest tires in the Pirelli range. This is the fastest time ever achieved in these seven days of pre-season testing, just fifty-eight thousandths from Hamilton's pole position in 2018. The young Monegasque driver is the only one on track today for the Maranello team. Mercedes as usual hides, continuing its work of weaning the new W10 with Lewis Hamilton who with the C2 medium gets as personal best performance 1'18″097. Leclerc, in fact, with the same type of tire, stops the clock at 1'17″253, eight tenths faster than the World Champion in the morning. A performance, both on the fast lap and on the race pace that bodes well, also because the Ferrari driver has never pushed in all three stints in which the track is divided, suggesting that he still has something to bring out as a performance. For Leclerc a total of 138 laps and a small problem just in the final minutes of the day, which advised him to park his car at turn 8.
"It wasn't going to be an easy day because we had to make up for the work that wasn't done yesterday but we did it, and this is very positive considering that today was the last test for me before Australia. I'm very happy, the car is good and we worked really well. It's an encouraging start to the season and I feel quite ready. Now I'm looking forward to my first real Grand Prix with Ferrari".
As in the past days, it was the young drivers who stood out, with Alexander Albon, who reached a 1'16″882 with his Toro Rosso also mounting the C5 and Lando Norris of 84 thousandths above the 1'17". Fifth time for Pierre Gasly who, however, ended the day early, crashing into the barriers at turn 9 with his Red Bull. Following there are the two Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg. Then the Racing Point of Lance Stroll (he also finished by parking his car along the track) and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi. Closing the top ten, the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who completed 95 laps in the morning before handing over the wheel, after lunch, to Valtteri Bottas. For the Finnish driver 97 laps with the thirteenth and last time of the day, behind also Russel with the Williams and Magnussen with the Haas. Friday, March 1st 2019 Mattia Binotto, team principal of Ferrari, draws a first balance after the Montmelò tests.
"The new Ferrari SF90 is balanced and stable under braking, I would like to see it more reliable overall. To beat the competition you have to go much faster, our spirit must be to never settle. It's not about being at the level of the others, but the strongest of them all. We are not there yet, but that is our goal. It's been an intense few days and we are focusing on ourselves. I'm glad Hamilton thinks we're strong, but so are they. I assume we will be very close. Everything didn't go well in testing, see the accident to Vettel. I think it was still an unfortunate episode, something impossible to predict and avoid. It seems that an external body hit the rim".
No doubt about Charles Leclerc's arrival at Ferrari:
"He is a very good driver, he is trying to learn how to work with our technicians. It is not these tests that are convincing us with respect to our decision to take him to Ferrari. We will not ask Leclerc to pass Vettel, but as he is already a champion and very experienced, for now Seb is the driver of reference".
Lewis Hamilton does not hide the strength of Ferrari but at the same time he says he is confident about the recovery by Mercedes:
"Being the fastest here doesn't make much sense, you don't win anything. We want to be the strongest on Saturday in Melbourne. For now Ferrari is in front, the gap between us is about half a second but I know I have a fantastic team. It won't be a challenge between us and Ferrari. Has Leclerc bet on Ferrari? I don't like to bet, but if I had to I would only bet on myself".
Afterwards, the British driver expresses other thoughts through his social channels:
"Final stage of testing. We have to take a deep breath, analyze carefully and plan the next steps. I have the best team to do that. Buckle up".
Sebastian Vettel was the fastest on the fourth and final day of testing at the Montmeló circuit in Barcelona. Despite an electrical problem that forced him to return to the pits an hour before the end, the German driver gets the best time turning 1'16''221 in the morning. Second and third times for the Mercedes cars with Lewis Hamilton (1'16''224) ahead of Valtteri Bottas (1'16''561).
With testing over, it's time to go back to talking about Ferrari's main sponsor. The revolution was announced at the end of 2018, but seeing Ferraris now on track with the new Philip Morris International brand - Mission Winnow - makes an impression. We're talking about an M and a W put together to look like some kind of arrow, but it's not a new brand of cigarettes, we'd rather not: it would be forbidden and it's not really in the spirit of the new global initiative. Okay, but so what?
"It's an idea aimed at creating engagement around the role of science, technology and innovation as a positive driving force in any industry".
André Calantzopoulos, Chief Executive Officer of Philip Morris International, explains.
"With Mission Winnow, we want to let the world know about the change we've faced, sharing our pride in the transformation achieved by PMI employees, as well as our dedication to rigorous science and innovation that can lead us to a better future".
It gets complicated because we're still talking about the largest tobacco producer on the planet, and there's been no shortage of controversy related to the fact that some have speculated about hidden advertising for cigarettes. But Calantzopoulos emphasizes:
"This global platform will provide a window to the new PMI and allow us to challenge prejudices, as we know that many may have doubts about us and our motives. Our partnership with Scuderia Ferrari gives us the opportunity to leverage the insights gained during many encouraging discussions with both supporters and detractors, and reach out to a wide audience to engage them on a large scale".
Technically the word winnow was selected because it perfectly describes the precise and methodical path PMI is following to achieve its ambitious vision of a smoke-free world. Originally, the term winnow refers to removing the chaff from grains, but it has subsequently been used in a broader sense to describe the act of discarding the superfluous, extracting the good, as well as distinguishing the truth from what is inaccurate or misleading. In a world characterized by information overload, this becomes critically important for PMI.
"The idea is to make an absolute commitment to continuous improvement by dedicatedly and diligently pursuing scientific and engineering excellence by paying close attention to detail. It is precisely this commitment and focus that is spurring a paradigm shift in the tobacco industry toward a better future".
And Calantzopoulos also extends a kind of mea culpa about the past:
"Mission Winnow sums up our commitment to aspire to be better in everything we do. At PMI, we're really cherry-picking, or discarding, old approaches - learning from past mistakes to shape our future".
According to Philip Morris International, Mission Winnow, like Scuderia Ferrari, has set a course that doesn't involve retracing its steps: PMI must make steady, rapid progress, examining and analyzing the road ahead, learning every day and adapting to improve as the next turn comes around. Hence the sponsorship idea.
"Mission Winnow is about how we are transforming as a society, what we believe in and how we are working to achieve a better future. Scuderia Ferrari is the ideal partner for Mission Winnow because of its team driven by a passion for innovation and a drive for constant improvement to achieve victory".
Miroslaw Zielinski, president of PMI's Science and Innovation Division, says.
"We are launching Mission Winnow on the Formula 1 circuit because motorsport fans understand well that there is no reverse gear in racing, only progression, and we believe they will want to share this vision".
In short, Mission Winnow never advertises or promotes any tobacco product. But it does talk about the future and strategy.
Speaking instead of the SF90, Louis Camilleri, managing director of Ferrari and Philip Morris International, from the Geneva Motor Show admits:
"The car was born well, we are quite happy with the Barcelona tests even if it is difficult to understand where the others are. The car is very balanced, the drivers are quite happy and we always have the same ambitions. We have to work on reliability".
As for the presence of the Winnow brand on the car's livery, which at the Australian Grand Prix will not be present in the Ferarri's livery, Camilleri says:
"There were problems with the health department and Philip Morris didn't have time to find a solution. However, Winnow is not a brand, it has nothing to do with tobacco, it is about the transition from cigarettes to electronics. However, in Australia we will have a surprise for the fans on the car".
Also from Geneva come some novelties in the Formula 1 regulations: in fact, a point could be assigned for those who make the fastest lap in the race. The FIA's World Sports Council, meeting in Geneva, has taken this decision but it will have to be approved by an electronic vote of the Formula 1 Commission to be added to the sporting regulations before the opening race in Melbourne on Sunday 17th of March 2019. That vote is expected to be held on Monday, March 11th 2019. The rule should follow that employed in Formula E, with the bonus point awarded only if the driver in question finishes in the top 10.
"It can be the good year for Sebastian Vettel".
Word of Ross Brawn: the sporting director of the Formula 1 World Championship, in the past also technical director at Benetton and Ferrari, is optimistic about the German driver's chances of victory. An important reason, according to Brawn, is the new head of the Italian team, Mattia Binotto, who took office at the beginning of the year.
"The new situation and the calmness helps to strengthen Sebastian".
Brawn, who knows the Maranello environment very well, and had a lot to do with seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, says.
"Surely Sebastian can win the world title".
Brawn admits to Auto Bild Motorsport magazine ahead of the first of twenty-one races in the Formula 1 World Championship: the countdown is coming to an end.
On the eve of the new championship, it's a turning point for Ferrari: at the beginning of January, the internal changes, which had been talked about for some time, are made official. Maurizio Arrivabene definitely abandons his role as team principal, leaving the place to engineer and technical director Mattia Binotto, on whom many hopes are placed. All this is announced on January 7th 2019 in a note:
"After four years of commitment and tireless dedication Maurizio Arrivabene leaves Scuderia Ferrari. The decision was taken by mutual agreement with the top management of the company after a deep reflection in relation to the personal needs of Maurizio and those of the Scuderia. From today Mattia Binotto assumes the role of Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari. All technical functions will continue to report to Mattia".
This is not the only announcement from the Maranello team. One week later, the return of the Schumacher name to the Ferrari family was made official. Mick Schumacher, second son of the seven-time World Champion and newly crowned Formula 3 champion, joins the Ferrari Driver Academy, thus also becoming a test driver for the team:
"I am delighted to have reached an agreement with Ferrari and that my near future in racing is with Ferrari, joining the Ferrari Driver Academy and thus also the Scuderia Ferrari family. This is another step in the right direction, I will only benefit from the immense expertise there. I will definitely do everything to be able to learn everything that can help me achieve my dream: racing in Formula 1. It's more than obvious that Ferrari has a huge place in my heart since I was born and in that of our family, I'm also happy on a personal level for this opportunity".
Towards the end of the same month are set the presentation dates of the single-seaters, which see the U.S. team open the series on February 7th 2019, exhibiting the new gold and black livery and abandoning the red-white colors, followed by Toro Rosso and Renault; Williams shows off the new colors on the 2018 car, leaving an unknown on the actual date of the presentation. On February 13th it's the turn of former Force India, now Racing Point, bought by Canadian entrepreneur Lawrence Stroll, along with Red Bull Racing and Mercedes with the new W10. McLaren and the Maranello stable are left at the end, while Alfa Romeo will reveal itself only with the first day of testing. The new 2019 single-seaters make their official debut on the Barcelona circuit on the 18th February 2019, kicking off the seasonal test days divided into two blocks of four days: the first from 18th to 21st February 2019, the second from 26th to 1st March 2019. On track we find the same teams from 2018, but many new faces. Mercedes reconfirms Hamilton and Bottas, ending the test days with the most laps, not showing, however, its full potential, remaining hidden and limited to collecting data for the opening weekend. Sebastian Vettel remains at Ferrari flanked by rising star Charles Leclerc, the first FDA driver to officially race for the Maranello team. The two get on board the SF90, the name given to the single-seater in honor of Ferrari's 90th birthday. The project is presented by Ferrari president John Elkann:
"Being Ferrari is the pride of a team that manages to unite an entire country, representing the best of Italy for its desire for invention, innovation, resourcefulness, and for the heart that is Ferrari red. It is important that our fans are close to us, that they support us: an important season begins and an important decade that brings us to our hundredth anniversary. We need to win all together".
On the opening weekend in Melbourne, a celebratory livery will be sported, which will bear the words 90 years, temporarily replacing the Mission Winnow sponsor due to issues that have been revealed with the health department, as it is a major tobacco sponsor. The Scuderia Ferrari seems not to disappoint, dominating much of the testing bringing home the best time of the day more than once. Vettel himself declares himself positive and happy with the results shown, thus giving hope to the fans; results that could finally anticipate a successful season for Ferrari. Hamilton's words, however, make it clear that Mercedes is not to be underestimated and, as was understood, they have not shown their full potential:
"Ferrari at the moment is ahead, more ready, but we are not worried. We aim to win the World Championship. Trials are trials. It has no absolute relevance right now how fast we go. What matters is how fast we go in Q3 of the first race".
The excellent performances from both teams give hope for a hard-fought world championship. Certainly the third force of the world championship is confirmed with Red Bull, which sees the Dutch driver Max Verstappen and the Frenchman Pierre Gasly running, promoted from Toro Rosso. The team has collected good results, proving to be a possible rival for the championship or at least for the second third place. Daniil Kvjat returns to Toro Rosso, flanked by rookie Alex Albon, as well as a third-place finisher in Formula 2 in 2018. The rookie runs under the Thai flag, becoming the first driver to represent this nation in the Formula 1 World Championship, and scores excellent times during the first four days of testing. The McLaren line up is completely new, being present Carlos Sainz Jr. and the young Lando Norris, also a category rookie after a fantastic season in Formula 2 that saw him finish second. The young driver does not disappoint, setting excellent times. The French team fields Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, former Red Bull driver. Despite some reliability problems, Renault proves once again to be a team that can be competitive. Haas re-proposes the 2018 lineup with Grosjean and Magnussen, in Alfa Romeo Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, who brings back the tricolor on the grid, for Racing Point run Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. The performances of these cars are not fantastic, disappointing a bit the expectations, but at the last place surely we find Williams. The glorious British team, in fact, finds a lot of difficulties in the final assembly of the car, even showing up two days late to the pre-season tests. These are not easy days for Williams, as Claire herself declares:
"It would be an understatement to say that the last few days have been horrible, that of the FW42 has been a difficult birth. Before we got our drivers on board we had to make sure we had the best car possible. We know the main reasons that led to this delay. Now we have to work to make up for lost time but we won't wash our dirty laundry in public".
The two drivers who have signed with the team are Robert Kubica, who returns after nine years in Formula 1 following a serious car accident, and George Russel, a great talent coming from Formula 2, where he won the championship title. The desire to return to the track is always stronger, as admitted by the Polish driver:
"I'm excited, it's been a long time since my last race. I couldn't think about it so much, I have to try to be ready and learn as much as possible about this new Formula 1, things have changed a lot since the last time. We didn't have a perfect start in winter testing and there are a lot of things to check. In the tests in Barcelona we were late and had a lot of problems, you can't recover in a couple of weeks, but on the track and in the factory we are doing everything we can in the current situation, we can't change things. We have to try to focus on what we have and do our job. That's the approach everyone is taking, we're going to try to make the most of every opportunity that comes along".
Unfortunately, however, the excitement for the opening race weekend is soured by some unfortunate news: on the morning of March 14th 2019, it is announced that Charlie Whiting passed away from a pulmonary embolism at just sixty-six years old. Whiting was a race director, safety delegate and head of the FIA's technical department. He was a great man who has done so much for the circus, it is to him that we owe the introduction of the halo, thus ensuring more safety for the drivers. Surely it is not easy to accept this disappearance. Sebastian Vettel himself claims to have spent time with him the day before:
"We had a chat moving around the first corners of the track. It's hard to get over it. The drivers' man is missing, the one who had the door always open and to whom you could ask anything to resolve a doubt. He was a racer".
While Lewis Hamilton admits:
"It's an incredible shock, I think of the family. His commitment to the sport made him a pillar of Formula 1. His contribution is invaluable. May he rest in peace".
The U.S. Haas team decided to honor his passing by carrying the words for our friend Charlie on the nose of the car, and team principal Gunther Steiner states:
"What we will do is support whatever the FIA decides this weekend. Whatever decision they make, we will support it. For this weekend our goal is to be totally available to help, we are here to help".
FIA President Jean Todt admits:
"He was a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula 1 who embodied the ethos and spirit of this fantastic sport".
The federation has appointed Michael Masi, the Melbourne-based race director who joined Whiting last season, to replace him.
As predicted, all eyes are on the two possible contenders for the title: Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. After the good performances of the tests, the expectations towards Ferrari are high. The same German driver of Ferrari says he is confident, and when asked if he feels he is in a better position than last year, he answers affirmatively:
"We are better prepared, there have been no problems so far, of course we can't be sure, the first race you are always nervous, we don't know where we are exactly or what will happen, we are happy to start. The environment is charged, there is optimism and desire to win. The tests in Barcelona went well and I am optimistic. We are better prepared and I think we can only improve. Now we are all prey and hunters at the same time. Hopefully when we get out of here we will be the prey, it would mean we are ahead".
Nevertheless, the words of the Briton make it clear once again that Mercedes is definitely not to be underestimated and as it was imagined, probably during the tests they had not revealed themselves completely:
"Ferrari is now ahead, but there is an energy in my team that is inspiring. We have to work. After the tests, you analyze everything that happened trying to be careful about what you have done. New car, updated parts. And it will be the same for everyone else and it will be interesting to understand everyone's situation. We didn't get lost in nonsense in testing because we had and have work to do. The team has great people and the energy there is inspiring. Toto Wolff has charged everyone, we see passionate people. They are soldiers and they will give everything to keep improving".
In short, beyond the drama involving the Whiting family, the championship is about to begin.