Categories
2019 Racing Season

Racing, Red Bull, and The Inner Workings Of The Mind

The combination of information overload, caffeine and exercise can create interesting dialogue in one’s mind.  Today on a 45 min trail run I couldn’t control the inner buzzard voice in my head that is a constant traveling companion of mine, so I’m feeling the need to let this voice be heard. I believe in the psychology field this is known as a brain dump.  So, I’m excited to dump a few random thoughts on the subject of motorsports.

 

What If?  Ahh yes what if?  These two words can be applied to everything in life, but what if Leclerc won Bahrain, Vettel was allowed to keep his win in Canada, Ferrari didn’t undercut Leclerc in Singapore with Vettel, and Vettel didn’t break down in Russia last week, leaving Ferrari to finish 1-2 with Leclerc getting the win??  That’s a serious (and realistic) WHAT IF!  

 

In this alternate world, we would be looking at Lewis with 6 wins, Leclerc with 5 wins, Mercedes with 8 wins, Ferrari with 6 wins, the momentum squarely with Ferrari and the excitement levels through the roof. Oh well next year.  And to be fair, Lewis has had his share of bad breaks over the years so I guess this levels things out a bit. I think you can make a pretty convincing case that he should have beat Nico in 2016 and Kimi (and Alonso) in 2007.

 

Did anybody see Big Daddy Jos The Boss (aka The Dutch Devil) speak out in a threatening tone against Red Bull this past week?  His boy Max only has one year left on his contract with Red Bull so the rumors should be swirling in the Dutch press rivaling the circus of a LeBron or KD free agency.  In fact what moves the world sporting needle more, Max or Giannis heading into contract years? It is sort of criminal to see Max, a once in a generation talent at the peak of his powers, fighting for 3rd.  Will Ferrari or Mercedes have the nerve to make a serious run at creating a Super Team? What sounds more fun, Max/Leclerc or Max/Lewis? I’ll take either but the thought of Max in red is cool.  

 

Speaking of Red Bull, here is a random flashback:  The last time I tasted a Red Bull was about 9 years ago on a Las Vegas 40th birthday boondoggle for an old college buddy.  It was night two and the group was dragging, so we turned to the dreaded Red Bull/Vodka for assistance. We had paid some silly cover to get into the “exclusive” club at the top of the Palms, and the guest of honor that evening was Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward.  It felt a little weird standing around gawking at Hines and his entourage, but the MC was playing it up and the women were jockeying for position. When it came time for me to buy the next round, I excused myself from a conversation with a Russian prostitute and made my way into the scrum at the bar.  The bartenders had more tricks than Tom Cruise in Cocktail and magically produced 6 Red Bull/vodkas in pint glasses in mere seconds. I was a little shocked when I was charged $180, but hey I was supporting Red Bull and Toro Roso, the Maloof Brothers and getting to spend time with Hines Ward so it seemed like a good deal at the time. 

 

Red Bull Flashback II:  This almost has the makings of a great joke:  What do you get when you put three guys in a room with a bobcat named Alesi and two pallets of Red Bull?  Answer: Complete monkey business. Inspired by the sponsorship on the ‘95 Sauber, my friend Tommy was able to import a few cases of Red Bull from Austria before it was available in the markets and in honor of Heinz Harald Frentzen, we grew our sideburns and drank Red Bull like it was water for a few weeks.  Nobody died.

 

Quiz:  Name the energy drink company that sponsored Jos Verstappen when he drove for Arrows. (See answer below)

 

Back to Current Red Bull F1:  Albon, like Gasly, is miles behind Max on pure pace but he’s been able to get the car to 6th place in his four race trial with forceful passes on the slower midfield cars.  The frustrating thing with Gasly was when he would find himself behind a Renault or McLaren, he seldom found a way by. Advantage Albon. 

 

F1.5:  The midfield really is war.  It reminds me of Indycar in that even if you are generally quicker, like McLaren and Renault have shown of late, you just get sucked back into the chaos on a weekly basis.  Danny Ric looks like a rodeo cowboy trying to fight his way through the field and is testing the structural integrity of his wings and suspension on per lap basis. It’s brutal and fascinating all at once.

 

Current win totals:

Sainz – 5

Norris – 3

Ricciardo – 3

Perez – 2

Magnussen – 2

Kyvat – 1

 

On the subject of Indycar, I enjoyed another excellent year of tough racing on every type of circuit imaginable.  The rookies, Felix, Herta, Santino and to a lesser extent, O’Ward and Ericcson, certainly infused some excitement and should give the established pecking order a few fits next year.

 

Herta has the speed to wrest control of Andretti Autosport from Rossi next year if he has an engineer to work with on the ovals and a strategist and pit crew to execute on race day.  His drive at Laguna was a masterclass.

 

Rosenqvist is all car control and big cajones.  Mid Ohio and Laguna stand out as races where he had the car in a slide practically every corner and managed to keep it off the wall.  If he can calm his inner Nordic maniac over the bumps on street tracks and continue to adapt to the ovals, he should be there with Dixon fighting for the title.

 

Santino!  I thought Santino was going to be a flop and wow was I surprised.  He’s got something special on the ovals as he can run half a groove higher and make audacious passes around the outside.  I have to admit though that he scares me. It’s awesome to see him flat foot it through the accidents in front of him and go wild on the first lap of restarts, but the law of averages tells me that it’s going to come back to bite him at some point.  I feel like he’s going to need to learn respect the hard way, but what a fun addition to the grid.  

 

Felix ended up 6th in points and Herta 7th.  To take the next step forward means beating a Penske, Rossi or Dixon so I can’t wait to see if these kids are ready to go to that level.  

 

With the new kids showing they can get it done if given the chance, I’ve got the following guys in the “Aren’t you getting a bit old to be doing this?” category:  TK, Bourdais, Sato, RHR, Carpenter. I was almost thinking that Power was ready for this list but he closed the year in strong form.

 

And here are the guys in my “Maybe this isn’t the right job for you?” category:  Ed Jones, Marco and Veach. I’m holding off on Leist for now because he’s driving for Foyt, The Williams of the paddock.  

Random thoughts:  It’s too bad FE is sucking up most of the single seater talent outside of F1 because Indycar would have really benefited.  I’m still waiting to see the day when an F1 driver in his prime switches to the silent cars…..It was sad to see O’Ward get plucked by Red Bull and banished to Japan to compete in SuperFormula.  Remember he handily beat Herta in the same Indy Lights squad and was quicker out of the box at Sears last year when they were both in Harding/Andretti equipment……Playing the role of O’Ward and Herta in Indy Lights this year were Askew and Vee Kay.  They appear ready for the next level and one step on the ladder below is Kyle Kirkwood. This kid wins something like 75% of his races and I was super impressed with the way he handled the first lap of the Festival chicane in Portland last year in F2000.  Smooth operator with spatial awareness. I’d sign him to my junior team…..Spare a thought for Ralph Schumacher, who was being touted as a possible 2020 Ferrari driver but now is languishing 12th in points in F2. Sadly he’s still ahead of Giuliano Alesi, son of the greatest driver ever…….In what could be a major coup for F1, Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou looks like he’s a legit professional driver and could probably pound around in the mid field without making a fool of himself.  Where is Bernie to collect the $$?…….IMSA is down to the final race and it’s old man Montoya going for yet another title over the likes of Sud American youngsters Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani. Great little undercover series as usual……I’ve seen Montoya and son in the garage at many GP’s this year. It looks like JPM is trying to take a page out of Verstappen’s playbook and create a 21st century robo driver. Another familiar name at Laguna a few weeks ago was Eduardo Barrichello.  The son of Rubens was racing in the F2000 race and slugging it out in the lead pack…….What can one say about Marc Marquez other than we are witnessing all time greatness…….Spare a thought for ‘Ol 7-Time (Jimmy Johnson) as his reign appears to be over. My favorite highlight is still when he crashed a Busch car head on at the Glen after brake failure at a silly rate of speed and got out, stood on the hood and raised his arms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbkIBWEp91Q    ……And I think that’s it for my rambling.  Sure I could do this for another 5,000 words but I feel like the therapeutic benefit of dumping my thoughts is losing its effectiveness.  Good fun. Bring on the mighty Suzuka. Thanks for reading!

Categories
2019 Racing Season

2019 F1 Summer Break Recap

With the F1 summer break rapidly coming to a close, it’s time to pack away the EDM inspired rainbow spiked kaleidoscope goggles and LED rave gloves and reflect on what’s been a rather one sided processional affair occasionally infused with moments of brilliance.  I think all would agree that the white flags have already been waved. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are the 2019 world champions. Fair play, Mercedes are the best team in the paddock and Lewis is the better man within the team. The results have been pretty staggering:  Ten wins from twelve races, seven 1-2 finishes and a clean 150 point advantage over their nearest rivals. I guess this shouldn’t really feel like such a surprise as Mercedes have dominated the current hybrid era, but I, like many other “dreamers”, bought into the romantic notion of the Scuderia turning the clocks back to the beginning of the century and painting the podiums of the world scarlet red.  I was so bullish on Ferrari prior to Australia that I had Lewis winning 8 races total to 7 for Vettel (Lewis already has 8 wins!) and I made the critical error of picking Vettel and Leclerc over the Mercedes boys on one of my fantasy league teams. Ouch.  

 

So for a quick refresher on how the Silver Arrows team almost achieved perfection, here is a recap of the year.

 

Australia:  Boundless optimism for a great season long fight leading up to the first practice quickly gave way to disbelief by the end of qualifying, and minor depression come Sunday night.  Merc hit the streets of Melbourne in a class of their own and how ‘bout that Bottas? Valteri beat Lewis off the line and left the five time champ in his dust.

 

Bahrain:  LeClerc suddenly looked like a combo of Senna, Prost, Fangio and Nuvolari all in one.  He dominated qualifying and then crushed the rest of the field in the race until a mechanical issue let him down.  Vettel looked lost by comparison and resorted back to spinning the car as soon as he got into a wheel to wheel scrap.  At this point I was totally confused. Ferrari or Mercedes?

 

China:  The balance of power was immediately back to Mercedes, but on a personal level, this weekend was so much more.  I like to refer to this past April 13th as Le 24 Heures du Buzzardry. On that Saturday am I woke up at 3:00am, watched qualifying, drove to the SF airport, flew to Long Beach where I spent the entire day as a fan watching the Indycar and IMSA series in action, and finished my night at a Holiday Inn curled up on a suspect queen bed watching the dull China race live with one eye half cracked open into the wee hours.

 

Baku:  Leclerc looked threatening to Mercedes until he stuffed it during qualifying into the side of a castle likely once occupied by Peter The Great.  This left the door open for Mercedes to cruise to an easy 1-2, with Bottas impressively coming out on top.  

 

Spain:  Did they run a Spanish GP this year?  If they did it must have been a snoozer.  Hamilton beats Bottas for the 5th consecutive 1-2 finish.  On a positive note, for the first time this year Max beats both Ferrari’s to show that the RBR-Honda package is coming along.  In Max We Trust.  

 

Monaco:  These cars are way too fast and wide to race at Monaco so the race was always going to be won on Saturday, which Hamilton duly did, with a scorching lap of 1:10.166.  For reference, Ayrton Senna’s 1988 pole time where the in-car camera looks like it’s on fast forward and he basically admitted later that he was having an outer body experience during the legendary lap, was a 1:23.998.  They may have opened up some of the curbing and slightly changed the radius of a few corners over the years, but when I saw that it felt like a slap in the face. Wow. Go technology! And cheers to Vettel for finally breaking the Mercedes 1-2 dominance with a fine 2nd place.  

 

Canada:  Leave it to Canada and the great city of Montreal to produce a thrilling race.  The Ferrari’s, utilizing their horse & battery power advantage over Mercedes, brought the fight to Lewis and Vettel finally prevailed…….until the stewards decided he didn’t.  I get what the rule book says, but I’m from the “Let the Kids Play” school and would have let Vettel keep the win. If you punt somebody or weave all over the place under breaking I’ll penalize you.  Run off the track, don’t gain an advantage, recover and keep the guy behind you? I give that two thumbs up and a play-on. 

 

France:  Horrible circuit, horrible race.  Lewis wins again to go up 6-2 on Bottas.  

 

Austria:  The 2019 season officially begins!  Max miraculously tracks down Leclerc who had comfortably led for 60+ laps and after a fierce two lap battle, pulls a Nigel Mansell like late breaking whip lunge to take the lead and win in front of the Max Army.  Great stuff.

 

England:  Another exciting race with the Mercedes boys fighting on track, Max and Leclerc continuing their Austrian scuffle and Vettel again losing his mind and punting Max.  On paper it looks like another easy Mercedes 1-2, but I would take a race like that every week.

 

Germany:  Ahh rain, the great equalizer.  Hockenheim was as crazy a race as you will ever see and Max prevailed mainly because he kept the car in between the lines and avoided the treaterchous stadium drag strip-skating rink.  I don’t think I’ve even seen a section of track that slippery before. It’s gimmicky but I kind of like this idea: Every race will have 1 corner where the runoff is freshly paved asphalt with the sprinklers on.

 

Hungary:  A beautiful straight fight between the two best drivers in F1.  Max, after finally securing his first pole position, kept Lewis at bay from the drop of the green when the Mercedes team rolled the dice and pitted Lewis for fresh rubber that left him with 20+ seconds to make up in 22 laps.  This was Schumacher-Ferrari-Hungary 1998 all over again. Lewis put the hammer down and breezed by Max with a couple of laps left for a signature win that has to rate as one of his best. Even watching from my couch thousands of miles away, you could see that driver and car were pushing in perfect harmony and in a zone seldom achieved.

 

Totals:

 

Lewis – 8 wins

Bottas- 2 wins

Max – 2 wins

Ferrari – 0.0 – Goose Eggs!!

 

F1.5

 

Sainz – 4

Norris – 2

Ricciardo – 2

Magnussen – 2

Perez – 1

Kvyat – 1

 

For some, this recap may read as a dreary, sad reflection of another lost season, but if you look on the bright side, 5 of the past 6 races have been excellent, and there is hope for more excitement on the horizon.  Right out of the gate, Ferrari may have a legit shot at glory in Spa and Monza. Max is going to be a force in Austin, Mexico and Brazil. Singapore is always a wildcard race, Bottas flies in Russia and Suzuka is arguably the best rack in the world.  Hamilton may go 9-9, but he’s going to have a battle on his hands most weekends.

 

Silly Season

 

Compared to a year ago at this time, this silly season has been relatively calm with the exception of RBR calling up Albon to replace Gasly from Spa onwards, but the door could be kicked wide open if Mercedes decide to promote Ocon into Bottas’s seat.  This would set off a round of musical chairs with Hulkenberg possibly on the move from Renault and Grosjean in trouble at Haas. Otherwise, it looks like Kubica’s seat at Williams will be available for the right price and it remains to be seen if Red Bull will keep Gasly in the family at Toro Rosso.  If Bottas keeps the drive, Mercedes would likely release Ocon and I could see him landing at either Renault or Haas. 

 

However, if you give me the liberty to create my own silly season, here would be the 2020 lineups for Mercedes, Ferrari and RBR:

 

Mercedes:  Hamilton, Alonso

Ferrari:  Leclerc, Ricciardo

RBR:  Max, Vettel

 

How’s that for 22 entertaining weekends? 

 

Random Thoughts

 

Before the year began, I was intrigued to see how each of the new teammate pairings would stack up, in particular, all of these youngsters in teams against more established vets and after 12 races the picture is pretty clear.

 

Lewis vs Bottas:  Bottas is quick, but it’s business as usual.  Advantage Lewis

 

Seb vs Leclerc:  Seb has more points but I give the advantage to Leclerc.  Yes he’s made a few crucial mistakes but so has Vettel, and for that matter, so has Ferrari!  And why is Ferrari still putting Vettel on the choice tire strategy which often dumps out Leclerc into the clutches of the Red Bull?  Yes Leclerc needs a year to publicly make a few errors, but come on Ferrari, do the right thing and build up the kids confidence.

 

Max vs Gasly:  Yikes! What a route.  I’m excited to see if Albon fares any better

 

Sainz vs Norris:  Norris is darn fast over one lap but hasn’t had a lot of luck in the races.  Carlos is a steady point scoring machine so both drivers are on the up.

 

Kvyat vs Albon:  I would call this a draw, which is why it makes sense to try Albon in the hot seat for 9 races to get a true assessment of what they have.  

 

Ricciardo vs Hulkenberg:  Neither driver is being helped by the underperforming factory team, but Danny Ric has shown flashes of brilliance with a P-4 on the grid in Canada so I’ll give him the slight advantage.  

 

Kimi vs Giovinazzi:  Kimi has clearly had the upper hand over the young Ferrari protege so it could be the kiss of death for the Italian, as I see his F1 career path as Ferrari or bust.  Like his days at Lotus, Kimi is tough to beat when he’s left to do his own thing.  

 

Perez vs Stroll:  Sergio has dominated Stroll in qualifying, but Stroll can score points.  He showed this at Williams, and he’s doing it again this year at Racing Point-Force India-Spyker-Midland-Jordan GP.  Hard to believe but he currently holds an 18-13 point advantage over Perez.  

 

Magnussen vs Grosjean:  Netflix has to be licking their chops as the Haas pairing has gone from one silly issue to the next.  The team is totally lost on tire management so both drivers are looking like morons on Sundays. Tough place to be.

 

Russell vs Kubica:  Williams started the year inexplicably 2 seconds slower than the Racing Point cars so it was immediately clear that this was a lost season.  That being said, Russell has made the most of it and has dominated the Polish prodigy, likely keeping him in the good graces of his German employers and potentially lining him up as Hamilton’s replacement when the time comes.  

 

Final Mention:  If you are an F1 fan past or present, you have to check out Tom Clarkson’s podcast, Beyond The Grid.  It is a treasure trove of F1 gold. His weekly guests cover every aspect of the sport and leave me totally engrossed.  On a recent road trip I did the Derek Warwick, Jean Todt, Alex Wurz triple play and didn’t want to get out of the car when I reached my destination.  Even if the current racing is crap (#DRSSUCKS), the individuals who have made it to the top of this sport are fascinating individuals. Two thumbs way up!

 

On to Spa……………. 

 

 

Categories
2019 Racing Season

F1- 2019 Season Preview

It seems like just a few short weeks ago that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso were putting the final touches on the 2018 season with a synchronized doughnut display worthy of a perfect 10 score by the judges at the Yas Marina circuit, but here we are with new cars, new rules and regulations, new driver pairings and fresh optimism for a new championship.  The pursuit of building the perfect racing machine is never ending for the ten constructors comprising the grid, so let’s dive right in and make some predictions about where they stand as we close in on the green flag at Melbourne.

 

Disclaimer-  I’ll just get this out of the way now:  F1 cars should be loud and should be a handful to drive, even for a top flight professional who has been racing since the age of five.  Unfortunately, the 2019 cars do not fit this description.

 

The word for the 2019 season is PRESSURE.  F1 is always a pressure packed environment, but I can’t remember a season where you have more young talent trying to fight their way to the top while the established old guard is fighting to keep the status quo.  This will be the ultimate game of driver Survivor and more than one career will be made or broken over the coming 21 events.

 

Constructors Battle:  It’s Ferrari vs Mercedes in a flat out development race that will continue all the way to Abu Dhabi.  I’d love to say that Red Bull Honda are going to join this fight right out of the gate, but I think they will need a season before they are legitimately in the title hunt. The trend the past 2 seasons has been for Ferrari to start the season with a slightly better package, only to lose out to the German marque as the season progresses.  In an attempt to remedy this situation, Ferrari sacked the movie star cool Maurizio Arrivabene as team principal and replaced him with Mattia Binotto. I don’t know too much about Binotto, but he has the look of a hard core engineer so maybe the Scuderia will get back to the glory days of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn at the helm.

 

Driver Battle: The 2019 title fight will be all about 5 time world champion Lewis Hamilton, 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, Dutch Sensation Max Verstappen and the relatively unknown, Charles Leclerc.  Hopefully this will be epic, but what really has me jazzed up are the inter team battles from Merc all the way down to Williams. There will be 10 mini wars taking place in each garage up and down the paddock that will be exciting to track throughout the year.  Here’s a closer look:

 

Mercedes:  Lewis vs Bottas.  We’ve seen this movie before.  Hamilton and Bottas start the year relatively equal over the first quarter of the season, but then the Finn runs into some bad luck (Baku puncture while leading) and before you know it, Lewis is miles ahead in the points and Toto Wolff is referring to Bottas as the “wing man.”  Bottas then seems to become demoralized and is trounced by his teammate after the summer break. With Estaban Ocon waiting in the garage, this will be the last chance for Bottas to prove he belongs with the sports finest team. He is going to need to pull a Nico and rattle Lewis early or else he’ll be looking for work in the mid field for 2020 (if he’s lucky). Prediction for the higher classified car at the end of each GP:  Lewis 16 – Bottas 5

 

Ferrari:  Vettel vs Leclerc.  Team leader Vettel loses the comfort of a compliant #2 in Kimi and suddenly finds himself having to prove his worth against a young man who clearly has some genius behind the wheel.  Leclerc was the 2016 GP3 champ, the 2017 GP2 champ, and last year was the breakout rookie for Sauber. This battle should be fascinating. Vettel still has the speed to win more titles but his racecraft was below average on more than one occasion last year.  Leclerc had the Sauber in positions it had no place being in last year so there will be multiple weekends when Vettel will have to take a backseat to the Monégasque prodigy.  Will they be able to coexist if this happens?  Who will crack first? Prediction: Vettel 14 – Leclerc 7

 

Red Bull:  Verstappen vs Gasly:  Max comes into this season as the true team leader and should thrive without having to worry about Danny Ric stealing his thunder.  Gasly will be desperate to prove to the Red Bull brass that they made the right decision and will be on the limit and then some trying to keep Max in his sights.  He will also be lobbing a healthy dose of schadenfreude at the Toro Roso drivers in hopes of keeping his seat safe. Gasly is legit and will be quick, but I’m calling that this is the year Max becomes the full package and takes the next step towards becoming the world champ.  He reminds me of Senna and Schumacher in his unwavering self belief and dedication to his craft. The guy truly was bred to be in this position and I still believe he will go down as one of the 10 best ever when it’s all said and done. Prediction: Max 16 – Gasly 5.

 

Renault:  Hulkenberg vs Ricciardo:  For Nico, this is a huge opportunity to prove to the paddock  that it’s been his equipment holding him back over the years and he really is worthy of a big time ride.  It’s insane to think that he’s never had a podium after 9 full seasons, but now he’ll face a motivated teammate in his prime with 29 podiums and 7 wins to his name.  For Danny Ric, first he’ll have to be on top of his game to get the best of Nico before he can focus on building a team around him with big aspirations and factory resources.  The Aussie can certainly get it done on the track, but it remains to be seen if he has that ruthless political side that is necessary to bury his teammate and take a team to the top.  Prediction: Ricciardo 13 – Hulkenberg 8

 

Haas:  Grosjean vs Magnussen:  The French artist vs The Viking.  It seems that when the mood is right, the lighting is right, the wine is tasting splendid and she’s giving him the look, Grosjean can deliver big time.  On most others days he’s pretty dreadful. Magnussen on the other hand is all right foot and big balls. It’s a strange driver pairing and I don’t think they are helped by their strategists on race day compared to the rest of the field.  If Grosjean can keep the car off the walls then he should prevail, but if he has a repeat of 2018 he will likely be looking at a career in FE or WEC. Prediction: Grosjean 11 – Magnussen 10.

 

Alfa Romeo:  Raikkonen vs Giovinazzi:  I just love this pairing. At this point Kimi is sticking around purely for the love of driving an F1 car on the limit.  He may be the only guy on the grid without an ounce of pressure and will likely thrive under the circumstances. Giovanazzi on the other hand is an Italian rookie in the unofficial Ferrari junior team going against a man they (Ferrari) just sacked because he couldn’t get the job done next to Vettel.  Talk about pressure! If he can’t beat Kimi on a regular basis then Ferrari will likely go with another option when the time comes to replace Vettel. Prediction: Kimi 13 – Giovinazzi 8.

 

Racing Point:  Perez vs Stroll:  Another intriguing battle pitting a young driver in Stroll out to prove that he’s more than just the son of the team owner against an established vet in Perez fighting to keep his reputation intact.  If Stroll does prove to be a worthy competitor, look for more fireworks along the lines of Ocon vs Perez. Checo made it very clear over the past two years that he will drive his teammate into the wall on a regular basis if necessary.  Here’s hoping for a Carlos Slim – Lawrence Stroll chest bumping, finger pointing argument in the back of the garage at Monza. Prediction: Perez 16 – Stroll 5.

 

McLaren:  Sainz vs Norris:  Yet another great case of a veteran at the ripe old age of 24 in Sainz trying to keep his career trajectory headed in the right direction.  To do so, he will have to comprehensively squash British boy wonder, Lando Norris. Sainz didn’t do himself any favors with a mediocre year at Renault alongside Hulkenberg in 2018 so his F1 career now likely depends on leading a McLaren resurgence.  At 19, Lando comes to F1 with a really cool name, a world karting title, the Euro F3 title and a series runner in GP2 under his belt and no doubt will be determined to show that he’s the next Lewis Hamilton. If McLaren produces another dog these guys will likely both be tossed to the scrapheap.  This should be fun. Prediction: Sainz 14 – Norris 7.

 

Toro Rosso:  Kvyat vs Albon:   This is an intriguing battle between two drivers that have not had an easy road to the 2019 F1 grid.  For Kvyat, this is his third go round with the Red Bull brass. The first two attempts obviously didn’t end well but maybe a year away at the Ferrari finishing school has given the Russian the right tools to maximize his talents.  Somebody with some pull at Red Bull obviously rates this guy because getting a third chance is unheard of. For Albon, just getting to F1 has been a minor miracle because he didn’t have a Brinks truck full of cash or factory backing for much of his time in the junior categories and his results were all over the board.  Last year in GP2 was a true breakout for the 22 year old by winning four races so it will fascinating to see how he gets along with the pressure of Red Bull on his shoulders. Prediction: Kyvat 12 – Albon 9.

 

Williams:  Russell vs Kubica:  And bringing up the rear of the field may just be the best interteam battle of them all.  Kubica, essentially driving with one arm after an eight year layoff, is taking on yet another British Boy Wonder, the 2017 GP3 champ and 2018 GP2 champ, Mercedes protege George Russell.  I’ve always considered the Pole to be in the Alonso, Lewis, Vettel class prior to his devastating injury but taking on a kid with the golden boots may be a tall order. I’d love to see Kubica dominate the kid, but if the Williams is consistently bringing up the rear of the field it will likely play into the hands of youth and exuberance.  Prediction: Russell 14 – Kubica 7.

 

So with that said, here are the 2019 Predictions:

Hamilton – 8 wins

Vettel – 7 wins

Leclerc – 2 wins

Verstappen – 3 wins

Bottas – 1 win

Gasly

Ricciardo

Hulkenberg

Kimi

Perez

Giovinazzi

Grosjean

Magnussen

Sainz

Stroll

Norris

Kvyat

Albon

Russell

Kubica

 

And just for good measure here are 5 Bold Predictions:

 

-Last year there was one podium finish for those not driving for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.  For 2019, there will be………..2!

 

-Kimi Raikkonen will be spotted in a rooftop bar in Singapore drinking cocktails 2 hours before the start of the GP and will then finish 4th.

 

-Liberty Media will make such a mess of the 2021 rules and prize money distribution package that the 2021 grid will be comprised of the following teams:  Williams, Racing Point, USF1, Gentilozzi Racing, Andrea Moda F1, Harding-Steinbrenner, RuSport, Jaguar, Minardi and MasterCard Lola F1.

 

-Vettel is going to toss away a 20 point advantage to Hamilton over the final 3 races and will retire to the German countryside to focus on German Beard competitions.

 

-Lewis will capture his 6th title and will then retire to focus on his global brand and get his first of many plastic surgeries that will eventually lead to him resembling the late Michael Jackson.  The 2020 Mercedes lineup will be Ocon and Russell.

 

Enjoy the season and RIP Charlie Whiting!