Hamilton vs Vettel part 3 - plus outsiders make 2019 an intriguing one
The new Formula 1 season is upon us and it feels like the first day at school after the summer holidays.
Reunited with friends and recognizing faces you see nearly every day.
And then of course it’s the catch up chats that you have after many weeks away.
All 10 teams reunite for the first time (well, technically the third time if you count the two pre-season testings in Barcelona) since the previous race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi wrapped up the 2018 championship.
Lewis Hamilton’s fifth world championship and a fourth with Mercedes feels like a long time ago now.
The Briton put the silver arrows across the finish line before Sebastian Vettel’s prancing horse for the second year in a row.
We all remember Hamilton’s heated rivalry with ex-team mate Nico Rosberg throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Hamilton winning the first two championships but it was Rosberg who had the last laugh under the lights in Abu Dhabi by sealing the third championship battle between them.
Over two years on and we now reach part 3 of this never-ending rivalry of Britain versus Germany.
Could Vettel be third time lucky and finally have his hands on a fifth world championship? It’s been nearly six years in the making if so.
First thoughts looking ahead into the new season is the driver’s line-up that is probably the most exciting line-up since the day I followed F1.
We have Daniel Ricciardo starting his new adventure at Renault and it begins on his home turf for the Australian Grand Prix.
It was only a few months ago that the majority of the F1 community was recovering from the news that he would be leaving Red Bull.
Now it’s the young Pierre Gasly who takes up the challenging role of convincing the bosses at Red Bull that the potential world champion of Max Verstappen is nothing more than a race winner and not a championship winner.
Ricciardo failed to do so or is there something about the Renault group that only the Aussie grit knows.
Hamilton made a similar decision in 2012 to leave his boyhood team, McLaren, to join forces with Mercedes.
Some of us forget how crazy that decision was at the time.
It just shows that decision-making in an industry like F1 can define a racer’s career.
Back to 2019 and only two out of the 10 teams stick with their two drivers from last year and that is Mercedes and Haas.
When you continue looking down the list of this season’s driver’s line-up, every F1 fan’s excitement just gets bigger and bigger.
Kimi Raikkonen leaves Ferrari to return to Sauber, who would have ever predicted that? Especially just weeks after Ricciardo’s Red Bull departure.
Then we have the exciting talent of Esteban Ocon having to give way for Lance Stroll thanks to his highly rich father of Lawrence Stroll.
And to wrap it all up, the racing legend that is… Robert Kubica making a heroic return to the F1 grid for the first time in nine years.
There are so many stories to look into in build-up to the first race of 2019 but the one sector many should look forward to is the race for ‘best of the rest’.
Last year saw Renault improve from their results in 2017 by being crowned the best of the rest.
With the addition of Ricciardo, Renault might just be competing on the same page as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Force India, now Racing Point, have a new partnership of Stroll and Sergio Perez. McLaren, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams have all completely reset their line-ups and will begin a fresh new start in Melbourne.
Williams look to be out of the picture once again after a dismal pre-season but every other team looks unpredictable.
Yet again, 2019 does mark the tenth anniversary of Brawn GP – some inspiration for Claire Williams.
With Racing Point being under a new ownership, they could be the original Force India group by punching above their weight. We just don’t know.
Ocon would have been great a racer for the team if he was offered a third season with the pink panthers.
But now the Frenchman will look to be knocking on Valtteri Bottas’ door if performances don’t improve from the Fin.
The top of the tree of Hamilton followed by Vettel could be challenged with the arrival of Charles Leclerc and a much-needed championship bid from Bottas.
Leclerc’s first race for Ferrari on Sunday will be an emotional one as his godfather, Jules Bianchi, could have been in that seat instead if it wasn’t for the sadness of his death back in 2015.
The Monegasque has added ‘JB17’ onto his Ferrari helmet as he hopes to do the Frenchman proud.
Can you imagine the headlines if Leclerc was victorious in Melbourne? It might be a sign to Ferrari that taking a risk with young drivers might actually be worth it.
There could be a few JB17 hash tags seen across the world of social media.
For Bottas, the time is now!
This will be his third season at Mercedes and he must feel that pressure to perform the best he has ever done in F1 and that is to finally compete against his teammate.
Otherwise, Bottas could be seen as the next Rubens Barrichello or the next Mark Webber – second best.
There are plenty of outsiders that could rattle the Hamilton versus Vettel cage and many fans would welcome it.
2010 was the last championship to have more than two compete for the grand prize and the racing series needs that excitement and unpredictability in 2019.
This season has the recipe for a memorable championship but will it deliver?
By Jamie Davies