Fresh new British drivers, new inter-team squabbles, Hamilton’s chase for title number six and the return of the greatest legend that never was – we might just be in for a bumper year. The cars have been launched, the drivers put through their painstaking training regimes, and test laps clocked. Now it’s time for the engines to do the talking in Albert Park, Melbourne. Sky Sports F1 is the home of live and exclusive F1, so here’s why you should go ahead and tune in.Advertisement - Page continues below
As soon as Lewis Hamilton chalked up title number five in Mexico City last year, conversation turned to his next challenge: can he catch Michael? To match Schumacher’s legendary seven titles, first he’ll have to claim his sixth, and 2019 looks set to be tougher than ever. He’ll have Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to contend with for starters, still smarting at coming up short last year. If his testing lap times are anything to go by, the four-time World Champion has returned more determined than ever.
Talking of Vettel, Hamilton might be the least of his worries this year, thanks to the arrival of a new young, hungry teammate – Charles Leclerc. Previous battles with insurgent teammates (think Ricciardo at Red Bull) have made the German, let’s say, a little twitchy. Sparks could well fly if the impressive Leclerc starts to get the better of him. Vettel is desperate to follow in the footsteps of Ferrari icons like Schumacher, Lauda and Fangio and slap a big number 1 on a Scuderia, but will eagerness get the better of him?Advertisement - Page continues below
And it’s not just Vettel v Leclerc. Up and down the grid, there are inter-team bragging rights to be claimed. At Renault, Nico Hulkenberg will desperately want equal footing with new star Daniel Ricciardo, while over at Red Bull, Max Verstappen has a fight to cling on to his young pretender tag thanks to new teammate Pierre Gasly. F1 has a history of fiercely competitive rivalries, so could we see anything like Hamilton v Alonso, or even Senna v Prost?
Aside from the all-conquering Hamilton, British eyes will turn to talented new boys Lando Norris and George Russell, taking their seats at McLaren and Williams. Russell beat Norris to the F2 title last year, so this is already a rivalry to watch out for. Both teams will be hoping for resurgent seasons, and Norris and teammate Carlos Sainz have been looking handy in the McLaren in testing. After all, it’s worth remembering what became of the most recent British drivers to debut in a McLaren and a Williams...
A new chapter
New starts and second chances seem to be a theme at Williams this year. Team Principal Claire Williams is in the process of writing her own chapter in her father’s mammoth legacy project, while aforementioned Brit George Russell will hope to one day conjure the glory days of Mansell and Hill. Then there’s the small matter of the purists’ favourite, the legend of the late 2000s who seemed destined to one day be champion until fate intervened. That’s right, Robert Kubica is back in F1, eight years after his near-fatal rally crash. It’s the feel-good story of the year.
A new job for Jenson
Sky Sports F1 has a few revelations of its own this year, chief among them new star pundit, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button. With Nico Rosberg dipping in and Damon Hill part of the team, you’ll have a World Champion at every race, plus all the favourites including grid-walking stalwart Martin Brundle. Sky Sports F1 has been the home of F1 since 2012, and in that time we’ve seen some incredible drama. Australia is just days away, so strap in for all 21(!) rounds.
To celebrate becoming the home of live and exclusive F1, Sky Sports F1 is now available for just £10 extra a month for new and existing customers in the UK. Go to SkySports.com/SportsAdvertisement - Page continues below