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Chinese Grand Prix driver ratings

 

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton struggled throughout the weekend, but when it mattered in qualifying, he produced a strong lap to secure a front row start. With starts being arguably his weakest area, he was on top of it this weekend, and after taking the lead into the first turn, controlled proceeding unchallenged thereon in.

Rating: 9.0

Valtteri Bottas

It was a more on form Bottas this weekend after a poor showing in Bahrain. Taking his seventh pole position, Bottas’ chance of a win slipped away mere metres into the Grand Prix. However, he kept Hamilton in his sights throughout to secure another 1-2 finish for Mercedes.

Rating: 8.0

Sebastian Vettel

After a disastrous outing in Bahrain, Vettel was gunning for the win in Shanghai. However, as Mercedes was simply in a class of its own, a podium finish was probably the best he could have achieved.

Rating: 7.5

Max Verstappen

Verstappen did well to split the Ferraris in the race after heavily outperforming teammate Pierre Gasly in qualifying. He had a go on Sebastian Vettel, but just didn’t have the pace in the car to keep up with the German.

Rating: 8.0

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc ended up getting hit hard by Ferraris strategy call. It seemed he lacked a little pace compared to Vettel throughout the weekend, but still should have finished in at least fourth place.

Rating: 7.0

Pierre Gasly

Heading into the season, Red Bull probably expected Gasly to pick up mostly sixth place positions. That he managed in China but was still a long, long way off Verstappen. Nevertheless, it was an improvement from Australia and Bahrain.

Rating: 6.0

Daniel Ricciardo

It was the race that Ricciardo was hoping for. After two consecutive DNF’s for Renault, picking up the ‘best of the rest spot’ and his first points of the year was exactly what he needed as he continues to acclimatise himself in his new team.

Rating: 8.0

Sergio Perez

Typical Sergio Perez. After missing out on a spot in Q3, the Mexican perfected a one-stop strategy, doing what he does best. Obtaining more points for Racing Point, it was a smooth and successful race for the 29-year-old.

Rating: 9.0

Kimi Raikkonen

Like Bahrain, Raikkonen had a pretty quiet weekend. After ending his streak of Q3 appearances, he too drove a one-stop strategy and picked up more points for Alfa Romeo.

Rating: 8.0

Alexander Albon

Albon was the popular choice for Driver of the Day after the race, as he drove to a solid P10 finish after starting from the pit lane. It was a great race drive, but his wreck in FP3 which put him out of qualifying can’t go unmentioned. It remains to be seen if his Honda power unit can be used again going forward.

Rating: 7.5

Romain Grosjean

Grosjean was unlucky to not be able to set a time in the final stage of qualifying, as Haas came from having no pace in Friday practice to getting both cars in Q3 when it mattered. Even though they did not show the pace that they had at the first race of the season in Australia, it was strategy which was the limiting factor that meant Grosjean couldn’t score any points.

Rating: 7.0

Lance Stroll

Stroll has continued his seven-race streak of being eliminated in Q1 (although four of these were for Williams), and he did not show the same pace that his teammate Perez had in his Racing Point during the race. A late pitstop prevented him from a possible P11 finish, but this would still not have earned the Canadian any points.

Rating: 6.0

Kevin Magnussen

Magnussen had a similar strategy to his teammate Romain Grosjean, a strategy that ultimately didn’t work. However, the Dane did not have the speed of Grosjean in the race.

Rating: 6.0

Carlos Sainz

Sainz suffered yet another blow in what has been a horrible start to the season for the Spaniard, as he lost a lot of time in his first lap collision with Kvyat. He extracted all he could from the car in qualifying, where he was comfortably faster than his teammate Norris, and then had good race pace in his comeback drive.

Rating: 6.5

Antonio Giovinazzi

Giovinazzi is had another weekend to forget, where he was unlucky to not be able to complete a timed lap in qualifying. However, he also was quite far off the pace of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen during the race. The Italian also managed to be beaten by Sainz, which should never have happened given the gap between the pair after lap one.

Rating: 5.0

George Russell

Yet again we do not feel that it would be fair to give the Williams’ drivers a rating, as they can only be compared against themselves. It was still a relatively good performance from Russell, who made a two-stop strategy work to beat his teammate Kubica for the third race running.

Rating: N/A

Robert Kubica

Kubica had a much better weekend than the previous two rounds of the season, as he was much closer to his teammate George Russell both in qualifying and the race. He is still suffering from issues with his Williams car that aren’t apparrent on Russell’s FW42.

Rating: N/A
Lando Norris

Norris had his first retirement in Formula 1 at the Chinese Grand Prix, which came after a disappointing qualifying meant he was caught up in the first lap incident with Kvyat and his teammate Sainz. He didn’t have much pace in the race up until his retirement, due to heavy damage to the floor, sustained during the incident.

Rating: 5.0
Daniil Kvyat

Kvyat performed well in qualifying to miss out on a Q3 appearance by only 0.022s, the stewards deemed the Russian to be the cause of the first lap incident with the two McLarens. This meant he was awarded a drive-through penalty, which effectively ruined his race. Toro Rosso later retired the car to reduce the engine and gearbox mileage.

Rating: 6.0

Nico Hulkenberg

After losing out by a small margin in qualifying to Ricciardo, Hulkenberg was unfortunate to have to retire his RS19 after only 15 laps due to yet another MGU-K problem for Renault.

Rating: N/A

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Chinese GP: Hamilton storms to race victory

 

Lewis Hamilton has taken the lead in the world championship for the first time in 2019 as he crossed the line in first place at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Briton was unchallenged on his way to his 75th career win, as he beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to the chequered flag at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Hamilton got the jump on Bottas off the line, and took the lead into the first corner, making it three from three races in 2019 that the pole sitter hasn’t headed the pack into the opening corner of the Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc also got past his teammate Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1, but couldn’t keep up with the Mercedes’ who started to pull away.

There was a brief virtual safety car period after Daniel Kvyat came together with the two McLarens on the exit of Turn 6. Daniil Kvyat received a drive-through penalty for the incident, whie McLaren failed to score any points.

On the 11th lap, Leclerc let Vettel past to allow the German to go in chase of Bottas in front. However, Vettel failed to pull away quickly and while he towed Leclerc along, Max Verstappen closed in in the Red Bull.

The Dutchman then triggered the pit stops, as he boxed for medium tyres. Vettel responded on the next lap, coming out just in front of the 21-year-old. Verstappen attempted an overtake at the Turn 14 hairpin, but failed to make the move stick, getting pushed out onto the grass by Vettel.

When Leclerc pitted a number of laps later, he emerged far behind Verstappen in fifth place, where he would remain for the rest of the race, even after the second round of pit stops.

Out in front, Mercedes was unchallenged and decided to stack their cars when they made their second pit stops, after Vettel and Verstappen.

Pierre Gasly drove a lonely race but picked up his best result at Red Bull, crossing the line in sixth place. However, he pitted in the last couple of laps and managed to pick up the extra point for the fastest lap.

Daniel Ricciardo also had a quiet race for Renault but managed to pick up his first points of the year, finishing in seventh place. He headed Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen who were eighth and ninth respectively.

After starting from the pitlane, Albon drove a one-stop strategy to pick up the final point on offer, while also winning the Driver of the Day vote.

It was a tough day for Haas, who failed to pick up points despite having both of its cars inside the top ten for the start of the Grand Prix.

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Magnussen and Grosjean retain Haas seats

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean will remain with Haas for the 2019 Formula One season.

Magnussen is ninth in the driver standings with 49 points in his second season with the American team following his move from Renault.

Grosjean, who has driven for Haas since its inception in 2016, has 27 points to his name, leaving them fifth in the constructor standings ahead of the Russian Grand Prix this weekend.

Team principal Guenther Steiner said the duo deserved to keep their seats following what has been Haas’ best season.

“From the very beginning, we needed experienced drivers to hasten the development of our car and our team, and we have two very good and experienced drivers in Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen,” said Steiner.

“We’ve improved drastically from last year to this year, so retaining both drivers was a pretty easy decision.”

He added: “I think the 100-point barrier should be and will be broken, and we’ll do it with Romain and Kevin.

“Both drivers push each other to be better, and their collective feedback allows us to be better. It’s not a coincidence that in their second year as team-mates, Haas is having its best year.

“By keeping Romain and Kevin together, we aim to do even better next year.”

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Team by team analysis of Belgian Grand Prix

MERCEDES (Lewis Hamilton 2, Valtteri Bottas 4)

Mercedes stretched their championship lead by five points but could not match the Ferrari’s pace. Bottas came from 17th place on the grid, due to engine penalties, and set the fastest lap. Hamilton’s lead over Vettel is now 17 points.

FERRARI (Sebastian Vettel 1, Kimi Raikkonen retired)

Vettel took his fifth win of the season and 52nd of his career, one more than now-retired French great Alain Prost. He started second on the grid, passed Hamilton on lap one and won by 11 seconds. Raikkonen retired in the pits with a damaged car after a first lap collision with Red Bull’s Ricciardo.

RED BULL (Max Verstappen 3, Daniel Ricciardo retired)

Verstappen started seventh, passing Grosjean and the two Force Indias on track, and moves up to fifth overall and ahead of Ricciardo in the standings. Ricciardo hit the rear of Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the start, requiring a rear wing change. He retired to save mileage on the engine and gearbox.

RENAULT (Carlos Sainz 11, Nico Hulkenberg retired)

Hulkenberg started 18th due to engine penalties and crashed into Alonso at the first corner, for which he collected a 10 place grid drop for the Italian Grand Prix next weekend. He accepted the blame. Sainz started 19th but was 13th by lap two.

HAAS (Romain Grosjean 7, Kevin Magnussen 8)

MCLAREN (Stoffel Vandoorne 15, Fernando Alonso retired)

Alonso was shunted out by Hulkenberg, his car skimming across Leclerc’s Sauber and hitting the halo head protection device. Vandoorne was the last finisher at his home race.

TORO ROSSO (Pierre Gasly 9, Brendon Hartley 14)

Future Red Bull driver Gasly finished in the points for the second race in a row after starting 10th, with the team pulling a further point away from Sauber and closing the gap to McLaren.

 SAUBER (Marcus Ericsson 10, Charles Leclerc retired)

Ericsson scored points for the fourth race this year. Leclerc could thank the halo for escaping serious injury after Alonso’s McLaren flew over his head at the start.

FORCE INDIA (Sergio Perez 5, Esteban Ocon 6)

The newest team on the grid, after the demise of the old Force India, scored their first points and immediately overtook Williams in the standings. Ocon had qualified third and Perez fourth but they could not hold off Verstappen and Bottas.

WILLIAMS (Sergey Sirotkin 12, Lance Stroll 13)

No points again for struggling Williams, although both did run in the top 10 briefly early on and the car showed signs of improvement.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin)

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Alonso rejected chance to join Red Bull

 

Fernando Alonso turned down an offer from Red Bull before announcing his departure from Formula One.

The Spanish driver revealed during the mid-season break that he will leave McLaren at the end of the 2018 season and will not seek a drive with any other team on the grid.

The two-time F1 world champion – who has been successful this year in the World Endurance Championship, including winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans – has been linked with a switch to IndyCar.

However, in an interview with Sky Sports ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, the 37-year-old revealed he was presented with the chance to replace the departing Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

When it was put to him he was too good for the leading teams, because of the other drivers already on their rosters, he said: “From one of these top three teams you mentioned, I’ve had the offer a couple of times already this year, but it was not the case for me to join that adventure.

“At the moment, Formula One is not giving me the challenges I’m looking for.

“Outside of F1, I’m discovering different series in motorsport that gives you different challenges and makes you maybe a more complete driver, and that’s what I will try to find in 2019.”

Asked if the team in question was Red Bull, he replied: “Yes.”

Alonso’s declaration comes after team principal Christian Horner had already dismissed the possibility of the former Ferrari driver moving to Red Bull, claiming he caused “a bit of chaos” despite his impressive list of achievements on the track.

“I’ve got huge respect for Fernando, he is a great driver, a fantastic driver, but it’s very difficult to see [him joining Red Bull] and he’s tended to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone,” Horner told F1’s official podcast Beyond the Grid earlier in August.

“I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join the team. So I think our preference is to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who is towards the end of his career.”

Red Bull announced on Monday that Pierre Gasly will partner Max Verstappen for the 2019 season, the Frenchman joining them from junior team Toro Rosso.

Fernando Alonso turned down an offer from Red Bull before announcing his departure from Formula One.

The Spanish driver revealed during the mid-season break that he will leave McLaren at the end of the 2018 season and will not seek a drive with any other team on the grid.

The two-time F1 world champion – who has been successful this year in the World Endurance Championship, including winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans – has been linked with a switch to IndyCar.

However, in an interview with Sky Sports ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, the 37-year-old revealed he was presented with the chance to replace the departing Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

When it was put to him he was too good for the leading teams, because of the other drivers already on their rosters, he said: “From one of these top three teams you mentioned, I’ve had the offer a couple of times already this year, but it was not the case for me to join that adventure.

“At the moment, Formula One is not giving me the challenges I’m looking for.

“Outside of F1, I’m discovering different series in motorsport that gives you different challenges and makes you maybe a more complete driver, and that’s what I will try to find in 2019.”

Asked if the team in question was Red Bull, he replied: “Yes.”

Alonso’s declaration comes after team principal Christian Horner had already dismissed the possibility of the former Ferrari driver moving to Red Bull, claiming he caused “a bit of chaos” despite his impressive list of achievements on the track.

“I’ve got huge respect for Fernando, he is a great driver, a fantastic driver, but it’s very difficult to see [him joining Red Bull] and he’s tended to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone,” Horner told F1’s official podcast Beyond the Grid earlier in August.

“I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join the team. So I think our preference is to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who is towards the end of his career.”

Red Bull announced on Monday that Pierre Gasly will partner Max Verstappen for the 2019 season, the Frenchman joining them from junior team Toro Rosso.

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Hamilton ahead but still focused on catching up

BUDAPEST  – Lewis Hamilton leads Formula One into the August break by a healthy margin but, despite winning from pole position in Hungary on Sunday, the champion feels Mercedes still have some catching up to do.

Ferrari had looked favourites for victory at the Hungaroring but could not show their true race pace after Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas made the most of a wet qualifying on Saturday.

The circuit is famously difficult for overtaking and Bottas, however much it pained him to be told, proved an excellent ‘wingman’ in keeping the Ferraris behind while Hamilton built a buffer.

Hamilton, now 24 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after 12 of the 21 races, will head off on holiday a happy man but also recognising he is in a different kind of fight this year compared to 2017

“This year we all know that Ferrari really do have the upper hand pace-wise,” said the Briton after his fifth win of the campaign.

“But to win a championship is not just about speed, it’s about how you manage things, the strategy calls you make, mistakes, all these different things weigh up.”

While Mercedes have made some glaring strategy mistakes, Vettel has made more errors in the heat of battle than his rival.

WORK TO DO

The Briton has now won six times in Hungary, more than any driver, but has yet to do so and take the title in the same season.

There is still plenty of work to do if he is to break that streak, even if Hamilton is well ahead of where he was this time last year when he went into the August shutdown 14 points adrift of Vettel.

“We’ve got things to improve, we’ve got performance to bring moving forwards. We’ve got to try and catch them,” said Hamilton of Ferrari’s perceived pace advantage.

“But we’ve got to continue to keep rising with all the other elements, which allows us to beat the Ferraris when they don’t bring their A game.”

The second half of the season has been good for Hamilton in the past, with the Briton coming back strongly last year to clinch his fourth title.

He rejected a suggestion that he had a couple of fingers on a fifth already, however.

“Absolutely not. I think it’s far too early and you’ve seen the ups and downs we’ve had from this year, you’ve been ahead by some points and behind some points,” he said.

“A lot can happen moving forwards but what’s really important is that we continue to keep up the pressure and keep working as we have done until now. There’s nothing we really need to alter.

“It’s important to capitalise on those difficult weekends such as this and I think that’s really been a key strength of ours this year,” he added.

Belgium is next up, followed by Italy, and Hamilton won both of those last year. But before then he can enjoy a few weeks of down time.

“Now it’s holiday, I’m going to meet my mum and my sister and niece and nephew tonight and I’ll spend the next four or five days with them,” he said on Sunday.

“It’s not too often I get to do family holidays so that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Red Bull confirm Honda switch

Red Bull have confirmed they will switch engine suppliers from 2019 and begin a new era with Honda power units.

Speculation about the future of Red Bull’s deal with Renault emerged last season as the Austrian team struggled for pace and reliability.

Sister team Toro Rosso made the move to Honda for 2018 and the signs have been encouraging, with Pierre Gasley and Brendon Hartley securing three points finishes between them.

Having been impressed by the progress made by Toro Rosso, Red Bull have decided they too will use Japanese power, signing a deal for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

“This multi-year agreement with Honda signals the start of an exciting new phase in Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s efforts to compete not just for grand prix wins but for what is always our goal – championship titles,” said team principal Christian Horner.

“We have always taken decisions such as this dispassionately and with only one criteria in mind – do we believe the outcome will allow us to compete at a higher level.

“After careful consideration and evaluation we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team.

“We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our sister team Toro Rosso, and by the scope of their ambition, which matches our own.

“We look forward to working with Honda in the coming years and to racing together in pursuit of F1’s biggest prizes.”

The deal brings Red Bull’s partnership with Renault to an end, the pair having worked together since 2007, winning four drivers’ and four constructors’ titles between 2010 and 2013.

“We would like to thank Renault for the past 12 years, a period during which we experienced some incredible moments together,” added Horner.

“We have sometimes had our differences but Renault has always worked tirelessly and to the best of its ability to provide us with a competitive power unit. That is still the case today and we would like to thank the Renault team, and particularly the guys in our garage at every race, for their unstinting commitment and we look forward to ending our partnership on a high come the end of this season.

“Our focus for the rest of this year is still very much on delivering the best results possible in the 2018 Championship and we wish Renault Sport all the best for the future.”

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F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: McLaren

After ending their relationship with Honda, we assess McLaren’s hopes of returning to form in the 2018 Formula One season.

Ahead of the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season in Australia on March 25, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.

Here we assess whether McLaren can hope for improvement after a series of disappointing years.

HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2017?

It was a season to forget for McLaren, who recorded just four classified finishes from their two cars in the opening seven grands prix.

The car was dogged by reliability issues but star driver Fernando Alonso managed to finish the campaign with three successive point finishes.

However, the damage had been done and finishing ninth out of 10 in the constructors’ standing led to a split with engine supplier Honda.

THE 2018 LINE-UP

Fernando Alonso

One of the most talented drivers on the grid, Alonso would arguably have more than his two world titles had a move to McLaren in 2014 not proved hugely unsuccessful. He will be busy this year as he juggles F1 and the World Endurance Championship as he continues his quest to complete the ‘Triple Crown’.

Stoffel Vandoorne

The 25-year-old Belgian showed signs of promise in his rookie year, with only Alonso’s strong finish to the campaign meaning he did not outscore his illustrious team-mate. Vandoorne showed plenty of potential at testing in Barcelona, particularly using the hypersoft tyres, which he will hope transfers to the 2018 season.

THE TO-DO LIST

– Eliminate small mistakes. A broken exhaust clip worth just £2 consigned Vandoorne to an entire testing session in the garage at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while a loose wheelnut sent Alonso spinning into the gravel on the opening day.

– Make a strong start. McLaren were always playing catch up after a string of abysmal performances in the early stages of 2017 and can ill afford a repeat if they are to push the teams behind Mercedes and Ferrari

HOW WILL THEY FARE?

It is difficult to gauge the pace McLaren will possess this season with a “substantial” upgrade package planned in time for Melbourne, but Alonso appears confident.

“What I don’t have is any reason to believe we are not going to be competitive,” he said in Barcelona. “We have an engine that is not an experiment.”

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F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: Sauber

Finishing off the foot of the constructors’ standings should be the priority for Sauber after a disappointing
Sauber’s link-up with Alfa Romeo sees them switch to a red and white livery.

Ahead of the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season in Australia on March 25, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.

Here we assess Sauber’s chances of success in the first season of their partnership with Alfa Romeo.

HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2017?

Sauber have developed an unfortunate reputation as one of F1’s perennial strugglers, and 2017 was no different as they finished 10th in the constructors’ standings for the third time in four years.

Their five points were, at least, an improvement on the two-point haul of the previous season, with Pascal Wehrlein responsible for the sum of their total after top-10 finishes in Spain and Azerbaijan.

It was not enough for the young German to keep his seat for 2018, however.

THE 2018 LINE-UP

Marcus Ericsson

Ericsson is retained for a fourth season at Sauber despite having not contributed a single point since racking up nine in his first campaign with the team in 2015.

The 27-year-old Swede has always denied that his own backers were linked to a takeover of Sauber in 2016, but there is no doubt Ericsson has been afforded more opportunities than most to impress in F1.

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc has emerged as one of the brightest prospects in motorsport over recent reasons, winning the GP3 series in 2016 before being crowned Formula 2 champion last year.

The Ferrari junior will be aware of the need to impress, with predecessor Wehrlein left without a seat this year, but his primary focus should be outperforming team-mate Ericsson.

THE TO-DO LIST

– Sauber have to make the most of their new technical partnership with Alfa Romeo. Long gone are the days of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica steering them to second and third in the constructors’ championship in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Increased reliability is of paramount importance for them.

– Help Leclerc fulfil his potential. Being part of the Ferrari system means Leclerc may well have Kimi Raikkonen’s seat in his sights come the end of this season. With that kind of motivation, Leclerc could fly if given a car capable of fighting for points.

HOW WILL THEY FARE?

Not finishing bottom of the constructors’ championship should be the priority for Sauber. They should look to pick off the likes of Toro Rosso and Haas, as well as McLaren if the fallen giants continue to struggle.

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F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: Williams

Ahead of the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season in Australia on March 25, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.

Here, we assess Williams’ chances of troubling the sport’s big three this year.

HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2017?

While Williams remained steady with another fifth-place finish last season, their points total dropped off by more than 50 and continued their path on a concerning downward trajectory.

The team finished third in the constructors’ championship in their first season using Mercedes power in 2014 but have suffered a year-on-year decline ever since.

Their highlight of last season was a podium finish for rookie Lance Stroll. The young Canadian is now the experienced head after Sergey Sirotkin was preferred to Robert Kubica to fill the seat left by Felipe Massa.

THE 2018 LINE-UP

Lance Stroll

Stroll joined Williams in 2016 as a development driver and his efforts behind the scenes were enough to earn a seat for the 2017 campaign.

He endured a difficult start to life in an F1 car, suffering numerous crashes during testing before retiring from the opening three races of the season.

However, Stroll soon got to grips with the car and managed an unexpected third-place finish in Azerbaijan. Williams will want to see him reproduce that kind of performance in 2018.

Sergey Sirotkin

Sirotkin was the eventual winner of a well-publicised battle to replace the retiring Massa at Williams.

The Russian – a former Renault and Sauber test driver – saw off competition from the likes of Paul Di Resta and Robert Kubica, who did land a role as reserve driver.

THE TO-DO LIST

– Stroll will have to grow up quickly as he becomes the senior partner in this team alongside a rookie team-mate only three years his senior.

– Keeping Kubica happy will also be key. He may have missed out on the drive, but his experience and knowledge of the sport could be of great value to his two young team-mates. His decision to step aside on the last day of testing to allow the two race drivers more track time proves he can be a real team player.

HOW WILL THEY FARE?

Williams look likely to be locked in another midfield battle in 2018 – very few people are tipping them as a potential surprise package.

Don’t be surprised to see them end up fifth again, but even that could be a challenge, with Renault and McLaren potentially set to make significant strides this season.