Expect total Italian onslaught

To use Ferrari power unit, but share technical development with Swiss.

Next week will bring a little more F1 news after what seems a very long hiatus since the last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

Tomorrow Haas reveals its new livery, the black and gold of Rich Energy replacing the former red and grey of the American team.

On Monday, Scuderia Toro Rosso will launch the STR14 and Tuesday will be Renault’s day to unveil the team’s 2019 contender.

They will be the first two teams to display their new cars prior to the commencement of preseason testing.

Talking preseason, I wonder if you picked up on a few items over the holiday period regarding teams and organisers views on the coming year?

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, believes that his five-year recovery programme for the beleaguered team will put the Woking outfit back at the top of the table.

The once almost unstoppable team has certainly lost direction in recent years and despite changing from Honda to Renault power are still struggling for reliability and pace.

The appointment of Andreas Seidl, as managing director of the team is another “step forward” in Brown’s programme. Seidl was previously team chief for the Porsche LMP1 equipe until the German manufacturer’s withdrawal from WEC.

It is not his first taste of F1, having been with BMW Sauber F1 until 2009 when he moved to head operations for BMW’s return to DTM.

There is no doubt that Seidl is an extremely competent engineer and team leader.

On current McLaren form he will certainly need all his skills to resurrect the team that brought home eight Constructors’ titles, 12 Drivers’ titles, 182 Grand Prix wins, 155 pole positions, 153 quickest laps, 391 podium positions and 47 one-two finishes in its illustrious history.

The last podium visit was in Australia 2014 when Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button took second and third positions and the last victory was in Brazil 2012, courtesy of Button.

Chief technical officer of Williams, Paddy Lowe, is confident that the Grove team have already turned the corner after a terrible season last year when they finished at the bottom of the championship table with just seven points.

They certainly need a boost as the last win was Pastor Maldonado in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix and prior to that one has to go back to 2004 when Juan Pablo Montoya took the chequered flag in Brazil.

This is another team that has lost the spark that brought them seven Drivers’ championships, nine Constructors’ titles, 114 victories, 128 poles, 243 visits to the podium, 133 quickest laps and 33 one-two finishes.

When looking at the figures for both Williams and McLaren it is hard to believe how the mighty have fallen and one can only hope that 2019 will bring a change in their respective fortunes.

Both teams are hoping for a change in the F1 structure that will result in a more democratic distribution of prize money plus cost caps, but the current scenario does not appear to favour any major changes in the near future.

The name change at Sauber brings a tear to the eye of many elderly followers of Formula One.

This year the Hinwill-based Swiss team will run under the banner of Alfa Romeo Racing. The Italian legend has a proud history in the racing world and must be remembered as the team to take the F1 title for Nino Farina in 1950 and Juan Manuel Fangio the following year.

In the 1960s the company became an engine supplier to F1 teams but with little success.

However, Carlo Chiti’s flat-12 engine was a more competitive unit and ultimately would produce good results in the 1977 and 1978 seasons.

The Brabham team, then owned by Bernie Ecclestone, convinced Alfa to supply the engines without a charge, and the cars achieved 14 podiums including victories for Niki Lauda the Swedish and Italian Grands Prix.

As you are well aware, the new Alfa will be running the Ferrari power unit as it did in Sauber guise, but technical development will be shared with the Swiss team.

Add to this the driver line-up of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi and we could just see a strong contender in the upper midfield. Mike Manley, CEO of Fiat, Chrysler, and Alfa Romeo said: “Alfa Romeo Racing is a new name with a long history in Formula One.

“We’re proud to collaborate with Sauber in bringing Alfa Romeo’s tradition of technical excellence and Italian panache to the pinnacle of motorsport.

“Make no mistake: with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi on one side of the pit wall and Alfa Romeo and Sauber expertise on the other, we are here to compete.”

With the increased Ferrari F1 budget recently announced by Manley it looks as though we can expect a total Italian onslaught in 2019.

With an Italian driver in each team it promises to be a challenging and hopefully rewarding season that the tifosi will remember.

But unless there is a new mindset in the Maranello camp it could turn into yet another half yearly damp squib.

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