Including this weekend’s round under lights in a humid Singapore evening, there are seven rounds of the 2019 F1 season left. It means seven weekends of racing for the teams and drivers to potentially lock down a seat for 2020. As it stands, Nico Hulkenberg and Haas will not be coming together as Haas confirmed on Thursday that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will be their drivers for next year. What this means is that Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Williams, and Alfa Romeo to confirm their pairings. It also continues the driver lineup that Haas has had for the past four years; Grosjean was with the team as they became Haas in 2016, and Magnussen in 2017.
Daniel Ricciardo’s name is another that crops up. Renault and he, allegedly, have an escape clause in his contract. The Perth born driver has a contract that currently releases him at the end of 2020, however Ricciardo has stated that he is still yet to be convinced that the team’s progress in this season has been suitable. Should Ricciardo and Renault see enough to have the Australian stay in 2020, he’ll be partnering Esteban Ocon, with Nico Hulkenberg once rumoured to be heading to Haas. Now that the American team has nailed down Grosjean and Magnussen, it now leaves Hulkenberg in no-man’s-land for the foreseeable future.
“Nothing to announce, nothing is set in stone for now but I believe there is a very realistic chance. That’s a question that’s difficult to go into detail: it’s all confidential and sensitive stuff, as you imagine, but you can also see and imagine yourself what’s still out there. You can see for yourself. It’s going to need a bit more time until we know, and have clarity.” said Hulkenberg. With Alfa Romeo yet to confirm Antonio Giovinazzi for 2020, there is at least one door left open for the 32 year old German.
Williams will be looking at definitely one, perhaps two, drivers for 2020, as Robert Kubica announced overnight that he’ll be stepping down from his role with the team. In a statement released overnight, the veteran said: “I would like to thank the team for the last two years and for helping make my comeback to the Formula One grid possible. I have enjoyed my time with ROKiT Williams Racing, both as Reserve & Development Driver and as a Race Driver this year, but I feel that the time is now right for me to move on to the next chapter in my career.” Kubica will finish his second F1 career with 97 Grands Prix under his wheels.
Another driver with a question mark is Sebastian Vettel. His 2019 season hasn’t gone to plan, with his last win over twelve months ago in Belgium. However support for the Ferrari driver came from an unlikely source. During a press conference, a question was posed about Vettel’s standing in the season, and a response came from his former Red Bull team mate, Daniel Ricciardo. “It’s… a similar position to where he was in 2014 and he bounced back,” said Ricciardo. And with four wins in Singapore for Vettel, Ricciardo says: “And I think he’s just waiting for that weekend to put it all together and get himself back, but it could very well happen this weekend.”
This weekend marks the 12th race at the Marina Bay circuit, with the first race held in 2008. The street based track itself is long at 5.063 kilometres, covering a race distance of 308.706 kilometres and 61 laps. Kevin Magnussen holds the lap record of 1:41.905 and that was in last year’s race. It’s a busy circuit too, with 23 corners. It’s a spectacular circuit, with the night time bright lights of the city visible and Turn 18 taking the race underneath a grandstand. The race conditions and humidity have seen some drivers lose up to 3 kilograms at race’s end.
Free Practice 1 starts at 18.30 local time on Friday 20 September. Qualifying is at 21:00 local on Saturday, with the race start at 20:10 on Sunday 22 September.