The start of a new Formula 1 season is almost upon us, and PlayON is once again offering you the chance to win big with Official Daily Fantasy F1 contests.
To gain an early advantage ahead of the opening race, we’ve come up with a season preview to highlight the key driver changes and offer a look at how the teams are shaping up.
Once again, 20 drivers in 10 different teams will start with the hope of stopping Lewis Hamilton, with the Briton claiming his fourth title in five years last season.
The main challenge to the Mercedes driver came from Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, as the two most successful drivers of their generation battled for their fifth F1 crown.
While it was the latter who started strongest, a series of mistakes in the second half of the year allowed Hamilton to pull clear with his remarkable consistency seeing him triumph with two races to go.
A changing of the guard?
In 2019, both Vettel and Hamilton will feature predominantly again, but their domination is under threat from two 21-year-olds who are set to lead F1 into the next decade.
Charles Leclerc becomes Ferrari’s youngest race driver in over half a century as he steps up from Sauber, while Max Verstappen continues his rise in a Red Bull team rejuvenated by a switch to Honda engines.
Change is a key theme throughout the grid too, as Daniel Ricciardo makes the bold move to a Renault team looking to make progress towards the front.
Kimi Raikkonen returns to where his career began at the renamed Alfa Romeo Racing and Pierre Gasly steps in where Ricciardo left at Red Bull.
Daniil Kvyat is back at Toro Rosso, but the biggest returnee is Robert Kubica for Williams too, with the Pole back on the grid for the first time since his life-threatening rally crash in early 2011.
Finally, the rookies for this year see the top three drivers of last year’s Formula 2 category making the leap to F1.
Champion George Russell joins Kubica at Williams, Lando Norris follows Hamilton’s path to McLaren and Alex Albon gets his big chance at Toro Rosso.
The early pecking order
With daily fantasy contests running race-by-race though, you need to know who’s looking hot and who’s not, so here is a breakdown of what to expect to start 2019.
In pre-season testing, it was Ferrari who shone brightest with a car that seems well ahead of their rivals despite the very small gap between Vettel and Hamilton in the final standings.
Reliability niggles are a slight concern for the Italian team but, if avoided, stopping the German and his Prancing Horse at the first race will be very difficult indeed.
Red Bull are the big unknown to start the year, as two crashes for Gasly left the team short on parts and unable to post some representatively quick times.
The consensus is the team will be somewhere near Mercedes and most likely third-best at least.
In the midfield, well, it’s a melee. Renault are expected to begin the year as ‘best of the rest’ having cruised through testing but Alfa Romeo, Haas, Toro Rosso and McLaren are all very close behind.
In this situation, it’s the driver making the difference. That’s why Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are the names to follow.
Others are to be avoided though. Antonio Giovinazzi is seemingly off the pace and McLaren, with Norris and Carlos Sainz, flattering to deceive in pre-season.
Ready to surprise us is Racing Point, as they will have a big upgrade package coming for the first race.
That may well bring them into play with the rest – and with the opportunistic Sergio Perez aboard, they are the dark horses for the Australian Grand Prix.
Definitely not surprising anyone is Williams, as delays saw them start testing late and sees them trailing the rest of the grid to start the season. It’s a major disappointment for Russell and Kubica.
Having touched on some picks for Australia here, we’ll have a full in-depth look at the first race next week, but hopefully this has whet your appetite for what promises to be an exciting year ahead.
Get a head start and pick your teams now.