Mercedes

What’s New: Not a huge amount. Naturally, a new car, and a tweaked livery. Valtteri Bottas has a new set of engineers, and the team has support from both Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne back at base. But otherwise, the status quo has largely remained for 2019.

How Testing Went: Fairly well. Struggles with front tyre graining sent alarm bells ringing to begin with, but Mercedes was able to get on top of a number of those issues as it debuted a heavily-updated package at the second test. Lewis Hamilton managed to end the final day of testing just three-thousandths of a second back from pace-setter Sebastian Vettel, acting as a late boost in confidence. But the feeling is that Ferrari remains ahead over the long runs for now.

2019 Objective: An unprecedented sixth consecutive set of F1 world championships. Achieving that this year would confirm this Mercedes team as the greatest in the history of the sport by surpassing the streak of success Ferrari enjoyed in the early 2000s. Anything less than that would act as a big blow for the dominant team of the V6 hybrid era. It looks set to be Mercedes’ most stringent test yet – but we’ve said that both of the past two years, and how did that end?

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Ferrari

What’s New: Revolution took place at Maranello through the winter. The most notable changes? Long-serving Ferrari engineer Mattia Binotto takes over as team principal from Maurizio Arrivabene, bringing in a more open approach; and Charles Leclerc replaces Kimi Raikkonen, becoming Ferrari’s youngest driver for over half a century. Tally in all the changes that took place through the course of last season, and this is a vastly different Scuderia to the one that arrived in Melbourne 12 months ago.

How Testing Went: Almost perfect. Sebastian Vettel was buoyant after his first day of running, with subsequent outings in the new SF90 car only confirming his initial feeling. Ferrari finished at the top of the timesheets, and were calculated to be the leading team over the long runs too, boding very well. The only real setback for Ferrari came in the reliability department as a few issues cropped up, most notable being a wheel rim failure for Vettel that caused him to crash heavily in the second week. The SF90 is a quick car – but can it be sure of getting to the finish?

2019 Objective: Nothing less than ending the 11-year title drought will be good enough for Ferrari this year. The changes that have taken place over the winter were well-executed, meaning there is no need to ‘bed in’ and settle things down. Ferrari’s testing form got the whole paddock talking, meaning the target will be on the Prancing Horse’s back heading to Australia. Charles Leclerc will be eager to prove from the start that he can challenge Vettel, while his German counterpart knows this may be his best chance yet of ending his wait for a fifth world championship. 2018-spec Ferrari cracked under pressure. Will the new regime provide a more steady hand?

Red Bull

What’s New: Red Bull is harnessing ‘the power of dreams’ in 2019 after linking up with new engine partner Honda, having ended its increasingly-fraught relationship with Renault after 12 seasons. Pierre Gasly also arrives at the team to partner Max Verstappen, stepping up after just one full season to replace Daniel Ricciardo.

How Testing Went: Middling at best. Any fears of a McLaren-esque Honda disaster striking were quickly allayed, but the team did have struggles with the power unit’s marriage to the tightly-packaged RB15 chassis, causing some issues. Two crashes for Gasly set the team back through testing as well, meaning it finished with the third-fewest number of laps on the board, only beating Racing Point and Williams. The general pace of the RB15 did not appear to be in the same league as Ferrari or Mercedes, either, making Red Bull firmly look like the third-fastest team heading to Melbourne.

2019 Objective: The optimist would say a first championship bid since 2013, but in reality, it’s unlikely. The Honda partnership is unlikely to yield instant glory, but hopefully Red Bull has learned from McLaren’s past errors and is looking at this as a long-term project. Beating last year’s tally of four race wins would be a sensible target to set, as would seeing a decent first season at the front-end of the grid from Gasly. How Verstappen steps up as team leader will be particularly interesting to watch. He’s wanted this opportunity for some time. Now he has it. And he needs to make the most of it.

SEE ALSO: 

- What Each F1 Team Needs in 2019 Part 1
- What Each F1 Team Needs in 2019 Part 2

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