It’s that time of year again. The time when I take full advantage of the season of goodwill and pen a not-so-serious feature, because nobody needs to do any deep thinking at this time of year, whether you’ve been celebrating Christmas or not.
Having received gifts that are already in full use and others that required that polite but fake ‘I love it’ face before being returned in a couple of days, once again I’ve been wondering what the most useful gifts might be for some of the drivers on the Formula 1 grid to help their 2019 seasons go a little more smoothly.
A few familiar names return after appearing on last year’s inaugural list, but what’s surprisingly different compared to 12 months ago is the fact that most of these items actually exist. Most of them…
Sebastian Vettel: A Demolition Derby entry
I’m sure you can get this easily enough as a stocking filler… In 2018, the slightest bit of contact seemed to result in Vettel facing the wrong way (think Monza with Lewis Hamilton, Japan with Max Verstappen and Austin with Daniel Ricciardo) while the other driver continued without serious issue.
Fair enough, Vettel says the fine margins could have meant his rival spun and he carried on, but that’s just not what panned out for one reason or another. So perhaps Seb would benefit from having to deal with some heavier contact — the deliberate kind — to make sure he comes out on the right side of such scrapes next year.
The bonus here would be if Vettel was suddenly set to appear at the Delaware State Fair. There’s surely no way Fernando Alonso would let some Stateside motorsport take place without his involvement.
Daniel Ricciardo: A time machine
It has become clear that a big chunk of Ricciardo’s decision to join Renault was made just because he personally wanted a change of scenery, and didn’t take on board the competitive situation. That said, there’s no way he’s going to enjoy being lapped by a Red Bull if the competitive gap remains the same in 2019. Or worse, if it is even bigger.
Ricciardo says he has made his peace with the potential for Max Verstappen to dominate the championship with a Honda-powered Red Bull (read more about that in the New Year…), but if it really is a situation that arises, surely he wouldn’t mind being able to go back to July and sign on the dotted line for a little longer in Milton Keynes.
On the flip side, if the Renault move works out the way he hopes, then Ricciardo should probably be allowed to go back to the immediate aftermath of his decision and stick two fingers up to everyone questioning it. He was pretty restrained to anyone saying he’s made the wrong call, after all.
Note that Lewis Hamilton also could have been the recipient of this, but it was a bit too similar to last year’s social media rewind button. Either way, given the amount of stick he received for describing the area he was brought up as “the slums” before immediately correcting himself — taking it back as quickly as possible — Hamilton clearly would love to have been able to avoid that ball ache altogether. Hopefully it’s Buy One Get One Free.
Charles Leclerc: A degree in politics
Ferrari really is its own little world, and Leclerc will have known that for a while as a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. But any politics he had to deal with at Sauber are going to seem like child’s play compared to Maranello, and at just 21 years old Leclerc may need to play the game carefully for some time to come.
Even the very best drivers have fallen foul of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time at Ferrari (Alain Prost, I’m looking at you), and Leclerc will need to know what he should not say and do as much as what he should.
Esteban Ocon: Laxatives
Not for himself, let’s be clear. But during his year on the sidelines, if Ocon ends up feeling like he’s slipping from the consciousness of the decision makers at Mercedes — or more realistically (what do you mean we’re not being serious here?) if Valtteri Bottas is in excellent form throughout the year — he wouldn’t mind the chance to jump in the car as a last-minute reserve to show what he can do.
It all looked so cute when Lando Norris made Fernando Alonso a cup of tea in Austin this year, but I’d be wary of taking such an offering from Ocon if I was Bottas in 2019…
Daniil Kvyat: The secret to a good night’s sleep
Feel free to get creative for your own version of this gift — vodka, meditation lessons, the Kimi Raikkonen guide to not giving a s**t — but if you’ve been dropped from Red Bull and Toro Rosso already, and then recalled to the latter team, you’re probably going to be fearing the worst after something as small as spilling some coffee in the motorhome.
Lando Norris: Spanish lessons
There are plenty of things Lando Norris will need to learn in his first season as a Formula 1 driver, but Spanish would probably come in handy. His new teammate is Carlos Sainz, and Fernando Alonso is clearly still going to be a major influence at McLaren. In fact, Sainz said the pair are likely to chat in depth about the team’s direction over the Christmas and New Year period back in Spain.
If Alonso decides he wants back in with the F1 team in 2020, one of Sainz or Norris will have to make way, so a bit more to his vocabulary than ‘Hola Amigo’ might be worth having.
Antonio Giovinazzi: Special forces training
I’m amazed how many non-F1 fans know that Kimi Raikkonen is driving for Sauber next year, but not so surprised that they have no knowledge of his teammate. Giovinazzi has earned his chance, but as a rookie alongside the most experienced driver on the grid, he’s going to be up against it when it comes to off-track matters.
Seeing as Raikkonen openly admits how happy he is to have joined the team with the shortest commute to work, the Italian really needs to be able to stand up to interrogation if he’s going to come up with more believable excuses than the Finn in order to get out of media and PR appearances.
The one serious part of all this: I hope you’ve all had a fantastic holiday season however it has been spent, and wish everyone a happy and healthy 2019 ahead. Happy New Year!