With the festive season now behind us, we are all back at work. There's less than a month to go to the start of winter testing, with the first session taking place in Barcelona from 18 to 21 February, followed by a second stint from 26 February to 1 March. There's a real buzz in our Faenza and Bicester premises, with everyone working flat-out, with the aim of getting the first sounds out of our STR14, namely the famous and much awaited fire-up when, along with our partners at Honda, we will bring the car to life for the first time.
Another long and demanding season awaits and, as usual, it gets underway with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 17 March. Once again this year, there are 21 races on the calendar, with the final chequered flag being waved at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit on 1 December. Actually, this year for the first time, it will only be waved symbolically, as the end of all sessions will now be indicated by electronic light panels controlled by the race director. It's another step aimed at avoiding human error, even if these were pretty rare. It's just one of the changes to the sporting rules introduced for 2019. In addition, there is a change to the re-start procedure following a safety car period: as from this year, drivers will not have to worry about the safety car line, but instead, they will be able to overtake only after crossing the start-finish line.
The technical regulations also feature a few modifications. Some aerodynamic elements are no longer allowed and there are slight changes to the wings, with the front one being simplified in order to reduce turbulence so that cars can race closer together, thus increasing the chances of overtaking. The rear wing can be fitted with a higher flap that will create a greater speed differential between the wing in its normal position and when it is in DRS configuration. Then we have a change on the tyre front: in order to make tyre choice more understandable, Pirelli will only run three colours throughout the 2019 season; white, yellow and red, corresponding to the hard, medium and soft compounds. In fact, five compounds will be used throughout the year, from the hardest, C1 to the softest C5, but at each race, the names and colours will be the same three.
You already know about the main change when it comes to our team. It concerns our driver line-up, which sees Daniil Kvyat make a welcome return to our squad, with the Russian partnering Alexander Albon. The 22 year old Anglo-Thai driver is making his Formula 1 debut, moving up from a successful time in Formula 2.