How the F1 world has changed since the last Chinese Grand Prix

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen in 2019 and 2024

How time flies eh?

F1 is back in Shanghai after a COVID-enforced break but how has the sporting landscape changed in the last five years?

With the Shanghai International Circuit back on the schedule, it has given us the perfect chance for some reminiscing and a look at just how much the world of F1 has changed since the last Chinese Grand Prix.

The rise and rise of Max Verstappen

If you had to pick one driver whose life has changed the most since 2019, it would have to be Max Verstappen.

Since the last race in China, Verstappen has been in unbelievable form and added three world titles to his record.

But not only have there been titles but also a ridiculous number of records broken. He put together winning runs that saw him take two of the top three spots of most consecutive victories, he scored points in 43 consecutive races, took 36 poles and 52 wins and looks on course to add to that tally in Shanghai.

In 2022, he signed a new six-year deal at Red Bull, making him one of the sport’s top earners and the young driver with potential that last raced in China returns as a bonafide great.

Mercedes knocked off their perch

If Verstappen is enjoying his dominant run now, in 2019 it was the reign of Mercedes. Their victory in China was their 90th of their F1 tenure and 80th since returning to the sport and while their stranglehold on the Constructors’ title continued until 2021, in 2022 they massively fell away.

The W13 proved to be the first of a nightmare run of cars for the Silver Arrows and the team that will race in China this year looks a lot different to the 2019 version.

The W15 is at best the fourth quickest car on the grid and their prize asset of Lewis Hamilton has already confirmed his departure to Ferrari. In their winning run, Mercedes looked unbeatable, now they look beaten.

Two World Champions departed while another returned

While there are plenty of familiar faces on the 2019 grid who are still there today, there have also been a number of exits including two World Champions.

In 2019, Kimi Raikkonen was racing for Alfa Romeo who would go on to be the final team of his F1 career. The Finn, who won the title with Ferrari in 2007, retired at the end of the 2021 campaign and has since been guiding his son Robin up the karting ranks.

Another World Champion to depart was Raikkonen’s former Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel who left F1 in 2022. Vettel was still racing for Ferrari in 2019 but would leave the team in 2021 and join Aston Martin. He hung up his racing gloves a year later but rumours of a comeback are never too far away…

Other drivers to have left the sport include Daniil Kvyat, Antonio Giovinazzi, Romain Grosjean and Robert Kubica.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso, who retired in 2018, has returned to the sport and will continue for a few years more with confirmation of an extension to his Aston Martin contract.

F1’s big boom

In 2019, Liberty Media were two years into their ownership of F1 but just a month before the Chinese race, an important event occurred which would change the sport’s trajectory.

Drive to Survive had just arrived onto Netflix and the show would go on to have an enormous effect on its target subject. FOM was bought for $4.4 billion in 2017 and a report last year claimed a $20+ billion deal was rejected out of hand.

The world of F1 is no longer split between those who have and those who have not and now almost every team is profitable.

The calendar has also increased year on year. Following the COVID-hit 2020, each season since has had at least 22 races. In 2024 and 2025 there will be 24 grands prix.

New venues have arrived in the form of Las Vegas and Miami and China returns to a much different schedule than the one it was last on.

F1 has also changed president with former CEO of Lamborghini Stefano Domenicali replacing Chase Carey in 2020.

Plenty of new names but no new entrants

A look at the grid from 2019 compared to now would show a lot of teams have changed since that last race but a look under the bonnet reveals it is the same people in charge.

The likes of Sauber, Racing Point, Renault and Toro Rosso (twice) have new names but the owners behind them remain the same. The only difference is Sauber will soon be taken over by Audi but that is not coming into place until 2026.

But that is not through the want of trying. When the FIA opened up their expression of interest process last year, four teams applied and while Andretti got the green light, they were rejected earlier this year by FOM.

Andretti have also tried to buy their way in with a deal for Sauber reportedly falling at the last minute.

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Rookies come good

2019 will go down as one of the strongest seasons of rookie cohorts as Lando Norris, George Russell and Alex Albon all joined the sport.

They may have only scored one win between them since but Norris in particular has established himself as one of the best drivers in what is his sixth season in the sport.

Russell meanwhile achieved his long-held goal of driving for Mercedes while Albon continues to impress at Williams. A combined points total of 1,391 show just how good those trio are.

We should also make a mention of Charles Leclerc who was in his maiden season for Ferrari in 2019 and while he has got just five wins to his name, he is also considered one of the best drivers on the grid.

A new format but not everyone is pleased

F1 has also introduced the sprint format to the sport, starting in 2021. What was first a qualifying method for the grand prix has become its own mini-event and China will host the first of the season this weekend.

While some are happy to see more competitive action during a weekend, Verstappen has led the criticism of the format, suggesting it takes away from Sunday’s main race.

56kg of car as F1 goes big and bulky

2022 saw a mass overhaul of the regulations and with it, Formula 1 had its biggest and bulkiest cars of all time.

The current generation needs to weigh at least 796kg while in 2019, the drivers were going round in cars weighing 740kg.

The 2024 cars can also be a maximum of two metres wide and 95cm tall and while overtaking in China with its long straights will not be such an issue, tracks like Monaco seem increasingly dated.

Read next: Chinese GP track guide: Refresh your memory of a lap of Shanghai five years on from last visit