2020 Formula 1 Season Begins: What to expect?
On 5 July, the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship finally begins, 218 days since the lights went out in Abu Dhabi to bring 2019 to an end - the longest pause between seasons in the history of the sport.
Lock-down has challenged the entire globe, F1 teams have been affected but the show must go in Spielberg starting with the first F1 free practice of the season on Friday, 3 July followed by qualifying a day later and the race on Sunday.
What to expect?
Mercedes will be looking to make it 14 titles in seven years and start the season as obvious favourites. Lewis Hamilton could usurp Michael Schumacher's incredible wins record and may tie the great German for seven drivers' titles in the top flight.
Expect the Silver Arrows to have a bullet-proof car and speed for both Lewis and Valtteri Bottas to ply their trade. The Finn has to again prove his worth as Sebastian Vettel's departure from Ferrari makes him a free agent and Bottas knows he has to deliver. Nevertheless, expect them to be contenders for victory at every race with Hamilton hunting wins from race one to continue from where he left off last year, with victory at Yas Marina Circuit.
Ferrari are dealing with the Vettel departure while focusing on their campaign which now is fully spearheaded by their shooting star Charles Leclerc. The Reds are looking to end a title-drought stretching back to 2008. Tifosi are expecting, as they always do, and, for now, Maranello are playing down those expectations but are more than likely to put out a decent car for their drivers. However the question remains: can they sustain a campaign to dethrone the Champs?
Leclerc has all the credentials to succeed and with the right kit at his disposal will be a factor while Vettel has turned into something of an enigma as his decision to quit the team came out of left-field. How this translates into performances, only time will tell.
Red Bull powered by Honda has pundits predicting that Max Verstappen will take the fight to Lewis and Mercedes. The season starts with a double-header on home turf - Red Bull Ring - where Max won last year, and with Alex Albon as a 'wingman' these predictions may not be far off the mark.
Honda has been relentless in developing its power unit and the Blues have an inspired Adrian Newey hard-at-work on their side. With the full might behind the organisation pushing for Max, with a decent package, the Dutchman will be a serious contender.
McLaren were the Best-of-the-Rest last year after Zak Brown's restructuring bore fruit with Andreas Seidl as team principal transforming the team. This year is their last with Renault-power before a return to Mercedes engines in 2021. Carlos Sainz is also departing Woking for Ferrari with Daniel Ricciardo stepping in the door. For the season ahead Carlos is likely to grow in stature and, with young and impressive Lando Norris in the sister car, expectations are that the orange cars will again set the benchmark in the mid-pack.
Renault will have to rethink their future as their ace Daniel Ricciardo will end his lucrative tenure with the French outfit at the end of the season. Nevertheless, until then, expect the Aussie to provide his usual brand of speed and racecraft at the sharp end of the midpack, while Esteban Ocon will be eager to impress and reaffirm his belonging on the grid after a season on the sidelines.
Racing Point are in their final year before they morph into Aston Martin. Led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll the team have lofty ambitions and the financial muscle to make things happen. Everyone will be expecting them to have a better season than last year, but this will all depend on the package they concoct at the Silverstone-based HQ.
Alpha Tauri will be on the grid for the 'first' time this season, the Red Bull-owned team was rebranded from Toro Rosso to promote the organisation's fashion brand. Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat are teamed up to provide cover for the senior team, meaning should Albon not shape up against Max one of them will get the call. Podiums last year for both drivers will no doubt serve as inspiration.
Alfa Romeo has positioned itself as the unofficial Ferrari B-Team. Like last year, Kimi Raikkonen again teams up with Antonio Giovinazzi. How long the veteran Finn stays interested will be worth watching because on the sidelines they have young Mick Schumacher ready to step up from the Ferrari Driver Academy. Thus the pressure is on Antonio to justify his position in the team while Kimi decides when to hang up his helmet.
Haas has admitted they are in a state of limbo in terms of evolving their race car and will be depending on the experience of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to make the most of a car that, last year, did them no favours and without development could mean another year of pain for the American team.
The 'For Sale' signs are up at Williams as the once mightiest team struggles to exist, let alone win, in these times. After enjoying years as the best team in the sport for decades, those memories are increasingly distant, and the team's struggles well documented, which is not good news for the highly talented George Russell and this year's only rookie Nicolas Latifi.
Thus with the first race fast approaching, we're all set for the new season, and in good time as 2020 F1 team collections are now available at the Paddock Legends online store. Let the games begin!