Questions Heading into the 2020 Season
No fans, an uncertain calendar and last-minute liveries. It's almost time for lights out once again.
Four months after the last-minute cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, it is finally race week. The Coronavirus pandemic means that the 2020 season is going to be vastly different than originally planned. These unprecedented circumstances have created problems throughout the sport, but the 2020 season will begin with the Austrian Grand Prix, albeit behind closed doors. Amongst all the speculation, here are some things to look out for this season.
Can Williams close the gap to the midfield?
Williams recently unveiled their new livery, without former sponsor Rokit on the bodywork.
Last season was arguably Williams worst season in their illustrious history. The team were regularly rooted to the back of the field, scoring just one point all season. To add to this, Williams have struggled with their preparations for the delayed season.
The Oxfordshire based team reported losses of £13m in 2019 and is currently up for sale, signalling a shift away from family ownership for the first time ever since the team entered F1 back in 1977. Additionally, Williams has had to unveil a new livery for the new season, with key sponsor Rokit terminating their sponsorship agreement with the team.
With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting Williams hard, it will be interesting to see whether we will see George Russell and Nicolas Latifi have the machinery to score points.
How good will Racing Point be?
The RP20 has been dubbed 'Pink Mercedes," due to its similarities with last season's championship winning car.
Racing Point were the talk of the paddock when they arrived at winter testing in February, with their new car being likened to last year's Mercedes. The team look the most likely to challenge McLaren for the ‘best of the rest’ accolade this season. Racing Point have looked so impressive that Ferrari team boss Matti Binotto even described them as a “threat.”
As 2020 looks like the final year for the team before they morph into Aston Martin and will unfortunately give up their quirky livery, it looks likely that Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll could challenge further up the grid.
Can McLaren challenge the top three
McLaren enjoyed their best season last year since 2013.
Carlos Sainz's podium at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix felt like a long time coming for the eight-time Constructors’ Champions. It arguably marked a new beginning for the Woking based outfit, pulling them out of a slump which has plagued them since 2013. Last year they proved that they were advanced of the midfield, yet struggled to really pressure the frontrunners- despite Sainz’s fifth place finish in the Drivers’ Championship last season.
Next year looks like a year of big change for McLaren, with a move to Mercedes engines and the signing of Daniel Ricciardo to replace the departing Sainz. However, McLaren will certainly want to get closer to the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes before this season is over.
How will Alex Albon fair?
Albon enjoyed his best result at Suzuka last season, finishing fourth.
It’s not often a rookie ends up in a race-winning car halfway through their debut season. However, that’s exactly where Alex Albon found himself at Spa last season, replacing the struggling Pierre Gasly at Red Bull. The Anglo-Thai driver enjoyed a solid season alongside Max Verstappen, despite struggling to match the raw pace of his teammate.
If Albon is to remain at Red Bull after 2021, it is likely the team will want to see him pushing for podiums. The cruel memory of him missing out on one in Brazil last season after being T-boned by Lewis Hamilton, still looms large in the memory for Red Bull fans. This is a big season for Albon and could be the year that he asserts himself as a future World Champion contender amongst the likes of Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Where will the races take place?
Portimao looks likely to play host to the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1996.
Coronavirus has completely thrown the original 2020 calendar out the window. Many races have been completely cancelled, with Baku, Monaco and Suzuka being some of the victims.
To fill these gaps, there have been rumours of F1 returning to some former venues. With the likes of Hockenheim, Imola and even Istanbul being amongst the speculation. There are also talks of new venues being used for 2020 with Portimao and Mugello staking a claim.
F1 bosses have stated they are aiming for a 16-race season. The first eight races have been confirmed and it is thought that the championship will be wrapped up in the Middle East. That leaves a gap that needs to fulfilled and it looks like a lengthy European leg with some new and formerly used tracks will be used- before the party heads to Bahrain and Abu Dhabi to close the season.
Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton?
Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his third successive and sixth overall World Championship in Austin last season.
Lewis Hamilton has been untouchable since 2017, wrapping up the last three championship in either Mexico or the United States. Mercedes again looked like the team to beat in Barcelona and again it looks like Hamilton is the favourite for a record-equalling seventh World Championship.
However, this years compromised might favour other drivers. Two races at the Red-Bull Ring does seem to favour Verstappen and the rumoured race at Mugello no doubt will be a boost to Ferrari. A shorter season also will slightly undermine the consistency we’ve been accustomed to from Mercedes in the turbo-hybrid era and also mean mistakes are more harshly punished. Throw in the fact that 2020 is possibly Sebastian Vettel’s last season in the sport and it looks set up to be a mouth-watering battle to be World Champion.
Comment or tweet me @jaygardner_19 your 2020 season predictions!