2020 Formula One Season Preview

After an extremely long wait, Formula One finally kicks back into action this weekend after the hiatus resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the season kicking off with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. With less races, every race is going to have more impact, meaning the stakes will be much higher every single race. This is sure to make for a fascinating season.

In terms of sporting rule changes this season was supposed to be the last before a brand new set of regulations, which got pushed back to 2022. As a result, there weren’t many changes initially. An extra MGU-K is permitted as a result of the originally expanded calendar to 22 races. But there were changes resulting from the pandemic, the most notable one being the equal amount of each tyres being supplied to all teams and drivers, rather than the choice the teams usually get, due to the calendar uncertainty.

Here is a team-by-team guide to the upcoming season.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
44. Lewis Hamilton
77. Valtteri Bottas
Image Credit: Mercedes AMG F1

The reigning constructors standings have dominated the hybrid era so far, having won 6 drivers and constructors titles in a row. This year they go into the season as title favourites once again, and have retained the services of their 2019 drivers in the form of 6 time world champion and the second most successful driver in F1 history, Lewis Hamilton, and Valtteri Bottas, who will hope to steal Lewis’s crown. They have made a big statement, switching from their traditional silver to black, in order to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Verdict: Every off season in recent years, all the talk has been what can their rivals do to topple Mercedes. Then they turn up with something extraordinary, as they did in Barcelona with the DAS. They go into this season as title favourites, and this is an opportunity for Lewis Hamilton to make history, if he wins the championship this year he equals Michael Schumacher’s as the most successful driver in history. Valtteri Bottas will probably be closer to Lewis this year but it may not be enough to steal Lewis’s crown.

Scuderia Ferrari
16. Charles Leclerc
5. Sebastian Vettel

After a disappointing season despite seemingly having the quickest car in testing in 2019, Ferrari go into this season gunning for their first title since 2008. They have retained the services of Charles Leclerc, who had a breakout season last year, taking two wins and beating his world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who this year competes in his final season with Ferrari, and possibly his final season in F1.

Verdict: On paper, you’d expect Charles Leclerc to make his first title bid. However the car did not look good at all in preseason testing, it looked quite a way behind the Mercedes and the Red Bull, and wasn’t even much faster than the Racing Point. This will be a big test for Charles, as usually whenever Ferrari had a car off the pace of their rivals, Fernando Alonso was able to outperform the car. We will find out if Charles has a similar ability. As for Sebastian Vettel, his mindset will be different this year. Especially if he retires he will have the thought of going out on a high and I believe he will be closer to Charles than he was last year.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
33. Max Verstappen
23. Alexander Albon

After a successful first year with Honda, Red Bull go into the season hoping to build on that and challenging for the title. They have retained their two drivers from the end of 2019, Max Verstappen goes in hungry to take his first title, whilst Alexander Albon, with a full preseason programme, hopes to prove he belongs in that Red Bull car and take his maiden victory.

Verdict: The signs from preseason testing suggest that Red Bull have the second quickest car and will be the closest challenger to Mercedes. If the car is good enough to regularly challenge Mercedes, there is every chance Max Verstappen will get his first shot at the title. For Alexander Albon, it is going to be a critical year for him. Having had half a season and a whole preseason to prepare, there is no excuses for being off the pace by a large amount this year. If he does not deliver, it will not go down well with the Red Bull team. I believe he can deliver and will have a breakout season this year.

McLaren F1 Team
55. Carlos Sainz
4. Lando Norris

After their best season in 6 years, which included their first podium since 2014, McLaren will hope to build on that and get closer to the top 3 this season in their final year with Renault engines. They have retained the services of their two drivers from last year, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, a pairing that proved successful in 2019, with Carlos Sainz spending his final season with the team before moving to Ferrari in 2021.

Verdict: The trajectory I envision for McLaren is interesting. Whilst they may initially struggle to start with against teams with connections to the top 3, the facilities that McLaren have, despite their recent financial issues, could see them outdevelop their rivals and move back to the top of the midfield. In terms of their drivers, I still expect Carlos Sainz to be the faster of the two, however Lando Norris, with a year’s experience will be much closer to him.

Renault DP World F1 Team
3. Daniel Ricciardo
31. Esteban Ocon
Image Credit: Renault F1 Team

The French manufacturer had high expectations going into 2019, especially with the signing of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull, however they failed to deliver and spent another season stuck in the midfield, failing to achieve their first podium since they took over the team in 2016. Daniel Ricciardo stays on for his final season with the team before taking Carlos Sainz’s place at McLaren, whilst Esteban Ocon returns to Formula One after a year absence.

Verdict: Whilst the car showed flashes of speed in testing, I still feel like they are not quite there yet. Their approach is reminding me of Toyota’s approach which resulted them becoming one of F1’s biggest underachievers and without a complete rethink of their approach, they risk their latest F1 foray going in a similar direction. I feel like this year is going to be a similar story to last year, being stuck in the midfield once again, despite being in the capable hands of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, both proven talents. It will be interesting to see how Esteban compares with Daniel though.

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
10. Pierre Gasly
26. Daniil Kvyat

The team formerly known as Toro Rosso may have a new name but they are still the same team as they were before, that had one of their most successful seasons to date last year, taking two podiums, one coming from Daniil Kvyat in Germany, and another coming from Pierre Gasly in Brazil. Both drivers have been retained for this season.

Verdict: The car looked to be a solid midfield runner throughout testing, however I don’t think they will be as fast as they were last year, with many of their rivals making steps forward, the podiums that they achieved may be tougher this year. However the car is fast enough for the drivers to have their moments. Having been demoted from Red Bull last year, Pierre Gasly really redeemed himself last year and the demotion has probably done him a favour in that sense. I am expecting him to be the team leader. Whilst Daniil Kvyat also had a story of redemption last year, returning from a year out after a brutal sacking, and he has the potential to bring in some good results as well.

BWT Racing Point F1 Team
11. Sergio Perez
18. Lance Stroll

After a difficult 2019 resulting from falling behind throughout their administration in 2018, Racing Point see this season as the first year where their increased budget comes into effect. Like many other teams, they have retained their 2019 line-up. Sergio Perez stays on for a seventh season at the team, and he is joined by Lance Stroll, who contests his second season with the team his father now owns.

Verdict: The pink panthers were one of the stories of preseason testing, in somewhat controversial circumstances, as their car has the design philosophies of last year’s Mercedes. However whilst I am expecting them to start well, using a year old design philosophy could be hard to develop and they may fall behind towards the end of the year. In terms of their drivers, Sergio Perez is a dependable driver who can deliver a podium or two. Lance Stroll has shown flashes of speed but needs to step up this year if he wants to get on terms with his more experienced team-mate.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen
7. Kimi Raikkonen
99. Antonio Giovinazzi

After a rather anonymous season despite showing preseason promise, Alfa Romeo will hope to move closer to the top of the midfield. Like the majority, they have retained their 2019 line-up of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who contests his second full season in Formula One.

Verdict: Judging by testing, I am expecting them to have a fairly similar season to what they had last year. If it does turn out to be Kimi Raikkonen’s last season, we could expect more heroics from him as he would want to end a successful career on a high. Antonio Giovinazzi struggled in many areas last season, but he matched Kimi on quite a few occasions, and with a year’s more experience those moments where he matches and beats his world champion team-mate could be more frequent.

Haas F1 Team
20. Kevin Magnussen
8. Romain Grosjean

After a miserable season last year where they just could not get a handle on the 2019 tyres, Haas will be hoping for better things this year. They have kept their 2019 line-up in the form of Kevin Magnussen, who contests his fourth season with the team, and Romain Grosjean, who has been with the team since they made their debut in 2016.

Verdict: Haas will be thinking things can only get better, pretty much everything that could go wrong for them did last year, issues with tyres, slow in a straight line, team-mates colliding and even a dodgy title sponsor giving them negative publicity. Unfortunately, as I mentioned after testing, there have been worrying signs at Haas, with suggestions they could even be battling Williams. Kevin Magnussen is likely to extract the maximum from the car as he has been known to do in the past, an ability that led to some qualifying heroics last year, whilst Romain Grosjean is under pressure, another tough season could be one too many, especially with many youngsters waiting in the wings.

Williams Racing
63. George Russell
6. Nicholas Latifi
Image Credit: Williams Racing

One of F1’s greats had their worst season on record last year, being the season’s backmarkers and finishing bottom of the table with just a single point to their name. This year they have retained George Russell, who competes in his second season in Formula One. Alongside him will be the only rookie on the grid and last year’s Formula 2 runner up Nicholas Latifi, who graduates to F1 after 4 full seasons in the top junior category.

Verdict: Williams did show a lot of signs of improvement during winter testing, being first out on track after missing the first two days last year. They will be closer to the midfield this year and will maybe score a few more points, however they aren’t quite on terms with the rest of the pack yet. But being closer to the pack will give George Russell chances to show what he is capable of, which he did quite a few times last year, most notably in qualifying for Hungary. I am unsure how Nicholas Latifi is going to get on. He has had a lot of F1 experience in terms of testing, particularly in the last year, however 4 years is a long time to spend in GP2/F2, most of the successful graduates from the top feeder series have graduated after one or two years in the category. But that doesn’t mean he cannot be fast.

I believe in general it will be closer this year. Mercedes will be given more of a run for their money than they have done, but I still think they are going to end up on top once again with Lewis Hamilton taking his seventh world title. Especially as they are the most consistent, which is going to be crucial in a shorter season. Ferrari, whilst they will start off behind, I believe they will catch up towards the middle and end of the year, but too late to mount any kind of title bid. I believe all 6 drivers from the top 3 teams will win races. Whilst the midfield will be closer than ever. My guess is Racing Point will start off as the top midfield team, but McLaren will make strides throughout the season and give them a run for their money towards the end.

Here is my predictions for both the drivers and the constructors titles.

1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Max Verstappen
3. Charles Leclerc
4. Valtteri Bottas
5. Sebastian Vettel
6. Alexander Albon
7. Carlos Sainz
8. Sergio Perez
9. Lando Norris
10. Esteban Ocon
11. Daniel Ricciardo
12. Lance Stroll
13. Pierre Gasly
14. Kimi Raikkonen
15. Daniil Kvyat
16. Antonio Giovinazzi
17. Kevin Magnussen
18. Romain Grosjean
19. George Russell
20. Nicholas Latifi

1. Mercedes
2. Red Bull
3. Ferrari
4. McLaren
5. Racing Point
6. Renault
7. AlphaTauri
8. Alfa Romeo
9. Haas
10. Williams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s