Updated: Sep 5, 2020
A look ahead of the first season of the new decade
After four months away the Formula 1 World Championship returns this weekend at the traditional curtain raiser at Albert Park, with ten teams and twenty drivers competing for overall honours. Mercedes once again dominated F1 last season, making it six back to back championships, making them the most successful team in the history of the sport.
Although they are looking strong again in testing, nothing is guaranteed in Formula 1, as they say, “if you stand still, you go backwards”
With testing all over and done with, we have had a rough indication of each team’s performance heading into the year, although these results re never truly reliable due to the number of variables involved.
For this feature, I will be looking at each team, how their winter has been and an introduction to their drivers. I hope you all enjoy!
Mercedes once again go into a new season as the team to beat, with now six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton spearheading the team’s assault into the new decade. In the new hybrid era, Hamilton has dominated, winning more races than the rest of the teams in F1 combined, winning five titles along the way, only missing out in 2016 to former teammate Nico
Hamilton will be hoping to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles, a record many thought no one would be able to get near, let alone equal. One driver who will be hoping to end his dominance however is Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who begins his fourth season with the team, having switched from Williams in 2017.
Bottas had his most successful season to date in 2019, winning four times on his way to second in the standings, his best placed finish in F1.
Bottas and indeed Mercedes have always stated the two drivers are equal and free to fight on circuit, so it will be fascinating to see if he can improve once more in 2020 to give Hamilton a real challenge at the front.
The team is run by Toto Wolff, with the team adding Ineos to their list of blue-chip sponsors. The energy firm has signed a five-year contract with the Silver Arrows.
A team which is always at the forefront of innovation, this season introducing the DAS steering wheel which affects camber angle on the main straight ensuring tyres are preserved for longer and can ensure temperatures are maintained, they have had a few small niggles with reliability of their engine during the winter, an issue that may give their rivals a glimmer of hope.
Ferrari head into the new decade as one of the favourites to dethrone Mercedes and claim their first title since 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen claimed the drivers’ championship. Sebastian Vettel is desperate to emulate his idol Michael Schumacher and win for the prancing horse, in what is now his sixth season with the Scuderia.
The German will be hoping to rekindle the form he had during his dominant years at Red Bull however make no mistake that Vettel is still one of the fastest drivers on the grid. He will be joined by up and coming sensation Charles Leclerc, who impressed everyone last season with his speed and maturity behind the wheel.
Heading into his second season with Ferrari, the pressure will be a little more intense for the Monegasque driver as he does not have the privilege of the “nothing to lose” status of being a first season driver. He displayed attributes last season that he will be able to handle such pressure, winning superbly at Monza in front of the Tifosi on his way to fifth in the standings.
Mattia Binotto starts his second season as Team Principal of Ferrari, having taking over from Maurizio Arrivabene last January. He will surely have a test on his hands with both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc vying to be number one within the team.
With signs from testing suggesting that Ferrari may not be as up to speed as they would have liked, it may prove to be a difficult start to the decade for the Italian giants.
One team who are desperate to return to winning ways are Red Bull, after their early decade dominance with Sebastian Vettel from 2010 to 2013. In this period the team won both the drivers and constructors titles, an amazing achievement for what Team Principal Christian Horner describes as the rogue of Formula 1.
Horner has held this position at Red Bull since the Austrian drinks manufacture’s purchase of Jaguar F1 in 2004, having ran his own team Arden in F3000 and GP2, prior to his recruitment.
The Milton Keynes based team will once again have Dutchman Max Verstappen at the helm of their charge for glory, in what is now his fourth full season with Red Bull. Verstappen will be hoping to improve on his third place in the standings in 2019 and fight much closer to the dominant Mercedes duo.
Joining Verstappen is Alex Albon, who made the step up to Red Bull halfway through 2019, replacing Pierre Gasly from the Belgium Grand Prix onwards. Albon impressed hugely, outscoring Verstappen after his promotion to the senior team.
It will be fascinating to see if F1’s first Thai driver can continue this form into 2020, if he can, then Red Bull may have two drivers fighting Mercedes.
McLaren retain their 2019 driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris after the Woking based outfit started to see glimpses to their former glory in 2019.
After years in the wilderness, both drivers put in stellar performances throughout the season, with Sainz ending the season sixth in the drivers’ championship, the first time since 2015 that a driver competing for a team other than Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has finished in the top six of the standings.
Sainz will be hoping to improve on his 2019 results, with surely a podium the main aim as he heads into his sixth season in Formula 1.
Another driver who will be hoping to make it onto the podium is teammate Lando Norris, who impressed hugely in his first season. As the season went on, Norris’ consistency improved hugely ensuring he ended the year eleventh.
McLaren are one of the most successful teams in the history of Formula 1, so to see them without a victory since 2012 is an unbelievable thought. After years of being run by the iconic Ron Dennis, the team are now run by CEO Zak Brown, who took the reins on the 21st November 2016. Known for his canny ability to attract sponsorship and indeed results, since his appointment, the team has seen an upturn in fortunes.
Renault will be hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 2019 which saw the team drop behind McLaren in their bid to return to the top.
Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul will surely start to feel the pressure if performances do not improve considerably, with Daniel Riccardo starting his second season with the French manufacture, hoping to improve on his 2019 results.
He will be joined by Esteban Ocon, who joins after a year on the sidelines after he lost his seat at Racing Point in 2019. The Frenchman was tipped to join Renault for the 2019 season, however Riccardo made himself available. It will be interesting to see how the duo fair against one another with Ricciardo being a proven race winner, and Ocon being one of the brightest young talents in F1 today.
Neither will be able to perform however if the car is not to the standards they need. Testing suggests they are far quicker than they were last year, with both drivers complimenting the amount of grip the car can generate. If this is indeed the case, then we could be seeing some more “shoeys” in 2020.
Out with Toro Rosso, in with Alpha Tauri, as the team rebrands to be in line with Red Bull’s clothing brand. With this comes a stunning new look for the team, however one aspect which does not change heading into 2020 is their driver line up, as the Italian outfit keeps Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat.
Gasly will be hoping to impress in his first full season back with the junior Red Bull team, having been dropped halfway through 2019 and replaced with Alex Albon. His teammate Kvyat has also suffered the same fate in the past, so seeing how the duo perform will be interesting.
With a rebrand comes a striking new look for Alpha Tauri. Gone is the metallic blue and in his a pearlescent white a matte navy finish, a superb look.
Team Principal Franz Tost will be hopping for another successful year, although bettering 2019 may be tough, as the team achieved two podiums last season.
It what will prove to be Racing Point’s final season in F1 before they rebrand to Aston Martin in 2021 following Lawrence Stroll’s investment in the British manufacture, they will be hoping to send off the team in style in what has been a turbulent couple of seasons.
Heading into 2020, Racing Point have arguably caused the biggest stir in the paddock as they have appeared to have produced an exact copy of Mercedes’ 2019 double title winning car for their 2020 season, a complete change in philosophy for the Silverstone based team.
Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer has stated that the team had reached their capacity with their old philosophy so a change was needed, although their new machine has drawn jokes and criticism from other teams in the paddock.
Drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll will not mind however if the car proves to be quick, with winter testing suggesting they could be on par with Ferrari. If this is the case, we could be in for a very fascinating 2020 with multiple teams battling for honours.
Alfa Romeo remain unchanged for 2020, with Antonio Giovinazzi returning alongside Kimi Raikkonen who could become the most experienced driver of all time in 2020, surpassing Rubens Barrichello’s record of 326 race starts.
Raikkonen, who made his debut with the then Sauber team in 2001, has enjoyed huge success in Formula 1, and will hope to keep the team’s impressive momentum going into the new decade, having impressed in 2019.
Giovinazzi will also be hoping to improve. After a difficult start to his first full season in Formula 1, the Italian matured as the season went on, finishing an impressive sixth in Brazil being the highlight of his season.
Frederic Vasseur remains at the helm of the team, having taken over in mid 2017, since then the team has seen a revival and the introduction of Alfa Romeo brand. It will be fantastic to see if the team can continue their fine incline and challenge the top half consistently in 2020.
After years of steady improvement since the team’s debut in 2016, Haas’ momentum crashed in 2019 as they struggled all season with an uncompetitive and unresponsive car, leaving drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean frustrated.
This coupled with constant issues with title sponsor Rich Energy, ensured last year was one to forget for the American-Anglo based team. 2020 is a new beginning for Haas who keep Grosjean and Magnussen for a fourth consecutive season, with the team reverting back to a more familiar look.
Internet legend Guenther Steiner returns as Team Principal who will once again work with owner and found Gene Haas to get the best out of the team. The importance of 2020 for
Haas cannot be understated, with the team openly quoting the opening few races will determine whether the team remains in Formula 1 beyond the end of the season and into the regulation changes of 2021. I for one, hope they remain in the sport and have a successful 2020.
It could not get much worse for Williams after a dismal 2019 saw the team only score one point all season, easily their worst season in the team’s history. It started badly when their car was not ready for pre-season testing and got worse as the year went on, with their two drivers fighting at the rear of the pack each race.
There were signs of promise however towards the end of the year, when 2018 F2 Champion George Russell displayed amazing grit and determination to almost get his car out of Q1 on numerous occasions. Russell returns this year alongside rookie Nicholas Latifi.
2020 is already an improvement on 2019, the team being the first out the blocks in pre-season testing with their car lapping 1.2 seconds quicker than they did in qualifying at the same race last year. As an example of how far they have come, this lap time would have been quick enough to put them sixth on the grid at Barcelona in 2019, however due to everyone else’s improvements, both Russell and the rest of Williams still feel they have the slowest car on the grid heading into the season opener in Australia.
However, unlike 2019, they appear to be within touching distance of the rest of the rest of the field heading into the new season, with Latifi hoping to impress following his promotion from reserve driver last year, replacing the outgoing Robert Kubica, who joins Alfa Romeo as a reserve driver.
The team is fronted by Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams, the daughter of founder Sir Frank Williams. Despite facing criticism throughout last season, in which she was doubted by the press, she has returned stronger. In my opinion, there is no better person to head Williams, no one loves the team more than her and without her Williams would be a poorer place.
That concludes my look at the 2020 season, with multiple teams looking very similar and the top teams not improving as much as they hoped, we could be in for a few surprises heading into the new decade.
The season kicks-off this weekend in Australia. I for one, simply cannot wait!
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