Excitement and anticipation are building as F1 fans all over the world wait for what seems like an eternity for the season to start. For 2020 the sporting regulations remain very stable increasing hopes that teams are finally moving closer to parity and fiercer competition. There have been tweaks to the rear wing and mirror placement and drivers are now free to change helmet liveries as they please; that’s about it, even the [oft-criticized] 2019 Pirelli tires are a carryover. 2020 also brings with it one new team name, Alpha Tauri, which is the new name for Toro Rosso (operationally the team remains the same). The wait is almost over. The 2020 Formula 1 season begins this weekend in Melbourne!
For the first time in many years, both Red Bull teams enter 2020 in the positions they want to be in.
Red Bull Racing finished its 2020 car slightly ahead of schedule and has already been working on upgrade packages. Their Honda engine proved to be one of the most reliable on the grid last year and with further development over the winter they only stand to improve further. Putting these things together gave them a formidable package in pre-season testing where they even employed low-downforce aero elements at times to mask their true speed. Could 2020 be the year someone unseats Mercedes with a driver, constructor, or both championships? If that happens it will be Red Bull with a Honda engine.
Alfa Tauri looks set to pick up where they left off last year as a solid midfield entrant. With more parts and tech. shared between them and parent Red Bull than ever before, expect Alfa Tauri to be able to put at least one car in the points every race this season.
Elsewhere on the grid, it must be said that Mercedes is still the favorite to continue their dominance of the V6 hybrid era. The only asterisk could be potential engine reliability issues that seemed to pop up during pre-season testing, something that is very uncharacteristic for Mercedes. We will soon learn whether Ferrari’s apparent lack of pace in pre-season testing was real or calculated. Mattia Binotto has suggested they are not where they need or want to be in terms of pace even though the car showed impressive cornering speed. Next we must consider that Racing Point’s controversial “pink Mercedes”, as their seeming copy of the 2019 Mercedes has been dubbed, will bring them closer to the sharp end of the grid. Renault will make a jump this season as they try to make a car to suit and keep star driver Daniel Ricciardo happy. They should be competitive with Racing Point during several races. McLaren will take a step back this year as Renault gets its program in order but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some races where a McLaren can’t go as high as P5. Coming off of an utterly disappointing season last year Haas will make a slight recovery and the question will be: is it enough to keep the American squad on the grid next year? Despite Ferrari’s desire for a sister brand to succeed this may not be Alfa Romeo’s year. Expect them to be neck and neck with Haas. Finally, Williams will still finish last in 2020 but they will do so with more points than the last three seasons and finally be able to compete with other cars in several races. Overall look for 2020 to have the tightest competition we’ve seen yet in the V6 Hybrid era, particularly in the midfield. Just a few points could make the difference between these predictions being right or completely wrong.
US TV SCHEDULE:
Practice 1 – Thursday, March 12 – 8.55PM – ESPNEWS
Practice 2 – Friday, March 13 – 12.55AM – ESPNEWS
Practice 3 – Friday, March 13 – 10.55AM – ESPNEWS
Qualifying – Saturday, March 14 – 1:55AM – ESPN2
Pit Lane Live – Saturday, March 14 – 11.30PM – ESPN3
On the Grid – Sunday, March 15 – 12.30AM – ESPN
Race – Sunday, March 15 – 1:05AM – ESPN
Race (re-air) – Sunday, March 15 – 9:30AM – ESPN2
Race (re-air) – Sunday, March 15 – 7:00PM – ESPNEWS
Lap length: 5.303km (3.295 miles)
Race laps: 58
Race distance: 307.574km (191.118 miles)
Pole position: Left-hand side of the track
Lap record*: 1’24.125 (226.934 kph) by Michael Schumacher, 2004
Maximum speed: 312kph (193.868 mph)
DRS zone/s (race): First and second straight
Distance from grid to turn one: 380m
Full throttle: 71%
Longest flat-out section: 843m
Downforce level: High
Gear changes per lap: 54
Fuel use per lap: 2.5kg
Time penalty per lap of fuel: 0.1s
Quickest complete pit stop: 2012 21.91s by Ferrari
2020 tyres: C2, C3, C4 (2019: C2, C3, C4)
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
1. Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
3. Max Verstappen – Red Bull
Race laps: 58
Pole sitter: Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:20.486
Fast race lap: Valtteri Bottas – 1:25.580