In what is already a Formula 1 season like no other, F1 will make its 2020 debut starting this weekend with back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring. This will be the 34th and 35th running of the Austrian Grand Prix. Set among the picturesque hills of Spielberg the Red Bull Ring is second only to Mexico in elevation of circuits the series visits at 2,170 feet above sea level. The circuit’s lack of long straights and short overall distance make it somewhat of a wildcard for teams who might struggle at power circuits such as Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Baku City Circuit.
As we said in the lead-up to the would-be season opener in Australia, both Red Bull teams enter 2020 in the positions they want to be in.
Not only has their Honda engine proven to be one of the most reliable on the grid last year, Honda has already bested its winter upgrades with a new spec. to be run here at the Red Bull Ring. This is crucial because revised 2020 regulations stipulate that engine development will remain largely frozen for this abbreviated season (ancillaries like the MGU-K , energy store, and control electronics are allowed one performance upgrade).
Red Bull will also run a sizeable aerodynamic update in Austria with a new floor and front wing being the biggest changes. 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.
AlfaTauri 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 AlfaTauri 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, the former more likely as Maranello has announced an entirely new aero concept is coming in Hungary. 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 tried to make a car to suit and keep star driver Daniel Ricciardo despite that ship having recently sailed. 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 Times
Formula 1 Rolex Grand Prix of Austria
Friday, July 3 – Practice 1 – 4.55AM – ESPN2,
Friday, July 3 – Practice 2 – 8.55AM – ESPN2
Saturday, July 4 – Practice 3 – 5.55AM – ESPN2
Saturday, July 4 – Qualifying – 8.55AM – ESPN
Sunday, July 5 – Grand Prix Weekend – 8.00AM – ESPN
Sunday, July 5 – Race – 9.05AM – ESPN
Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix of Steiermark
Friday, July 10 – Practice 1 – 4.55AM – ESPN2,
Friday, July 10 – Practice 2 – 8.55AM – ESPN2
Saturday, July 11 – Practice 3 – 5.55AM – ESPN2
Saturday, July 11 – Qualifying – 8.55AM – ESPN
Sunday, July 12 – Grand Prix Weekend – 8.00AM – ESPN
Sunday, July 12 – Race – 9.05AM – ESPN
Lap length: 4.326km (2.688 miles)
Race laps: 71
Race distance: 307.02km (190.773 miles)
Pole position: Left-hand side of the track
Lap record*: 1’06.957 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2018)
Fastest lap: 1’03.003 (Charles Leclerc, 2019)
Maximum speed: 301.5kph (187.343 mph)
DRS zone/s (race: Pit straight and second straight)
Distance from grid to turn one: 185m
Full throttle: 63%
Longest flat-out section: 868m
Downforce level: Low/medium
Fuel use per lap: 1.34kg
Time penalty per lap of fuel: 0.056s
Tyres: Hard (C2), Medium (C3), Soft (C4) (2019: Hard (C2), Medium (C3), Soft (C4))
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Data sources: FIA , Williams, Mercedes
Pole: Charles Leclerc, 1:03.003
Fast race lap: Max Verstappen, 1:07.475
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes