As F1 (finally) begins in Austria, we take a look at everything you need to know before the lights go out and drivers get the 2020 season under way!
By Virgin TV Edit
Come Sunday afternoon, it’ll have been a whopping 217 days since David Croft last deafened us with his trademark cry of “LIGHTS OUT AND AWAY WE GO!”, which has come to precede a Grand Prix. As we all know, such a timespan can, in sport, be a lifetime. And plenty has changed since the chequered flag few in Abu Dhabi back in December.
There’s been driver swaps and slight regulation re-jigs. There’s been more driver swaps, and an unprecedented overhaul to the 2020 calendar. Oh, and more lawnmower racing than that time Monty Don was drafted in to tidy up Silverstone.
As such, some fans would be forgiven for scratching their heads and going, “Eh?”, as the new season rolls round this weekend with the first of two back-to-back races at Austria’s Red Bull Ring. So, without further ado, read on below to find out everything you need to know about the confirmed upcoming races, those that may be confirmed at a later date, and the rest of the season as a whole…
Pre-season “Silly Season”
Vettel’s announcement he’ll be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020 sent shockwaves through the grid. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr eventually secured his place at Ferrari for 2021, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo then hopping into Sainz’s place at McLaren.
However, there remains a vacant seat at Renault. Whether Vettel (who may well walk away from Maranello and F1 entirely in a Hulk-like fashion), an out-of-contract Valterri Bottas or even Fernando Alonso will take Ricciardo’s place remains to be seen in a silly season that is sure to continue come September.
With a slew of races being canned during the initial wave of the COVID-19 crisis, the calendar for 2020 looks drastically different. Races in Australia, the Netherlands, Monaco, Azerbaijan, France, Singapore and Japan have all officially been binned. Grand Prix in Bahrain, Vietnam, Canada, Russia, the USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi all remain in a state of limbo; either postponed or pending cancellation.
As such, the current calendar of eight confirmed races (with the FIA and F1 hoping to add ten more, at some stage) consists of back-to-back Grand Prix in Austria, followed by the Hungarian GP, then two more “back-to-backs” at Silverstone, before races in Spain, Italy and Belgium. Events in Russia and potentially Bahrain could be added at a later date, with the second of two Bahrain races possibly utilising a shorter, faster revised layout.
Any regulation changes?
Not really, no – except for Mercedes’ highly cheeky “DAS” system, which, as is often the case with any innovative (and slightly rule-bending) ideas in F1, was immediately banned for 2021. In short, the cars for 2020 are more an evolution of the 2019 cars, as opposed to a revolution.
The lay of the… grid
If F1’s brief, two-week testing period back in February was anything to go by, the running order for 2020 looks to be fairly straightforward. Mercedes look their customary, imperious selves. Red Bull, too, look strong. Ferrari, as per, could either be decent or a complete mess, and McLaren and Renault potentially have a slight chance of breaking the “big three’s” dominance at the top.
The bright pink Racing Points, meanwhile, were by far the surprise package. Such is the similarity between their 2020 car with that of Mercedes’ 2019 machine that many have dubbed it the “baby Merc.” Aesthetic similarities aside, the pace is similar to that of old Mercedes too, with Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez delivering some eyebrow-raising lap times in Barcelona.
What to expect from the season opener
If other post-lockdown motorsport returns are anything to go by, expect mistakes. Rusty, out-of-practice drivers pose every chance of ploughing their cars into the barriers. Which, consequently, could also prompt a potential upset, as the smaller teams capitalise on slow starts from those higher up the grid.
Though the dream is that Charles Leclerc storms his way to an unexpected pole position and a lights-to-flag win for Ferrari, then celebrates celebrating on the podium in his now trademark banana costume, that’s (unfortunately) unlikely. Hamilton, though, will surely hit the ground sprinting. The six-time champ is in the form of his life in arguably one of the strongest cars he’s ever driven. A seventh title looks a very real possibility, nigh-on a certainty.
Oh, and also expect lots of shots of sponsor-laden face masks, too, as the deafening F1 theme rings out across the Austrian hills and the lights, at long last, go out.
Complete 2020 Formula One World Championship calendar*
Austrian Grand Prix, Sunday 5 July, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday 12 July, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
Hungarian Grand Prix, Sunday 19 July, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
British Grand Prix, Sunday 2 August, 3.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Sunday 9 August, 3.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday 16 August, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday 30 August, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
Italian Grand Prix, Sunday 6 September, 2.10pm, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
*at the time of writing
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