Whilst Formula One is on Coronavirus induced lockdown, we have taken a look at five potential stories which could dominate the 2020 season once underway.
From smashed records to an unpredictable driver market to a potential second consecutive season of qualifying whitewash at Williams, this year promises to deliver plenty of stories throughout the field.
Now here are five of the biggest potential stories to watch throughout the year.
Hamilton to Break Records?
2020 could very well be the year in which we see Lewis Hamilton match Michael Schumacher’s haul of seven F1 titles, although he could also smash some records along the way.
Currently on 84 wins across 13 seasons, Hamilton needs just eight wins this season to break Schumacher’s all-time win record of 91 victories and become F1’s most prolific race winner ever.
He however is set for a tough challenge from Ferrari and Red Bull across … races so the all-time podium finishes record is the most likeliest to be broken, given that Hamilton needs just five podium finishes this season to beat Schumacher’s haul of 155 podiums.
Victories in Montreal and Budapest this summer (if they go ahead) would see Hamilton become the first driver to win eight races at two different circuits, on top of becoming the outright record Canadian Grand Prix winner if he does take victory.
- If Hamilton leads every lap of a single race this season, he will break his and Ayrton Senna’s joint record of 19 races in which they had led every lap.
- If Hamilton leads 626 laps this season, he will surpass Michael Schumacher’s record tally of 5111 laps led.
- Hamilton can become F1’s record Grand Slam achiever if he takes pole, win, fastest lap and lead every lap at three Grands Prix this season and surpass jim Clark’s tally of eight grand slams.
2020 therefore promises to be another season in which Hamilton could smash various records.
Can Ferrari Deliver?
Having failed to produce a title fight in each of the last two seasons as reliability and driver errors crept up on the Scuderia, big questions surround Ferrari as they look to deliver a first driver title since 2007.
Mattia Binotto however talked down this season’s car in pre-season, admitting that he is ‘… not as optimistic as last year.’ which is potentially the start of mind games between Scuderia and their main rivals in Mercedes and Red Bull.
Alternatively, Ferrari are just genuinely slow because their fastest test time was 0.628s slower than Mercedes’ benchmark of 1m 15.732 set by Valtteri Bottas, whilst only Mercedes bettered Ferrari’s total of 844 laps in testing.
The reduction in races also now means that there isn’t room for reliability woes or driver mistakes to occur in winnable races, nor for driver clashes between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel to occur otherwise 2020 will feel like deja vu at Maranello.
Either way, reliability plus reducing mistakes on and off track will be key if Ferrari are to end a driver’s title drought on top of a fast car.
Battle at Red Bull?
Max Verstappen is currently thought of as the most likeliest title challenger to Mercedes but Red Bull could very well have a battle on their hands if Alex Albon can produce a surprise in matching Verstappen and mount his own title bid.
Excluding Belgium, Italy and Russia for various reasons, the average qualifying difference between Albon and Verstappen was just 0.433s in Verstappen’s favour, which is impressive given that Albon was only promoted mid-season from Toro Rosso.
This season ultimately will be a big test though because if Albon came match Verstappen in both single and race lap pace whilst mounting a title push, Red Bull are going to face another tough challenge in driver management.
Both drivers however have contrasting personalities because Verstappen is the more fiery, whereas Albon seems cool headed and knows when to intelligently step up his race performance as previously demonstrated in China and Belgium last season.
Red Bull therefore could be one of the surprise talking points of this season if Albon can match Verstappen whilst both drivers push Mercedes to the title, because Verstappen is their golden boy but Albon is capable of mounting a surprise title bid in a strong car.
Russell to continue Williams’ Dominance?
With Lewis Hamilton’s future at Mercedes uncertain, this is going to be a huge season for George Russell as he looks to continue his dominance at Williams in hope of securing a move to Brackley in 2021.
Now no longer a rookie, Russell is Williams’ main man after having thrashed Robert Kubica 21-0 in qualifying last season, although he has a new and tougher teammate in Nicholas Latifi to contend with this year.
Russell in fact hasn’t been out qualified by a teammate in 25 consecutive races (excluding F2 Sprint races) dating back to F2 Qualifying in Spa Francorchamps in August 2018 for ART GP, underlining how dominant Russell has been over a lap in comparison to his teammates.
Attention therefore will be on Russell to see if he can deliver after a promising pre-season in which he placed Williams in amongst the midfield teams, where he has to impress if he is to potentially earn a promotion to Mercedes next season.
Unpredictable Driver Market
With regulation changes set to sweep in for 2021 and several contracts up at end of season, this is going to be an important campaign for several drivers as they fight to keep their drives for next season and beyond.
Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and George Russell are currently the only drivers contracted to their teams beyond this campaign, meaning that 14 seats are on the market as several youngsters look to make a breakthrough.
We therefore should have a busy rumour mill in the coming months as teams look ahead to the future, whilst Haas could well move on if they don’t perform well this season which would mean two less seats up for grabs.
Ferrari and Red Bull in particular face a potential headache if seats within their teams become available with several of their junior members racing in F2 this season, as they all look to produce an impressive title challenge in the hope of a F1 seat next season.
This season therefore will be crucial for several drivers with the next generation beginning to knock on the door just below in F2, as they look to break through and dismantle the established old guard.
Please leave a comment below if you think there will be a bigger talking point this season than the five mentioned above.