NOT many could have predicted that the customary ‘season preview’ would only take place at the midway mark of the year.
But 2020 has been an unprecedented year for so many reasons not least of all being the disruption to the Formula 1 season.
The first and last time we saw the 2020 F1 cars lapping a circuit was in pre-season testing in late February. It feels like ages ago but thankfully in a little more than 10 days, the 2020 Formula 1 season will finally kick off at Austria’s Red Bull Ring with back-to-back races.
What we know for sure is that eight races have officially been scheduled for the opening stint of the season. What we do not know is how many more races will make it onto the 2020 calendar.
The pre-season testing at Spain’s Circuit, de Barcelona Catalunya, painted a rather stark picture of what the pecking order could look like early on.
It appeared that Mercedes had once again produced a car ready to fight for the titles, while Red Bull appeared to have leapfrogged Ferrari.
Heck, there was even speculation that Racing Point, dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ thanks to its striking resemblance to the 2019 Merc, could challenge Ferrari too.
Traditionally, pre-season testing is not a definite indicator of how things will play out the opening rounds of the season.
Add to this that teams have had months to pour over every single megabyte of data gathered in testing and that the season starts on a power-dominant Red Bull Ring, it is highly possible that the picture may change.
No matter how much most fans would welcome the sight of Williams on the top step of the podium it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a complete upending of the grid. But there may be a slight convergence in place among the top three.
‘The Big Three’
Some suggest that it is the perfect opportunity for Red Bull to get a jump on the world championship. Red Bull have been slow-starters in the last few seasons and it will be interesting to note whether this is due to the unique characteristics of Australia’s Albert Park circuit or if early season lethargy runs deeper.
It is already common knowledge that Mercedes and Ferrari are bringing a number of upgrades to the opening Grands Prix of the season.
Decision-making will have to be on point when deciding which bits to bring and run as teams will only have the Friday practice sessions in which to assess new parts.
The midfield is an important one every year, but even more so in 2020. Several teams, including Williams, McLaren, and Haas, are fighting for survival on the grid.
As has already been reported, Williams have parted ways with title sponsor Rokit and is currently open to investment, which includes selling a majority stake in the team.
McLaren, too, has been forced to lay off 25% of its workforce, due in part to the impact of Covid-19.
Elsewhere, Haas F1 team principal, Gunther Steiner, has said that the team “is here to stay”, but the American team has not ruled out having to go down the route of running a pay driver in its car.
It means that every point scored is a step closer to relative safety and every opportunity missed will undoubtedly be amplified.
As the pinnacle of motorsport, the stakes have always been high in Formula 1.
It has always been merciless and it has always been about survival of the fittest. Even so, the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 have intensified it still more.
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