The start of the season in Formula One is less than a week away. Although this sounds exciting to most fans of the sport, we can safely assume that no one is as excited as the 20 drivers. These guys have literally waited to get back on the track since December 2019. No other Formula One championship (EVER) has had to be as delayed as the current 2020 season. Fortunately, racing is set to resume on July 5th in Austria, after multiple safety precautions have been taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, too much excitement and anticipation could become tricky for some of the drivers, which can impact their concentration and judgement on the circuit. Furthermore, many of the drivers’ contracts are expiring at the end of this season, with some of the spots in top teams, like Ferrari and McLaren, already filled. Hence, proving yourself as a good racer and teammate becomes even more essential in 2020 for those who wish to continue their careers. Let’s take a glimpse at the whole picture before Austria:
THOSE WITH THE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO STAND OUT
Charles Leclerc – Ferrari’s young Monegasque showed his driving skills and ambitions last year. Leclerc (22) finished 4th in the overall championship, 24 points ahead of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. He also managed to clinch 7 pole positions, despite converting only 2 of them into race victories. Leclerc knows that this is Vettel’s last season with Ferrari, and that he might have to give out even more high quality performance in order to match this result again. Charles, who is relatively inexperienced, will begin his third season in Formula One as Ferrari’s star driver, despite any official claims from the team. Although Ferrari’s car did not perform too well during winter testing, it is too early to write Charles off from the title battle.
Max Verstappen – Max (22) will start his sixth season in the sport, and fifth with his current team – Red Bull. He is indisputably Red Bull’s star driver, having won 8 total victories for the team, 3 of which came last season. Verstappen finished ahead of the two Ferrari drivers, placing 3rd right after Hamilton and Bottas. With Red Bull’s strong winter testing performance, Max has definitely turned into Hamilton’s main challenger for the 2020 title, besides the other Mercedes driver – Valteri Bottas.
Valteri Bottas – Speaking of Bottas (30), his 2019 season started great. He won 2 out of the first 4 races, and otherwise placed second behind his team mate. However, Bottas’ late season performance did not match his initial ambition of challenging Hamilton for the ultimate goal. Valteri’s contract is expiring at the end of 2020, and his upcoming results would most likely determine his future with Mercedes or some other team. So far, Bottas has lost to Hamilton in all three seasons as his team mate. Maybe his 4th one will turn into his lucky chance to prove himself quicker than Lewis? You never know…
George Russell (22) – Now, let’s be realistic… Here we are not talking about conquering the championship, or even getting podiums, (or even that many points). Williams’ driver was the only one who missed out on any points last season, mainly due to the car’s extremely poor performance. Fortunately, there are still some hopes that this year’s Williams will show more competitiveness, which could put them in some entertaining battles. After all, George won the virtual 2020 Formula One season, including 4 virtual victories in a row. Although this achievement does not directly guarantee him success on the track, George has the opportunity to show perseverance and pace, which could potentially earn him a Mercedes seat for 2021.
Sebastian Vettel (33) – The four-time German champion lost the battle in 2019. Actually, in 2018, as well… and 2017… and yeah… Nevertheless, Vettel is still a four-time champion, driving for Ferrari. His enthusiasm for driving might have changed a bit, but it certainly has not disappeared. Just like Niki Lauda and Alain Prost have shown us before, it is never late to make a comeback and win just one more title. It is fairly possible to see a German champ in a red suit once again.
THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST TO LOSE
Lewis Hamilton – Having one six championships, Lewis (35) is Britain’s most successful Formula One driver. Actually, he stands at just one championship away from getting a tie with Michael Schumacher’s 7-title all-time record. However, 2020 might present new challenges for him. For starters, his teammate Bottas would most certainly like to join the battle for the title. At the end of the day, it comes to the new contracts that we already mentioned above. Oh, yeah, Hamilton also does not have a new contract. Even though Mercedes have been denying the scenario of replacing any of their drivers with Vettel, there have also been enough rumors and insider information for the opposite. It looks like Lewis might have to sweat for his money just a little bit more throughout 2020.
Valteri Bottas – After discussing his chance to bring glory, let’s review what might happen to Bottas if things do not go very smoothly. That’s right! He might be parting with the Silver Arrows sooner than we think. To be fair to him, Bottas has been a very useful asset for Mercedes for the past several years. Decent podiums and points finishes, and several occasional wins. Yet, this might not be enough this time. Sebastian Vettel is a free agent, and his talent and resume appear impressive, for sure. And even if this does not happen, there are plenty of younger talents, like Russell and Norris, who could also replace the Finn for the future.
Romain Grosjean – Not many people could be entirely sure WHY Grosjean (34) is still in Formula One. Although the Frenchman has stepped on the podium 10 times with Lotus’ former team, he has not been there in five years. Not only that, Grosjean’s performance has been anything but success-worthy ever since he joined Haas’ team in 2016. Thus, occasional points finishes might no longer be enough for him to extend his decade-long Formula One career any further.
Sebastian Vettel – Let’s face it… We might be witnessing Seb’s last Formula One season (possibly ever). Even though Sebastian has already lost a lot, in general, his chances of getting a deal with Mercedes are not completely gone, yet. Hence, it might as well depend on his performance in 2020. This season is also Vettel’s last chance to win a title for Ferrari, which has always been one of his greatest dreams.
THOSE WHO MIGHT SHOW TENSION WITH THEIR TEAMS
Daniel Ricciardo – The Australian will drive for Renault this entire season, knowing that his new team – McLaren – is waiting for him in 2021. Ricciardo (30) left Red Bull after 2018 with the hopes of getting some better results elsewhere. Needless to say, it did not exactly go as planned. And now he is doing it again. This might be a frustrating season for both the team and Danny Ric, and it is definitely something worthy of following.
Carlos Sainz – Carlos (25) will be joining Ferrari in 2021. Much like Ricciardo, the news came quite a long way before the start of this season. McLaren, however, do not seem as upset by seeing their driver leaving as Ricciardo’s Renault. Still, there is an aspect of allegiance, which suffers whenever a driver and his team part ways. We cannot be entirely sure that this will be the case with the Spaniard. Yet, it is good to keep it in mind and see how it progresses throughout the Grands Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen – Kimi (40) also might be in his last season in Formula One. Fortunately for his fans, the veteran has not yet announced any official retirement plans. Nevertheless, The Iceman is still one of the top drivers in the sport. Last year’s performance by Alfa was not particularly impressive, despite Kimi’s consistent low-points finishes and one 4th place in Brazil. Raikkonen is a very independent individual, and there are quite a few things that could provoke him to leave a team or even the sport… But then again, it won’t be the first time seeing him do either of these.
We will continue the subject with a teams’ analysis coming out soon. Until then, check out our new Racing Facebook group, where you can let us know what your predictions for 2020 are!