Why fans will witness history in F1 2020

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Sponsored: Nine reasons why fans are likely to be in for a classic F1 season in 2020

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Preparations for Formula 1’s 70th season are well underway. Prepare yourself by getting the inside track on what are set to be the big talking points this year. And to see more and know more, sign up to F1 TV Pro – it’s like pulling up a chair at the pit wall.

1. It’s getting tougher at the top

The current generation of grand prix cars has been evolving for six years, and 2020 represents the zenith of that development. Performance is converging and the gaps between the cars has shortened dramatically. Mercedes has ruled the roost of this turbo-hybrid era, but that could change in 2020 with Ferrari, Red Bull – maybe even McLaren – ready to deprive the Silver Arrows of another clean sweep. Red Bull boss Christian Horner says “it could be a real classic season” and you can sense his hunger. “We’ve got continuity across all aspects with drivers, regulations and engine supply. So unless somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat, we’re set for a really exciting year.”

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff sounds worried: “I see this as being a much tougher season. I don’t think we are going to see ten or 12 race wins [go to one team] anymore.” It could prove the closest championship battle since 2008 – the first time Lewis Hamilton took the title and the last time a McLaren driver earned the spoils.

 

2. Lewis Hamilton is the G.O.A.T


Of course, there’s no ignoring the HAM. The reigning champ has six titles to his name, and he’s got Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven in his sights. When Michael claimed his final crown, back in 2004, no one ever thought such domination would be possible again. Lewis is seven race wins away from equalling Schumi’s tally of 91 – a record Hamilton could well beat in 2020.

With a 33.6 per cent starts to wins ratio, the Englishman is by far the most reliable hitman on the current grid and seems destined to become the Greatest Of All Time. We are witnessing history. As Lewis posted on Instagram in December 2019: “I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before.”

3. …But he’s got serious competition

Hamilton may be the king, but Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are watching the throne. Last year, they proved themselves to be the hottest drivers of the new generation, Leclerc becoming Ferrari’s youngest ever winner with two victories and seven pole positions, while (increasingly less) Mad Max – who is the youngest Grand Prix winner outright – notched up three wins. Impressive, in only the first year of Honda’s technical partnership with Red Bull Racing. Should either man take Lewis’s crown this season, he’ll be the youngest champion in the sport’s history. Both are just 22.

2019 saw Vettel made some rather rookie-like errors for the veteran of 240 GPs, but if this season’s Ferrari is better suited to his driving style he may rediscover the magic that won him four titles between 2010 and 2013. A comeback is critical – if he fails to beat Leclerc again, he’ll likely retire.

Then, of course, there’s Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate and the first guy Lewis needs to beat. Valtteri enjoyed his best season so far in 2019, scoring 326 points to Hamilton’s 413. He’s determined not to be the runner up again this year. We saw last year in Melbourne, Baku, Suzuka and Austin – and Sochi, where he surrendered the lead to Lewis – that on his day there’s no one better. He just needs to find consistency. “I need to find ways to be at my best more often,” he said of his winter homework, “and I’m sure I can improve.”

 

4. This year’s midfield will be interesting

Bottas may find motivation in the form of Esteban Ocon. The 23-year-old Frenchman, who is managed by Toto Wolff, tested for Mercedes last year having impressed driving for Force India / Racing Point in 2017-18. He lost out on the musical chairs in 2019 but is now back where he belongs, on the grid and at the wheel of a Renault – albeit on a piece of elastic from the world champions.

That means if he goes well against the highly-rated Daniel Ricciardo in 2020, and Bottas struggles against Hamilton, he may find himself in that Mercedes seat for real. Renault were outclassed by McLaren last year but will be hoping for best-of-the-rest honours once again come March. The midfield should be pretty tight, with Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and the newly-named AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso) capable of barging through. American team Haas have what it takes too, and will be keen to break back into the top six after a lacklustre 2019. As for the once mighty Williams, things can only get better.

 

5. This is the biggest season ever

Zandvoort banking

Banked corners take shape at Zandvoort

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There should be 22 races this year – more than ever before, assuming the Chinese Grand Prix can be rescheduled. This will be extra challenging for the teams and drivers, but fantastic for the fans. And there are two very exciting new arrivals.

Vietnam joins the F1 calendar for the first time. On April 5 the streets of Hanoi will play host to the Grand Prix circus and what promises to be one of the most colourful and exciting sporting and cultural events of the year. Utilising existing roads in a western district of the city, architect Hermann Tilke has designed a thrilling 23-turn circuit with a 0.9-mile long straight that should yield plenty of overtaking.

And the prayers of classic F1 fans and Max Verstappen groupies have been answered, for the Dutch Grand Prix is back on. It’s been 35 years since F1 cars last battled it out in the Netherlands. The characterful beachside Circuit Zandvoort, which was on the inaugural F1 calendar in 1950, has been upgraded to include two dramatic new banked corners, improved run-off and an expanded paddock – largely to accommodate Verstappen’s family and friends. Expect a lot of orange caps and Red Bull shirts in the grandstands. Given Zandvoort’s proximity to Amsterdam, Kimi may be AWOL on Sunday.

The expanded calendar is great news for F1 TV Pro subscribers, who’ll get even more bang for their buck – US$79.99 a year or US$9.99 a month, to be precise. For that, you can live stream every track session – including pre-season testing and support races – uninterrupted, watch exclusive pre and post-race shows, access all driver onboard cameras on-demand, keep an eye on the timing screens and telemetry, or relive classic races from the archive like the 1985 Dutch Grand Prix, at home or on the go.

 

6. Battle of the brands

Mercedes AMG has dominated the last six years, winning both the Driver’s and Constructors’ titles each time. If they win the Constructors’ for a seventh consecutive time this year they will beat the record Ferrari set in 2004. And if they can power either Lewis or Valtteri to win the Drivers’ championship, they’ll be the first engine manufacturer to do it seven consecutive times since Ford-Cosworth’s glory days between 1968 and 1974.

Despite – or because of – its success, no team is under more pressure than Ferrari to add to its trophy cabinet. When Ferrari loses, or worse still when they crash into each other like Brazil 2019, the Italian media attacks. Yet there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Maranello, thanks in no small part to Charles Leclerc’s brilliant debut season with the team, and the calm command of former tech chief turned team principal Mattia Binotto. The team scored nine pole positions last year, indicating that half the time they had the fastest car. They’ll want to build on that in 2020 with better in-race decision making and by keeping their drivers on the straight and narrow.

7. Qualifying = Super Saturdays

Due to the performance of the cars getting quicker and closer, qualifying will be even more exciting in 2020. Last year some of the most compelling moments came on Saturdays as the drivers tried to out-do each other by 1/1000th of a second. There is something magical about seeing man and machine come together without any distractions in pursuit of the perfect lap time. The format remains the same: Three sessions that whittle the grid down to a top ten shoot-out.

To see what the commentators see, subscribe to F1 TV Pro and live stream all the timing screens, telemetry, tyre choices, track and onboard cameras and radio chatter, so you can digest every 1/1000th of a second as it happens.

 

8. Technical changes

Testing starts from 19 February and the first thing to note is there’s less of it. Rather than eight days in Barcelona, this year there will be just six, and in-season testing has been scrapped entirely. This’ll make Fridays and Saturdays on race weekends even more critical. What’s more, the screens teams usually erect outside their garages during testing to keep away prying eyes have been banned. Now we’ll be able to watch exactly what they’re working on, as will their rivals.

Testing can be watched live or on demand through F1 TV Pro.

The cars should look pretty similar to last year’s, ahead of 2021’s big rules reshuffle. However, shark fins are set to return which should improve aero and also allow improved driver number placement, so viewers have a better chance of seeing who’s who. Teams have had to roll up their sleeves when it comes to brake cooling, designing their own vents to cope with the 1800°F temperatures, rather than buying them in from suppliers. And metal is now banned from the wing endplates, to decrease the chance of punctures when drivers play bumper cars into corners.

 

9. Still great after all these years

Silverstone 1950

The first World Championship GP at Silverstone

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2020 marks the 70th anniversary of Formula 1. In 1,018 world championship Grands Prix we’ve seen 108 different drivers and 35 different teams win races, and 15 teams and 33 drivers win world titles. It’s possible that a new name could be added to the list this year.

The first race was held on 13 May 1950, at Silverstone in the presence of Britain’s king and queen, and young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Silverstone remains very firmly on the calendar, and most of the teams are based in its orbit. And while some tracks have come and gone, and the calendar has expanded around the globe, F1 remains about talent, guts and innovation. It’s like the sporting arm of NASA: State-of-the-art boundary-pushing machines that make legends out of brave and clever humans, and for the rest of us mortals there’s vivid footage and staggering data that brings reality to what seems otherworldly.

With it, coverage has improved in step, and the F1 TV Pro streaming service is the ultimate window into the world’s most technically advanced sports entertainment. With full-depth coverage more accessible than ever before, F1 TV Pro promises to make 2020 a season to remember.

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