F1 IS BACK! What can we expect?

Following on from an exciting and enthralling 2019 season, the 2020 Formula One season was one that was eagerly awaited by teams, pundits, and fans all over the world. It held a number of unanswered questions;

Would Lewis Hamilton be able to match the great Michael Schumacher's’ record of 7 world titles, previously thought unmatchable?

Could Ferrari hit the ground running and challenge Mercedes throughout the season to take the Silver Arrows’ Constructors crown away?

Would we see Sebastian Vettel back to his best, after two seasons littered with damaging self-inflicted mistakes?

Or would young Charles LeClerc cement himself as the Ferrari driver to beat, following an impressive first season for Ferrari, during which he recorded two wins and finished above his 4 times World Champion teammate in the standings?

Whatever questions we had, we had no idea how long we would have to wait to find out the answers

Pre Season testing took place amidst the early outbreak of COVID-19 and fairly soon after, the inevitable news broke. The season would be suspended for an indefinite length of time. For someone like myself, who is an avid Formula One fan, this was gutting news.

It was obviously for the best, which I am not denying at all, but it was so frustrating. Having watched my favourite team on the grid, Williams, endure such a torrid season, during which they scored a solitary point, courtesy of Robert Kubica at the German Grand Prix. I was excited for a new season to start and hopefully see Williams close the gap to the teams in front of them and be able to score some points.

After keeping a close eye on Pre Season testing, it was looking like we may see a few surprises. You can never read too much into Pre Season testing, but Racing Point were looking competitive, as were Renault and even Williams had a relatively successful test, one year on from a disastrous testing session when they missed the first two days of running.

Thankfully, after numerous cancelled races and re-scheduling, the season will start on the 5th July in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring. The first of a doubleheader, we will be treated to 8 races in under 10 weeks, making up for the lost track time.

The season traditionally gets underway in Australia at Albert Park, but we will have a completely new opener, where we will get our first look at 20 Formula One cars screaming around the Austrian hills in anger.

It is a season, as I said earlier, of questions that we’re dying to know the answer to.

Mercedes have been the team to beat since the start of the current era back in 2014, but Ferrari will be eager to turn the tide and turn Formula One red again.

Red Bull are also keen to make up for years of underachieving, having failed to challenge for the title since their last crown back in 2013, the last year of V8 power.

Schumacher's’ record 7 World Titles were previously thought unmatchable, let alone unbeatable, but with Mercedes and their talisman Lewis Hamilton more driven and keener to win than ever, it is a strong possibility that the 91-time race-winning German will have another driver with him on 7 titles.

Red Bull, as previously mentioned, will hope this year is the year they can challenge for the Constructor's title once again.

Star driver Max Verstappen ended the 2019 season 3rd behind only the two Mercedes drivers, so he will be looking to pick up from where they left off and challenge for the top step of the podium. With the young drivers’ blistering pace and the fact that the first two races of the season take place at Red Bulls’ home race, it wouldn’t be silly to bet against the young Dutchman sprinting out of the blocks and surprising the drivers around him.

Charles LeClerc will want to assert his dominance and his status of the young up-and-coming driver at Ferrari and take that Number 1 seat himself. It remains to be seen how Ferrari will handle this season, now Sebastian Vettel has announced he will be leaving the Italian giants come the end of the season.

Will they continue to back the more experienced former World Champion? Or will more power shift over to LeClerc, following on from his brilliant debut season for the team in red?

It remains to be seen, but it is one battle I am very much looking forward to seeing!

What of the midfield?

It promises to be a closely fought battle between the likes of Renault, Racing Point, and McLaren, not forgetting the remaining teams of course.

McLaren appears to be progressing through the grid again, following on from half a decade of below-par performances.

Renault have, by their own admission, underachieved so far since they returned to the sport as a Constructor back in 2016, so they will be looking to show they mean business and are in it for the long haul.

Haas had a disappointing 2019, so they will be looking to bounce back this year and prove they can fight teams around them and pick up solid points and Williams, who as I said, had a terrible 2019, and 2018 for that matter, will be looking to close the gap to the midfield and become regular point scorers again.

Whatever the 2020 season has in store for us, I cannot wait to see how it pans out.

There will be fewer races this year than previous years, with some not even happening at all, like Vietnam, which should have been joining the season and hosting its’ very first F1 race, but it still promises to be an exciting, potentially record-breaking year for the sport.

One where we could see the youngsters really mount a challenge to the old guard and try to take the crowns for themselves.

I will be eagerly watching all practice sessions, the qualifying, and of course the race this weekend.

The withdrawal symptoms have been terrible and there is only so much Formula One I can play on the PlayStation!

Steve Thomson