It’s that time of the year again, ladies and gentlemen. With cars being revealed left, right and centre, winter testing just around the corner… it’s time to get excited. Formula One is back.
But this isn’t just an ordinary season of Fomula One… oh no, this season has the potential to be absolutely crucial for the future of the sport. With major regulation changes coming in for the 2021 season, we’re already set to see the biggest shift in F1 since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid engines in 2014, however there is also the well publicised slew of driver contracts that will be expiring at the end of 2020.
As mentioned above, it also signals the end of the current F1 era with the regulation changes coming in next year set to shake up the sport once again. This season will be key for teams to not only focus on the continual development of their current package, but also keeping one eye on the future and ensuring they are fully prepared for what is to come.
There are a number of high profile drivers out of contract at the end of 2020, a number of which we have covered in depth previously, here. The way that the 2020 season plays out could prove to be a key factor in the driver movement we’re going to see ahead of 2021, as drivers will begin to lock down the contracts throughout the season.
Lewis Hamilton is obviously the name at the top of every team’s list, with Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon also set to be available. Alongside this, pretty much every team down the grid will have at least one available seat for next season meaning there will likely be changes aplenty this year, similar to those we saw ahead of the 2019 season.
While driver changes may not seem to be a crucial factor to some more casual fans of the sport, having the right driver lineup can help propel a team to heights far beyond their expectations. Whether it’s having an experienced driver who can help push development of the car, or a younger lineup eager to prove that they belong, having the right drivers in your team can be make or break for some outfits.
End of an era
2020 will see the end of what will likely be remembered as the ‘Mercedes’ era, with the German manufacturers dominating Formula One for the past six years. For Ferrari and Red Bull, this is their last chance to break one of the strongest spells of domination that a single team has ever seen, if they fail, Mercedes will have won every single championship available through the current era of F1.
While all three teams will be looking ahead to next year, all eager to put themselves into the best position possible to create a pattern of dominance similar to what we’ve seen from Mercedes and Red Bull in the past 10 years, I’d place a hefty bet that Red Bull and Ferrari are both determined to stop the Silver Arrows from securing a seventh straight Drivers and Constructors double.
If they do manage to put an end to the Mercedes monopoly, it may give us a glimpse into what we could expect going forwards… however it also ties into my final point.
Taking the next step
There are a number of young drivers on the grid, more than we have seen in the history of Formula One. Not only are we looking down the grid at the likes of Lando Norris, George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly – we also have the three young drivers at the top teams, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon.
2020 is going to be a crucial season to monitor the development for every one of these drivers, however there will be a higher level of scrutiny attached to Charles Leclrec and Max Verstappen, as both men signed long term extensions during the off season. Verstappen and Leclerc have already proven that they belong at the top of the sport on a number of occasions, but this season will show us if they are truly ready to lead the sport into a new era.
Will we see the end of Lewis Hamilton’s dominance over the sport in 2020? It all comes down to how much Verstappen and Leclerc have grown as drivers, we have already seen both men face off against Hamilton in the past, with Verstappen finally coming out on top at Brazil last year… could we begin to see a similar shift for Leclrec?
2020 is going to be a monumental season for Formula One, so make sure to check out The Sports Despatch for further coverage as preparation ramps up ahead of the new season. Also, drop us a follow on Twitter for coverage of a whole host of different sports.