29 july 2020 – The first three races of the 2020 Formula 1 season are just over or the next triple-header is just around the corner. The teams race twice at Silverstone and then travel to the Barcelona circuit for the Gran Premio de España, if the corona situation in Catalonia permits. If Max Verstappen wants to do something in the championship this year, Red Bull will have to get the problems with the RB16 stede pede under control.
Although the championship has been underway for less than a month, we have already reached the fourth race. It’s just one of many things that will make 2020 a far from normal Formula 1 season. After the first-ever triple-header in 2018, the sport never swore to hold three races in a row again, because it would demand too much from the teams’ employees. But in the year of the coronavirus, Formula 1 finishes no fewer than three triple-headers in a row. The financial interests to finish a serious championship in 2020 are therefore great. According to the regulations, eight races are sufficient for a world championship, but in order to fulfill the agreements with the TV channels, at least fifteen must be ridden. The number of confirmed GPs has been at thirteen since the Nürburgring, Portimao and Imola were added late last week. There will almost certainly be races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, which would have secured the TV millions.
Back to current affairs. So the next two weekends, two races are scheduled at Silverstone. First the Grand Prix of Great Britain takes place at the former military airport and then the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, in honor of the seventieth anniversary of Formula 1. To make that second showdown more interesting, there is no reverse direction, no other layout used and no qualifying race on Saturday – all ideas that have been reviewed in recent months – but the teams will have to do with a different tire selection, which means that different strategies may be used on Sunday. However, the double season opener on the Red Bull Ring has shown that the second race weekend on the same circuit can still offer enough spectacle without gimmicks, because the weather conditions are never quite the same a week later. But what are the five things to look forward to during the first meeting at Silverstone?
1. Red Bull knows where the problem is
Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko told Auto, Motor und Sport earlier this week that the Milton Keynes team now knows what is causing the problems with the RB16. Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon faced the first races with a car that becomes unpredictable as soon as they bring the car to the limit. Not exactly what you want as a driver when you try to go through the corners as hard as possible. Marko speaks of an aerodynamic problem and explains that the air flows over the car in a slightly different way than the designers had foreseen. “We now know what works and what doesn’t,” said Marko. “From that basis we can develop further. We will try to repair the errors as soon as possible. That is why we do not put all new parts on the car in one go, but one by one. So we can see if there is somewhere an error has crept in. ” We may already see improvement on the track in Northamptonshire. In any case, Red Bull does not give up. “We are doing everything we can to close the gap with Mercedes,” Marko promises.
2. British talents shine
Lewis Hamilton may be well on his way to his seventh world title, but the new batch of British drivers has also made its appearance in the first races of 2020. Lando Norris took a nice third place in the season opener in Austria by coming up with a quick last lap within five seconds of Hamilton, who was second but only having received a time penalty. The McLaren driver followed up on this result with a fifth-place finish in the Styrian Grand Prix, making him surprisingly fourth in the championship at the moment. Further back, George Russell proved to have a lot to offer by qualifying twelfth twice with the Williams. Unfortunately for the 2018 Formula 2 champion, the FW43 is still too slow in the races to really be able to compete with the other teams, but at least the way up seems to have been found by the race team from Grove.
3. First podium for Racing Point?
Given the similarities between last year’s Mercedes and this year’s Racing Point and the strong results the Silverstone team has achieved in the first races with the RP20, it seems only a matter of time that Sergio Perez, or who knows, might even be Lance Stroll, however, ends up on the podium. This will probably happen somewhere in the next two weeks in England, because Mercedes has always performed well at Silverstone in previous years. Of the last seven editions of the British Grand Prix, six were prey for Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton was five times the longest. Last year, the German factory team reigned supreme on Saturdays and Sundays, so there’s no question that the future Aston Martin should be successful in the British races with the successful copy of the W10.
4. Clarity about upcoming legality of Racing Point
Elaborating on the previous point, it is possible that before the first meeting at Silverstone, a statement will be made about the protest that Renault has submitted against Racing Point after the past two games. The French factory formation is unhappy that the Silverstone team copied last year’s Mercedes without a hint. Many other teams are not happy with that either, but where they doubt whether Racing Point really broke the rules with this, Renault sees good reason to protest. The brake ducts on the RP20 look like two drops of water that Mercedes drove last year and let this just be a part that a team must have designed from this year itself. Last year Racing Point was allowed to purchase the brake ducts from Mercedes and the team has a point when it says that it cannot just forget things it learned last year. Moreover, with the CAD software, it could demonstrate that it has drawn every line of the brake duct design itself. The Racing Point designers may have drawn inspiration from Mercedes’ brake ducts, but according to the letter of the law, the team has drawn and produced the part itself, which means there is a good chance that Renault’s protest will be rejected. You never get such rules waterproof. There are always teams that benefit to a greater or lesser extent from a rule change like this, but at some point as an FIA, you have to draw a line and look to the future.
5. Silly season ends up in the final phase
With Carlos Sainz moving from McLaren to Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo leaving Renault for McLaren and Fernando Alonso making his return to Formula 1 at Renault, there have been several notable shifts in the drivers’ market in recent months. But there are still some points to be added. The main focus seems to be on what Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel are going to do. The Mexican has a contract with Aston Martin, now still Racing Point, for next year, but may lose his seat to Vettel, who has to pack his weight at Ferrari after this year. If this actually happens, the question is where Perez goes. Both Alfa Romeo and Haas seem to have opportunities for the driver from Guadalajara, while colleague Adam Cooper recently testified in a column that Perez may be an attractive teammate for Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing. Reportedly, Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll has until July 31 – next Friday – to get rid of Perez, after which the final pieces of the puzzle could be laid very quickly.