We describe performance targets for each team racing in the 2020 F1 season.
- For 2020, Mercedes have a clear target ahead of them — win their seventh consecutive title double; but most-importantly, helping Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Drivers’ Championship titles
- Red Bull Racing team by its own admission are gunning for the Drivers’ Championship with Max Verstappen — with the aim to make him the sport’s youngest champion
- For 2020, less than fourth place would be embarrassing and could put a question mark on Renault’s commitment to Formula 1
The Formula 1 circus is already setting shop at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia. The opening round of the 2020 Formula 1 season will be contested this weekend and the big question on everyone’s mind is form factor — which team lies where in the pecking order? Frankly, the Formula 1 season is long enough and we’ve seen form factor ebb and flow as the season progresses. In which case, we thought it’s best to define what success could look like for each team in 2020.
The former world champion team started the hybrid-turbo era of Formula 1 with a bang — beating Ferrari in 2014 and Red Bull Racing in 2015. However, they’ve faced a steady decline in performances ever since. In 2016 and 2017, the team fought in the mid-field — finishing 5th in both seasons. In 2018 and 2019, the team finished in 10th and last place — in fact, last season was the team’s worst in many years. They scored a solitary point courtesy Robert Kubica’s measured drive (and some luck!) in the rainy German Grand Prix. In 2020, the team would be fighting battles on two fronts. First, trying to lift themselves from the bottom-most slot in the Constructors’ Championship — by trying to be more involved in the mid-field battle rather than making up the numbers. Second, the team would be eager to rejuvenate and re-energise the legacy and aura around the brand — Williams. Along with poor performances in the last two seasons, their sloppiness was evident, too. Let’s hope Wiliams is able to resurrect and do merit to their experience, resources and passion.
Gene Haas’ ultimatum for the Haas F1 Team is public news. The team has to perform in the early part of the season if they are to continue in the new era of Formula 1 from 2021. A large part of Haas’ problems seem self-inflicted — if the engineering team gets it right, the drivers mess it up on track and vice-versa. If all goes fine, trust their pit-stops to go all wrong. On the rare occasion that everything falls in place, Haas throws up a result like Kevin Magnussen’s sixth place at last year’s Australian Grand Prix. For 2020, Haas’ key focus would be delivering clean races — from all departments. If they do so, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them fight at the sharper end of the mid-field on a more regular basis. Also working in their favour would be the customer relationship they enjoy with Ferrari — where they buy as many legal parts from the Italian team as permitted by the rules. After the high of 2018, where the team finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, 2019 was a shocker — with the team scoring their lowest points in history. The upcoming season is the team’s fifth season in the sport and hopefully they will make it worthy enough to not be their last.
For a team that represents the history and legacy of the brand Alfa Romeo in Formula 1, an eighth place finish in 2019 would definitely not impress. The Alfa Romeo F1 Team, that’s operated by Sauber (the former Formula 1 team), may not have the wherewithal or resources to fight the top manufacturers like Mercedes or Ferrari, but being beaten by several privateer teams isn’t worth settling for either. In 2019, the team had a fantastic first-half of the season with Kimi Raikkonen scoring points in 8 out of the 12 races. In fact, he battled successfully against Mclaren and Carlos Sainz Jr. only to see results fade away in the second half. In the other car, Antonio Giovinazzi had flashes of brilliance while also committing rookie mistakes that cost the team vital points. He would know that he was lucky to be retained for 2020 despite the services of the much-experienced Nico Hulkenberg available. For 2020, the team would benefit from Raikkonen’s experience and consistency, while hoping that Giovinazzi’s reduced errors would hopefully bring more points and a higher finish in the table.
After a mid-season ownership change in 2018 and using 2019 as a transition year, anything less than the ‘best of the rest’ (fourth) position would be a disappointment for the Racing Point F1 Team. Usually, Formula 1 teams are coy about their performances from pre-season testing and are happy to downplay expectations. However, Racing Point’s confidence and statements have been on the other end of the scale. In their own words, the team expects to compete with Ferrari in the opening rounds of the season. If that happens to be the case, Mclaren will be under pressure to retain their ‘best of the rest’ tag in 2020. However, could Lance Stroll rise up to the occasion and aid Racing Point’s charge through the grid? In 2019, Stroll scored nearly 30 points less than the much-consistent Sergio Perez. Racing Point would hope that both their drivers fire in a season they seem better prepared to start than ever before.
Red Bull Racing’s B-team, Toro Rosso, has been renamed to Alpha Tauri from 2020. In 2019, the team equalled their best-ever position of sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship — courtesy a podium finish by each of their drivers, Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat. And of course, their performance last year should also take into account that the team was forced into a mid-season driver change thanks to Red Bull’s decision to swap drivers (Gasly for Albon). Unlike Red Bull, where the promoted driver arrives with a lot of encouragement and positivity, Alpha Tauri is where the demoted driver brings a whole lot of negative emotions that impact the driver and team alike. In light of this, Toro Rosso (or now, Alpha Tauri) had an applause-worthy 2019. In 2020, the team should benefit from a closer technical association with Red Bull Racing — in Helmut Marko’s words, they’re no longer the B-team but are now the sister team (wonder what that actually means though!). The stable and much-improved Honda power unit and continuity in driver line-up (unless Red Bull swaps them again!) should help them better their results from 2019, one hopes.
After several entries, exits and re-entries from Formula 1, Renault re-entered the sport as a full-time constructor in 2016. Since their return, the team has expressed that they were in re-build mode and that it would be at least 2-3 years till they returned to the podium. Cut to 2020, Renault will start their fifth season in the sport. However, they are still 2-3 years away from the podium by their own admission. For a car manufacturer with the might of Renault, not fighting with the other manufacturers at the top of the grid isn’t a good story. Apart from their 4th place (best of rest) in 2018, the team has been beaten in the Constructors’ Championship by their customers (first Red Bull and now Mclaren) and privateer teams. For 2020, less than fourth place would be embarrassing and could put a question mark on Renault’s commitment to Formula 1. In Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, the team has a one of the most solid driver pairings in the mid-field and here’s hoping the team delivers a package worthy of their talent.
McLaren’s ‘best of the rest’ (or fourth) finish in 2019 was a pleasant surprise for everyone. After their repeated troubles with Honda and the switch to Renault (in 2018), not many would’ve expected them to be the class of the mid-field last season. In fact, not many would cheer McLaren finishing fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, but the team’s performance last season was absolutely worthy. They even scored a surprise podium! However, 2020 is when it’s expected to get tough — after all, expectations are set and McLaren would want to prove that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan. At the offset, the team seems stable in their new structure and leadership coupled with a friendly and quick driver pair in Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. Their biggest rivals for ‘best of the rest’ would be Racing Point followed by Renault. Let’s see who claims honours in 2020.
Red Bull Racing
The energy drinks-funded team is without a doubt one of the most-exciting teams on the grid — be it their bold driver choices, ability to deliver a super-fast car and make it score podiums despite not having the championship-grade power units and of course, their general demeanour in the Formula 1 paddock. After a year of settling in with Honda, Red Bull Racing want to go big in 2020. By their own admission, they are targeting podium finishes at every race this season. Also by their own admission, they are gunning for the Drivers’ Championship with Max Verstappen — with the aim to make him the sport’s youngest champion. In 2020, beating Ferrari or their drivers would no longer satisfy Red Bull. It will have to be Lewis Hamilton’s crown. Irrespective of the final outcome, a Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battle is always box-office stuff. And of course, they’ll also spend time finding Verstappen’s suitable partner — one who will bring home the points and strengthen the team’s standings in the Constructors’ Championship.
As with every year, the only success metric that Ferrari and it’s fans have in mind for the team is the World Championships. After all, a team with the experience, budget and resources as Ferrari should be winning titles more often than they actually have. In fact, they failed to win a single title in the last decade (2010-19). For 2020, if there’s one team that is difficult to place accurately in the pecking order, it’s Ferrari. Unlike 2019, the Italian team didn’t scorch the tracks and top the timing sheets in the pre-season tests. Instead, the team seems to have opted for an exact opposite approach — downplay testing performance and highlight their rivals’ play. Whether Ferrari are in trouble or not, being beaten by Mercedes or Red Bull Racing would only add to the embarrassment of not having won a single title in the current hybrid-turbo era of the sport. Strangely, what other teams seem to manage seamlessly (race operations, strategy, drivers, etc.), Ferrari struggles to find consistency in. Let’s hope Ferrari’s start to the new decade is celebration-worthy!
The German car manufacturer has had a dream run in Formula 1. They have won six consecutive championships — a new record in Formula 1 and have been unbeaten in the current hybrid-turbo era. They have raised their game with much ease, each time a rival threatened to dethrone them. Their superiority has been such that all championship challenges have fizzled out much before the end of the season. In fact, Mercedes’ operations in Formula 1 would be a good case study in agility and team-work. For 2020, Mercedes have a clear target ahead of them — win their seventh consecutive title double; but most-importantly, helping Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Drivers’ Championship titles — a record that most thought was unreachable. In their quest, Mercedes seems to have left no stone unturned, including their latest ‘dual-axis steering wheel’ (or DAS) innovation and were the fastest team in the pre-season tests. The only thing working against Mercedes winning in 2020? A silly statistic — no team that has topped pre-season testing since 2010 has gone on to win.
This post was first published on Firstpost