Five things to know about Formula 1’s return
Formula 1 is back. After months of no racing because of the coronavirus pandemic, the pinnacle of motorsport is heading to Austria for the first of two races at the Red Bull Ring.
With this being the first race of a new season, and new rules and regulations designed to keep everyone involved safe, here’s a roundup of everything you need to know.
The ‘new normal’
One of the key conditions for professional sport to return has been safety protocol designed to keep everyone involved as possible safe from catching and transmitting coronavirus.
Like all sports, there will be no fans attending races. However, specific to Formula 1 is the fact that teams can bring a maximum of 80 personnel, while no media will be allowed in the paddock or pits. All team members must receive a negative test before being allowed to travel, and must be tested every five days while working and wear PPE.
Finally, there will be no podium for the drivers, who will instead be interviewed and receive trophies on the grid after the race.
Double- and triple-headers
F1 is used to double-headers, which involves racing at two tracks in two consecutive weeks. It has even done a triple-header before, but teams hated it, with personnel working flat-out for three weeks to prepare cars and move everything between circuits.
However, this will be a common theme in 2020 as F1 tries to cram as many races in as possible. For the first time, F1 will race at the same circuit twice in one season, with the opening round at the Red Bull Ring in Austria followed the next week by another race at the circuit, then a race in Hungary for the first triple-header.
After a week off, F1 will return for two British grands prix at Silverstone followed by a race at Catalunya in Spain for the second double-header. So far, the rest of the confirmed calendar only includes Spa in Belgium and Monza in Italy, but a second Italian race at Mugello is one of a variety of new European venues under consideration.
Races in the Americas and Asia will be confirmed later in the year if possible, with Bahrain rumoured to be considering different layouts to make a double-header more interesting.
Fighting for equality
During the coronavirus crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement also gained a lot of attention worldwide. F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was the leading voice in the paddock, calling for equality and for his fellow drivers to speak up.
Formula 1 launched its We Race As One campaign, making a public pledge in “the fight against Covid-19 and the condemnation of racism and inequality”. Teams and drivers will be racing with rainbow symbols, with some of the most prominent placing the images on the halo devices above the drivers’ heads.
Mercedes-AMG F1 has made a powerful statement in support of Hamilton, as it has ditched its traditional silver paint scheme in favour of a black livery. It said the move was a ‘signal of the team’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms’. Both Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas will also wear black race suits.
Battles at the front
All the talking will soon be over and it will be down to the drivers on the track. With very little development time and teams struggling for budget in the wake of the pandemic, changes to the cars might not be as widespread as we’ve come to expect from F1.
Mercedes is expected to dominate, as it has done for many years now. However, Red Bull Racing has been closing the gap and looks strong, so 2020 could be the year it fights Hamilton and co. for the title. Ferrari makes up ‘The Big Three’, but it has revealed that it has ditched its early car design after finding serious flaws, so expect the red cars to be off the pace in Austria.
And that’s before we get into the drama of Sebastian Vettel, who will leave Ferrari at the end of the year. Can he prove a point and beat his young team-mate Charles Leclerc this season? Time will tell.
Best of the rest
In recent years, the midfield battles tend to be where the action is. For 2020, it’s likely that the battle for best of the rest will be between Racing Point and McLaren.
The former has drawn criticism because opponents say the team, which uses a Mercedes engine, has copied the championship-winning team’s design from last year. It says motorsport’s governing body the FIA is happy with its design, but if it is successful expect these complaints to rumble on.
The Formula 1 season begins this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, with qualifying starting at 2pm on Saturday and the race starting at 2.10pm on Sunday.
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