#TheXtraLap: Thoughts ahead of the 2020 Formula 1 season

Before the season starts and we get a better idea of what the standings will be like, I wanted to make an effort to think about my expectations for 2020.

I will give my opinion on each team and what I think is possible in 2020. Mind you, these are my thoughts and not a statistical forecast. In the end, I could be completely wrong. Let’s start with the team that became champion in 2019 and then go down the line.

Mercedes

World Champions for the past six years, but if Red Bull had not started so late and Ferrari had not made so many mistakes, they could already have had a hard time in 2019. What will 2020 bring for the silver team?

I have the idea that after six years, Mercedes is also pretty much at their maximum in terms of developments so I think they will still be fast, but whether they still have the supremacy I wonder. They will be a candidate for the championship again, but I don’t think they will have it easy. There is a chance they will finish second.

Lewis Hamilton will reappear at the start as strong as ever, but the older he gets, the harder it will be to maintain such a high level. If the car doesn’t quite do what is expected, I think Hamilton could have a hard time too.

Valtteri Bottas says he found the answer to beat Hamilton, but in 2019 Bottas 2.0 also started strong, but then dropped away. I think that, also in 2020, Bottas will have a strong year, but doubt if he can maintain the high level. For that, all the pieces of the puzzle for Bottas have to fall just right.

Ferrari

I don’t know why, but for years, Ferrari seems very strong when testing starts, but when it comes down to it, they miss something every time. In 2019 they were fast, but there were a lot of strategic mistakes and both drivers often got in each other’s way.

If they finally get it right, they can go for the championship in 2020.

Sebastian Vettel isn’t a stupid driver because he’s a multiple world champion for a reason. I have to admit that since he left for Ferrari, he hasn’t quite reached his old hungry level. Where he used to get angry when things didn’t go the way he wanted and he did everything he could to get it right, he’s more mellow at Ferrari.

The fact that he is now also a father can of course play a role in that. But I’m not writing him off yet. I’m not sure if he will be world champion again, but he can still compete for the prizes.

Charles Leclerc is still a young gun and it looked as if he wanted too much in 2019 when it turned out that he could handle the Ferrari pretty well. Personally I think he wanted to leave his mark on the team too much and that played against him during the 2019 season.

If he can calm down a bit in certain situations and be a little less self-critical at times when he can’t do anything about it, I think he can throw up a surprise, also towards the championship.

Red Bull

What can I say about Red Bull? The team is known to start with a basic model car and develop the car during the season. Downside is that they normally always lag behind when the season starts and then end up strong.

2020 is the last year that little has changed in the rules and after a year with Honda, I feel that they can develop well and that they can be there from the beginning. If they keep up the tradition and continue to develop, I’ll see them go for the championship.

Max Verstappen has shown that in the “short” time that he is in F1, he knows how to improve every year. If he can continue this trend and Red Bull, in combination with Honda, can give him a car with which he feels comfortable, I think he too can go for the championship.

Alex Albon has proven himself to be a great second driver in 2019, but did not yet have the right experience in all kinds of situations, including the free practice sessions, where he usually wrote off a car. If he has learned from 2019, and he feels better in the new car, he should be good enough to have Verstappen’s back, but above all, he could ensure many points in the constructors’ championship.

McLaren

I did find the team to be a surprise in 2019 when they started with a completely new driver duo. The car was good and the team continued to develop, both with the car and with the team itself. If they can keep the same line, I can see them keeping fourth place in 2020, but with more points. In my opinion the top three are still too far away, but if Mclaren continues like this, I’ll see them finish high.

Carlos Sainz has had very good races in 2019, but also some inferior ones. If I don’t take the DNF’s into account, he would still have finished sixth in the championship for drivers, but then he would have had more points. Sainz is very stable so I see him compete again for “best of the rest”.

Lando Norris was seen as a joker at the beginning of 2019 and most didn’t think he would be so good from the start. Norris has improved well, but if he can be a bit more aggressive in certain situations in 2020, he can settle in the top 10 of the championship.

Renault

What to say about Renault. Every season they start with the same statements, that they have found the leak and that they are going full for it, but as soon as we are a few races into the season, they sink back. For 2020 they have dropped Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon is going to work with Daniel Ricciardo.

I suspect it’s going to be the same story that Renault are going to start this year with saying that they are stronger and better, but I’m afraid it’s going to be the same year in which they’re going to be happy to finish sixth or maybe fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo joined the team in 2019 with high expectations. The results were very disappointing, but I’m sure his paycheck will have made the grief a little less. I don’t see many changes in 2020 except that Ricciardo has had more input into the development of the car for this year.

If the car doesn’t leave him in the lurch, I hope Ricciardo can show what he’s made of and he could end up in the top 10 of the championship.

Esteban Ocon is new to the team. The fact that he didn’t drive at all in 2019 and was only allowed to look at screens at Mercedes doesn’t really help. Also the fact that Ocon has not been involved in the development of the 2020 car is not perfect so he is actually going blind into the year.

Ocon is not a bad driver so I think he will do well under the circumstances, but it will take a couple of races before he is more at ease and can maybe drag out a couple of top 10 finishes.

Alpha Tauri (Toro Rosso)

The team did above expectation in 2019, but it looked like, after the summer break, there wasn’t really an improvement in performance anymore. A third place for Daniil Kvyat and a second place for Pierre Gasly was a highlight and showed that the team was on the right track.

Now that the rules haven’t changed much this year, I expect the team to build on their success and they will have more stability with the same drivers duo and I wouldn’t be surprised if they can go for places five, six or seven.

Daniil Kvyat showed last year that he is much more mature and that brought him to many points and a podium. He has had his moments, but if he can be more patient in certain situations in 2020, he will become a permanent name in the top 10.

Piere Gasly had an eventful 2019, but towards the end it looked like he felt more in place. I assume that Gasly has had more influence on the 2020 car and that will help him with his self-confidence and that he will drive some strong races this year.

Racing Point

The team had an eventful season in 2019 in which they started with a car that wasn’t really developed for 2019 and throughout the year new parts kept coming on the car that generally didn’t allow them to get the potential out of the car.

I expect Racing Point to have a better start in 2020, but then it will need both drivers to score high. Time will tell, but at the base they should be able to finish higher than in 2019.

Sergio Perez is the most experienced driver on the team and although it didn’t always look like it, he did very well in 2019. I feel that if the car is working well from the start, Perez will have a stable season and should be able to finish in the top 10 on a regular basis.

Lance Stroll… I’m still not convinced of his abilities. Before he joined Williams, he spent a full year testing with an old Williams and his dad spent a lot of money to give Stroll every chance to learn. I think he should have gotten one step better, but that didn’t work out with Williams.

According to Stroll, it was because of the car, but even in 2019 he didn’t convince me of his abilities and is allowed to stay where he is thanks to his father. I expect Stroll, in 2020, to have pretty much the same year as in 2019 with a good race here and there, but he will not be as strong as Perez.

Alfa Romeo

The team had a flying start in 2019 in which, especially Kimi Raikkonen, showed what was possible. Antonio Giovinazzi, on the other hand, took the overall picture down and the team occasionally missed out on important points.

Halfway through the season, Giovinazzi was lucky, but Raikkonen’s results were less and the situation didn’t improve. I hope the team will put more effort into the development of the car in 2020 and if both drivers manage to maintain a good level, they can go for a seventh position in the final standings.

Kimi Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the grid but doesn’t seem to be losing anything, or much of, his driver quality. He still knows exactly what to do behind the wheel, so if everything goes well, a top 10 ranking should be possible here and there.

Antonio Giovinazzi has never been able to prove himself completely so far. At the end of last year it all went a bit his side, but his season was generally no more than average. I hope he will take a step forward in 2020 otherwise it could be his last year in F1.

Haas

The team started 2019 with a sponsor drama of the highest level. I’m not even gonna mention the name, but everyone knows about it. Probably this has brought a lot of financial trouble to the development of the car because the whole season the team has had a very hard time and they never found the solution.

The start was nice, but they got tyre problems and went the wrong way with solutions and never got the issue resolved. I hope the team will have a better start in 2020 and eventually find a solution to their problems so they can be more competitive. I expect that they will at least be able to compete for places seven or eight.

Romain Grosjean is still with the team and although he often makes mistakes and complains a lot on the onboard radio, he also has good races so he still has his seat.

It seems as if he always needs to make a lot of effort to keep up with the high level of performance and because of that he also has lesser races on a regular basis. When the car is more stable and Grosjean can focus better on his own races instead of the car, he could do just fine in 2020.

Kevin Magnussen is a racer at heart with a no-nonsense attitude. He is an aggressive driver who always tries to get more out of the car than what is in it.

The Dane can’t help the fact that the car is letting him down on occasion, but in my opinion, he is a bit too resigned as if he doesn’t care when he has lost out again.

I hope that in 2020 he will be pissed more often if things don’t go the way they should and that that will motivate the team to take a step further. You can’t settle for the average if you want to achieve the best. So I also see Magnussen finishing in the top 14.

Williams

Not much to say about the team and their 2019 season. It just couldn’t be worse. With Robert Kubica, they had the experience and with George Russell as a rookie, they should have had a great combination to have a good season, but the car didn’t work.

Not at all. There were no parts. New parts were so fragile that sometimes they couldn’t even be used and I still think that Russell drove the new car and Kubica had to make do with the remaining parts because such a big difference just wasn’t possible.

In everything Russell came out better than Kubica, but I can’t believe Kubica was completely out of it and he certainly should have finished or qualified a couple of times better than Russell. The team scored a single point in Hockenheim and funny enough, it was Kubica who grabbed him in an unlikely race in which many drivers who normally end up in the points, dropped out left and right.

The team has lost sponsors again and it looks like the team will have to do with many small sponsors in 2020. The good news is that father Latifi has started to get involved and has also put his money where his mouth is so the team should be better off financially.

This means of course that his son Nicolas Latifi got a seat at the expense of Kubica. But because money plays such a big role in F1, all of a sudden Roy Nissany joined the team as a test driver. Normally they don’t just get all kinds of free practice sessions so you can assume that this also involves a lot of money.

But I still don’t have the high expectations for the team for 2020 and I’m afraid they’ll finish last in 2020 as well. I just hope that they can collect more than a single point so they can collect some more prize money before 2021.

George Russell will be the leader of the team in 2020 and with a season already behind him, there is a chance he will do better than 2019.

The car needs to be better for Russell to get the most out of it so if the combination is good I hope to see Russell a bit more often in Q2 and then there is still a lot possible in the race. Top 10 finish seems too far away to me, but it’s F1 and weird things can happen and often do.

Nicolas Latifi is the only rooky in 2020 so there is no pressure for him yet. He wasn’t there when the car was developed for 2020 so the question is if and how he can handle the car.

My expectations for Latifi are therefore not very high and he will have to prove himself, otherwise, he will soon be seen as the driver who is in F1 because of his father’s money.


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Maximilian Guenther takes maiden FE victory in Chile

BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Maximilian Guenther clinched a hard-earned victory at yesterday’s Santiago ePix to become the youngest Formula E winner in history. Chile’s capital Santiago played host to the third race of the 2019/2020 FIA ABB… More »


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Kvyat: I became a better driver in 2019

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Daniil Kvyat’s own synopsis of his performance last season with Toro Rosso is honest and forthright, now the rapid Russian is looking ahead to future success as he continues to prove he is deserving of his second chance on Formula 1. It seemed… More »


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Kvyat: I became a better driver in 2019

Daniil Kvyat’s own synopsis of his performance last season with Toro Rosso is honest and forthright, now the rapid Russian is looking ahead to future success as he continues to prove he is deserving of his second chance on Formula 1.

It seemed only yesterday that Max Verstappen won his inaugural Formula One Grand Prix in a chaotic 2016 Spanish race. Since then he has added seven more victories to his tally. But one man’s gain is always at the expense of another’s fortune, and that unlucky soul in Barcelona was Daniil Kvyat.

Promoted to Red Bull to fill the departing Sebastian Vettel in 2015, Kvyat struggled to match the pace of teammate Daniel Ricciardo and too often fell afoul of the stewards with a myriad of on-track incidents.

The costliest being his double blow into the rear of Vettel’s Ferrari at the 2016 Russian Grand Prix. Living up to his torpedo namesake, Kvyat was duly demoted from the senior team after the race before being completely dropped from F1 after the 2017 season.

But it would be Ricciardo’s shock switch to Renault for 2019 that opened the door for Kvyat’s return to the spotlight. Helmut Marko ultimately decided to offer the Russian a rare second chance to perform for Toro Rosso after concluding that the team had no junior drivers capable of success in F1.

Kvyat then joined a small community of drivers who were offered a second opportunity in F1 after being let go altogether for a period of time. Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen also experienced the chance to deliver for a second time despite being dropped previously.

For Kvyat, his approach to 2019’s season was exceptional. The Russian would finish P13 in the drivers’ championship with 37 points and assisted Toro Rosso in finishing P6 in the constructors with a record tally of 85 points.

Kvyat also experienced having to deal with two teammates of two completely different calibres. Initially, Kvyat seemed to dominate Albon across all facets, and by the winter break was six places clear of his teammate.

Arguably frustrated at the decision to promote Albon over himself to the senior team, Kvyat continued to exemplify his ultimate potential in a car that was far from the best.

Pierre Gasly apparently succumbed to the pressure that exists in a top tier team that demands nothing short of success; pressure that is undoubtedly amplified when pitted against Max Verstappen. Thus, resulting in Gasly’s demotion to Toro Rosso before the Belgian Grand Prix.

But for Kvyat, the lack of stress that comes with being situated in a midfield team paid enormous dividends for himself and the team. He was able to orchestrate drives that genuinely reflected his potential.

Kvyat’s superb podium drive in the wet German Grand Prix that eliminated the vast majority of the field would be only the second in the history of Toro Rosso, and a testament to Kvyat’s exceptional aptitude.

For 2020 Toro Rosso will be rebranded as AlphaTauri in conjunction with Red Bull’s fashion line. But for Kvyat the goal remains the same: to develop his driving talent whilst delivering the performances expected on a regular basis.

A similar clearheaded approach to the fresh F1 season that was suggested last year is key to unlocking Kvyat’s true potential.

Team principal of AlphaTauri Franz Tost believes his team must target a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship for the upcoming season.

Tost said recently, “I hope that we will do a step forward and then the target becomes quite clear. We have to improve our performance and we have to finish in the top five in the constructors’ championship.”

AlphaTauri will have the additional advantage of once again having Honda provide their power units for 2020. The Japanese manufacturer have rapidly evolved with Red Bull over the last few seasons and late indications last year suggested that their PU already on par with their more established rivals.

Meanwhile, Kvyat has his eyes firmly set on family. During the weekend of his phenomenal German Grand Prix, his partner Kelly Piquet (daughter of three-time world champion Nelson Piquet) gave birth to the couple’s first child; and the off-season provides the perfect opportunity to develop a family relationship

AlphaTauri are set to unveil their 2020 car on February 14th, one week ahead of the year’s first pre-season test in Barcelona.


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Bottas finishes ninth in Arctic Lapland Rally

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Mercedes F1 driver Valtteri Bottas finished ninth in this year’s edition of the Arctic Lapland Rally with experienced co-driver Timo Rautiainen. It was the Finn’s second appearance at the event also known as Tunturiralli. Last year he finished… More »


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Bottas finishes ninth in Arctic Lapland Rally

Mercedes F1 driver Valtteri Bottas finished ninth in this year’s edition of the Arctic Lapland Rally with experienced co-driver Timo Rautiainen.

It was the Finn’s second appearance at the event also known as Tunturiralli. Last year he finished fifth in his debut but, this year at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 World Rally Car, he had some issues on the first day that dropped him down the order.

Bottas reported, “After a messy day one and 22nd overall we managed to get back into top ten with Timo, although completely new and challenging conditions for me, the visibility was really bad and there was a lot of fresh snow on the track, and I learned a lot. And had fun.”

In December, the 30-year-old took part in the Rallycircuit Côte d’Azur where he took overall victory with five stage wins at the wheel of the Citroën DS3 WRC.

Bottas will be back at his ‘real job’ when Formula 1 testing begins


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