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2020 F1 Season Preview - Now or Never!

The 2019 F1 Season saw new challengers to the crown. It even produced some stunning races at Germany and Brazil where the title favourites came up short. However at the end of it all,  Mercedes AMG Petronas and Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme..for the sixth time.

The sport celebrates 70 years of racing in 2020. It is the last year before there is an overhaul of technical regulations by the FIA in order to bring more parity to the playing field. 2020 also sees a couple of driver changes - Esteban Ocon comes in to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault while Nicolas Latifi, 2019 F2 Championship Runner-up ( a rookie ) replaces Robert Kubica at Rokit Williams F1 Team who took up a reserve driver role at Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team. Sadly Nyck de Vries, the reigning F2 Champion couldn't make a place for himself in the world of F1 and left the McLaren Driver Program to race with Mercedes in Formula E.

The Vietnam GP ( to be held in the capital city of Hanoi ) and the Dutch GP at Zandvoort are the new tracks added to the F1 Calendar. The German Grand Prix, unfortunately, made its exit for 2020.


So what has changed on the Regulations side for 2020?

1) Teams will be allowed to use one more MGU-K unit compared to 2019 to compensate for the increased demands of contesting twenty-two races.

2) Pre-season tests are shortened from 4 days to 3 and the mid-season tests of Bahrain and Spain have been done away with to ease the strain of a longer season.

3) Teams aren't allowed to hide their cars / put up screens during the Test Days.

4) The Hours of Curfew are extended from Eight to Nine, allowing mechanics some more rest on Race Weekends. Teams however are allowed to break the curfew twice in one season without attracting a penalty.

5) The rules surrounding jump-starts and missing the weighbridge procedure ( in-session ) have been softened. This will allow stewards to dish out less severe punishments ( based on steward discretion ). 

6) The "Waving of the Chequered Flag" makes a return. The Chequered Light Panel has been done away with after a glitch caused the Japanese GP to end a lap earlier in 2019. 

7) Drivers will have more control at Race Starts. 90% of the engine’s torque will be controlled directly on the driver’s command with their clutch paddle or paddles ( which the rules now stipulate to be “pull-type” paddles ). Drivers will still have stall prevention and bite point finder functions available to them – but the onus is now even more on them to make sure they get a good getaway.


The pre-season tests are done and dusted. The Season Opener in Australia is next. 

Let us have a look at the report card of each team post testing!


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes AMG Petronas have been the strongest team in the Turbo Era. They have snapped up all the titles on offer since 2014. The pre-season tests in 2020 suggest it might be no different. Mercedes always find novel ways to stay ahead of the competition and the latest addition to their arsenal was the Dual Axis Steering system or DAS. 

So what is DAS? I quote formula1.com "The DAS system works by Bottas and Hamilton pushing and pulling on the steering wheel in the cockpit of their W11, the action effecting a change on the car’s front wheel toe angle – with conjecture remaining about the exact benefits the system brings." They will be using it in Melbourne as the tests revealed the system working brilliantly. 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas stay with the team for 2020. They enjoy a really amicable relationship with a fair bit of competitiveness ontrack. Bottas had a better outing in 2019 and will be hoping to mount a bigger challenge for the title. Lewis Hamilton is chasing the dream of equaling Michael Schumacher's record of 7 World Titles! Hamilton had a near perfect 2019 but in 2020 Bottas wont be the only challenger to the title. Max Verstappen and the Ferrari Duo will be gunning for it as well. Hamilton has been there, done that on 6 occasions...so he has an edge.

Mercedes clocked the highest number of laps in the pre-season tests while Bottas was the only driver to go set a 1min 15s lap. The only hiccup came in the form of a breakdown in the power unit during testing ( something they will address before Australia ). Their pace ontrack is also backed up by brilliant strategic calls, something that was a regular feature at races where they weren't the quickest. 

Mercedes are once again the team to beat in 2020. Period.



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a challenging start to 2019.  Max Verstappen brought home a chunk of points, podiums and victories up while Pierre Gasly, the recruit that replaced Daniel Ricciardo found it hard to make things work in the A team. He was eventually demoted ( at Spa, Belgium ) and replaced by Alexander Albon who hit the track running with very strong performances. His finishes in the second half of the season warranted him a seat for 2020, to partner Max Verstappen. If Mercedes boast about their DAS System then Red Bull have some innovations of their own - a clever new steering and double bulkhead arrangement that is seen on their challenger RB 16.

Max Verstappen will be the leader at Red Bull while Albon will provide a solid supporting role. Verstappen's Orange Army will be looking forward to flood the stands for the maiden Dutch GP in Zandvoort. Verstappen even got a few laps on the circuit thanks to a Red Bull event there. It will be interesting to see how the cars cope with the Banking that makes a return after the races at Indianapolis in US.

Red Bull will need Albon to bring home some podiums and possibly wins that will aid them in the Constructors' fight. Honda proved to be the 2nd fastest engine after Mercedes in pre-season testing, so the signs look really promising. They need to ensure that the engines stay reliable though, something that hurt them in the business end of 2019.

Red Bull will be hot on Mercedes' heels. Will they be able to sustain a challenge consistently throughout the season is another question. Unlike 2019, there isn't as much uncertainty about the competitiveness of their drivers and the team can channelize their energies towards reducing the gap at the front.



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in F1 is going through one of the longest droughts in terms of winning a Championship. They have worked really hard to make it back up since the onset of the Turbo Era but their best hasn't been good enough vs the might of the Mercedes. 2019 was going to be their year, with the fastest car and an amazing driver pairing ( mix of experience and youth ). However it all fell apart with strategic howlers, driver errors, ontrack skirmishes and reliability problems. They even went on to admit that there was a fundamental flaw in the design of the car, something that couldn't be undone. There were also questions raised and an investigation launched by the FIA over the legality of their engine with regards to fuel consumption and their sensors. A settlement was done recently, something that didn't go down well with the other teams ( the ones not powered by Ferrari ). Nonetheless they finished P2 in the Constructors' Championship with their drivers finishing 4th and 5th. 

The team already seem to be on the backfoot before the start of 2020. They were consistently lapping half a second slower than the Mercedes on the straights in their effort to improve cornering speeds at the pre-season tests. Some Experts suggest that Ferrari were sandbagging, something that they aren't really good at. Based on the results from the pre-season tests, Ferrari seem to be the 3rd fastest team on the grid. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc renew their partnership. It remains to be seen who will enjoy the number 1 status ( although it fell apart after a few races ). Vettel is aware of the fact that this is his last chance at winning a championship with Ferrari; Leclerc wants to establish himself as the driver to back for the title fight. Ferrari function well with a clear Number 1 and Number 2, they must ensure it stays that way if they wish to mount a challenge of any kind this year. There can be no room for politics or in-fighting within the team. The top brass must ensure that they back their personnel in their respective areas of expertise.



Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point had a mercurial 2019, finishing P7 in the Constructors' Championship. The bulk of the points were scored by Sergio Perez while the new entrant Lance Stroll took some time to find his feet. The team has been on the rebuild ( albeit with new owners ) and there is no doubt that they are here to stay and are serious about taking the fight to the big boys. The 2020 Challenger has striking similarities to the W10, Mercedes' Championship Winning Car from last year, thereby attracting the attention of many in the paddock. It has been setting swift lap times in the pre-season tests and being dubbed the 4th fastest car ( possibly ) by the experts. Perez too admitted that this was the best car he has ever driven in F1. Perez will be the driver to lead the charge according to me. He is well versed with the way the team works and capable of providing precise information for developing the car even further. Its still early days for Stroll but he will need to bring his A game to the table if the team wants to move up the grid. This season will reveal his true abilities and hopefully address all reservations that experts had about him. 

Racing Point have been there, done that. They have a really strong contender for 2020. Hopefully it can deliver consistent performances every race weekend. The unreliable ( for now ) Mercedes Powertrain could be the chink in their armour..time will tell.



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault had a good outing in Barcelona in the pre-season tests. They were the 3rd fastest team ( on one lap pace ), even beating the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. The French based outfit landed the services of the Flying Frenchman Esteban Ocon to partner Daniel Ricciardo for 2020. Cyril Abiteboul, the Team Principal has to start delivering in 2020, specially after the disappointments of 2019 or his place is in peril. The team are also aware of the fact that another mediocre year and they stand to lose their prized asset in Daniel Ricciardo to another team. Esteban Ocon will take sometime in settling into the team so the onus will be on Ricciardo to deliver from the word go. The signs look positive from the results in Barcelona but the real capabilities of the car will be revealed in Bahrain ( a power track ). They have an equally good driver pairing, if not better, in their battle with their immediate rivals in McLaren. Both drivers will be pushing each other all through the season and if they can perform at the level that they are capable of performing, then they can be the best of the rest.

I still believe that getting into the Top 3 won't be possible, even though the deficit has reduced. The Team have the resources, the personnel, the facilities to keep developing their challenger throughout the year. Hopefully 2020 is the Year of Revival!



McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren worked really hard in 2019 and reaped the rewards with their 4th place finish in the Constructors' and a 3rd place finish for Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil.. their first podium in 2072 days. However its a known fact that the higher you go up the grid, the tougher it becomes. McLaren will be well aware of the fact that the Renault works team will leave no stone unturned in reclaiming the 4th place that they lost in 2019. Their biggest asset in this battle is their Driver Pairing of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. The latter finished 6th ( best of the rest ) winning what is known as the "B Championship" in the media circles. while Norris had a great year as a rookie. Both are capable of replicating ( if not going better ) their performances in 2020. The Team will look upon Sainz to spearhead the challenge. They should hope to score more podiums in 2020 to really assert themselves as a force to reckon with. Norris has worked hard over the winter break to get fitter and faster. He could be the next best thing for Britain ( after Hamilton ) in racing. 

This year, pre-season tests suggest that its going to be a close contest between the two Renault powered teams. Its really tough to put your money on either. McLaren were slow off the blocks but came into their own after a few rounds in 2019; but as of now, based on the data received, they seem to be the 6th fastest team on the grid. 



Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team ( formerly Scuderia Toro Rosso ) :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri which was formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso had a memorable 2019 with 2 podium finishes for both their drivers, something that other mid-field placed teams weren't able to accomplish. They will be aiming to throw up more surprises in 2020 in their new avatar and livery. They persist with their lineup of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat did a fine job in 2019 and Gasly came into his own after Red Bull decided to demote him down the grid into the B Team. Both the drivers will be hoping to maintain the momentum going into 2020. I really hope both get an opportunity to prove themselves with a top team in the future ( if not Red Bull ).

Toro Rosso have always been in the mix, 2020 is going to be no different.  The biggest positive for them will be the mileage they have clocked in the pre-season tests. The Honda Power Unit ( which is getting faster and more reliable with each passing day ) coupled with a potent chassis will pose a serious challenge to their immediate contenders. Team Principal Franz Tost is bullish about 2020 and believes his team can finish in P5 at the end of 2020. McLaren's Carlos Sainz Jr. also stated that Alpha Tauri was one of the two teams he feared most for 2020. They finished P6 in 2019..it will be really tough to go better than that in 2020 but in F1..you never know.



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing F1 is now known as Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 after Orlen, the Polish based Oil Refinement Company came onboard as a co-title sponsor. Robert Kubica, the ex- Williams Driver joined the team in the reserve driver role while Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi continue their partnership for another year. It was a good decision to persist with the latter; he has had a very strong second half in 2019 and should be able to maintain the momentum in 2020. In Kimi Raikkonen, the team has the wise old head and he will always be a force to reckon with. ( This could be his last year in F1 though ). He is adept at eking out results while Giovinazzi with his revived form could be auditioning for a potential seat in 2021 at Ferrari. Both share a great relationship, the Italian Stallion learning the trade with the Iceman as his mentor.

Alfa Romeo's performances in the pre-season tests have been somewhat of a hit and miss. The low-fuel runs were good but race simulations a disappointment. Both drivers reiterated the need to make changes before the Australian GP and the Hinwil based outfit must ensure that they don't lag behind in the ever-so-tight midfield.  Strategic calls will also be a big make or break in the races, something that the team struggled with in 2019. 

Its early days for a prediction but I do hope to see the team battle hard in the points scoring positions, possibly even for a podium.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 had a season to forget in 2019; after the highs of 2018, the team weren't able to break the rut of mediocrity in 2019. Their decision to persist with their current pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2020 came as a big surprise. The only logical reason behind this seems to be their desire for continuity and working with people who are well versed with the functioning of the team. Pre-season tests suggest that the car is nowhere near the level of performance they expect it to be. Infact some experts believe that this will be the slowest car on the grid in 2020. The Ferrari power unit has also been through an overhaul and all isn't well on the powertrain side either. It might end up being a very long season for the team.

Gene Haas, the team owner has made it clear that he will reconsider his decision of continuing in the sport should their results not improve in 2020. Roman and Kevin must ensure that they work together, as one, in propelling the team forward, maximizing results as and when the opportunities arise. This year will decide the fate of both, the drivers and the team. They can't be sparring team-mates, they have to justify their status as F1 drivers.



Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams were the slowest team on the grid in 2019. The team also lost a sponsor ( Orlen ) which left with Robert Kubica who moved to Alfa Romeo ( as a reserve driver )They have roped in the services of F2 Driver and 2019 F2 Runner-up Nicolas Latifi to partner George Russell for 2020. Russell will have his hands full since Latifi isn't a slouch. He will eventually come out on top I feel.

Williams was the first car out ontrack for the pre-season tests.. a big step from not running on the first 2 days last pre-season. They even put in a considerable number of laps albeit with a few hiccups on the powertrain side. They are in the thick of the lower half ( 7th to 9th ) of the field and must work hard throughout the year to ensure they don't lose touch of their immediate rivals There seem to be better days ahead with a slightly faster car, a young and fast driver pairing but the biggest challenge will be finances and their ability to bring in upgrades throughout the year. 

2020 is an important year for the team and its top brass..they can't be stuck in this vicious cycle of staying last every year..something drastic will have to be done then.



The outbreak of the COVID - 19 Coronavirus :

The start of the 2020 F1 Season is less than a week away and the entire sporting spectacle is under serious threat due to the global outbreak of the COVID - 19 Coronavirus. The virus, whose origins were in China has spread rapidly claiming the lives and infected many globally. 

Moto GP, Formula One's counterpart on 2 wheels, had to cancel their season opener in Qatar and some other GPs also seem to be impacted.

In F1, the Chinese Grand Prix ( 4th Race on the Calendar ) has been postponed due to the outbreak. The Bahrain Grand Prix Organisers have declared the race to be a "Participant - only" event. The Maiden Vietnam GP could also be cancelled if the situation fails to improve. There are logistical hassles as well due to these schedule changes. The Australian GP ( as of now ) proceeds as planned.

Travel Restrictions and Quarantine procedures have been enforced by various countries to control and contain the spread of the virus. Italy is one of the countries badly hit and this will impact the number of personnel that teams like Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia Alpha-Tauri can deploy for a race weekend. 


Praying for all those affected by the virus and wishing everyone a speedy recovery...



F1 returns ( hopefully ) and so will sanity! This will be Kimi Raikkonen's last year in F1 and I hope he has a great end to an illustrious career. I plan to be at 4 races to support him and Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo Orlen colours! 

Ferrari gets another shot to make it to the top. Are Ferrari sandbagging and trying to hide their cards until the last moment? We shall know soon.. Haas F1 and Rokit Williams F1 need to have a decent season in 2020 to deem it favourable to stay beyond 2020 ( for Haas ) and keep the team alive and potentially grow ( for Williams ). Red Bull need to ensure their challenger gives Mercedes a hard time and keeps Verstappen convinced that this is the team to be in for 2021. Renault Sport F1 Team can't afford to get it wrong again..they have a lot at stake besides holding onto Daniel Ricciardo.

Title Number 7 beckons for both Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1... probably the year of completion of their fruitful partnership. He might look at other pastures post 2020..


A lot will be revealed over the course of the season. It is the year of "Now or Never" for so many!

Bring on F1 2020!

2019 F1 Season Review - & That's A Six!

Formula 1 celebrated 70 years of Racing in 2019, a fantastic achievement for the Pinnacle of Motorsport. The sport has given its fans so many champions.. Senna & Schumacher being the most popular. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas ( 5 Championships for each ) have broken a lot of records since the return of the Turbo Era in 2014. The competitors ran it close on many occasions but the three pointed star prevailed. The 2018 season saw a really close fight between Scuderia Ferrari F1 and Mercedes. The former would have a great base to mount their challenge in 2019. 

2019 also saw a lot of Personnel changes. Charles Leclerc moved to Ferrari while Kimi Raikkonen went the other way to Sauber F1, now known as Alfa Romeo Racing F1. Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault Sport F1 while Pierre Gasly got promoted to the Red Bull Racing Team. Robert Kubica made a return to the sport with Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team, a feat after his career ending injury in rallying in 2011. George Russell ( 2018 F2 Champion ), Lando Norris and Alexander Albon were the rookies making their entry into the big league. 

2019 was also the year where drivers would also be awarded a point for the fastest lap in the race ( should they finish in the top 10 ), a great way to mix things up when it comes to strategies ontrack.

How did the season unfold for the champions and the contenders? Lets have a quick recap!


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes weren't the fastest team in 2019. However they raced as a team, fought as a team and eventually won as a team! They made winning in 2019 seem so easy! Neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton put a foot wrong when it mattered. Germany and Brazil were their only blemish, although those races were a lottery due to changeable conditions. Valtteri started the season on a great note with a win in Australia, two 2nd places in Bahrain & China and another win in Baku. His next win however didn't come until Japan and then Austin but by then it was too late to sustain a challenge for the Championship. He eventually finished 2nd in the Standings with 326 points, 4 wins and 11 podiums.

Lewis Hamilton was in a class of his own again! It didn't take him much time to get upto speed and capitalized whenever the others slipped up. His team-mate was his only true competitor in the second half of the season and he sealed the Championship at the United States GP. Lewis amassed 413 points with 11 wins and 6 podiums! He suffered no retirements unlike Bottas who didn't finish Germany and Brazil and his worst finish was 9th in GermanyLewis deserves all the credit for being relentless in his quest to win and being consistent throughout the season. A 6 Time World Champion..surreal!

Mercedes AMG Petronas flattened their opponents in 2019. The Strategic calls throughout the season were on the money, they managed both drivers well and wrapped up their 6th Championship at the Japanese GP. The only disappointment of the season was at the German GP, a GP where the team celebrated 125 years in Motorsport and their 200th F1 Race Start ( oh the irony ). After locking out the front row in qualifying, a 1-2 was all but confirmed on the Sunday. However the weather played havoc and what unfolded was a chaotic race ( The Race of the decade for me ) with Bottas crashing out and Lewis finishing 9th after a couple of incidents ontrack. I am sure this disappointment would be long forgotten. The quest to win the 7th beckons!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari roped in the services of their wonderkid Charles Leclerc who would partner the 4 time World Champion and Hamilton's closest contender in 2018, Sebastian Vettel. They had put up a valiant fight in 2018 and hopes were high after being the fastest car in pre-season. However it was anything but that. The team was plagued with strategic errors, reliability issues ( Charles Leclerc should have won the Bahrain GP but for engine issues ) & even Driver errors ( Germany & Brazil ). Sebastian Vettel was denied victory in Canada after Marshalls penalized him for rejoining the track in a dangerous way while leading the race. The team had a resurgence of sorts after back to back wins in Belgium & Italy for Charles Leclerc followed by victory in Singapore for Sebastian Vettel. They finished 2nd ( again ) in the Constructors' Championship with 504 points. Charles Leclerc won the intra-team battle, finishing 4th in the Championship with 264 points with wins in Belgium & Italy, podium finishes in Bahrain, Canada, France, Austria, Great Britain, Singapore, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel was 5th with 240 points with a solo victory in Singapore and podiums in China, Baku, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan & Mexico. The team had made it clear that Vettel would have preference but over the course of the year his younger team-mate challenged this claim and beat the veteran ( cause for friction between the 2 as well ). Vettel seemed to be a mere shadow of his former self in the midst of the challenge mounted by his younger team-mate. The coming together of the two team-mates in Brazil summed up the season for Ferrari..a thorough disappointment after all that the pre-season had promised. 

It turned to be another year of "What could have been". Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal admitted that there was a fundamental flaw in the design and they were in damage limitation mode with their 2019 contender, something that didn't go down well with the Tifosi. Ferrari really need to get their act together both ontrack and off it if they want to mount a serious challenge against the Mercedes. Not much has changed in 2019..hopefully 2020 will be different.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing chose to switch to Honda Power ( a 2 year deal ) for 2019 and 2020. It was a big move considering the fact that the Engine Supplier had struggled with Pace & Reliability Issues since its return to F1 in the Turbo Era. Red Bull also promoted their protegee Pierre Gasly from Scuderia Toro Rosso to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull weren't the fastest but they pounced on every slip-up by their competitors. Max Verstappen was brilliant as ever, Gasly had a very mercurial start to the season. Eventually the bosses decided that Gasly wasn't the best fit for the team and replaced him after Hungary. Rookie Alexander Albon got the nod ahead of Daniil Kvyat from the Toro Rosso Team and performed very well in the second half. Max Verstappen finished 3rd in the Drivers' Championship, a great feat beating the Ferrari duo. He had 3 wins to his name - Austria, Germany & Brazil, Germany being the most memorable one. He also had podiums in Australia, Spain, Hungary, Singapore & USA. Gasly's best finish with Red Bull came at the British Grand Prix ( 4th ), alongwith 8 other points finishes. Alexander Albon matched Gasly's best finish in Japan and always finished in the top 6 ( except Brazil where he was robbed of a podium by Hamilton ) after his promotion to the A Team. Gasly & Albon finished a close 7th and 8th with 95 and 92 points respectively. 

Red Bull can be immensely proud of their season gone by. Honda as an engine manufacturer has announced their return to the sharp end of the grid with the Victories and the podiums ( even with the sister Red Bull ). Its onwards and upwards from here for the Milton Keynes based outfit. Red Bull finished the season in 3rd with 417 points, comfortably clear of the 4th placed McLaren F1 Team. 


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren sported a new lineup with Carlos Sainz Jr. & Rookie Lando Norris in 2019. They finished 4th in the Constructors' Championship with 145 points The Team had a slow start to the season and it wasn't smooth sailing after either. However upgrades kept trickling in throughout the season and the team were rewarded for their efforts when they bagged a 3rd place with Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil, a podium after 5 years ( 2072 days to be precise )! Carlos Sainz Jr. was the best of the rest in 6th place ( winning the B Championship as many call it ) with 96 points. His best finish was 3rd at the Brazilian GP alongwith points finishes in 12 races. Lando Norris was 11th with 49 points to his name, 6th in Bahrain and Austria being his best finishes alongwith 9 other Points Finishes. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been a great asset for the team. He is the Driver of the Season for me. His consistency and ability to maximize results really helped the team in 2019. Lando Norris had a decent first season but I wasn't expecting the deficit between the two to be this big. He needs to up his game, considering the talent that he is. A lot of credit must also go to Andreas Seidl who came onboard as the Team Principal this year. His experience in the world of motor-racing be it in WEC or Formula E has been extremely beneficial. This is a great base to build from for 2020 and the added financial benefit ( of finishing higher ) is the icing on the cake.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a good 2018 and were hoping for a better outing in 2019. Daniel Ricciardo joined forces with Nico Hulkenberg to help the team return to the sharp end of the grid. The arrival of Ricciardo was a big boost for the team but a bold move for the driver. He gave up his place in a race winning car to be with a works team still coming up the ranks. Nico Hulkenberg was the experienced war horse, consistent and dependable. Renault however had a very mercurial 2019 with reliability issues hampering their progress throughout the year. McLaren, their customer team were able to beat them to 4th while they only just managed to beat Scuderia Toro Rosso, who finished behind them in 6th place. Renault has work to do over the winter. 

Daniel Ricciardo outperformed his team-mate and finished on 54 points ( 9th in the Standings ), 4th in Italy being his best result. Nico Hulkenberg was 14th in the standings with 37 points, his best result coming at the Italian GP as well ( 5th ). Ricciardo finished in the points on 7 other occasions while Hulkenberg could manage 9. The Team also suffered disqualification after the Japanese GP ( 9 points lost ) after the discovery of an illegal breaking aid. Renault F1 are blessed with good personnel and infrastructure to turn things around but its taking longer than anticipated. It also remains to be seen whether the parent company is willing to stay patient or sees this as a sport that is bleeding their finances. Ricciardo is in a really difficult position, hopefully 2020 will be kinder. Hulkenberg bid adieu to the team at the end of 2019 and will be replaced by Esteban Ocon, Frenchman ( in a French owned team ). I really think 2020 will be their "make or break" year.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Scuderia Toro Rosso had quite an eventful 2019. They began their season with Daniil Kvyat ( who returned after a short stint as a reserve driver with Ferrari ) and rookie Alexander Albon. The latter was a sensation in F2 and it was time for his entry into F1. Albon's year got even better when Red Bull decided to promote him to the main team after Gasly couldn't meet the team's expectations. The announcement came just a week after the Hungarian GP during the mid-season break. It came as a surprise to many since Albon was still a rookie and being consistently beaten by his team-mate. Kvyat proved that he deserved to be in F1 after a stellar 3rd place finish in Germany. He also finished in the Points in 9 other races; ending the season in 13th with a total of 37 points. Albon, after a really slow first half, finished in the points in 6 races with 6th in Germany being his best finish. Gasly ( who replaced him ) stepped up his game in Toro Rosso and even bagged a 2nd place in Brazil ( besides finishing in the points in 4 other races ). He finished the season in 7th with 95 points, 3 more than Albon. A statement had been sent out to the bosses of Red Bull. 

The performance of a more reliable Power Unit alongwith a balanced chassis played a big part in catapulting them to 6th in the standings at the end of season. They were narrowly beaten by Renault ( who were 5th with 91 points ) but they can take great encouragement from the fact that they have the ability to beat even those with a larger financial kitty. Kvyat had a really strong return to the sport while Gasly has come into his own after his demotion. The future looks promising for both.


Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point, an old team with a new name & new ownership were in a rebuilding phase in 2019. Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father led the consortium of investors who completed the takeover of the team. Sergio Perez retained his drive while Lance came in from Williams replacing Esteban Ocon ( inspite of intense pressure from Mercedes ). The former team-mates ( Perez and Ocon ) didn't really enjoy a healthy relationship and the team lost a considerable number of points due to incidents ontrack in 2018. 

Racing Point ended the 2019 season with 73 Points ( 7th in the Constructors' standings ). Sergio Perez was 10th in the standings with 52 points while Lance Stroll was 15th with 21. Lance brought home the team's best finish with 4th in the highly entertaining German Grand Prix ( he even led the race for a few laps ). He finished in the points on 5 other occasions. Sergio Perez's best finish was 6th in Baku & Belgium with points finishes in 9 other races. He deserves all the praise for his performances and consistency throughout the year. Lance Stroll had a decent maiden year with the team but has a lot to learn from his team-mate. The Team will need both their drivers to perform at a consistent level if they are to challenge those in this extremely close midfield. There is a lot of scope for improvement..thankfully they have the finances to improve results on the field.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Sauber F1, rechristened as Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team ( thanks to Alfa Romeo becoming the title sponsor ) was another team to have a new driver lineup in 2019. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career with in 2001 and he had the Italian Stallion Antonio Giovinazzi ( A Scuderia Ferrari Protegee ) partnering him. Charles Leclerc switched seats with Kimi while Marcus Ericsson took up the reserve driver role. It was a tale of 2 halves for the team. Kimi Raikkonen scored all points ( but one ) for the team and was 8th in the standings! Giovinazzi scored his first point of the season in Austria. However the team struggled in the second half of the season. Giovinazzi managed a 9th and 10th in Italy and Singapore respectively but Raikkonen failed to be in the points up until the Brazilian GP. Brazil saw a big resurgence from the team, narrowly missing out on a podium with Kimi who was 4th and Giovinazzi who ended up 5th. Kimi Raikkonen eventually finished the season in 12th with 43 points on the board. A stronger second half helped Giovinazzi finish with 14 points and 17th in the Championship. Kimi is the seasoned campaigner and is an ace at turning things around. Giovinazzi really came into his own in the second half of the season, one must remember that he has been away from competitive racing since the past 3 years.

Strategies and Outright race pace were the Achilles' heel for the team. The team struggled to keep up with the competitors ( in terms of R&D and funding ) but they had a much better outing compared to 2018. They will also have a bigger kitty to work with in 2020, not to forget the sponsors coming onboard..they can be proud of the season gone by, not to forget the bouts they had with the bigger fish in the pond. 


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with their lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2019, something that baffled everyone. Continuity can be the only plausible reason behind this decision. They finished the season in 9th with 28 points on the board. Kevin Magnussen won the team-mate battle, scoring 20 points ( 16th in the Championship ) to Grosjean's 8 ( 18th in Drivers' Standings ). Magnussen's best finish was 6th in Australia and finished in the points in Spain, Germany and Russia. Grosjean's best finish was 7th in Germany and scored a point each in Spain and Monaco. Another disappointing season for the Frenchman. 

It was a season to forget for Haas. They were flying high in 5th at the end of the 2018 season but 12 months later they are languishing in 9th. Flaws in the Car Design is one of the major reasons, friction between the team-mates another. Team Principal Guenther Steiner had to play peace-maker often and I really think this affected the performances of the team as a whole. They have a lot of work to do over the winter to make things right and they do have the personnel to accomplish it, even though they would have taken a considerable financial hit due to their final position in the standings. 


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

2018 F2 Champion George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica for the 2019 season. It was a great achievement for Kubica to make a return to F1 after all that he has been through since 2011. The team did lose a considerable amount of investment after Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's ( Williams driver in 2018 ) father decided to direct his funds away from the team to Racing Point, his son's new ride in 2019. There was some consolation with PKN Orlen, Kubica's backer but Williams' woes on track continued in 2019. They struggled to stay in touch with the rest of the field, lapping consistently slower all season long. Upgrades towards the end of the season did help performance to some extent but not enough to beat other back-markers. They scored a solitary point with Robert Kubica at the German GP ( thanks to a penalty to the Alfa Romeo Team ) but it meant nothing in the grander scheme of things. George Russell's best finish was also at the German GP in 11th. Both suffered a couple of retirements in the season, so reliability wasn't an issue. 

Its getting really difficult for the bosses at Williams to stem the tide.They are in need of a complete overhaul, personnel at the top included..but will it happen??



2019 promised to be a close contest between the top 3 teams but it turned out to be a mauling. Mercedes once again proved to be the class of the field, emphasizing the fact that you win as a team and having the fastest car doesn't equate to being a championship winning car. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were efficient and consistent, the former once again showing why he deserves to be a 6 time World Champion. Bottas will hope to offer a stronger fight in 2020; as for the competitors in Ferrari, they need to have a hard look at the way they operate on a race weekend and the strategies they devise from the Pit Wall. Red Bull capitalized on every opportunity and know they can mount a big challenge in 2020. Renault has a long winter ahead, so does Haas, Racing Point and Williams F1. McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo will be pleased with what they have achieved in 2019.  

Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team can bask in the glory of their 6th Championship..the 7th beckons next year..cant wait for the 2020 season to start!

The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Japanese GP - Day 3 ( Day 2 called off )

Typhoon Hagibis had wrecked havoc in mainland Japan on Saturday. The Circuit organizers had decided to shift Qualifying to Sunday Morning while cancelling all events on Saturday ( and rightly so ). The storms lasted for the night but the sun came out in the morning! It was great to behold the morning sun on what promised to be a very very busy Race Day!

 

A Glorious Morning after a Stormy Saturday!


We had learnt our lesson and decided to use the Trains to make our way into Suzuka. The first leg of my journey consistent of a one stop Metro ride to Nagoya Central Station.

Taking the Metro to Nagoya Central Station :


The train ride to Shiroko Station and a 15 minute Taxi ride to Suzuka from there.


Shiroko to Suzuka :


The journey was fairly brisk and we reached the Paddock Gates at 9 in the morning. There were others from the F1 Fraternity making an entry with us!


The F1 Supremo, the CEO, Mr. Chase Carey :


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Principal Toto Wolff :


Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Welcome to the Japanese GP Paddock!


Chocolate and Cappuccino to go with breakfast :


Post breakfast, I made my way down to the F1 Village to see what the stores had on offer.

The F1 Village, completely packed with passionate fans. It is pretty evident that Kimi Raikkonen is a big hit in Japan.


An hour of walking around and it was time to head to the Viewing Terrace for the start of Qualifying.

The view from the Terrace on Sunday Morning :


Shots from Q1 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in Q1 from Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen. Both the Alfa Romeos made it into Q2!


Returning to the Pits at the end of the session :


Q2 Underway :


Valtteri Bottas was the Fastest in Q2 from Lewis Hamilton and Alexander Albon! Antonio Giovinazzi qualified in P11 while Kimi Raikkonen finished in P13, both Alfa Romeo cars out in Q2 sadly.


Shots from Q3 :

Video Link for Start of Q3 :



Sebastian Vettel grabbed Pole position from Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas, a great position to start for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!

Alfa Romeo would be disappointed to narrowly miss being in the top 10, but a free tyre choice should promise them a strong race!


The various levels of Access in the Paddock World of F1. Complex and confusing!


Post Qualifying, it was time for the Pit Lane Walk :

Shots from the Pit Lane Walk :


The Alfa Romeo Racing Garage getting prepped :



Lunch :


The Motorhome, a busy place. Everyone grabbing a quick bite before heading back to the garage to prepare for the race :


Grid Kids making their way down to the grid :


I found my vantage spot on the Terrace and it was time to get ready for the Grid Presentation and the Race Start!


The Starting Grid - a hub of activity before the Race Start :


The Drivers gathering for the National Anthem before the race :


The chariots being readied for their riders :

The Alfa Romeo crew getting the machines ready :


The Boys getting suited up for battle :


Time to get buckled in :


Final checks before the Formation Lap :


The Timer running down :


The Grid is cleared for the start of the Formation Lap :


Formation lap time!


Video Link To Start of the Formation Lap :



Cars forming up on the grid for the Race Start :


2019 Japanese GP Race Start ( Video Link ) :



Shots from the race :


Charles Leclerc Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Alex Albon Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Sebastian Vettel Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team battling in out in the race :


Valtteri Bottas reigned supreme in Japan. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished P2 and P3 respectively. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished P12 and P14, another weekend with no points for the the team..unable to break the rut!


The Paddock being packed up before the race ends. A common occurrence at a lot of race weekends.


I spent some time socializing with friends post race.

China is a short trip from Japan and it was amazing to meet the ICE ARMY from China! Fanatical Kimi Raikkonen supporters this lot!


Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Making my way to the circuit exit :


Bye Bye Suzuka! You were awesome! Hope to be back here one day!


Back to Nagoya..will miss these views.


Kimi Raikkonen flag, Thank you for the gift Ice Army China :


The Collectibles from the Race Weekend! Mini helmets of Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc & Lewis Hamilton and the Scale model of Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo F1 Car C38.


It was yet another disappointing weekend for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team. However we keep pushing and we will be back to better days soon! A Big Thank you to the team for their hospitality!

Japan has been an overwhelming experience. I am bowled over by the warmth & respect shown by the people. Words fall short to describe the passion that the fans have..they Live, Breathe F1. At every step you find fans with unique ways of expressing their love & support for the teams & drivers. 

God Bless this land abundantly!


I do hope that you enjoyed "The Paddock Weekends" series from 2019. There will be more of these in 2020. 

Thank you all for your support and love!