F1 2020: What has changed during the coronavirus delay?

By Sports Desk July 01, 2020

At long last, the 2020 Formula One season will finally begin this week.

The action will begin with the Austrian Grand Prix behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring, with the Steiermark Grand Prix being held at the same track the following weekend.

Silverstone will also stage two races this year, with Hungary, Spain, Belgium and Italy the only other confirmed events as things stand.

The season had been due to get underway with the Australian Grand Prix in March, but it was cancelled after a member of the McLaren garage tested positive for COVID-19.

A lot of things have changed since then, so we have recapped the biggest stories during the four-month coronavirus hiatus.

 

Vettel decision sparks driver changes

Ferrari announced that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel would not remain with the team beyond the end of this season.

The German has yet to find another seat in F1, with Carlos Sainz to replace him at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo leaving Renault for McLaren.

Toto Wolff confirmed Mercedes are monitoring Vettel's situation, though Valtteri Bottas claims he was told by the Silver Arrows there is nothing to the story.

Renault are yet to disclose who will take Ricciardo's place in 2021, with a shock return for two-time champion Fernando Alonso mooted.

Regulation changes pushed back to 2022

The pandemic forced a number of teams to furlough staff or reduce the size of their workforce, while F1 brought its mandatory mid-season shutdown period forward and extended it.

Together with the reduction in income from the lack of racing, sweeping changes to the technical regulations that were expected to challenge Mercedes' dominance of the series have been pushed back.

Teams will now contest the 2021 season in the same cars as this year, with the new rules instead coming into effect from 2022.

Budget cap implemented and reduced

In a bid to level the playing field in F1, for the first time a cost cap will come into effect from the 2021 season. This will limit the amount teams can spend on their cars to $145million.

The cap had initially been set at $175m but was lowered to avoid the possibility of some constructors spending up to that limit while others found themselves incapable of doing so due to the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

In 2022 the cap will be reduced to $140m, before dropping to $135m the following year and remaining there. This was done to make it easier for the bigger teams to adjust the size and scale of their operations.

Mercedes manoeuvring

A key member of Mercedes' six-year domination of F1 has left the team.

Managing director Andy Cowell, who had direct responsibility for the F1 power unit, helped establish Mercedes at the pinnacle of the sport in his 16 years with the team, but Hywel Thomas took over from him on July 1.

Mercedes team principal Wolff bought a stake in Aston Martin, which is controlled by Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll.

Wolff insisted a personal investment "has nothing to do with Formula One", despite the fact Racing Point will be rebranded as Aston Martin on the 2021 grid.

A push for diversity

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton criticised the Formula One community for its silence in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May, which sparked anti-racism protests around the globe.

The 35-year-old Briton subsequently partnered with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, looking at how more young people from black backgrounds can be brought into motorsport or be employed elsewhere in the field of engineering. F1 has also set up a new task force to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport.

Mercedes signalled their commitment to fighting racism and discrimination by unveiling an all-black livery in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, switching from their traditional Silver Arrows design.

Hamilton and Bottas will race in black overalls, while 'End Racism' will feature on the halo of both cars and the F1 initiative #WeRaceAsOne will appear on the mirrors.

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    Racing Point have confirmed their intention to appeal against the FIA's decision to sanction them for using illegal rear brake ducts.

    The FIA last week fined the British team €400,000 and docked them 15 points for using parts it deemed were principally copied from Mercedes designs.

    Ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, team owner Lawrence Stroll accused Formula One rivals of "poor sportsmanship" and said he was "appalled" by their response.

    Racing Point confirmed they would lodge an appeal within 96 hours of the notification of the penalty and the case will now be heard by the FIA's International Court of Appeal at a future date.

    Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams also appealed against the verdict, feeling the punishment was too lenient, but McLaren and Williams have since withdrawn their appeals.

  • MotoGP 2020: Quartararo hoping to bounce back as Marquez misses out again MotoGP 2020: Quartararo hoping to bounce back as Marquez misses out again

    Fabio Quartararo will hope to capitalise on Marc Marquez's absence at the Austrian Grand Prix having failed to do so in Brno last week.

    Quartararo leads the MotoGP standings after winning the first two races of the 2020 season, aided by Marquez's broken arm.

    Defending champion Marquez is yet to finish an event this year and was forced to sit out entirely in the Czech Republic.

    However, Quartararo did not make the most of his opportunity to build a big lead in the championship, finishing seventh as rookie Brad Binder triumphed.

    Confirmation Marquez will not be involved this week comes as a boost to the Frenchman, but the Repsol Honda star has not yet been ruled out for the subsequent Styrian Grand Prix - again at the Red Bull Ring.

    The pressure could soon be on Quartararo, with victory far from assured at a circuit one rival particularly enjoys.


    LAST TIME OUT

    The expectation was that Quartararo would be right in the mix to make it three wins from three in Brno. It did not pan out like that.

    Instead, the Petronas Yamaha man was back in seventh as Binder sensationally won in just his third race in the premier class.

    Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Binder became the first rookie winner since Marquez in 2013 and described the surprise success as "scary".

    His was not the only breakthrough, as Franco Morbidelli came second to clinch his first podium and climb to third in the championship.
     

    WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPIELBERG

    There was little pressure on either Binder or Morbidelli last week, but all eyes will be on the pair now to see if they can build on their results.

    However, Quartararo will not be the only big name hoping to bounce back, with title rival Maverick Vinales also very disappointing in a 14th-placed finish in the previous race.

    Valentino Rossi is still hoping for a 200th podium, while Andrea Dovizioso loves the Red Bull Ring.

    The Italian - 11th last week - is the only rider to finish on the podium in each of the four Austrian GPs since it returned to the calendar in 2016.

    Stefan Bradl will have more modest ambitions. He is again stepping in for Marquez and must aim to close the gap to the rest of the field after placing 18th.
     

    TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

    Dovi to break new ground? - A regular on the podium, Dovizioso also has two wins in Spielberg. A third would make this the first circuit at which he has a trio of victories, while he would tie Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan and Eddie Lawson for the Austrian GP record.

    Fabio in form - Quartararo has started from the front row in 16 of his past 19 MotoGP races (eight from pole position), including the most recent 10 in a row - his best run in the top category.

    Matching Marquez - Marquez was the last rookie before Binder to celebrate a win, but the Spaniard was also the most recent rider to have two victories in their debut season. That is now the task for the South African, who has won four of his past six races in all categories.

    Rossi's Red Bull rut - Until news of Portimao's addition to the season this week, the Red Bull Ring was the only track on the MotoGP schedule where Rossi has not finished on the podium, failing in four attempts.

    Vinales improvement vital - Vinales' result last week was his joint-worst - excluding retirements - in his six seasons in MotoGP. His fifth-placed result in Austria last year was his best at that event.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) 59
    2. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 42
    3. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) 31
    4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 31
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) 28

    Teams

    1. Petronas Yamaha 90
    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 69
    3. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 47
    4. Ducati 42
    5. Esponsorama Racing 35

  • F1 2020: Hamilton on the brink of history at Spanish Grand Prix F1 2020: Hamilton on the brink of history at Spanish Grand Prix

    Lewis Hamilton heads to the Spanish Grand Prix on the brink of making Formula One history.

    The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix last weekend may not have gone according to plan for Mercedes, but by finishing second Hamilton registered his 155th podium in F1.

    If the six-time champion places in the top three in Barcelona he will surpass Michael Schumacher for the most podiums achieved by a single driver in the history of the series.

    It will be the second time this season the drivers have raced on three consecutive weekends and the action gets under way on Sunday at 15:10 local time (13:10 GMT).

    LAST TIME OUT

    Mercedes locked out the front row in qualifying but Red Bull went for a different strategy, starting Max Verstappen on the hard compound while the rest of the top 10 were on mediums.

    While Verstappen showed tremendous tyre management in a brilliant victory, Mercedes suffered significant blistering in the Silverstone heat and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas had to settle for third behind Hamilton.

    Charles Leclerc managed to sneak P4 for Ferrari, while Racing Point's continued use of rear brake ducts that saw them docked 15 points led to an appeal by the Scuderia.

    WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPAIN

    Mercedes struggled in hot conditions last weekend and temperatures are expected to be high once again in Barcelona.

    While the tyre allocation will be a step harder this time around, should the same issues arise it will be interesting to see how the Silver Arrows counter it on this occasion.

    Racing Point were reprimanded for using their controversial rear brake ducts at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix and are expected to continue running the parts.

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    TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

    Spanish milestone – This will be the 50th Spanish Grand Prix. Only Germany (64) has hosted F1 in more seasons among nations that were not on the schedule in the inaugural 1950 season.

    Rallying Red Bull – Max Verstappen scored an impressive victory at Silverstone and has a chance to earn his team back-to-back wins for just the second time in the hybrid era.

    Four in a row? – Hamilton has won the previous three grands prix in Barcelona and will match Schumacher's record for the most victories in a row there (2001-2004) if he triumphs on Sunday.

    Ferrari driver in a spin – After finishing 12th at Silverstone last weekend, Sebastian Vettel could fail to score points in successive races for the first time since his maiden F1 season.

    Home hope – Carlos Sainz has earned points in each of his five Spanish Grand Prix appearances. Only in the United States (30) has he scored more points than in his own country (26).

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 107
    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 77
    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 73
    4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 45
    5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 38

    Constructors

    1. Mercedes 180
    2. Red Bull 113
    3. Ferrari 55
    4. McLaren 53
    5. Racing Point 41

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