F1 2020: Hamilton begins title defence as delayed season starts in Austria

By Sports Desk July 01, 2020

Lewis Hamilton will begin the defence of his Formula One drivers' title four months later than initially planned as the 2020 campaign belatedly gets under way with the Austrian Grand Prix.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was cancelled in March while teams were at the circuit during raceweek just as the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdown measures started to take effect around the world.

A full season schedule is yet to be confirmed, but eight races in Europe are due to take place, with the first two due to be held in consecutive weekends at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

The first of those events in Austria begins at 15:10 local time (14:10 BST) on Sunday, with Mercedes driver Hamilton now a six-time world champion and within one crown of tying Michael Schumacher for the all-time record of seven.

 

LAST TIME OUT

If the last race seems like it was so long ago, it is because it was. This is the first race for more than seven months, with the last event of the 2019 season having been the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.

That grand prix was one of the least exciting of the campaign and saw Hamilton crown his title success with a dominant race victory, winning from pole position with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc making up the remaining podium places.

Valtteri Bottas charged through from the back of the grid to finish fourth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Alex Albon.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN AUSTRIA

While pre-season testing provides a guide, no one truly knows where each team stands with their cars until we have seen them in full competitive action.

That is true for any season, but the delayed start to the 2020 campaign - and the chance of drivers being a little rusty - will have fans hoping the early races are more unpredictable than ever.

Vettel has a point to prove in what will be his last season with Ferrari, though he may have a tough task after the team revealed they have had to make a major redesign to their car since testing, with those upgrades not available until Hungary.

His replacement Carlos Sainz and McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo will also be in the spotlight after their 2021 moves were announced during lockdown, while Lando Norris revealed drivers have discussed taking a knee to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Three in a row for Max? - After finishing first in both 2018 and 2019, Red Bull's Verstappen is looking to become the first driver to win three Austrian Grands Prix in a row. He would also equal the overall record for Austria victories, held by Alain Prost (a winner in 1983, 1985 and 1986).

Lewis looks to improve - Hamilton only has one win in Austria, which came in the 2016 season. Only in Australia (last win in 2015) has the British driver endured a longer winless run than in Austria of races that were in the 2019 schedule.

Vettel nears landmark – The German needs a podium finish to reach 3,000 points in F1, a milestone only achieved by Hamilton (3,431).

Good omen for Ferrari - The first grand prix of the previous two decades were both won by Ferrari in 2000 (Schumacher) and in 2010 (Fernando Alonso).

History to be made - This will be the first F1 season to start with a race in Europe since the 1966 championship began in Monaco, while the Red Bull Ring will become the first-ever circuit to host back-to-back grands prix.

Related items

  • Marquez ruled out of Czech Republic Grand Prix Marquez ruled out of Czech Republic Grand Prix

    Marc Marquez will miss the Czech Republic Grand Prix this weekend after undergoing a second operation on his broken right arm.

    The MotoGP world champion suffered a fractured humerus in the first race of the season in Jerez last month and had a titanium plate fitted during surgery a couple of days later.

    Marquez made an incredible return at the Andalusia Grand Prix the following weekend, but declared himself unfit to race after feeling pain around his elbow in qualifying.

    Repsol Honda on Monday revealed the 27-year-old had gone under the knife again due to the plate he had inserted sustaining damage as a result of stress accumulation.

    It was confirmed on Tuesday that the six-time MotoGP champion will not risk getting back on his bike so quickly this time around.

    HRC test rider Stefan Bradl will replace Marquez in Brno this week.

    A statement on the Repsol Honda website said: "After undergoing a second operation on his injured right arm, Marc Marquez and HRC have decided that the world champion will not ride in the Czech Republic in order for him to recover more.

    "In his place, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl will mount the Honda RC213V. In 2019 the former Moto2 World Champion competed in four MotoGP races with a best finish of 10th at the German GP.

    "Bradl has claimed three top 10 finishes at Brno from his seven starts in the MotoGP class and only once missed out on points."

    The first two races of the delayed 2020 season were won by Fabio Quartararo and with no word on when Marquez might return, he faces a battle to claim a fifth successive title.

  • Marquez a doubt for Brno after second surgery on broken arm Marquez a doubt for Brno after second surgery on broken arm

    Marc Marquez's chances of racing in the Czech Republic Grand Prix this weekend were dealt a blow after he underwent a second surgery on his broken right arm.

    The MotoGP world champion suffered the injury after an ugly crash in the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix last month.

    Repsol Honda rider Marquez attempted to make an audacious comeback just a week later at Jerez for the Andalusia Grand Prix before pulling out after feeling pain around his elbow in qualifying.

    A statement from his team on Monday said Marquez needed a second procedure due to the titanium plate he had fitted in his arm sustaining damage as a result of stress accumulation.

    Marquez will stay in hospital for 48 hours, meaning the Spaniard's hopes of making it on the grid at Brno are seriously in doubt.

    Dr. Xavier Mir, who operated on Marquez, said: "Marc Marquez underwent surgery 13 days ago and today he returned to the operating room. 

    "The first operation was successful, what was not expected was that the plate was insufficient. 

    "An accumulation of stress in the operated area has caused the plate to suffer some damage, so today the titanium plate has been removed and replaced by a new fixation. 

    "The rider has not felt pain during this period. He has always followed the medical advice given and the feeling from his body. 

    "Unfortunately, an over stress has caused this issue. Now we have to wait 48 hours to understand the recovery time."

    The first two races of the delayed 2020 season were won by Fabio Quartararo.

  • Bottas rues Silverstone misfortune after costly late puncture Bottas rues Silverstone misfortune after costly late puncture

    Valtteri Bottas was left to rue his misfortune after a puncture in a dramatic finish left him without a solitary point from the British Grand Prix.

    Bottas looked to be cruising to second place behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton before his front-left tyre blew with two laps to go at Silverstone.

    Hamilton suffered the same issue on the final lap, but somehow limped to a seventh victory on home soil ahead of Max Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc taking third spot.

    Bottas could only cross the line in 11th place after making his way back to the pits on three tyres and trails championship leader Hamilton by 30 points.

    The Finnish driver felt he might have a problem so late in the race but could not have envisaged how damaging it could be.

    He told Sky Sports F1: "It was really disappointing and very unlucky. Also, where I got the puncture, I had to go round the whole lap, so not ideal.

    "We knew it was going to be a long stint on the hard tyres and of course I was trying to put pressure on Lewis.

    "I started to get more and more vibration, I reported that and then at the end I had it in my mind there could be an issue, so I started to manage it a bit. But it happened so suddenly, and I didn't really predict it happening."

    With soft compounds to be fitted and warmer weather forecast at the same circuit next weekend, Bottas says teams will have to adopt different strategies.

    He added: "It's going to be an issue for everyone. One stop is not going to happen with the compounds we have next week, so I'm sure there is going to be lots of things learned from this weekend, but we need to move on I guess."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.