Fresh from picking up the clues on where each team stands following pre-season testing, predicting what will become the trends and what will be remembered come the end of any F1 season is a near-impossible task – but it hasn’t stopped us trying!

F1 Editor Lewis Larkam and Content Editor Haydn Cobb sit down and give their answers to the biggest questions ahead of the 2020 season which starts this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix.

2020 F1 drivers’ world champion?

Lewis Larkam: Lewis Hamilton. The Briton is riding a crest of a wave heading into the new season and looks unbeatable. At 35, Hamilton continues to extract new levels of performance and it’s hard to see how he will be stopped in his quest to match Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven world championship if Mercedes delivers another strong car and he continues his fine form.

Haydn Cobb: Hard not to pick Lewis Hamilton. With stable regulations and a reigning champion seemingly still on top form it would take something monumental from either Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas or those at Ferrari or Red Bull to hold back the British driver in 2020.

2020 F1 constructors’ world champion?

LL: Mercedes. Aside from some niggling engine reliability issues, the German manufacturer looked ahead of the pack and the team to beat following pre-season testing. Mercedes will remain unbeaten in the V6 hybrid era to wrap up a record seventh consecutive world championship double.

HC: Mercedes. Similar reasons to the drivers’ title decider with the reigning world champions possessing the best all-round package and two reliable drivers. If Ferrari can resolve its inner fighting a combination of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel could push them all the way.

One wish from the 2020 F1 season?

LL: A season-long title fight. While 2019 was a good season filled with entertaining races, it lacked the drama and suspense of a year-long scrap for the title. We have craved such a crescendo since the Hamilton-Rosberg showdown in 2016 and a three-way title fight between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is a mouth-watering prospect.

HC: More podiums for the midfield. Discounting the big three teams, just three podiums were achieved across the rest of the field last year and one of them came hours after the race had finished, which gave a muted celebration to Carlos Sainz and McLaren in Brazil. This wish stems from an overarching theme of seeing the midfield close the gap to the top teams because too often it is predictable who will appear on the rostrum.

Biggest shock of 2020?

LL: Sebastian Vettel will announce his retirement from F1 at the end of the season having once again been beaten by teammate Charles Leclerc, prompting Daniel Ricciardo to abandon Renault’s recovery project to take his place at Ferrari.

HC: Seeing Daniel Ricciardo lose patience at Renault and Ferrari come knocking to replace Sebastian Vettel doesn’t seem a farfetched idea right now. A bigger shock to the sport could be Gene Haas growing frustrated at his team’s progress in F1 and threatening to call time on its place on the grid.

Biggest storyline of 2020?

LL: The coronavirus outbreak will have a big impact on the F1 schedule, causing multiple races to be either cancelled or postponed.

HC: The coronavirus impact on F1 feels like it is going to get worse before it gets better, but looking internally the thrashing out the sport’s 2021 agreements and getting teams to sign on the dotted line is one which will run and run.

The driver to impress the most?

LL: Sergio Perez will reclaim his former status of ‘best of the rest’ with a series of impressive displays in Racing Point’s Mercedes-inspired 2020 challenger. Ever the opportunist, the Mexican will be first in line to nab a podium or two throughout the season when the big guns hit trouble.

HC: From the top teams Alexander Albon. Given Red Bull’s firing gun is still smoking from Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly in recent years, the British-Thai driver knows he has to deliver. While I don’t expect him to be pulling up trees, he’ll be an able accomplice next to Max Verstappen. From the rest, George Russell. Mercedes know he has talent by the bucketload but remains hamstrung in the Williams. A really tough rookie year will become beneficial to him later on in his career.

The driver under most pressure?

LL: Alexander Albon. The honeymoon period is over for Albon as he enters his first full-season with Red Bull. He must perform from the off and remain close to Max Verstappen’s level of performance if he is to avoid the same fate that has fallen on the drivers before him in the pressure-cooker environment. If Red Bull has a race-winning car, he will he have even less places to hide.

HC: Romain Grosjean. Considered by many as fortunate to keep his spot at Haas for 2020, a poor start to this season will give Guenther Steiner even more reason to look elsewhere. Nico Hulkenberg plus a long list of current Formula E drivers including Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein will be suitable replacements who are readily available by the summer break.

Australian GP pole position and race winner?

LL: Lewis Hamilton.

HC: Bookmakers favourite Lewis Hamilton, but that was the case last year and Valtteri Bottas pulled off a surprise.

Winner of the F1 midfield battle?

LL: McLaren will hold onto its P4 spot from 2019 but won’t make the strides hoped to close the gap to the top three. In fact, McLaren won’t have the outright fastest car - which instead will be the Racing Point - but its driver pairing of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris will prove more consistent than its rivals.

HC: Racing Point to edge a very close fight against McLaren and Renault. Car performance remains key and having the 2019 Mercedes-inspired car should see off its midfield rivals. Worries about Lance Stroll as the weak link could open up an opportunity for McLaren and Renault to sneak ahead.

Most intense inner team fight?

LL: Vettel versus Leclerc will reach boiling point. There were already signs of potential fireworks between the Ferrari drivers in 2019 as a number of flashpoints arose over team orders and a collision in Brazil. This will only escalate further in 2020 as Leclerc continues to assert his authority over Vettel, which will ultimately drive the German out of the team and F1 altogether.

HC: Ferrari’s situation looks more delicate than ever between Vettel and Leclerc. With the Monegasque driver’s growing presence at the Scuderia, Vettel won’t hold back to put his teammate in his place. The German has form given his sour relationship with his teammates at Red Bull.

Final constructors’ order (1 to 10 finishing order)

LL: 1) Mercedes 2) Red Bull 3) Ferrari 4) McLaren 5) Racing Point 6) Renault 7) AlphaTauri 8) Alfa Romeo 9) Williams 10) Haas

HC: 1) Mercedes 2) Ferrari 3) Red Bull 4) Racing Point 5) McLaren 6) Renault 7) AlphaTauri 8) Alfa Romeo 9) Haas 10) Williams

 

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