‘Lewis Hamilton is not God’ The 2020 F1 season is go, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen versus Merc’s Lewis Hamilton sure to be one of the key battles. By Tom Clarkson.
RED BULL WILL SPOIL MERCEDES’ PARTY
By the end of the 2019 season there was nothing to split Red Bull and Mercedes. The big difference was grunt, but Honda reckons it’s made big progress over the winter. If that’s the case then we’re game on for the closest fight of the hybrid era: Mercedes versus Red Bull; Lewis Hamilton versus Max Verstappen. Verstappen is the perfect foil for Hamilton. He’s quick and super-confident, to the extent that he isn’t intimidated by anyone. ‘Lewis is definitely one of the quickest out there,’ says Verstappen. ‘But he’s not God. God is with him, but he’s not God…’
Yep, this is the battle we’ve been waiting for.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL: FIZZ OR FIZZLE?
You’re only as good as your last race, or so the racing adage goes. Never has this been more relevant than with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Four world titles, 53 wins and 57 poles count for little when you’re being beaten by 22-year-old Charles Leclerc in the same machinery.
After six years at Ferrari, Vettel’s contract with the team is up at the end of the year. To stand a chance of being retained, he needs to turn the tide now. It’s a challenge of Canute proportions; will he come out fighting, or will he glide into retirement?
RENAULT’S CIVIL WAR
‘I don’t like his attitude’ was the first warning shot; ‘I just don’t like his face’ was the second. Daniel Ricciardo – F1’s smiling assassin – hasn’t much liked Esteban Ocon thus far, and now they’re team-mates at Renault…
Ocon ruffled a few feathers while he was a Force India driver in 2017 and ’18, and was all set to drive for Renault in ’19 – until the team opted for Ricciardo at the last minute. He wants to prove the team made the wrong decision last year, which is why this intra-team battle for superiority will surely get a bit spicy.
THE ASCENT OF LANDO NORRIS
Fifth on the grid in France. A proper qualifying lap, in a car that didn’t deserve to be that high on the grid. That was the moment Formula 1 took notice of Lando Norris. Until then, people had missed Fernando Alonso’s star quality at McLaren. But from France onwards, Norris was the team’s new star. Lando is undoubtedly quick, but is he good enough to join young guns Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at F1’s top table? This season will tell. See p118 for more on McLaren.
Rarely has the F1 driver market been so fluid. Only four people – Verstappen, Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll – have contracts for 2021, which means there’s going to be a lot of jockeying for position during the early months of this year.
Valtteri Bottas out at Merc? Sebastian Vettel out at Ferrari? Alex Albon out at Red Bull? There is the potential for some highly desirable seats to become available, so the pressure’s on to go well from the off. Adding fuel to the fire? Fernando Alonso. He’s desperate to make an F1 comeback. If Daniel Ricciardo were to replace Vettel at Ferrari in 2021, what chance Alonso reappearing at Renault? Brace for the silliest of silly seasons.