F1 IS BACK!
After an aborted start in Melbourne, an extra formation lap of planning, logistics, and determination brings us to this point, where we can once again say - IT'S RACE WEEK!
Memories of winter testing have long faded away, like fingerprints on an abandoned handrail, replaced by foolish enthusiasm, and the anticipation of what might happen over the coming months.
In 7 short days, we will take the first steps into our new unknown, greeted by the low growl of 20 expectant pilots, dancing to the drum of five r e d lights. It's Grand Prix racing, but not as we know it.
Welcome to Round 1 of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The familiar Red Bull Ring plays host to the first of a season-opening double header. A bumpy, challenging, sausage-kerb-ridden assault that will wipe away the cobwebs immediately. A short, sharp lap will punish mistakes and focus skill. Speedy straights, technical twists and final-sector sweepers, all played out at 700m above sea level, a welcome challenge for the teams and engineers.
What happened last year?
Did you forget? A sweltering, Spielberg-surprise, worthy of Hollywood. Verstappen overcame an awful start to steal victory from the young and innocent Leclerc - the first chapter in their bubbling rivalry.
Battle of future champions!
That was a phenomenal afternoon of racing.
YAAAASS MAX!! YAAAAS. Go Honda!
What will happen this year? (a mini season/race preview)
Mercedes enter as favourites (or do they?) on the back of 6 drivers' and constructors' titles. A typically strong winter and the introduction of DAS proving they continue to leave no stone unturned. Yet more upgrades are on the horizon, even before a wheel is turned. The heat that befell them last year isn't forecast this, and with a vastly superior cooling package, carried over from the end of 2019, it's only fitting to describe them as they are: ominous. Mika Hakkinen has been singing Bottas' praises recently, no longer Bottas 2.0 or 2.1, but rather, MK Bottas! But who would look past Lewis? Renewed over the break, with a fresh sense of both sporting and personal purpose. The champion.
Red Bull begin as their closest challengers. An un-typically strong winter, buoyed by late-season momentum and a brilliant victory in Brazil. A blossoming relationship with Honda and upgrades of their own, there's no doubt they are going toe-to-toe with Mercedes. Could this be the year the sleeping Bull awakens? A happy hunting ground for Max, who will be searching for a famous three-peat, albeit behind closed doors. Albon will look to build on solid foundations.
Ferrari arrives under the shroud of mystery. Power unit settlements and driver departures paint a picture of turmoil, but the inadvertent break allowed for the calming of spring. No longer thrust into the limelight of a difficult Melbourne, but time to gather and refine. Rumours of a new gearbox and engine have been quashed, but there's every chance we'll see a different Scuderia than that of Barcelona. Leclerc will hope to avenge last year's defeat, whilst Vettel will need to start this year - his final year? - on the right foot. The gloves may already be off before we've even begun. Never a dull moment.
McLaren harbour hopes of progress, after finally steering their ship around. A quiet winter underlined by quiet confidence, despite the departure of their star driver. No great stories of optimism or upgrades. Under-promise, over-deliver? A reminder of Sainz's great drive from the pit-lane last year, and the continuing growth of the newly-confident Lando. Strong contenders in the upper midfield. How many smooooooth operations will we see this year?
Renault is searching for a big year. On one hand we hear they are re-using the same tub from 2019, on the other we hear of le triple upgrade. Do you really trust the everlasting promise of Cyril Abiteboul? But it was a winter testing that wasn't actually that bad, and a driver line-up that's even better. Ricciardo starved of success, Ocon starved of racing. This was Renault's worst race last year, can they start the season with a dramatic turnaround? Google > "famous french sayings" - Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
Racing Point is aiming high. Coined by the many as the ultimate underdog, they start the season with a view to fulfilling that title. The cunning Andy Green unveiled a blushing Mercedes in Barcelona, with eyes on more than just solid points. It's time for the perennial shoe-stringers to pull up their bootstraps and fight with the big boys. With Perez they have as good a bet as any. And perhaps when push comes to shove, Stroll will find his feet in the deep end.
Alpha Tauri joined the fashionistas in winter. A new look, but the same faces for the Faenza squad. The first year in a while where they start the season with the same driver line-up as the last, albeit the maligned Gasly and Kvyat will be fighting the Red Bull programme as much as they are each other. If testing is anything to go by, the loss of James Key wasn't all that severe. A difficult task to match two rostrums from last year, but the plucky Honda juniors will be up for the fight.
Alfa Romeo has seemingly faded into anonymity. With Kimi drifting towards retirement, and Giovinazzi overlooked for the Ferrari seat, will it turn out as one of those years? A stuttering 2019 was met by a worrying winter, but it would be ludicrous to devote only two lines of thread to the passion and drive injected by Peter Sauber, now carried gainfully by Fred Vasseur. The same question marks that hover over Ferrari also linger here, but they are firm midfield challengers, and no doubt Kimi has a trick or two left to share.
Haas has gone from a usurping upstart to a Netflix no-hoper. The only thread of good news will be the continuation of Pirelli's 2019 rubber, and a chance to finally understand their machine. Worrying whispers of no upgrades have already arisen. But with the continuation of Grosjean and Magnussen, you can't fault their effort and aggression. For once, maybe playing the little guy will work to their advantage. Let's hope Gene Haas' pockets are as deep as his patience.
And finally, Williams is up for sale and has changed liveries, but this thread-writer senses better times ahead. A wholly remarkable winter turnaround, with genuine progress made. Taking a dive into subjectivity, my punt for a surprise result this weekend. A few aero tweaks have already been confirmed, and they race with the newly-crowned Virtual GP champion, fancy. If you can hope for any team this season, hope for Williams.
I have to go to work in 7 hours so let's wrap this up...
Every team is given the same allocation of tyres. The compounds this weekend (and next) are C2 - C3 - C4, exactly the same as last year.
They'll be no 35°C heat this year, so hopefully the cars will be able to follow closely without worrying about cooling.
If last year was a relatively easy one-stop, it's likely this year will be as well.
The schedule is no different than Liberty-normal. If you are time zone weary, please use the reliable F1.com converter.
The Keys to the Race, "etc."
Who will prevail from the top 3? Can Max take the fight to Lewis?
Are Ferrari doomed? Can Seb relight the fire one last time?
Someone make sense of the midfield?!
Can Williams discover respectability?
What if it actually rains?
Something something coronavirus
A reminder, this thread is for build-up, practice, and qualifying.
Please post your predictions, hopes, fears, and dreams, "etc." below.
Pictures of shipping containers, paddock preparation, and mask-wearing personalities are definitely welcome.
A word for Buddy - we will all be thinking of you on Sunday. RIP.
Edited by TomNokoe, 02 July 2020 - 09:00.