What changes for the teams.
The new version of the calendar could create a particularly interesting Formula 1 championship from a technical-strategic point of view, above all because this forced break guarantees the teams almost three additional months to carry out tests, to study new developments in both the aerodynamic and the mechanic sectors and improve their cars in light of the results of the Barcelona tests, which had outlined a situation that at the beginning of the season could be totally different; the cars we will see on the track, in essence, could be nothing but distant relatives of the ones we saw in Barcelona.
The cars will appear at the start of the new season with much more aggressive and performing Power Units since in Australia they have never been on the track (the PUs originally mounted do not appear as officially used and, at the end of the year, will not be counted in the total calculation of the PU used during the season) and above all since the calendar could be much smaller than expected: having to face less GP it will be less important to preserve the health of the PU in order not to incur penalties related to excessive replacements, allowing you to “squeeze ” at most every single PU available; the same goes, obviously for the gearbox and its components.
The 2020 Formula 1 season as we knew it no longer exists, therefore, and the only data regarding the single-seaters that we can give for sure are the liveries presented in the pre-season.
What seems certain, however, is that for a large part the 2020 world will be decided behind the scenes, where in the last few weeks the skills of engineers and designers will be put to the test.
Who needs this additional testing period …
Ferrari could obviously benefit the most, as it had left the subdued tests on the eve of the Australian GP, not ready to compete at the highest levels, and that now it could manage to develop a more responsive car in the corners, more aggressive. (perhaps changing the front of the muzzle, widely criticized) but above all faster on the straights, where the car has shown more of a difficulty than the past season, so much so that it is about half a second slower than the Mercedes (and perhaps we also know why): the first GPs for the Maranello team, according to the test results, could have been tragic.
Always remaining within Ferrari, also the Alfa Romeo of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi could find in these months the keystone for a season over the top, given that in the pre-season the red and white were practically ghosts, recording just 735 completed laps without however giving great results; and despite a couple of performance flashes (the first day of Kubica and the 320 km/h recorded by Raikkonen on the last day), expectations for 2020, also due to the excellent second half of the 2019 season, are much higher than seen so far: another year in anonymity, in fact, could cost to Giovinazzi his place in the Swiss team (and perhaps also in F1).
Finally, the Americans of the Haas team came out defeated from the Barcelona tests, also because of technical problems on Magnussen’s car, they recorded a very low number – as well as the lowest – of completed laps, just 649 (Mercedes he completed 903 of them): not enough to give reliable results on a single-seater and on a team (including drivers) that have not always been reliable, at least in past seasons. As anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the second season of the documentary Netflix Drive to Survive knows, in fact, the team of Günther Steiner must work first of all on the internal environment of the team, on the alchemy among its drivers and above all on the spirit as a team, in order to be able to give the best even in particularly difficult situations.
In fact, too often Formula 1 is thought of as a sport based only on the numbers and skill of the drivers, forgetting that they are only the tip of the iceberg made up of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of individuals who need a positive environment to to be able to guarantee perfect functioning not only of the single-seater, but of the whole paddock.
… and who, on the other hand, could come out at a disadvantage.
The first big losers of the chaos caused by the coronavirus emergency are undoubtedly Mercedes and RedBull.
The first, even if only for DAS witchcraft, were the undisputed kings of the Barcelona tests, with a myriad of laps covered (903) and a margin of advantage over rivals that never seemed to falter. The fear is that in these months the most avid rivals may recover ground on the W11, an extraordinary single-seater that does not seem to have any weak point except for the Power Unit, the only flaw of this early 2020, which on more than a couple of occasions has betrayed both the cousins in Williams and the Arrows themselves: this is what Hamilton and his companions will have to work on during this forced break.
The latter, however, not only during the tests they kept (and in some cases beaten) Ferrari’s times, but they were even so sure of being able to bring a super-competitive car to the track that they were the only ones (together obviously with AlphaTauri) to push to the end to run in Melbourne. This should be enough to understand how much RedBull has confidence in the work done in the off-season: it remains to be seen, however, if the team led by Christian Horner will be able to review its development plans and adapt them effectively to again have a conspicuous advantage over rivals – especially Ferrari-; an advantage that could now taper and the points not accumulated during these first GPs could, in the long run, heavily influence the outcome of the season.
Putting aside the jokes about the similarity of the RP20 with the Mercedes of the last world championship, then, it is important to underline how that of the Racing Point was an all-in bet that did not pay as it should have been: betting so much on the beginning of the season with a fast and competitive single-seater, paying in the long run in terms of research and development, however, did not give the desired results. Indeed, worse than that just could not go.
As seen in the tests, in fact, the Perez and Stroll single-seater seemed to be able to dominate the so-called midfield without too many problems, thanks to the help provided by the proximity to Mercedes; now, perhaps, the cards on the table will change, since the direct rivals (especially McLaren and Renault) will have almost three months to improve the car they designed and developed, unlike those who probably took a little too much inspiration from work of others and that now finds a car difficult to develop independently.
How important are three months in Formula 1.
Finally, an honorable mention goes to Williams and the superb results shown in Barcelona: the good old days are obviously still far away, but the work done so far has paid off and it would have been difficult to imagine better results if you think about the latest seasons in Formula 1.
In fact, the winter break was enough to revolutionize the performance of a team that last year had embarrassing results to say the least: here is a practical example of how important a few months of work are and how much you can improve in a span of time which may seem insufficient to make concrete changes. If Williams has done all this in just three months, therefore, the other teams can do it, especially the Top Teams: therefore, from here to June, you can really expect anything.
Returning to the teams perhaps most loved by fans from around the world, however, this forced break could prove to be a double-edged sword: an opportunity to improve further, further reducing the gap with the midfield, or opportunities for other teams to restore the distance in terms of performance seen until last season?
For the love of sport – and also to honor an historic Formula 1 team – we would much prefer the first option.
Not all evils come to harm.
And however hard it is for us enthusiasts to have to spend many other weekends without Formula 1 (and in addition at the beginning of the season, after an abstinence lasting all winter), perhaps in the end it would have been worth it: is this the year more strange and difficult of all Formula 1 that it ends up being also the most competitive and exciting?
Maybe yes; maybe not, buti t is certain that, even in view of 2021 and all the news that the “new” Formula 1 will bring, we just have to grit our teeth and prepare for a season perhaps a little weird, but that without a doubt will find a way not to betray expectations.