2020 British Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton was at his dominant best at the Hungaroring to claim his eighth Hungarian Grand Prix victory, which equals Michael Schumacher’s record for most race wins at the same Grand Prix, with Schumacher’s eight coming at the French Grand Prix, and now Hamilton, who now has the championship lead, heads back home to his beloved Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom as he aims to join Schumacher as the only two drivers to win three different Grand Prix events at least seven times at the 2020 British Grand Prix, Round Four of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (63 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by five points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (58 points) after claiming the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix in commanding fashion, claiming a Grand Prix hat-trick (pole position, win, and fastest lap) for the 16th time in his career, and only six behind Schumacher in this department in Formula One history.

However, what is more worrying for the opposition was how the 2020 Mercedes, especially in the hands of Hamilton, was performing through the medium and high speed corners at the Hungaroring, cornering like it was on rails, and the speed difference between Mercedes and everyone else was seemingly back to the good old days of 2014 to 2016, when the Mercedes was consistently one to one and a half seconds faster per lap anything else on the grid in the hands of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg back in those three years, and given the high speed and high downforce characteristics of Silverstone, it is hard to see Mercedes being beaten on merit this weekend, or the next, which will also be held at Silverstone for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

However, Bottas will want to improve his performance after a poor race in Hungary, finishing third after a poor start, dropping to sixth after the opening lap, and in seventh position after five laps after most of the grid had a pit stop to change from intermediate tyres to slick tyres, only getting up into third on Lap 36, and if Hamilton, who had a huge lead, had not pitted for soft tyres in order to try and grab the point for having the fastest lap of the race (which Hamilton successfully achieved), Bottas would have most likely have been the last car on the lead lap at the Hungaroring.

Max Verstappen (33 points) is third in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after a strong second-place finish in Hungary, but it almost never happened after sliding softly into the wall on the lap to the grid, and his team had to rush quickly to get a new front wing, and attempt to fix the small amounts of damage on the car in the minutes before race start.

However, despite the great drive from Verstappen, Red Bull’s car in 2020 is simply not good enough, in comparison to the Mercedes, and it is very hard in their current form to see them winning a lot of races, let alone seriously challenging for the world championship, in 2020.

Lando Norris (26 points) is still fourth in the standings for McLaren-Renault despite finishing 13th in Budapest, while Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon (22 points), and Sergio Pérez (22 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes are fifth and sixth after the opening three races of 2020.

Charles Leclerc (18 points) follows for Ferrari in seventh position in the world championship despite not scoring points in each of the last two races, with Lance Stroll (18 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, Carlos Sainz Jr. (15 points) for McLaren-Renault, and Leclerc’s current teammate Sebastian Vettel (nine points) completing the Top 10 in the standings.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (121 points) are a dominant 66 points ahead of Red Bull Racing-Honda (55 points), with McLaren-Renault (41 points) in third, just ahead of Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (40 points), who have underachieved to a degree so far in 2020 given the potential shown with their car.

Ferrari (27 points) are a very poor fifth in the world championship, and seemingly looking ahead to 2022, when there will a seismic change in the regulations, for their chance to return to glory.

Renault (12 points) are behind the Prancing Horse in sixth, followed by AlphaTauri-Honda (seven points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (two points), and Haas-Ferrari (one point), with Williams-Mercedes (zero points) yet to get off the mark.

So, who is going to win the 2020 British Grand Prix?

Given the form that he has shown at both the Styrian Grand Prix, and the Hungarian Grand Prix, as well as his amazing record at Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton is in my mind at close to unbackable to claim his seventh British Grand Prix victory, and although there will be no crowds at Silverstone this year, you feel that Hamilton has got a very special performance in store for his British faithful, who like everyone around the world, have had a very difficult year in some way, shape, or form!

2020 Andalucían GP (MotoGP) – Preview

What a return for grand prix motorcycle racing  in Jerez! It was drama glarore in scorching hot conditions in southern Spain, with Fabio Quartararo grabbing his first MotoGP race victory, becoming the first French rider to win a premier class grand prix since Régis Laconi, who won the 1999 Valencian Grand Prix.

It was also the first race victory for a Yamaha satellite team (non-factory team), and the first race victory for a satellite team for any manufacturer with the exception of Honda, giving Quartararo the perfect start as he looks for his first world championship!

However, it wasn’t the perfect start for six-time MotoGP World Champion Marc Márquez for the Repsol Honda Team, running off the track at Turn 3/4 on Lap Five, falling all the way down to 16th before fighting his way back through the field to be back in third-place by the end of Lap 20, before crashing spectacularly on Lap 22 in one of the greatest Did Not Finish results of all-time, but suffered a fractured humerus in the process to turn the 2020 MotoGP World Championship upside down as we head into the second round of this shortened season, the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix back at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto.

Quartararo (25 points) leads the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT by virtue of his first win in MotoGP, and given the injury to Márquez, and the likely prospect of him missing this weekend, as well as the injuries to Cal Crutchlow (wrist) and Álex Rins (shoulder), Quartararo will be one of a number of riders sensing that this is their opportunity to win their first MotoGP World Championship!

Maverick Viñales (20 points), who finished second at the Spanish Grand Prix for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, is another one who will be feeling that 2020 is their year! Viñales decided to go with the soft front tyre (with most of the grid selecting the hard front tyre), and it didn’t quite pay off for the Spaniard, but he will be aiming to get his first race victory of 2020 this weekend to be, at worst, leading the world championship with Quartararo after the opening two races of this shortened season.

Andrea Dovizioso (16 points) will also be hoping 2020 is finally his year after starting this shortened championship by finishing third for the Mission Winnow Ducati Team at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, the first time he has ever finished on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix in the premier class, and given the fact that he has finished second in the championship standings behind Márquez in each of the last three seasons, you sense 2020 could well be his final chance, if that opportunity hasn’t already passed, to win his first MotoGP World Championship!

And the other rider who I believe can benefit from the changed circumstances of the 2020 world championship is Jack Miller (13 points), who finished just off the podium in fourth for Pramac Racing at the Spanish Grand Prix. I feel like he could very well be the dark-horse of this year’s championship, and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, and Casey Stoner to become Australia’s fourth premier class world champion.

However, a rider who I don’t think can add to his seven premier class world championships in 2020 is Valentino Rossi, who was almost anonymous throughout the entire Spanish Grand Prix, running only as high as eighth before retiring from the race due to mechanical issues with his bike.

In my mind, his performance at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix was embarrassing, and I think Rossi should retire at the end of the 2020 season!

So, who do I think is going to win the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix?

Well, you sense it is wide open, and given that conditions at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto are going to be very similar to what it was last weekend, I expect to see more carnage and drama, and if that is the case, I think whoever is leading the championship after this weekend will be the favourite to win the 2020 MotoGP World Championship!

And with that in mind, I think if Maverick Viñales can put all the pieces of the puzzle together all at the same time, he will win the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix to take the lead of the championship, and will have the weight of pressure and expectation right on his back!

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton bounced back in magnificent style, claiming his 89th pole position in treacherous conditions by just over 1.2 seconds, before going on to win the inaugural Styrian Grand Prix for Mercedes, the 85th win of his career, his 152nd podium, to move himself within six of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race victories, and within three of his record of most podiums in Formula One of 155.

However, despite Hamilton’s victory at the Styrian Grand Prix, it is his teammate Valtteri Bottas who leads the championship as we head into the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix, Round Three of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Bottas (43 points) leads the world championship by six points over Hamilton (37 points) after finishing second at the Styrian Grand Prix, passing Max Verstappen with about five laps to go to finish 13.719 seconds behind Hamilton.

Lando Norris (26 points) is still third in the standings for McLaren-Renault after finishing an impressive fifth at the Red Bull Ring after starting ninth on the grid after receiving a three-place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in the first practice session.

Charles Leclerc (18 points) is still fourth in the championship for Ferrari, but his second-place finish at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix is now very much a distant memory after colliding at Turn Three on the opening lap with his teammate Sebastian Vettel, forcing both Ferrari’s to retire from the Styrian Grand Prix, the first two retirements of the Styrian Grand Prix.

Right now, Ferrari are not in a good place right now, most likely the fifth-fastest car on the grid, and the updates that they brought to their car last week didn’t seem to work. They will be hoping that they perform much better at the Hungaroring this weekend.

Sergio Pérez (16 points) is a strong fifth in the world championship for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes after finishing sixth in both of the first two races, but you feel like given the speed they have shown during the opening two race weekends that Racing Point-BWT Mercedes should be better-placed than what they are right now, so it is going to be interesting to see if they can take the battle to Mercedes and Red Bull Racing-Honda on a consistent basis throughout the course of 2020.

Max Verstappen (15 points) is up into sixth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing third behind the two Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring to grab a much-needed 15 points after his retirement at the Austrian Grand Prix.

You feel that this weekend is huge for both Verstappen and Red Bull Racing-Honda in Hungary. If Verstappen is able to win the Hungarian Grand Prix, it could be a three-way fight for the 2020 world championship, but if he finishes behind the two Mercedes again this weekend, then Mercedes could run away with this condensed and shortened world championship!

Behind the Top Six, Carlos Sainz Jr. (13 points) is seventh in the standings for McLaren-Renault, followed by Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon (12 points) in eighth after Albon finished a distant fourth at the Styrian Grand Prix, with Pierre Gasly (six points) for AlphaTauri-Honda, and Lance Stroll (six points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes completing the Top 10 in the world championship.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (80 points) lead by 41 points over McLaren-Renault (39 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (27 points) a further 12 points behind, followed by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (22 points), Ferrari (19 points), Renault (eight points), AlphaTauri-Honda (seven points), and Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (two points), with both Williams-Mercedes (zero points), and Haas-Ferrari (zero points) still yet to get off the mark!

So, who is going to win the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix?

Although Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing-Honda produced a great race with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes last year at the Hungaroring, I feel that Red Bull Racing-Honda don’t have the same speed as they had last year, compared to the Mercedes, and I think the master of the Hungaroring, Lewis Hamilton, is going to win the Hungarian Grand Prix for the eighth time!

2020 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The return of grand prix motorcycle racing! The return of another global sporting competition! The return of MotoGP!

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, with many events of social significance and importance either cancelled or postponed as a result, and many, many people around the world losing their lives as a result of COVID-19!

However, MotoGP returns this weekend, becoming the second global sporting competition, after Formula One, to return to action, with the first of what at this stage is a 13-round season (although it could possibly extend to 16 rounds) taking place at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto to start the 2020 MotoGP World Championship at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, and can anybody beat Marc Márquez?

On Wednesday, Márquez looked strong for the Repsol Honda Team, topping the time-sheets in the morning test sesssion, before finishing third in the afternoon test session, proving to everyone that the defending world champion is fully fit after the shoulder surgery he had during the off-season, and that his team have fixed the aerodynamic issues surrounding the bike!

In my mind, Márquez is still the man to beat, and after finishing first or second in 18 of the 19 races in 2019, the legendary Spaniard will be looking to become the MotoGP World Champion for the seventh time in 2020, and win his ninth world championship across all classes, which would equal the record of Valentino Rossi across both departments in terms of premier class world championships, and world championships across all classes overall!

So, who can challenge Márquez, and deny him of this milestone?

Álex Rins put his hand up on Wednesday as a potential contender for Team Suzuki Ecstar, and although he didn’t set the fastest time in either test session, he finished a strong second and fourth in both the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Rins will looking to improve on finishing fourth in the 2019 championship, and finish at worst inside the Top Three in the shortened 2020 world championship.

Fabio Quartararo has taken off from where he finished 2019, showing plenty of speed in finishing fifth and second in testing for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and will be aiming not only to improve on his fifth-place finish in the 2019 world championship, but also to claim his first MotoGP victory before moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP in 2021.

And, the other genuine championship contender in my view is Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP. The Spaniard claimed two race victories and a further five podiums in 2019, and although he only finished 13th in the morning test session, he was the fastest in the afternoon test session, and was consistently the fastest in original pre-season testing before the COVID-19 hiatus. The question is whether he can be consistently on the pace of Márquez, something which he struggled to do in 2019, but was the only rider in 2019 to be able to win without Márquez challenging him on the final lap (when Márquez was still in the race), so if he can be consistently on the pace with Márquez, then possibly Viñales is the man to end his reign!

And, while there could be surprises and upsets throughout the field, the four championship contenders, and therefore regular challengers, for race wins in 2020 in my view are Marc Márquez, Álex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, and Maverick Viñales!

So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?

In my mind, Marc Márquez is the man to beat this weekend for the Repsol Honda Team, and while I think Fabio Quartararo for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP could be slightly quicker over one lap, although I don’t think there is much between those three over one lap on their current machinery, I think Márquez will start the shortened 2020 MotoGP World Championship in the best way possible, with Quartararo and Viñales completing the podium, and Rins in a close fourth for Team Suzuki Ecstar.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix – Preview

What a return! What a dramatic race! Only 13 cars were classified as finishers, with just 11 cars crossed the finishing line at the end in a race of great attrition, with all nine cars that didn’t cross the finish line retiring due to mechanical issues, and with a number of others right on the edge of their reliability limits.

Despite this, the racing was first class, Valtteri Bottas winning the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix from pole position in what was one of the best performances of his career so far, leading all 71 Laps of the race, while Lewis Hamilton after receiving a three-place grid penalty for going too fast under yellow flags in qualifying, moved up from fifth to second by Lap 11 following the retirement of  Max Verstappen due to electronic issues with his Red Bull Racing-Honda, pressured his teammate Bottas throughout the race while both Mercedes were battling gearbox issues, which were compounded to a degree by three safety car periods, the first on Lap 25 when Kevin Magnussen retired at Turn Two with brake issues for Haas-Ferrari, the second on Lap 50 when George Russell had to retire with a loss of fuel pressure in his Williams-Mercedes, and on Lap 54, the lap the second safety car period ended when Kimi Räikkönen of Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari lost his right-front wheel.

This was before Hamilton clashed with Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon on Lap 61 after Albon attempted to pass Hamilton around the outside of Turn Four, ending Albon’s hopes of a first podium in Formula One (although he retired (classified 13th) from the race on Lap 67 due to electronic issues), and Hamilton, who finished second on the track, received a five-second time penalty as a result.

This gave the opportunity for Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari that was no where near the quickest cars on merit during the weekend to pounce and grab a surprise second-place, while Lando Norris snatched his first podium in Formula One for McLaren-Renault by setting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, beating Hamilton to third (after Hamilton’s time penalty) by 0.198 seconds!

That was just a small snapshot of the return of Formula One, which remains at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria this weekend for the first-ever running of the Styrian Grand Prix, Round Two of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Bottas (25 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by seven points over Ferrari’s Leclerc (18 points) after the opening round of 2020. Ferrari, despite finishing second through the efforts of Leclerc, were never in the hunt for the race victory. Leclerc just managed to scrape into the third period (Top 10) of qualifying on Saturday, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel (one point), who finished the opening race of 2020 in 10th after spinning and almost colliding with McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who incidentally will be replacing Vettel at Ferrari in 2021, on Lap 32 as the race resumed after the first safety car, just missed out on getting into the third period of qualifying.

Right now, Ferrari have the fifth-fastest car on paper, which is worse than expected, and are now going to bring updates to their car for the Styrian Grand Prix, instead of waiting for the following weekend at the Hungarian Grand Prix as they had originally intended. If the updates don’t work for Ferrari, then Leclerc’s second-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix could well become a distant memory for the Prancing Horse.

Norris (16 points) is third in the standings for McLaren-Renault after becoming third-youngest driver in Formula One history to score a podium finish, while Hamilton (12 points) is fourth for Mercedes after his clash with Albon at Turn Four, which is the second time they have touched each other in the last three races after coming together last year in Brazil.

In my view, while the stewards were probably right to give Hamilton a five-second time penalty, I felt it was very close to a racing incident just because of the high degree of difficulty of making a pass around the outside of someone at Turn Four at the Red Bull Ring, especially around the outside of a six-time world champion.

If it had been Albon’s teammate Verstappen in that position rather than Albon, I think Verstappen would have made a successful pass around the outside of Hamilton due to the extra level of speed Verstappen has, thus the extra level of respect that Hamilton would have had for Verstappen due to his extra level of speed, and this extra level of respect is not the type of respect that you can earn over time!

It is the type of respect that you either born with, or not born with (relative to the opposition), and if Albon is going to be successful in his Formula One career, he is likely going to have to be done through greater hard work and grit, rather than going down the route of doing it via audaciousness and natural speed!

Carlos Sainz Jr. (10 points) is fifth in the world championship for McLaren-Renault, Sergio Pérez (eight points) is sixth for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes after receiving a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, although that wouldn’t have moved him up any further, while Pierre Gasly (six points) for AlphaTauri-Honda, Esteban Ocon (four points) for Renault, Antonio Giovinazzi (two points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, and Vettel (one point) for Ferrari complete the points-scoring finishers, while Nicholas Latifi missed out on a points-scoring finish for Williams-Mercedes on his Formula One debut.

As for the other drivers who didn’t finish the race (that I haven’t mentioned), Daniel Ricciardo retired on Lap 17 for Renault due to overheating and cooling issues with his car, Lance Stroll was a casualty for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes three laps later with an engine issue, while Romain Grosjean (brakes) and Daniil Kvyat (suspension) retired on Lap 49 and Lap 69 for Haas-Ferrari and AlphaTauri-Honda respectively, with Kvyat classified in 12th.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (37 points) lead by 11 points over McLaren-Renault (26 points), with Ferrari (19 points) a further seven points adrift, while Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (eight points), AlphaTauri-Honda (six points), Renault (four points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (two points) all claimed points in a car-breaking grand prix, with Williams-Mercedes (zero points), Red Bull Racing-Honda (zero points), and Haas-Ferrari (zero points) yet to get off the mark.

So, who will win the inaugural Styrian Grand Prix?

If the conditions are cooler this weekend, particularly for race day, then you would expect a more predictable race, especially in terms of reliability, and likewise a more predictable final result. If Mercedes are reliable, they should finish first and second, and if that is the case, I tip Lewis Hamilton to bounce back to his very best this weekend!

However, if rain or car reliability (through failures or grid penalties) affects the weekend, then all bets will be off once again, but regardless of what happens, it should be another great race!

2020 Austrian Grand Prix – Preview

Friday the 13th! Friday March 13, 2020! A day we will never forget! A day where the world of sport, and the world itself changed … forever!

On the night of Thursday March 12, the night before what should have been the start of the race weekend of what should have been the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, of what should have been the 2020 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, an employee from the McLaren F1 Team tested positive for COVID-19, and from there, the world changed quickly, leading to Friday the 13th, and the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix!

Some drivers, allegedly, left Melbourne (and Australia) before the official announcement of the cancellation of the race weekend, and from there, the ripple effect was unprecedented!

After the announcement from Formula One, Cricket Australia made an announcement that the one day international at the Sydney Cricket Ground between Australia and New Zealand later on Friday the 13th would be played behind closed doors, and then within days, international borders across the world began to close, sporting competitions around the world started to shut down, Tokyo 2020 postponed until 2021, and many events cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, and sadly, the suffering being experienced by people around the world was unimaginable and still is in many parts around the world!

It came like the biggest tsunami we have never seen before, and has caused, and is still causing, so much damage on so many fronts, so many lives lost, so many livelihoods lost, and the tunnel at some points within the last three to four months, generically speaking, was darker than the night sky!

However, the light began to return! Football in Europe, led by the Bundesliga in Germany, and football in Asia, led by the K-League in South Korea, started the return of sport as a beacon of hope, quickly followed by the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL) in Australia in particular as optimism grew, and now the return of sporting competition on the global stage!

The 20 best drivers, the 10 best teams return in the fastest cars on planet earth, fighting the good fight, a great battle, and all the challenges the world has faced in 2020, and leading the return of global sporting competition!

The new start of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, the first time the world championship has started in Europe since 1966! It is the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria!

Going all the way back to pre-season testing back in February, which seems a lifetime ago, it appeared as though Lewis Hamilton, who is looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships, and Mercedes are still very much the driver and team combination to beat with the bullet-proof reliability that has come to define their dominance of the sport since 2014.

The 2020 Mercedes looked to be about seven tenths of a second quicker than anything else seen in pre-season testing, and if that is the case, that should Hamilton the perfect platform to drive towards a seventh world championship, as well as surpassing other records held by Schumacher in Formula One, including most race victories (Schumacher: 91, Hamilton: 84), and most podium finishes (Schumacher: 155, Hamilton: 151). It would also give Hamilton, who has 88 pole positions, the best possible platform to launch towards becoming the first driver to claim 100 pole positions, if not by the end of 2020, certainly at some point during 2021, with all of this dependent on how many races take place in 2020.

In regards to who I think will challenge Mercedes in 2020, I think that Red Bull Racing-Honda is the best position to give Mercedes a huge fight, but if they are seven tenths off the pace as they were in pre-season testing, then it is going to be difficult for Max Verstappen to challenge for a first world championship, and become youngest-ever world champion in Formula One, and for Alexander Albon to challenge for podiums and race victories on a consistent basis.

As for Ferrari, it looked like that they were about 1.3 seconds away from Mercedes after pre-season testing, and closer to the midfield than they are to Red Bull Racing-Honda, with Team Principal Mattia Binotto admitting that Ferrari have had to redesign their car, and that updates won’t be ready until the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix, which will be the third race of 2020, after the Austrian Grand Prix, and the Styrian Grand Prix!

If this is the case, then that is a very disappointing result, not only for Ferrari supporters, but also for Charles Leclerc, who is looking to build on his impressive first season with Ferrari with a season full of podiums, race victories, and a world championship challenge, and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who is looking to rebound back to his best after a disappointing season by his standards in 2019, in which he had one race victory and a further eight podiums, although he only finished 24 points behind Leclerc in the championship.

As far as the midfield is concerned, Racing Point-BWT Mercedes with a Mercedes-inspired car from a technical point of view is leading the charge with Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll, about 1.6 seconds behind Mercedes, followed by McLaren-Renault (+1.8 seconds) with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris, AlphaTauri-Honda (+1.9 seconds), formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (+2.1 seconds) with 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, and Renault (+2.2 seconds) with Daniel Ricciardo and the returning Esteban Ocon.

And, behind the midfield and completing the grid for 2020 will be Haas-Ferrari (+2.7 seconds) with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, and Williams-Mercedes (+2.8 seconds) with George Russell and 2019 Formula Two Championship runner-up Nicholas Latifi.

So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?

Since Formula One returned to the Red Bull Ring, formerly known as the A1-Ring, back in 2014, the Austrian Grand Prix has been dominated by Mercedes (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) and Red Bull (2018, 2019), with Max Verstappen winning in each of the last two seasons.

However, given the circumstances surrounding the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix, the return of Formula One, and the race taking place behind closed doors, the historical form guide almost goes out the window, and this weekend might see someone secure a surprise podium, or even a shock win, but as far as my prediction is concerned, I am going to tip the driver and car combination that I felt was the quickest in pre-season testing to win at the Red Bull Ring this weekend, and that is Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes!

2020 Australian Grand Prix – Preview

Welcome to a brand new year and decade in world motorsport, and to a brand new year and decade of Formula One, and after MotoGP (although Moto2 and Moto3 raced) was cancelled in Qatar due to the impact of coronavirus, our first real taste of the pinnacle level of motorsport comes at the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, Round One of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, and after plenty of intrigue during pre-season testing, the main questions that are being asked (aside from technical issues) are: Is Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes still the driver and team combination to beat? And, can the likes of Red Bull Racing-Honda and Ferrari challenge Mercedes consistently in 2020?

In regards to the first question, based on the information that I have looked at from pre-season testing and my interpretation of it, Hamilton and Mercedes are still very much the driver and team combination to beat, and although they had some issues reliability wise on the penultimate day of pre-season testing, you would expect Mercedes to have the bullet-proof reliability that has come to define their dominance of the sport since 2014.

And, this is before we talk about how quick the car is!

In my view, the 2020 Mercedes is about seven tenths of a second quicker than anything else that was seen in pre-season testing, and if that is the case, that gives Hamilton the perfect platform to drive towards equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships, as well as towards surpassing Schumacher’s records of most race victories (Schumacher: 91, Hamilton: 84), and most podium finishes (Schumacher: 155, Hamilton: 151) in Formula One.

It would also give Hamilton the best possible platform to launch towards becoming the first driver to claim 100 pole positions. With Hamilton currently on 88 pole positions for his career, and if I am right in thinking/interpreting that Mercedes have the advantage that they have, this is within reach in 2020.

And, given that Hamilton has taken pole position at Albert Park in each of the last six years, and in seven of the last eight, he could start this charge in Australia, and it could very well be a Mercedes front-row lockout with Valtteri Bottas joining the great champion and legend at the very front of the grid.

In regards to the second question, I think that Red Bull Racing-Honda is the best position to challenge Mercedes throughout the course of 2020, but if they are seven tenths off the pace, then it is going to be difficult for Max Verstappen to challenge for a first world championship, and become youngest-ever world champion in Formula One, and for Alexander Albon to challenge for podiums and race victories on a consistent basis.

As for Ferrari, I think they are about 1.3 seconds away from Mercedes, and closer to the midfield than they are to Red Bull Racing-Honda, and if that is the case, then it is a very disappointing result, not only for Ferrari supporters, but also for Charles Leclerc, who is looking to build on his impressive first season with Ferrari with a season full of podiums, race victories, and a world championship challenge, and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who is looking to rebound back to his best after a disappointing season by his standards in 2019, in which he had one race victory and a further eight podiums, although he only finished 24 points behind Leclerc in the championship.

As far as the midfield is concerned, Racing Point-BWT Mercedes with a Mercedes-inspired car from a technical point of view is leading the charge with Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll, about 1.6 seconds behind Mercedes, followed by McLaren-Renault (+1.8 seconds) with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris, AlphaTauri-Honda (+1.9 seconds), formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (+2.1 seconds) with 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, and Renault (+2.2 seconds) with Daniel Ricciardo and the returning Esteban Ocon.

And, behind the midfield and completing the grid for 2020 will be Haas-Ferrari (+2.7 seconds) with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, and Williams-Mercedes (+2.8 seconds) with George Russell and 2019 Formula Two Championship runner-up Nicholas Latifi.

So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?

Based on the evidence that I have, and my interpretation of the evidence, I have good reason to believe that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are the combination to beat once again, and I think Hamilton will claim a seventh-straight pole position in Australia, which would equal Ayrton Senna’s record of most consecutive pole positions at the same Grand Prix (San Marino), and a ninth overall, which would be the most by a driver at any Grand Prix, and go onto claim his third Australian Grand Prix race victory!

Behind Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas will finish a comfortable second, while Max Verstappen will finish a distant third, with Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel in no particular order fighting for fourth, fifth, and sixth.

2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview

It was a masterful performance in an entertaining and chaotic 2019 Brazil Grand Prix by Max Verstappen at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo to claim his third race victory of the season, the eighth win of his career after starting from pole position for the second time, and while Verstappen produced one of the great drives in his young career to date, others had problems with Valtteri Bottas retiring from the race with an oil pressure issues on Lap 52, both Ferrari’s taking each other out with arguably the most innocuous collision in Formula One history, and Lewis Hamilton making a rare mistake in taking out Alexander Albon from podium contention for what would have been Albon’s first podium, and after Hamilton’s five-second penalty after the race allowed both Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr. to claim their first podium’s in Formula One.

Now, the grid heads to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the 21st and final round of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton (387 points), despite finishing seventh in Brazil after the five-second penalty for the collision with Albon, still extended his lead over his Mercedes teammate Bottas (314 points) to 73 points, and now has the opportunity to not only match his race victory tally in 2014 and 2018, as well as score 400 points or more for the second-straight season, but also finish every race of a season for the second time in his career.

Hamilton will also have the opportunity to equal his own record of most consecutive points finishes in Formula One history with 33-straight points finishes. Hamilton, coming into this weekend, has finished 65 of his last 66 races inside the points, with his retirement at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix being the only race he hasn’t finished inside the points since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, where his engine and ultimately his world championship hopes went up in flames after leading the race comfortably!

Bottas will also be looking to finish his season on a high, and prove to himself that he has the capabilities to challenge Hamilton in 2020!

Verstappen (260 points) moves up into third in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda, and will be battling for third-place in the standings this weekend with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (249 points), who surrendered third in the world championship to Verstappen after his collision with teammate Sebastian Vettel in Brazil.

For Verstappen to finish third in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship:

1. If Leclerc wins the race (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish in second.

2. If Leclerc wins the race (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish third or higher (with or without the fastest lap).

3. If Leclerc finishes second (with or without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish sixth or higher (with or without the fastest lap).

4. If Leclerc finishes third (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish seventh or higher.

5. If Leclerc finishes third (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish eighth or higher (with or without the fastest lap).

6. If Leclerc finishes fourth (with the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish ninth or higher.

7. If Leclerc finishes fourth (without the fastest lap), Verstappen must finish 10th or higher (with the fastest lap if he finishes in 10th).

8. If Leclerc finishes fifth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).

Vettel (230 points) is fifth in the championship after losing his chance to finish third in the final standings after his race-ending collision with Leclerc in Brazil, but still has the opportunity to finish fourth in the world championship in front of his teammate if he can out-score Leclerc by 19/20 points in Abu Dhabi.

Behind the Top Five, there is the battle for sixth between Gasly (95 points) of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, Sainz (95 points) of McLaren-Renault, and Albon (84 points) of Red Bull Racing-Honda, while Daniel Ricciardo (54 points) from Renault, and Sergio Pérez (46 points) from Racing Point-BWT Mercedes complete the Top 10, with Lando Norris (45 points) from McLaren-Renault, Kimi Räikkönen (43 points) from Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Nico Hülkenberg (37 points) from Renault, and Daniil Kvyat (35 points) from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda still a realistic chance of finishing the championship inside the Top 10 in the standings.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (701 points) will finish in first, ahead of Ferrari (479 points) in second, Red Bull Racing-Honda (391 points) in third, and McLaren-Renault (140 points) in fourth. The battle remains open though for fifth between Renault (91 points) and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (83 points), as well as the fight for seventh between Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (67 points) and Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (57 points). Haas-Ferrari (28 points) will likely finish in ninth, ahead of Williams-Mercedes (one point), who will finish in 10th, barring a minor miracle!

So, who will win the final race of 2019?

I feel like at a circuit which typically offers little shocks or surprises, that a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton, especially given the race he had in Brazil, would be expected, but you cannot rule out Ferrari, or Max Verstappen from Red Bull Racing-Honda giving him a run for his money in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

2019 Newcastle 500 – Preview

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Scott McLaughlin clinched his second Supercars Championship last time out at the 2019 Sandown 500, with McLaughlin and his co-driver Alexandre Prémat finished in a lowly ninth, but the drama since the 2019 Bathurst 1000 victory for Car No.17, and for McLaughlin, Prémat, and DJR Team Penske has continued, with of course the penalty surrounding Car No.12 at Bathurst of Fabian Coulthard, who was in the car at the time, and Tony D’Alberto for holding up the field after the safety car was deployed on Lap 135 of the Bathurst 1000, allowing Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin to escape up the road to have essentially a free pit-stop, and was the catalyst for Car No.17 to win the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Then, we had the revelation from CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) and Supercars at Sandown in regards to the qualifying engine of Car No.17 that “the valve lift in a number of cylinders was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted valve lift prescribed”, and then the subsequent penalty for Car No.17 to be disqualified from qualifying at the 2019 Bathurst 1000, and therefore being stripped of their pole position at Bathurst, DJR Team Penske being fined $30,000, and Car No.17 being forced to start the Sandown 500 from the back of the grid, but crucially were able to keep their victory in the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Now, the way that CAMS, which will become Motorsport Australia in 2020, and Supercars stewards decided to punish Car No.17 was an admission, without actually saying it, is that they had made a mistake in not punishing Car No.17 and DJR Team Penske earlier, as in at the Bathurst 1000, and it is not the first mistake CAMS and Supercars have made in 2019, and both of them are going to have to have a deep review of their technical and sporting operations in the off-season heading into 2020.

However, despite all the conjecture and debate about the credibility and validity of the success of Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske, and the Ford Mustang, the one thing is for sure is that McLaughlin is a deserving two-time Supercars champion, and it will be celebrated at the 2019 Newcastle 500, the 15th and final round of the 2019 Supercars Championship.

McLaughlin (3614 points) leads the championship by an unassailable 550 points over Shane Van Gisbergen (3064 points) from Triple Eight Race Engineering, who is in a three-way battle for second in the championship with his teammate Jamie Whincup (2968 points), and McLaughlin’s teammate in Fabian Coulthard (2791 points) heading into Newcastle.

Behind the Top Four, Chaz Mostert (2705 points) is fifth in the standings for Tickford Racing, and is still a chance of finishing third in the championship, while David Reynolds (2517 points) will finish outside of the Top Three in the final standings for Erebus Motorsport regardless of what happens on the streets of Newcastle.

Then, there is a huge five-way fight for what will be likely seventh in the championship between Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters (2387 points) and two of his teammates in Will Davison (2369 points) and Lee Holdsworth (2323 points), as well as Nick Percat from Brad Jones Racing and James Courtney from Walkinshaw Andretti United, the team that he will be leaving after the Newcastle 500 to join the new Sydney team in 2020.

Looking at the Teams’ Championship, there is 116 points separating DJR Team Penske (6101 points) and Triple Eight Race Engineering (5985 points) with the battle being reinvigorated after the 300 point penalty handed out to DJR Team Penske after the actions of the team in telling Fabian Coulthard to hold up the field at Bathurst.

In regards to the Newcastle Street Circuit, it is important to note that the track has been lengthened by 12 metres to 2.641 kilometres, with the Turn 11 hairpin being revised, with the approach into Turn 11 being lengthened by 11.5 metres.

So, who will win the 2019 Newcastle 500?

I think all the distractions that have happened over the last few weeks, plus the crash on the Gold Coast have really affected Scott McLaughlin, but with the distractions largely out of the way, I think McLaughlin will dominate the Newcastle 500, winning both races to finish his largely incredible season in style!

 

2019 Brazil Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth Formula One World Championship to move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven after finishing second behind his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the 2019 United States Grand Prix, and will be looking to not only match and surpass his race victory tally in 2014 and 2018 over the course of the last two rounds of 2019, but also score 400 points or more for the second-straight season as the grid heads to the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo in Brazil for the 2019 Brazil Grand Prix, Round 20 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (381 points) leads by an insurmountable 67 points over Bottas (314 points) after a season which both him and his team have faced some challenges, the death of three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who was the non-executive chairman of Mercedes, and the surge of form towards the end of the season from Ferrari, but a year which Hamilton has confirmed his place as a legend of the sport.

He won Formula One’s 1000th race back at the Chinese Grand Prix in April, and in Monaco, produced arguably the best drive of his career, certainly one of the two best defensive drives of his career, along with the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time, keeping Max Verstappen (who had a five-second penalty to be added), Sebastian Vettel, and Bottas behind him, and then we had the race-long battle between Hamilton and Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Hamilton and Mercedes taking a strategic gamble in switching to a two-stop strategy on Lap 48, and with a lack of challengers from behind, it worked with Hamilton catching and passing Verstappen with the best part of four laps to go to clinch a memorable victory.

However, Hamilton’s legendary career has had so many moments that we will remember forever, his first race victory in Canada back in 2007, his fourth race victory of his career in torrential rain at Fuji Speedway in Japan in 2007, his dominant victory in Australia in 2008 in scorching hot conditions, his first win in Monaco in 2008, his first win at the British Grand Prix in 2008 in extremely wet conditions, winning by over a minute from Nick Heidfeld, to his charge to victory at the 2008 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, his first victory of the 2009 season in Hungary after McLaren managed to get back up to speed after a difficult start to 2009, his amazing drive in China in 2011 after almost being forced to start from the pit-lane due to a technical issue, then his first victory with Mercedes in Hungary in 2013, to a number of countless performances over the last six seasons that have left us all watching in awe!

The question for 2020 for Hamilton is, can he equal Schumacher’s record? Only time will tell with that one, but you wouldn’t bet against him, that is for sure!

For his teammate Bottas, he has only been outscored by two points by Hamilton over the last four races, and will be looking to beat him over the last two races to give himself a huge confidence boost heading into 2020.

Behind the two Mercedes drivers, there is a three-way battle for third in the championship between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (249 points), Max Verstappen (235 points) from Red Bull Racing-Honda, and Leclerc’s teammate in Vettel (230 points).

Leclerc has had a magnificent first season at Ferrari, winning both in Belgium and Italy, as well as taking seven pole positions, while Verstappen has been simply superb in dragging the Red Bull car to two race victories in Austria and Germany, as well as securing his first career pole position in Hungary, but Vettel hasn’t quite been at his best in 2019, with his only win this year so far coming at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Leclerc can claim third in the world championship this weekend if he outscores Verstappen by 13 points, and Vettel by eight points.

Behind the Top Five in the standings, Alexander Albon (84 points) has moved up to sixth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fifth at the Circuit of the Americas, and has now been officially confirmed as Verstappen’s teammate at Red Bull for 2020.

However, Carlos Sainz Jr. (80 points) for McLaren-Renault, and Pierre Gasly (77 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda will be looking to challenge Albon for sixth in the standings over the course of the final two races of 2019.

Completing the Top 10 in the world championship are Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (46 points), and Sergio Pérez (44 points) from Racing Point-BWT Mercedes.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (695 points) lead by 216 points over Ferrari (479 points) as they look to score 700 points in a season for the fourth time in the last six seasons, with Red Bull Racing-Honda (366 points) 113 points behind Ferrari, with both Ferrari and Red Bull locked into second and third respectively.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (121 points) are on the verge of officially securing fourth in the championship, which would be their first Top Four finish in the Constructors’ Championship since 2012, when they finished third, with Renault (83 points) looking like finishing in fifth, a spot worse than in 2018.

Behind those two, Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (65 points) and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (64 points) are in a titanic battle for sixth with only a point separating the two teams with two races remaining, while Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) are in a battle for eighth with Williams-Mercedes (one point) looking certain to finish 10th and last.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Brazil Grand Prix?

Mercedes have found some form in recent races, winning the last four, and you feel that a big weekend, and a huge performance is just around the corner from Lewis Hamilton to really put the icing on the cake celebrating his sixth world championship. I think he will win in Brazil for the third time, and end his eight race drought without a pole position in the process!