The 2020 Formula 1 is finally set to get underway in Austria from Friday, four months after the intended start of what had been a hugely-anticipated season was delayed.
So what’s new for this year, what has had to change around the sport due to the coronavirus, and what is there to look forward to on track in the fight for championship honours?
Read on for our A-Z on all things F1 2020 to help you get up to speed…
A is for… AUSTRIA
The second starting point for F1’s 2020 season. Austria’s Red Bull Ring, originally scheduled to be the year’s 11th round, becomes the first European venue to open a season since 1966 and will host the year’s first two rounds. Fans will not be present, however.
B is for… BUBBLES
Isolation bubbles, to be precise. Together with the FIA, F1 has been working on hugely extensive protocols to ensure grand prix venues are COVID-secure for the sport’s return – and, crucially, that its presence in countries does not impact local infrastructure. All attending personnel will be tested before and during events, while teams are being kept apart at the circuit and distancing measures introduced. It’s still an F1 weekend, but not exactly how you know it.
C is for… CHARLES
If it was not crystal clear back at the start of the year, it certainly is now – Charles Leclerc is Ferrari’s man of the future. Starting his third season of F1, and second year at the Scuderia, the 22-year-old race-winning Monegasque already knows Sebastian Vettel, once the team’s undisputed number one, is leaving after December.
D is for… DUAL-AXIS STEERING
It was the innovation of winter testing that got everyone talking and remains a fascinating topic of discussion four months on. Mercedes’ DAS system: just what impact is it really going to make?
E is for… EARLY MOVES
If F1 did football-style transfer windows, they would look like the week beginning May 11 of this year. If anyone foresaw that in the space of three days during a period of lockdown that we have have Sebastian Vettel leaving Ferrari for 2021, Carlos Sainz signing to replace him, and Daniel Ricciardo jumping in the vacant seat at McLaren, even the best astrologers would be out of work. The question now for the next six months is what impact the moves will have on the rest of the 2021 market.
F is for… FASTEST-EVER
Remember those predictions after winter testing back in February? Well, they still stand: the 2020 F1 cars are set to smash lap records over the course of the next six months.
G is for… GLOVES-OFF RACING
A year on from Max Verstappen’s last-lap winning lunge on Charles Leclerc in Austria being allowed to stand by the stewards, the lighter-touch approach to wheel-to-wheel racing is set to be maintained into the new campaign.
H is for… HAMILTON
The record-breaking year? He’s had to wait a long time to get it started, but Lewis Hamilton now finally can begin the season in which he can become the most successful driver of all time.
I is for… ITALY
Will Italy be the one country that hosts two races at different tracks in this unique 2020 season? With Monza confirmed for September 6, Mugello in Tuscany looks increasingly likely to follow once the finalised full calendar is revealed.
J is for… JULY
Three races in four weekends – now that’s what you call a whirlwind return for Formula 1.
K is for… KIMI
Despite a shortened season, the grid’s oldest driver is still likely to become its most experienced – ever. Kimi Raikkonen needs just 11 more starts to surpass Rubens Barrichello’s tally of 322 race appearances for a new F1 record. We will say it for him: Bwoah!
M is for… MAX
Are Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Honda now ready for their first title challenge together? After months of anticipation, we are finally about to find out.
N is for… NINETY-ONE
Michael Schumacher’s record number of wins was once considered insurmountable – but Lewis Hamilton is now just seven (more on that number shortly) victories away from that total. Can he reach, or even surpass, 91 this season?
O is for… OPEN SEASON
With a 22-race season, consistency is key and the cream will almost always rise to the top. But mistakes will be punished more than ever this year, with a shorter campaign opening the door to plenty more surprises. And how will the grid – which was expected to be closer than ever this year – gain advantages with little time for upgrades?
P is for… PODIUMS
Put that champagne on ice. F1’s new norm in 2020 will see the usual podium celebrations scrapped – with drivers instead set to celebrate, at a distance, on the grid after the race.
Q is for… QUALITY
Fewer races there may be, but there’s certainly no shortage of quality drivers to star in them – at both ends of the experience scale. Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Ocon, Russell… need us to name any more?
R is for… RACING POINT
They were the team that created plenty of headlines (and irked many of their rivals) at winter testing with a car that took inspiration from Mercedes’ championship-winning 2019 machine. One thing’s for certain: Racing Point looked very quick back in February and may well be the favourites to lead the midfield this year – and can they even trouble the front three?
S is for… SEVEN
Mercedes have already broke their fair share of records during their dominant F1 spell and they can break another this year by becoming the first team in history to seal seven straight titles. Take that, Ferrari. Oh – and there’s also the small matter of Hamilton aiming to match Schumacher with a seventh championship, and seven wins!
T is for… TRIPLE HEADERS
F1’s first and so far, only triple header, was back in 2018 – and you may remember that it was criticised by many for how much stress it put teams, and drivers, under. But the circumstances of 2020 means it’s back this year, and in a BIG way. There will be back-to-back triple headers (with a week off in between) to start the delayed season – and there may well be more later in the year!
U is for… UNPRECEDENTED
A July start. A jam-packed schedule. A socially-distanced paddock and grid. No spectators (at least to begin with). There has never been an F1 season quite like 2020.
V is for… VETTEL
Expect Sebastian Vettel to attract plenty of attention this year – even if Ferrari are not in title contention. Is this really the four-time champion’s last season in the sport? If not, where next for one of F1’s greats? And will there be more fireworks between Vettel and Leclerc?
W is for… WE RACE AS ONE
F1’s new initiative – aimed at improving diversity and inclusion – will be visible and promoted throughout 2020 with every team to display rainbows on the cars from Austria. Which is where the sport also intends to take a stand against racism.
X is for… (NEARLY) XMAS
F1’s chiefs admit we will likely be racing well into December – most likely with season-ending GPs in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi – due to 2020’s delay. At least it will be hot.
Y is for… YOUNG DRIVERS
Daniel Ricciardo recently lovingly described them as “little ankle biters”, and F1’s young talent – some already established stars and some making their name – could play a big role this year. Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Alex Albon should all be battling for key race positions, while British youngsters Lando Norris and George Russell hope to make strides further back.
Z is for… ZOOM
It’s been somewhat of a revelation in 2020 – and yes, we’re talking about F1 here: The video conferencing service was used for crunch meetings between team and sport bosses on F1’s future during lockdown. And it will likely be used during the season, too, with remote press conferences set to take place on what will be very different F1 ‘media days’…
The Formula 1 season begins on Friday on Sky Sports F1 with the Austrian GP. Sunday’s race starts at 2.10pm. Find out more & subscribe to Sky F1.