By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Team by team prospects for the 2020 Formula One season that starts in Australia on March 15.
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MERCEDES (44-Lewis Hamilton, 77-Valtteri Bottas)
The champions, clear favourites and team to beat as ever. Chasing an unheard of seventh successive title double, with Lewis Hamilton aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven drivers’ titles. An innovative dual-axis steering (DAS) wheel system has been the talk of testing. Hamilton’s future will be a running saga but Mercedes want him to stay, Bottas must convince the team if he is to continue with them into the new era.
Likely outcome: More champagne, both titles.
FERRARI (5-Sebastian Vettel, 16-Charles Leclerc)
Ferrari (NYSE:) say they are behind Mercedes on speed and engine power but rivals suspect the Italians have something in reserve. The first few races should give a clearer picture. The car has less straight line speed but improved handling through the corners. A big year for Vettel, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Expect Leclerc to build on a strong 2019.
Likely outcome: Third.
RED BULL (33-Max Verstappen, 23-Alexander Albon)
Verstappen’s last chance to become the youngest F1 champion, not that he cares much about the record. The 22-year-old has what it takes to be Hamilton’s closest rival, if Red Bull give him the car. Albon will bring in steady points and should make appearances on the podium, but Max is the main man.
Likely outcome: Second, but close with Ferrari
MCLAREN (55-Carlos Sainz, 4-Lando Norris)
McLaren are on their way back after a barren few years but face a big battle to retain that fourth place. Expect Norris to be more in the mix after his rookie season and challenging Sainz more closely. The car is an improvement but others may have made bigger gains, particularly Racing Point.
Likely outcome: Fourth or fifth
RENAULT (3-Daniel Ricciardo, 31-Esteban Ocon)
A big year for Ricciardo and Renault (PA:), with the Australian out of contract and assessing his options. The team lost ground last year, a big setback in their plan to challenge for podiums and wins, but the new car looks a step up. Ocon returns after a year out, eager to make up for lost time. The Frenchman will have to make sure there are no tangles with Ricciardo.
Likely outcome: Fifth or sixth
ALPHATAURI (26-Daniil Kvyat, 10-Pierre Gasly)
The Honda-powered team, formerly known as Toro Rosso, equaled their best ever finish last year and should be back in contention for the occasional podium, when luck falls their way, and solid points.
Likely outcome: Sixth or seventh
RACING POINT (11-Sergio Perez, 18-Lance Stroll)
Canadian-owned Racing Point have abandoned a previous design philosophy influenced by Red Bull and gone with what looks like a copy of last year’s title-winning Mercedes. That could bring some good gains in the early races but development will be limited, with the focus soon switching to 2021.
Likely outcome: Top four is the target. Fifth more likely.
ALFA ROMEO (7-Kimi Raikkonen, 99-Antonio Giovinazzi)
Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the grid, and will be 41 before the season is over, but the 2007 champion is still a leader and likely to be the main points scorer. Giovinazzi has plenty at stake, with a strong cast of Ferrari academy drivers including Mick Schumacher eyeing the Italian’s seat for 2021.
Likely outcome: eighth
HAAS (8-Romain Grosjean, 20-Kevin Magnussen)
The only U.S-owned team had a disappointing 2019 season, with owner Gene Haas clearly unhappy with the return on his investment. Dropping further down the pecking order would be seriously bad news but cannot be ruled out. Grosjean may be on borrowed time.
Likely outcome: Ninth or 10th
WILLIAMS (63-George Russell, 6-Nicholas Latifi)
One point last year, after just seven in 2018. This is a critical year for a proud team with a limited budget and whose glory years are now far behind them. Latifi is the only rookie on the grid. The good news is that the car is clearly a lot better than last year’s and testing times suggest they have made a step up. Whether it is good enough remains to be seen.
Likely outcome: Probably 10th, don’t rule out ninth.