Alex Lynn is a lucky, lucky man.
It’s finally here! The 2020 Formula One season is upon us and every single F1 fan is giddy with excitement to see the cars hit the track in anger for the first time in less than a week.
Through an off-season featuring DAS, teams getting angry at the FIA and car clones, there has been plenty of drama to keep people entertained as the cars arrive in Melbourne for the start of the season.
And as we get ready to see the 20 best drivers in the world compete for the ultimate prize in motorsport, it’s time to start a new regular segment on The Roar with a series of power rankings.
Given all we have right now is pre-season testing to go off, this edition will focus purely on the teams and not the drivers.
And given all the talk that has come from the two pre-season tests, there is plenty to digest as we enter this first edition of power rankings.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
There is no doubting Williams have improved based on their pre-season performance and they should make the move from rear-end runners to a team capable of scrapping for points throughout the season. George Russell was the first driver out on track on Day 1 of the first pre-season test, sending a clear message to the F1 world that their problems from 2019 are long gone. The team clocked a total of 737 laps in testing and had the seventh fastest time overall. While times are generally not a great indicator of true pace and performance in testing, it is somewhat encouraging for a team that last year went into the season more than a second off the pace. Expect more than one point for the team in 2020.
Haas definitely are a lot quieter heading into 2020 than usual, and given they seem to perhaps have had the most trouble in testing out of any team, it’s easy to see why. They were the only team not to complete more than 700 laps in testing, and their times weren’t exactly setting the F1 world on fire. The big hope for American team in 2020 will be understanding their car and not suffering through their performance issues that dogged them in 2019. If that is to happen again, there is a big chance 2020 could be the last time we see them on the grid, with owner Gene Haas hinting on more than one occasion that if things don’t improve, the team would withdraw from the sport. For the sake of every fan of Drive to Survive, let’s hope that isn’t the case.
8. Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo set some quick times over the tests but admitted they were done on very low fuel, so it’s tough again to really know what to expect from the team. A last-day speed trap reading also set the highest speed of the second test, but both drivers have admitted that a lot still needs to be done to get them fully to where they want to be. That makes them potentially the hardest team to read heading into Melbourne, but with a former world champion and an ever-improving driver on board, it’s hard not to see them bringing home a few decent point finishes across the season.
The newly rebranded Toro Rosso team took the prize for most beautiful livery of the pre-season and were consistent enough to show that they are smack bang in the middle of the pack, capable of challenging for high points finishes across the season. As the midfield is so damn close, it’s going to be a very tight race for those positions at ever grand prix. But if the team in a new format keeps the same fighting DNA as their predecessor, there is no reason why they won’t be constantly challenging for points at every race. Remember this is a team that went from having one podium in their history at the beginning of 2019, to adding two more by the end of the season. They also have the most experienced line-up the team has ever had, which counts for a lot in a tight battle for fourth place. A dark horse at every round.
Fifth and sixth is a tricky one, as both McLaren and Renault have continued their tight battle that took up the majority of 2019 in pre-season testing. McLaren of course won that battle, and they had easily their best pre-season test in a very long time in 2020. This is a team that continues to rise after the worst period in their history. So while sixth may seem low for the fourth-place finishers of 2019, it really is a reflection of just how tight these teams are when it comes to the midfield battle.
There is something about Renault this pre-season that gives confidence for a strong 2020. They went about their business quietly, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon setting strong lap times, consistent runs and going about their business without much fanfare. Fifth place in 2019 wasn’t anything terrible, but given the team expected so much more it turned out to be a disappointment. They will know that this is a massive season for them if they want to keep their star driver Ricciardo, and the signs are there that something good could be on the horizon. Keep a close eye on them.
4. Racing Point
The pink Mercedes was easily the talk of pre-season with many people not happy that the team seemingly cloned last year’s championship-winning Mercedes W10 with their new RP20. The team weren’t fazed by the criticism, however, and showed off a quick and consistent car that was constantly in the top five of the time sheets. Many people have predicted big things for the team in 2020, with some even saying they’re on for a potential third place in the championship. That seems like a bit of a stretch, but podiums are an absolute possibility. Sergio Perez is one of the most consistent drivers in the field and is a renowned podium stealer, and Lance Stroll is also an opportunist who is capable of anything on his day. So, it’s possible. They should be the team that takes the most advantage from any of the big three teams having a bad day.
3. Red Bull
There is no doubting Red Bull had a great pre-season. Completely trouble free, strong times and arguably the best-looking car they have produced for a few years. They also have the most naturally talented driver on the grid in Max Verstappen, who can win pretty much every race he enters no matter how the car is performing.
The one question mark, however, is Alexander Albon. The Thai driver proved strong after his promotion to the senior Red Bull team last year, but we have to remember he is a driver with only one season behind him and being Verstappen’s teammate isn’t the easiest job in the world. That consistency is the only question mark with Red Bull heading into 2020, and should Albon prove his worth and improve from his already strong 2019, then this is a team that will challenge a lot more than they did last season.
What a difference 12 months makes. A year ago, everyone was claiming Ferrari were the dominant force heading into the season and that they would romp to a title. We all know how that turned out, of course, and now heading into 2020, people are claiming the Scuderia are in trouble and could drop back to as low as fourth. That simply won’t happen. The team performed consistently in both tests, showing strong times and setting the second highest lap count over all six days of pre-season testing. They also have an incredibly strong driver line-up, with Charles Leclerc the hottest young talent at the moment alongside the resurgent Sebastian Vettel who people continue to write off. Ferrari seemingly couldn’t handle the pre-season pressure last year, so going into this season with that off their shoulders should work hugely in their favour. Despite all the doubters, this is a team with more to prove than most.
The most laps of any team, incredibly strong times and a six-time world champion on board. Mercedes easily won the pre-season and go into 2020 as the team to beat once again. Given this has been the case for the last six seasons, that doesn’t exactly make non-Mercedes fans buoyant ahead of a new season. However, one change in that fact could be Valtteri Bottas. The Finn started 2019 with a bang and looked like a different driver, before fading away and not challenging for the championship like we all hoped for. This time around, just like Renault, he went about his business quietly, was incredibly strong and will have extra drive once more as he knows that he is continuing to fight to hold onto his seat. That could be the difference in the battle for the championship if the team pulls away from their rivals like is expected once more.