The driver merry-go-round has begun early this year with the most important news of the year;
Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Ferrari at the end of the season and will be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jnr from McLaren alongside Charles Leclerc giving the Scuderia their youngest-ever driver pairing of 49yrs 11mths and will be the first time since 2007 that the team has not had a world champion in the line-up.
Daniel Ricciardo will replace Sainz at McLaren to partner Lando Norris, leaving Renault with a vacant seat alongside Esteban Ocon. So far the only other driver line-ups confirmed are Max Verstappen & Alexander Albon at Red Bull, Sergio Perez and almost certainly Lance Stroll at what will then be renamed Aston Martin Racing. It is almost certain that Haas, Alpha Tauri & Williams will retain their drivers. Mercedes are in talks with Ham & Bot which appears to be a harmonious pairing keeping them on the top so that would be best left alone.
No doubt news of Vettel’s future will be announced very soon, as obviously there has been talk of the German going to Renault, Aston Martin and even Mercedes, but that could give Toto Wolff a big headache coping with two alpha males in one pack. During his 5 years at Maranello Vet sadly did not get the title he coveted, but was runner-up twice. To date he has had 12 pole positions, 14 wins, plus 40 other podiums and scored 1,367 points with the Scuderia. If he retires, the four times world champion will be sorely missed in the paddock and on the track.
The plan is going ahead with the first and second rounds of the season at the Red Bull Ring. After 31 weeks without a race the drivers will no doubt have a busy Friday in the 2 practice sessions to blow away the cobwebs. It will be the first time in the history of F1 that a venue has hosted 2 races in a single season. The rules state that there must be at least 8 races over 3 continents for it to be classified as a world championship season, otherwise it would be classed as non-championship races without points towards the championship. The FIA have put together a calendar of the first 8 races:
Austria back to back rounds 1 & 2.
Hungary the following week round 3.
UK, Silverstone 2 weeks later (2nd & 9th August) rounds 4 & 5.
Spain for round 6 at Barcelona.
Belgium 2 weeks later will be round 7 at Spa Francorchamps.
Italy for the 8th round at the Temple of Speed.
Pencilled in for later are Russia, Bahrain & Abu Dhabi.
This is all assuming that each country will permit entry to the teams and personnel, especially Hungary which is only 1 week after Austria, Spain 1 week after UK and Italy 1 week after Belgium.
The teams will be limited to 80 members of staff with the Grand Prix held behind closed doors to ease the risk of any problems with the pandemic, but all will be tested and closely monitored.
Williams sadly are considering their options of a minority or majority sale of the ‘Williams Grand Prix Holdings’, or even a potential sale of the entire company. This has come about after showing a loss of £13m for the year ending 2019, down from a profit of £16m in 2018. The team has also ended their relationship with the title sponsor ROKiT as well as their major sponsor ROK drinks. Williams’ first race was the Spanish GP back in 1977. Since then they have entered 727 races achieving 9 constructors’ titles (second only to Ferrari), 7 drivers’ titles, 128 pole positions, 133 fastest laps, 312 podiums, 114 wins and accumulated 3,555 points. It will be a very sad day if the Williams name disappears from the grid.
Kimi Räikkönen has received a gift from his former team Ferrari – the SF71H car with which he claimed his last win for the Scuderia at the USA GP in 2018 after a close battle with Ver & Ham.
Speculation time! No smoke without fire as the saying goes.
Lawrence Stroll to sell Racing Point to Dmitry Mazepin who missed out on the purchase 2 years ago when Stroll purchased it (then Force India), purchase Mercedes rebranding it as Aston Martin. Stroll would therefore get a title winning team with all the personnel in place to hopefully continue with their good fortune, but Toto Wolff is adamant that he and Mercedes will continue in F1 for the foreseeable future and only bought shares in Aston Martin as an investment.
Now we await the first race in Austria on Sunday 5th July, so we can now all get excited!