With the first two rounds of the truncated 2020 F1 season completed, if you're not tuning in, you're definitely missing out!
I've done it. I've used an exclamation mark in the opening of a post. I hate myself for it but I'm not going to dwell on it. Formula One is back and while I can't stomach the 'new normal' phrase, I'm loving this new season. With the opening rounds taken place back to back in Austria, we have been well and truly treated to excellent racing, incidents, politics and some new heroes emerging. Not sure about the remote controlled champagne and trophy delivery service but hey, nothing is perfect right now.
Having had a four month stasis, it was little surprise that there were retirements from the opening race. High-performance road cars can break just by sitting still so it was little wonder that with such a long gap between testing and racing, there would be casualties. Not many would have expected only 11 cars to take the flag in the first race. Fewer still would have wagered Lando Norris taking a podium ahead
of Lewis Hamilton, even though that came from a five second time penalty demoting Lewis. From a drivers perspective though, Lando Norris and his McLaren, have been sensational so far.
For the fans, who will get my next comment I'm sure, his fifth place in the second race was even better. That's right. His third place was wondrous to see but his fifth place came at the expense of Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, the latter being overtaken just ahead of the final bend. It wasn't the race of attrition as in round 1. He got fifth through a great drive, a little bit of luck and excellent pit communication. If you haven't seen his last two laps, see them here
. I implore you to watch it. Even if you've seen it, watch it again anyway. While Mercedes' Bottas won first time out, his second place to team mate Lewis Hamilton last weekend, gave the constructor their first one-two of the season. No great surprise you may think, but that would be doing a disservice to Lewis and third place driver, Verstappen. Lewis took the flag by 14 seconds while Verstappen came home third more through poor tyre choice and strategy over his driving. Bottas, winner in the first race, still leads the championship but considering he was coming into the season in the best form of his life, it will have been galling to see Lewis so far down the road in front of him.
Meanwhile, the Scuderia are in free fall. Heading into the season, they admitted they were on the back foot against Mercedes. In race one, Leclerc gained second with the demotion of Lewis Hamilton and that would have been a boost. Vettel took the final point coming home in tenth but that will have been little solace to the man headed for the Maranello exit door. Second race and qualifying saw Leclerc out in Q2 starting 11th and Vettel in 10th. Worse came on race day. As the pack headed to the first corner, Leclerc drifted into the apex space where Vettel was going. In a matter of moments, Leclerc was airborne from the sausage kerb with Vettels' car the landing strip. The resulting rear wing collapse on Sebastian's car saw him pit and retire. With Leclerc heading back out, the floor damage sustained was too great and he too was soon out of the car. Contrite in his post race interviews, Charles accepted responsibility. It is fair to assume that the team boss, Mattia Binotto, may be showing Vettel the exit route first if this weekend continues the calamity. Red Bull too has had a shaky start. The first race saw Verstappen retire with engine failure. Not the way you'd expect them to go. While Max only managed 11 laps in that race, the same fate hit team mate Alex Albon 2 laps from the end. With the first two races on Red Bull home territory only yielding a third place for the team, it is fair to say that they will be looking for nothing but improvement this weekend.
When Ferrari decided not to offer Vettel a new contract, the speed dating for drivers got underway. Carlos Sainz has swiped right to partner Charles Leclerc at Ferrari while Daniel Ricciardo heads to join Lando Norris at McLaren. The vacant seat at Renault was speculated on by the media pen with Lewis Hamilton, Valterri Bottas and Alex Albon all out of contract after 2021. A return by the F1 prodigal son Fernando Alonso had been rumoured pretty much since he'd left. But those rumours are now confirmed, Alonso will be back on the grid in 2021 partnering Esteban Ocon at Renault. Are we to finally see a second coming or more meme's of him sat in a deck chair? Time will tell..
This week, other changes have begun to take shape. The Racing Point team becomes Aston Martin under the ownership of Lawrence Stroll next year. The speculation has turned to who might partner Sergio Perez. He has a long term contract while Lance Stroll sees his end this year. Social media is already asking where Perez will now go as the idea of Lance getting the boot by his dad does seem out of the question. That seems a touch harsh as Lance has worked hard on his craft while Perez too is a handy pilot. With both having been shown up so far this year by Lando in his McLaren, especially on the last laps in the last race, F1 does have a habit of reminding us that no matter how skilled you were, it is no guarantee of a future. (Yes, Fernando, I mean you too.) As the trucks have arrived in Budapest, the first Friday practice laps will soon be complete. The circus is in Hungary and we hope it continues to deliver entertainment. Whatever the 2021 season is to hold and for who, I hope that we can continue to have great drives, close racing and even sooner, crowds back at the circuits. While the TV angles do at least give us the entertainment, you still cannot beat being trackside for an F1 race weekend. On that note, Fernando, I agree with you. "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"