Mercedes have won all 12 of F1’s world titles – six drivers’ and six constructors’ crowns – since the current hybrid turbo engines were introduced to F1 in 2014.
Having beaten Ferrari’s record of five successive title doubles last year, the search for another clean sweep is therefore the Brackley squad’s obvious target for the first season of the new decade.
As an extra incentive, not team has ever won seven constructors’ championships in succession.
The personal target for Hamilton is equally momentous: equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven drivers’ titles.
While he can tie F1’s championship record in 2020, he can overhaul two of Schumacher’s other historic achievements – the most race wins and most podium finishes.
Hamilton starts 2020 just seven race wins behind the German’s haul of 91, and four podium finishes adrift of the record 155. The 35-year-old has won at least nine races in each of the past six seasons.
Bottas joins Hamilton in Mercedes line-up for a fourth season and will aim to build on his strongest campaign of F1 in 2019, when he won four times and finished runner-up in the championship.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.
The next event on the calendar is the Winton race weekend, which is scheduled across June 5-7. However, due to the fluidity of the pandemic and ever-changing restrictions laid down by governments – such as border closures – every event from this point onwards remains up in the air.
The 2020 calendar – prior to the pandemic-enforced postponements – featured consistent three-week breaks between events before a six-week layoff for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which have since been postponed to 2021.
With a maximum 13 events expected to be completed, there are 30 weeks – including the scheduled Winton weekend – remaining in 2020. However, like MotoGP and Formula 1, Supercars is open to seeing this season flow into 2021.
“The first thing we need to establish is under what conditions could [the Winton event] happen,” he said.
“That’s exactly why we’re so focused on getting an event footprint down as low as possible so we can go TV-only.
“We’re fortunate that our calendar was quite spaced out when we started the year, we had a break for over the Olympics, which aren’t happening. We have a lot of flexibility around July, August, September leading to Bathurst that we wouldn’t normally have.
“We’ve got experience from last year around doing back-to-back rounds… look for us to go back-to-back, look for us to do whatever we have to do to get this year’s championship away.
A government-imposed restriction on mass gatherings of more than 500 people, and a ban on all non-essential mass gatherings, put paid to Supercars running TV-only events. Current border closures – and New Zealand’s travel ban – currently make staging interstate events impossible.
Seamer suggested TV-only events will be part of discussions moving forward, but they would only be feasible to be held at all should government restrictions be relaxed.
“It’s an evolving situation, it feels like it’s been going on for months, but we’re only two weeks into this,” Seamer explained.
“We’re focusing on what we can control, and that is what the world can look like when we come back racing.
“One of the key things that we have to work through is when we see a lessening of restrictions, but the big thing we’re doing to get drivers out on track, is we’re spending a lot of time to assess what our minimum viable product is.
“Unlike a lot of other sports, we need quite a lot of people to execute our races. If you look at team sizes, the number of guys working on each car, the TV crew, the officials, the security… that basic fundamental group pushes us upwards of 500.
“Our team is working really hard to get that number down, so even when we’re dealing with a situation where only 500 people are allowed in one place at one time for an outdoor gathering, but we’re able to cross borders, then we can get going with a TV-only product as soon as possible.”
After six laps of the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button found himself doubting his decision-making once he left pit lane having taken on slick tyres on a wet track.
Even a decade on, the decision still confounds, considering it worked – but that’s one reason why March 28, 2010 was such a special day for Formula 1 and its world champion.
Albert Park missed the chance to add another chapter to its F1 story in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the race cancelled. In the 25 years the venue has hosted the Grand Prix, few races matched the drama displayed in the 2010 race, but the familiar sight of the sport’s benchmark driver winning the race should, at the surface, have been no surprise.
Considering the gamble Button took, the result was a surprise for his McLaren team. A shower just before the start of the race prompted all runners to start on Bridgestone’s intermediate tyres. The first to change to slicks, Button immediately went off the road, and after the race, admitted he thought he had made a massive error.
“I think it is a lot easier for the drivers to feel the conditions. The team can see it on TV with the clouds coming in, but we can feel out on the circuit what is happening,” he said at the time, describing the changeable weather.
“I was really struggling and I lost a couple of places [on intermediates] so I thought, ‘Let’s get in, stick the slicks on’. There was a dry line. A few places were a little bit wet.
“But when I went into the pit lane I thought I had made a catastrophic decision. Once I got it going and up to speed I had a little off at Turn 3, and again I thought I had made a huge mistake, but then the pace was pretty good and I was able to put in some good laps and overtake three or four cars after they stopped and put their slick tyres on.
“I had already found out where the grip was, whereas they were still searching for it, so I was able to pass them quite easily. So, ultimately, it was the right call and I am very happy that I made it.”
Button’s race began in high drama at the first corner when he tipped Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into a spin. Later around the first lap, Kamui Kobayashi lost the front wing on his Sauber and wiped out Nico Hulkenberg’s Williams and Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso. The safety car was an inevitability, with pole man Sebastian Vettel in control.
Two laps after Button made his call, the conditions came to him, triggering everyone else to make the switch. However, despite Button being second as the field settled, Vettel looked to have the race in his pocket.
Until Lap 20, when Vettel’s Red Bull suffered a suspected brake failure and spun into retirement in the kitty litter. Advantage, Button. Who saw that coming?
From there, Button moved to build and consolidate his lead over Renault’s Robert Kubica. The 2009 world champion was nursing his tyres and had built a lead over the Pole to the tune of nearly 10 seconds. The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Alonso were squabbling behind Kubica, while Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber – both on fresh rubber – closed in.
Kubica found some pace as Alonso fell under pressure from Hamilton’s McLaren and Webber’s Red Bull. With three laps remaining, Hamilton pulled out of Alonso’s slipstream and got alongside on the outside heading to Turn 13. As Hamilton yielded, he was T-boned by Webber, who had missed his brake marker. Both rejoined after spinning into the gravel trap, with Webber forced into the pits for a new front wing.
Hamilton would finish sixth and Webber ninth, with Alonso trailing third-placed Massa as Kubica hung onto second.
However, despite his turbulent start to the race, Button appeared a man in complete control as the world collapsed behind him, with the Briton launching his title defence in the style he did 12 months earlier in stunning fashion for Brawn GP.
The 12-second win margin demonstrated just how easy Button had made it look – but after such a risky start to the race, Button knew much of it came down to luck.
“I made the call to pit early as I thought if I don’t pit early I am just going to keep going backwards,” he said after the race.
“I thought it was a terrible call initially as the pit lane was so wet and after my first lap out of the pits I thought it was a pretty catastrophic mistake.
“But after that I could get into it. I found on the dry parts I could push pretty hard and then really it was about picking people off as they came out onto the circuit. It was a nice feeling as they are searching for the grip and I know where it is and I am able to overtake.
“Towards the end of the race I could start pushing and got the balance back and the car felt very good. I was in a very happy place the last 20 laps knowing I had a good gap and it would have been very difficult for anyone to catch me.”
As government restrictions continue to change almost daily, companies have had to adapt and make significant calls on business directions. In many cases, employees have been laid off or stood down.
However, while Ryan said plans are being put in place at his team amid the crisis, he acknowledged the human side of the pandemic and stressed the safety of his staff.
“We shut down the shop last Friday just after lunch, we made the early call,” he said.
“We had to make sure we were in a position where everybody could be comfortable at home with their families and make their own decisions.
“We wanted to pass it over to our individuals to say, ‘You do what makes you feel comfortable, you’re going to have at least two weeks off, just get through it’.”
Should Supercars manage to hold 14 events in 2020, it could force short turnarounds between race weekends. Motivated to return to the track as soon as possible, Ryan said that scenario may require teams to work together and help each other with manpower and resources at the track, saying: “If we have to do 14 rounds in 14 weeks, we’re up for it”.
While racing is where the Penrite squad and its rivals make their presence felt, Ryan suggested guaranteeing the positions and finances of his staff remains the immediate priority.
“We’ve done a worst case scenario where we don’t race again this year and we don’t get any income and we know what we need,” he continued.
“That’s what we’re working on, and we’ve got a plan of how we can make that work, but it’s not going to be easy on anyone.
“Then we’ve got plans for if we don’t race for three months, or six weeks, and we’ve got different scenarios in place, and we’re comfortable to get through at least until the end of the year.
“Then we’ll know if we’re hopefully ready to go for 2021. I don’t think it’s going to be that bad, but we’ll wait and see.”