Formula One starts its season in Austria this week, nearly four months later than planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic and against a very different backdrop — even if Lewis Hamilton’s targets remain the same.
The six-times world champion can equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven while his Mercedes team are bidding for an unprecedented seventh successive drivers’ and constructors’ title double.
Eight rounds, all in Europe and without spectators for the first time, feature on a provisional calendar but the sport still hopes to muster 15-18 races, even if that means several circuits hosting two each.
Read what you need to know about the season in our ultimate guide!
Watch the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship™ on KAYO. Every practice, qualifying session and race LIVE. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
July 5 – Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg
July 12 – Grosser Preis der Steiermark 2020, Spielberg
July 19 – Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest
Aug. 2 – British Grand Prix, Silverstone
Aug. 9 – 70th Anniversary Grand Prix 2020, Silverstone
Aug. 16 – Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona
Aug. 30 – Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
Sept. 6 – Italian Grand Prix, Monza
HOW TO WATCH
You can watch every race of the 2020 Formula One season live and in HD on FOX SPORTS, or stream on KAYO.
The points tally from the scheduled races when they were run in 2019 were as follows:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) — 159
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) — 138
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) — 119
4: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) — 110
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) — 64
6. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) — 54
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) — 38
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) — 24
9. Alex Albon (Red Bull) — 19
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) — 19
SEASON ODDS (via Sportsbet)
$1.50 — Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
$5.00 — Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
$7.00 — Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
$10.00 — Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
$81.00 — Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
$201.00 — Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
Lewis Hamilton (Britain)
After 84 wins from 250 starts and six titles, including the last three in succession, the 35-year-old defending champion starts out as favourite again and shows no signs of age or easing off.
He is eight wins from overhauling Schumacher’s record 91 wins entering his 14th year and has an untouched combination of pure speed, race-craft, consistency and tactical guile that, in a near-perfect team, can at times make him untouchable. Vociferous in his support for anti-racism protests during the lockdown, Hamilton will now want to have his say on the track.
Valtteri Bottas (Finland)
Fast, focused and battle-hardened after three years alongside Hamilton, Bottas should be his nearest rival if he can find his best form and remain consistent.
Now 30, he has to add to his seven wins and find the mental strength required after a difficult 2019 in which his marriage broke up and perennial doubts over his future with the team had a negative affect.
Sebastian Vettel (Germany)
The four-time champion, who turns 33 next Friday, announced in May he was quitting the scarlet scuderia at the end of this season. He has struggled to find the magic formula to land Ferrari’s first drivers’ crown since 2007 and faces a daunting challenge to leave with the title following Charles Leclerc’s emergence as a star with sensational natural speed.
Charles Leclerc (Monaco)
Entering his third season in F1 and second with Ferrari, the 22-year-old has already demonstrated prodigious talent by taking seven poles, winning twice and outpacing Vettel in his maiden year at Maranello, including an emotional triumph at Monza.
That positioned him as a real contender who, along with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, can unsettle the old guard and give his own team boss Mattia Binotto a difficult task in managing his fast and sometimes furious (with each other) pairing.
Max Verstappen (Netherlands)
Despite 102 race starts, the erstwhile “Mad Max” is still only 22, but has found a maturity to justify his billing as the man most likely to unseat Hamilton from his throne. Much will depend on the power supplied from the team’s Honda engines this year.
He had nine podiums and three wins last year, enlarging his total to eight, when at times he looked unbeatable, on tracks that suited his car. An improvement on that, allied to a focus on the ultimate prize and just the immediate race, could see him run the champion close in this shortened season.
Alex Albon (Thailand)
The London-born softly-spoken Thai driver, aged 24, was one of last year’s surprise success stories as he turned from Toro Rosso rookie into a threat to Verstappen’s hegemony.
This season should see more improvement as he collects his first podiums and possibly a maiden win to elevate himself among the leading contenders for regular top-six finishes. His gentle demeanour hides a determined and accomplished racer with a big future.
Carlos Sainz (Spain)
After five years in F1 and at the age of 25, Sainz is poised to realise his potential and continue McLaren’s recovery from dismal also-rans to leading mid-grid runners with a chance of snatching podiums.
His third place in Brazil, awarded retrospectively, supplied the team’s first podium in five years and more look certain. He moves to Ferrari next season to replace Vettel, and will want to show his new employers at Maranello the wisdom of their decision.
Lando Norris (Britain)
Only 20, fast and focused, Norris enjoyed a very strong rookie season alongside his Spanish teammate and they formed a very solid partnership. He matched Sainz’s pace and often out-qualified him.
With a full season under his belt, he should improve his weaknesses in starts and race-craft and can take another step towards establishing himself among those drivers at the head of the chasing pack.
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia)
Still ambitious he turns 31 on Wednesday and after eight full seasons, the Australian faces a new in-team challenge this year in the form of the highly-rated Esteban Ocon.
Ricciardo’s 2018 move from Red Bull, where he had outpaced Sebastian Vettel before the arrival of Max Verstappen, has been followed by only flashes of his dashing best form. Restricted by Renault’s underperformance – they have recruited Pat Fry to improve the chassis – Ricciardo has to step up and challenge the top six. He replaces Sainz at McLaren next season.
Esteban Ocon (France)
Back after a year’s sabbatical ‘on the bench’ at Mercedes, Ocon will give Ricciardo a serious test this year. Fast, determined, unafraid of tough battles, he proved himself with Manor and Force India and has completed 50 races.
Aged 23, he is hungry for action and success. He was GP3 champion in 2015 and has risen to the top on merit after his garage mechanic father Laurent made huge sacrifices to ignite his karting career. Clever and controlled, he is tipped for the top.
Daniil Kvyat (Russia)
Fatherhood has combined with a second coming to propel the likeable 26-year-old back into F1 with a key role in a strong midfield team, as Toro Rosso are renamed after a giant red star, the Taurus constellation.
Most of Kvyat’s rollercoaster career has seen him with Red Bull or their sister team struggling for consistency, but he claimed a fine podium in Germany last year to secure a lead role alongside Pierre Gasly, who returned from Red Bull in mid-2019. Together they completed the team’s best-ever 85 points haul for a season.
Pierre Gasly (France)
The 2017 GP2 champion made a spirited response when dropped from Red Bull to the Toro Rosso sibling team and formed a strong pairing with Kvyat, finishing an impressive second in Brazil en route to seventh in the championship.
Now recovered, at 24, from a tough experience alongside Verstappen early last season, he has the speed and craft to maintain his best form and help AlphaTauri live up to their new name and image.
Sergio Perez (Mexico)
Still winless after 176 Grands Prix, the 30-year-old Mexican goes into his seventh year with the Silverstone-based team as one of the most reliable drivers on the grid. Ambitions for the outfit, backed by Canadian Lawrence Stroll who has bought heavily into Aston Martin, have risen and with that expectations of improved results.
Fast, economic with tyres and a clever over-taker, Perez will seek to re-establish his credentials to stay in 2021 when the team is rebranded as an Aston Martin works squad.
Lance Stroll (Canada)
The 21-year-old son of team owner Lawrence Stroll has shaken off talk of his cushioned arrival in F1 with Williams in 2017 and shown raw speed and a competitive zeal that has been bolstered by his two years alongside Perez.
Improved consistency and concentration has shown signs of paying off and with a car improved by heavy investment in the team, 2020 could see Stroll and Perez enjoy a strong season at the head of the midfield battles.
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)
Once derided as too young and inexperienced to merit an F1 seat, on arrival with Sauber in 2001, the 40-year-old Finn is the most experienced man in the field. After vintage years and the 2007 drivers title with Ferrari, plus seasons elsewhere, he is back where it all began, albeit under a new brand name for the Swiss team.
Unquestionably fast when his machinery is to his liking, Raikkonen scored nine points finishes last season and can improve on that this year, but is unlikely to add to his 21 victories.
Antonio Giovinazzi (Italy)
A focused and successful end to the 2019 season rescued the 26-year-old Italian’s future after he had looked certain to be released following an unimpressive and luckless opening half-year, including crashing at Spa.
The 2016 GP2 runner-up, behind Gasly, could emerge as an improving threat to reliable Raikkonen and secure a solid midfield place if he can maintain his progress.
Romain Grosjean (France)
After 164 Grands Prix and 10 podium finishes, the 34-year-old former GP2 champion remains as unpredictable as ever. Decisive, fast and spectacular at his best, he can also lose his way technically and temperamentally.
After a confusing 2019, when the team were troubled by aerodynamic issues, he and Haas will be aiming for a major improvement and a smooth intra-team relationship with his often-uncompromising teammate.
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)
The 27-year-old Dane claimed a second-placed podium on his debut with McLaren in 2014 and has been without a repeat since that day. Fast and furious, famed for his aggression, Magnussen has been with Haas since 2017.
After 102 race starts, he is, like Grosjean, in need of an upturn in fortunes to revitalise belief in his early potential.
George Russell (Britain)
Despite enduring a year of running at the back of the field in a sub-standard Williams, the 22-year-old former GP3 and F2 champion Russell is a Mercedes academy graduate who impressed many with his poise and potential during his rookie season.
He out-qualified his vastly more experienced teammate Robert Kubica over the season and showed flashes of great quality in some races where he was less disadvantaged by his uncompetitive car.
Nicholas Latifi (Canada)
Like Lance Stroll, the 25-year-old Latifi is the son of a billionaire whose sponsorship of Williams has appeared to ease his passage from finishing second in the F2 championship with three race wins.
The team will need to ensure he has a decent car to enable him to learn rapidly from an established if younger teammate in what promises to be a challenging rookie season in F1.
Can Hamilton maintain focus?
The main threat to Lewis Hamilton’s bid to land a seventh drivers’ title is not Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas or Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but himself.
The sport’s first black champion has admitted he is committed to racing for more than personal or team triumphs.
“I’m racing for all of you out there who may feel that you don’t have a voice,” he said. “I’m going to shine my light and make as big a noise as I can to try and affect change.
“The only way I can do that is by being in it and changing it from within.”
He added: “In the world, in the society that we live in, I think making it as a young black kid from a council estate in Stevenage, making it to F1 through the tiniest window of opportunity — that’s a very, very important part of my journey and then staying there and continuing to deliver against adversity.
“You can have as many championships or wins as you want, but that is a challenge of itself and that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of.”
Asked where F1 should race, he added: “Africa. It’s such an important place to go back. At the moment, F1 goes to countries and doesn’t really leave much behind, if anything. Formula 1 has to shift into being a sport that does go to places and leaves behind something that can really help the communities.”
Will Verstappen step up?
Having proved his speed and racing talent, this is the time for Max Verstappen and Red Bull to seize their moment and emerge from the opening trio of races as championship leaders.
A year ago, the young Dutchman bullied his way to victory at the Red Bull Ring and a double repeat of that plus a strong result at Budapest would see the Milton Keynes-based team on top of the embryonic title race.
Pre-season testing in Barcelona suggested their car is fast, but also ‘skittish’ and may face reliability problems.
Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon have shown they can shine in challenging conditions and can beat Ferrari to take the fight to champions Mercedes.
Does Vettel feel free?
After confirming he is leaving Ferrari at the end of this year, Sebastian Vettel may feel freed and capable of delivering the consistency and speed that can inspire the team again despite the threat of Charles Leclerc.
The four-time champion has the speed and quality, but Ferrari have to deliver a car that can show immediate performance development.
Pre-season testing suggested that this year’s machine had sacrificed some of last year’s straight-line speed for improved pace in slow and medium corners.
To make the most of any jump forward, Vettel will first have to overcome the challenge from Monegasque Leclerc in his second year with the team and then try to impress any rival teams thinking of recruiting him for next year.
Can Williams and Russell keep rolling?
George Russell and Williams face a defining challenge after the famous British team was put up for sale during the lockdown – leaving their young and talented English driver racing for his future.
Russell, a member of the Mercedes junior driver programme, has promise but needs a stronger team in 2021 to prove himself unless Williams find resurgent form and haul themselves off the bottom of the championship.
Russell made good use of the lockdown to become F1’s ‘virtual champion’ during e-racing from his home computer and said recently he is “very excited” to return to the real thing.
“It’s going to be surreal, but I can’t wait for it,” he said. “I just want to be back in a car.”
Will Ricciardo be socially isolated at Renault?
Daniel Ricciardo is famous for his beaming smile and big hugs, but he has had to abandon his tactile approach as F1 returns in Austria.
Ricciardo decided during lockdown to leave Renault next year for McLaren. The fact that McLaren are switching to Mercedes engines was a factor – and one that may not have enhanced his standing with Renault as he starts his final season.
“I’ve got to keep my distance,” he admitted in a team video call last week. “We’re going to find some new ways to embrace each other, especially after a good result, but obviously we’re going to do what we can to keep this thing out of the paddock.”