KARUN CHAND­HOK

Karun weighs in on how the mid­field could play out in the 2020 F1 sea­son

Evo India - - TOYOTA VELLFIRE - @karun­chand­hok

Like Senna, Mansell or Hamil­ton, you al­ways watch Max’s race know­ing that some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen

ONE THING TO CON­SIDER IS THAT WITH sta­ble rules for F1 in 2020 and a big change com­ing for 2021, the an­swer of who comes out on top may well rely on which of the teams has com­mit­ted more re­sources to the short term rather than hold­ing back a bit with an eye on the fu­ture.

Max Ver­stap­pen has al­ready shown that if there’s a car that’s fast enough to chal­lenge for the ti­tle, he’s ready for it. The speed and con­sis­tency he’s shown in the last 18 months has been very im­pres­sive. Like Senna, Mansell or Hamil­ton, you al­ways watch Max’s race know­ing that some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen. He’s not go­ing to just drive around – there will al­ways be some mo­ments of dra­matic brilliance or con­tro­versy.

Red Bull Rac­ing were per­haps more com­pet­i­tive last year than they were ex­pect­ing with three wins and strong pace in Hun­gary and Mex­ico as well. But be­ing in the fight for wins at 25 per cent of the races isn’t go­ing to make you a ti­tle con­tender and Red Bull know that. The chas­sis didn’t re­ally de­liver un­til Aus­tria when the front wing up­grade seemed to un­lock the po­ten­tial of the RB15.

Honda have made very good progress and by the end of the sea­son as a pack­age, they were not far from the Mercedes. They have good re­sources as well as the key peo­ple from the years of dom­i­na­tion from 2010 to 2013. I would be sur­prised if the Red Bull-Honda pack­age isn’t closer to be­ing ti­tle con­tenders than in 2019.

In the mid­field, Mclaren were the most im­proved team of 2019 and the whole team has a very up­beat and buoy­ant at­mos­phere about it now. Let’s re­mem­ber that there were times in 2018 where Alonso was qual­i­fy­ing be­hind Stroll or Sirotkin. No dis­re­spect to ei­ther of those drivers, but that showed that the Mclaren was at times the slow­est car in 2018 and there­fore makes their recovery last year all the more im­pres­sive.

With An­dreas Seidl at the helm, Zak Brown do­ing what he does best and rop­ing in new spon­sors, James Key now fully with his feet un­der the desk, a new wind tun­nel com­ing, the Mercedes power unit deal a year away and an ex­cit­ing young driver line up, there’s plenty of cause for op­ti­mism around Mclaren’s fu­ture.

Last sea­son was a bit of a wake up call for Re­nault I think. The power unit side in Viry has clearly made steps for­ward in terms of per­for­mance as their pace at power sen­si­tive venues such as

Canada, Spa and Monza showed. Re­li­a­bil­ity across the works cars and the Mclaren cus­tomers was still not as good as they would have liked but the big­ger con­cern for the works team was that Mclaren were able to com­pre­hen­sively outscore them last year with the same power unit de­spite be­ing miles be­hind in 2018.

As a fac­tory team, fin­ish­ing be­hind your cus­tomer is never go­ing to go down well with the pay­mas­ters (al­though let’s be hon­est, the ex­tra­or­di­nary Car­los Ghosn saga has prob­a­bly kept them busy over the win­ter). Cyrile Abite­boul has recog­nised that things need to be shaken up and the de­part­ing Nick Ch­ester has been re­placed by Pat Fry and Dirk de Beer. The for­mer played a large part in Mclaren’s re­cent turn-around while the lat­ter was well re­spected at En­stone and Fer­rari de­spite a dif­fi­cult time at Williams re­cently.

Both of th­ese new sign­ings have come in too late to have a real in­flu­ence on the 2020 car but it’s an im­por­tant move with the view to­wards the par­al­lel de­sign pro­grams next year. Aero and down­force is still piv­otal in F1 but so is con­sis­tency when you’re talk­ing about a cham­pi­onship po­si­tion. The team still have very good and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple run­ning the track­side team like Ciaron Pill­beam and Mark Slade who are calm and sen­si­ble peo­ple and ex­actly what the team needs.

I’m very ex­cited for the two new races but for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Zand­voort has a lot of his­tory and as a track to drive around on your own, it’s one of my favourites. The at­mos­phere with the pas­sion­ate Max Ver­stap­pen fans is go­ing to be off the charts.

Over­tak­ing will be a prob­lem at Zand­voort I think. Rac­ing in other cat­e­gories around there has been pretty pro­ces­sional but the FIA have tried to help this by in­tro­duc­ing a highly banked fi­nal cor­ner and there­fore a long DRS zone to aid over­tak­ing into the first cor­ner. Fin­gers crossed this works but ei­ther way, it should be a good event.

Judg­ing by what I’ve seen of the draw­ings and sim­u­la­tions, Viet­nam could be the op­po­site. There are some long straights like we’ve seen in Baku as well as some long corners which will be a real chal­lenge for the drivers, cars and tyres. Baku has thrown up some great races and over­tak­ing in the last three years and hope­fully we’ll get the same in Viet­nam. Hav­ing the race early in the sea­son will be in­ter­est­ing as the teams will still be in the phase of prop­erly learn­ing about their cars which could throw up a few anom­alies as well. ⌧

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