Sorry about this, blame the holidays. It’s a time for being overindulgent – eating far too much, drinking far too much, spending far too much – all in the name of Christmas.
So today I’m going to be self-indulgent and give you my wishlist for Formula 1 in 2020 starting with a free upgrade to business class on every flight… OK, not that self-indulgent.
A real three-team fight for the title that goes to the wire
2018 teased us, with two wins apiece for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull from the opening six races, and then it all faded away. 2019 found a new way of playing games when Ferrari looked rapid throughout pre-season but was then unable to match Mercedes when things got serious.
It’s the last season of the current regulations, so even if we get a proper fight it is likely to be all change in 2021 anyway, but wouldn’t it be great if all three teams that won races last year and made the second half of 2019 so exciting were right on the pace from the word go?
Lewis Hamilton has to be the title favorite right now, and if he’s going to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ championships then it would be great to see him do it in a final round showdown after a season-long fight against the Ferrari and Red Bull. You feel that would be at least a battle between four drivers, potentially five depending on how much of Valtteri Bottas 2.0 we get. Throw in an Alexander Albon win or two for good measure, and it would be a classic to kick off the 2020s.
More progress from McLaren and Renault
I’m not making this wishlist too unreasonable, but I’d like to see the leading midfield teams both making progress – for different reasons.
McLaren was one of the most positive stories of 2019, and the driver pairing of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris is a breath of fresh air. The team has been through some real lows in the V6 era, but seems to be heading in the right direction. While Sainz pulled out a stunning performance over the season to finish sixth in the drivers’ standings, how good would it be if his machinery allowed him to mix it with the top three a little more regularly?
It wouldn’t be realistic to have McLaren regularly fighting for podiums, but clearly closing the gap to the front and being a threat if others slip up – rather than regularly lapped – would be both better to watch and confirmation of a team on the right road to recovery, rather than a one-off good season.
Renault, however, needs to move forward for the sake of its own future in the sport. But from an entertainment point of view let’s get Daniel Ricciardo back in the mix for podiums, and the closer Esteban Ocon is to Max Verstappen on a race track next year, the better…
Williams racing with other teams
There were times last year when watching Williams was painful. I grew up at a time when the team was one of the most successful in F1, and as recently as five years ago it was often the closest threat to Mercedes. So to not even have a car ready in time for testing and then be so far off the pace when it finally did make it onto the track was just horrible to see.
I feel like Williams is now becoming a barometer for the sport as a whole. We’ve seen tremendously successful teams go to the wall in the past – think classic Team Lotus – but as budgets have continued to rise and Williams has been faced with the challenge of more collaborative team set-ups from rivals, it has rapidly dropped to the back. I think everyone wants to see independent constructors able to compete, so whether Williams can fight back and then take advantage of the 2021 changes will be watched with interest.
More than that, though, we currently have the potential for 10 competitive teams on the grid. All except Williams reached Q3 and picked up points on multiple occasions last year, and Williams has the budget to be in the same ballpark. Plus, in George Russell it has a special talent that deserves to be able to fight with his junior rivals (as well as they get on) Alex Albon and Lando Norris.
No more of a nailed-on-back-row team, and Russell able to show what he can do, please.
Multiple midfield podiums
I’m being greedy and asking for more than we got in 2019. Last year was an improvement on recent seasons, with Toro Rosso twice picking up podiums and McLaren belatedly getting to spray some champagne in Brazil. But by multiple, I’m talking four or five occasions.
You can learn a lot about a driver when they are faced with the pressure of trying to achieve a massive result like a podium finish in a midfield car, and those tend to be the races that are remembered at the end of a season. Germany and Brazil stand out from the past 12 months, but hopefully we can see more of those courtesy of a tense fight at the front and midfield teams getting a bit closer to the ultimate pace.
Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but the fact that someone like Nico Hulkenberg can go through his career without a top three finish in F1 is a little bit sad to me, and there are so many talented drivers who deserve that moment in the spotlight – however lucky it might be – when their machinery usually limits their hopes.
Screw it, while I’m at it, let’s have a win for a team outside the top three. Sounds crazy, but we had some mad races last year and it’s my wishlist, so there.
Hamilton signing with Ferrari
This would just get loads of clicks and keep the RACER bosses happy.
In all seriousness, I think Hamilton to Ferrari would be an absolutely fascinating partnership, especially alongside one of the sport’s future stars in Charles Leclerc. I’m not saying it would definitely lead to success, but if he could pull it off he would join Juan Manuel Fangio in having won championships with three different teams.
As part of the wishlist, I want this move to happen while Mercedes commits to the sport, too. 2021 provides a great opportunity for its dominance to end if it doesn’t this year, but you also want to see the best teams taking on new challenges. It always seems better when the previous benchmark is competitive and beaten, rather than miles off the pace or has left.
The potential volatility of Hamilton driving for Ferrari would be enthralling, but even the relatively simple act of announcing the move would blow the driver market wide open. Who would then move to Mercedes? And where would that leave other openings?
After the boring driver market last year, we’re owed a good one.
A second race in the U.S. to be confirmed
I know this will seem biased – and what’s wrong with that? – but there really is great potential for F1 in the U.S. and it’s getting towards the time that Liberty Media needs to start delivering on it. The Netflix documentary did really well, ESPN has enjoyed strong figures and renewed its contract, but there still remains just one race in America and nine in Europe.
Ignoring the Brexit minefield, you’re able to drive between each of the races in Europe with ease, and yet crowds are strong at all venues. So I really don’t buy any scaremongering that the U.S. could struggle to deliver two profitable races.
Miami appears closest and would be a good destination even if the actual track location wouldn’t be first choice, but so many other cities would be worthy hosts if that on doesn’t happen, and there are talks ongoing. Let’s get one over the line and give U.S. fans more racing on their doorstep.
Two new teams being added for 2021
Probably the least likely of the lot (and that’s saying something), but F1 is better with more teams, in my opinion. And if new teams are going to have the best chance of being competitive, they need to be racing in 2021.
The new regulations will level the playing field to a certain extent, even if those with the most money can make use of their added resources this year before the budget cap comes into effect. But a new team can invest too, and without having had to spend resources on this year’s car at the same time.
New teams also provide opportunities for both new talents trying to prove themselves in any sector of F1, and for those who may be victims of any downsizing caused by the budget cap.
More seats available on the grid means more options for young drivers who are faced with increasingly limited track time in grand prix machinery, and also acts as something of a safety net if a talented driver finds themselves without a seat.