‘All good things come to those who wait.’ For the first time in 217 days, Formula 1 racing returns with the Austrian Grand Prix.
That’s right, the 2020 season is finally about to resume. Although, did it ever really begin? The traditional season-opener in Australia was brought to a shuddering halt due to covid-19 back in March. And now, Austria has the honour of holding F1’s 2020 curtain-raiser.
Not only that, but we’re set to double our fun in the idyllic foothills of the Styrian Alps. Just seven days after the conclusion of the Austrian Grand Prix, we’ll race around the Red Bull Ring once again in the Styrian Grand Prix.
Yep, this is certainly a season like no other, so let us bring you up to speed with all the information you need to know for Rounds 1 and 2 with our must-read race preview. It’s packed full of insight, with thoughts from Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, as well as Team Principal Andreas Seidl, and will give you the inside line on what to watch out for – from car upgrades and tyre choices, to exclusive competitions.
How to follow
|Rounds||1 and 2|
|Where||Red Bull Ring|
|When||3 - 5 July, 10 - 13 July|
|Start time||15:10 local, 14:10 BST, 15:10 CEST, 09:10 EDT|
|Follow||TEAMStream and the McLaren App for exclusive commentary and insight|
What they say
“After a long and difficult time away from racing, it's finally time to get back at it! It's been my longest period without competing since I started in go-karts many years ago! The MCL35 felt really good during winter testing, a positive continuation of what we had last year, so I'm very excited to finally compete this season. It’s also been an interesting period away from track, but now we’re back to racing I’m completely focused on the 2020 season. Due to less races in the calendar and the strong competition we expect from our direct rivals we can't afford to lose concentration. We actually don't even know the amount of races we are going to do, it's an unprecedented scenario, so every point we can get is absolutely crucial. As always, I will do everything to perform at my highest level and help the team. I've been keeping fit and ready to get back in the car, so I’m ready to hit the ground running in FP1.
“Last year we did well in Austria, having to battle into the points from the back of the grid due to a penalty, so we know there are plenty of opportunities for on-track overtakes. However, it’s difficult to confidently predict our performance given the time away from track. The double header at the same circuit presents a new challenge for everyone and we need to make sure we extract the maximum out of it. I know that by the time the lights go out on Sunday, we'll be more than ready to fight for the best position possible.”
“I can't wait to get back into a Formula 1 car, it’s been a long time coming! This break has been the longest I’ve ever taken since I started racing at seven years old, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been working hard throughout this period away from track to stay sharp and ready to go racing again. I’ve been training at home a lot and spending plenty of time on my simulator. I’ve also managed to get some karting and F3 sessions in with Carlos over the last few weeks to help get race ready as best I can.
“I’m pleased we’re getting started again in Austria, it’s a great, fast, track and we performed well there last year. It will be an interesting challenge to race there two weekends in a row, but also a great opportunity to analyse how the first race could have panned out differently and adjust our strategy for the second. I expect all of the grid will be feeling a bit rusty going into FP1, but I’m sure we’ll all be back up to speed when it comes to qualifying on Saturday. It will be a real shame not to have the fans at the track as we feel their support, but safety is the priority and we’ll be doing everything we can to give them a good show.”
“It’s been a long wait, but we’re finally ready to get the 2020 season underway. I know that the fans, our drivers and our team have been waiting a long time for this moment and are all excited and hungry to get out there again. This temporary break in our sport has only made us more motivated to fight again. We’re looking forward to getting back to racing and going for the competition as hard as we can. It will be odd heading to track without fans in the grandstands, we feel their support everywhere we go and will be doing our best to put on a good show for those watching from the safety of their homes.
“Our preparation for Austria has been a balance between building enough parts to get through an intense period of races and updating and developing the car. The team is back up and running again, whether at home or in the factory, and we’re working hard to keep improving the car however we can. We have also spent some time getting used to the new working practices that will enable us to race safely, and we thank Formula 1, the FIA, the circuit and local authorities for their work on this. As one of the first international sports to restart, we value their commitment to keeping our team and the wider paddock safe.
“Two races in Austria presents an interesting new challenge for us. We were strong there last year but, with the uncertainty caused by the delayed start to the season, we will need to be operating at 100% to maximise our performances in both races. I know the whole team, Lando and Carlos are all excited by this challenge and we’ve been working hard to make sure we hit the ground running in Austria.”
What the stats say
McLaren is the joint-winningest constructor in the history of the Austrian Grand Prix with six wins. Victory in 2001 came with David Coulthard at the wheel and the Scot remains the driver to have scored the most F1 podiums in Austria with a total of five to his name – all of which he bagged during his time at McLaren.
Fast forward to today and our drivers, Carlos and Lando, have a proven track record of spirited performances at the Ring. Carlos battled back from P19 to finish eighth last season – the same finishing position he achieved in 2016 after a similarly determined fightback from further down the grid.
Meanwhile, who could forget Lando’s wheel-to-wheel exploits with Lewis Hamilton on the way to equalling his best finish of the season – sixth place – in 2019? His record in lower formulae isn’t too shabby either, having featured on the podium in Austria in FIA Formula 2, the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.
What to watch out for
Face masks. And lots of them! Everyone will be wearing one, but they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the strict social distancing measures put in place. With the opening races being closed events to minimise the spread of covid-19 and only essential personnel in attendance, the atmosphere is going to be a little different to what we’re used to but, the thing we love most, the racing will be no different with the on-track battle as fierce as ever.
When we put out our preview for the Australian Grand Prix back in March, we talked about how the cars that would take to the track would be different from those that teams began pre-season testing with. Given that there’s been no track action since everything came to an abrupt halt in Melbourne, this still remains very much the case.
With an early and extended shutdown period for all teams, there hasn’t been too much time to develop cars further, but everyone’s been working hard since their return. And while you still shouldn’t expect wholesale changes to the MCL35, it will feature a number of tweaks – some of which we tested in the second week at Barcelona and were intended to be used in Australia – including a new floor, diffuser and front brake ducts.
Round 2 of the season will take place just a week after the curtain-raiser and while double headers are nothing new to the sport, racing around exactly the same track twice in the space of seven days certainly is. Don’t bank on the races producing identical results though. With all the variables surrounding a grand prix, anything can happen. For starters, the weather could completely shake things up. But most fascinating will be how teams fare second time around in Spielberg armed with all the data from the previous weekend.
What to wear
Now racing is back, there’s no excuse not to be kitted out head-to-toe in papaya. But just what do you wear for the big return? Admittedly, it’s a tough decision, but we’re about to make it really easy for you.
You’ve probably heard we’re supporting Formula 1’s #WeRaceAsOne campaign and this means that, along with celebrating the return to racing, we’re using the return as an opportunity to raise funds for charities responding to covid-19 and its effects.
So we’ve developed the #WeRaceAsOne merchandise range. We’re talking t-shirts, special edition pin badges, and fan bundles jam-packed with everything you need to be race-ready. And, more importantly, all the profits will go to charities supporting those on the covid-19 frontline. So not only will you look the part, but you’ll be making a difference too.
Oh, and on top of all that, when you order any #WeRaceAsOne product, you’ll get 15% off the F1 merch. Nice.
Inspired by you
We recently reached out to fans asking them to share stories about their amazing efforts in response to covid-19, so we can shine a light on how they’ve played their part in tackling the virus and recognise key workers across the world.
In the video below, Alasdair from Scotland tells us his story.
Now, it’s as this point in the preview where we would usually tell you about the latest epic experience we’ve got lined up for McLaren Plus members at the race track. But you’re probably thinking that’s just not possible given the opening races are taking place behind closed doors.
Well, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. While we can’t physically get you in the McLaren garage, through the power of modern technology we’re still going to get you there in the build-up to the first race.
That’s right, we’re setting up a video chat between Carlos, Lando, Zak and a selection of lucky winners. And all you need to do is complete this form to be in with a chance of speaking to the guys before lights out.
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