F1 2020: team-by-team guide to the cars and drivers

Giles Richards
·11-min read

Mercedes

Car W11 Engine Mercedes Principal Toto Wolff Debut France 1954 GPs210 Titles 6 Last season champions

Already six-time consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ champions, achieving the seventh double is entirely feasible. Their car is clearly strong, operationally they are the benchmark and their innovative dual-axis steering system proves they are still relentlessly chasing every edge. In a shortened season, reliability and consistency will be key and Mercedes are pre-eminent in both. Still the team to beat.

Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes W11 during a testing session in February at the at Circuit de Barcelona.
Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes W11 during a testing session in February at the at Circuit de Barcelona. Photograph: Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton (GB, Age 35)

Focused and driven like never before, Hamilton is at the peak of his powers and if he secures a seventh title would match Michael Schumacher’s record. Has repeatedly proved to have a maturity, skill and the race-craft to return success that is unmatched on the current grid. Strong favourite.

Lewis Hamilton is the favourite for the delayed 2020 season in his Mercedes W11.
Lewis Hamilton is the favourite for the delayed 2020 season in his Mercedes W11. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Valtteri Bottas (Fin, 30)

No 77 Debut Australia 2013 Wins 7 Poles 11 Best finish 2nd Last season 2nd

Started strongly last season only to be swamped by Hamilton as the world champion found his rhythm. The Finn must be quick out of the blocks again but more than ever needs to sustain his charge if he is to put his teammate under any pressure.

Ferrari

Car SF1000 Engine Ferrari Principal Mattia Binotto Debut Monaco 1950 GPs 991 Titles 16 Last season 2nd
Appeared down on pace in testing but more is expected in Austria. The Scuderia have focused on improving the car’s downforce to make it more competitive at a greater number of circuits. Aggressive and successful development will be key as might be the potentially difficult task of keeping the peace between their drivers.

Sebastian Vettel (Ger, 32)

No 5 Debut USA 2007 Wins 53 Poles 57 Titles 4 Last season 5th Out-raced by his rookie teammate Leclerc last season, Vettel has a point to prove but with Ferrari not renewing his contract and Leclerc in favour his No 1 status is long gone. Still prone to errors under pressure, he needs the serenity of success from the off.

Charles Leclerc (Mon, 22)

No 16 Debut Australia 2018 Wins 2 Poles 7 Titles 0 Best finish 4th Last season 4th

Hugely impressive last season, seven poles the best tally of any driver. Will be even more confident and more aggressive this time round. Ferrari have said they will let their drivers race so Leclerc will look to put Vettel under the cosh immediately.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, has kept his hand in during lockdown by competing in a number of virtual Grand Prix and winning two of the races.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, has kept his hand in during lockdown by competing in a number of virtual Grand Prix and winning two of the races. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

Red Bull

Car RB16 Engine Honda Principal Christian Horner Debut Australia 2005 GPs 286 Titles 4 Last season 3rd

In testing, the closest rivals to Mercedes. The RB16 looks strong and Honda’s engine close to parity with Mercedes and Ferrari. Confidence is high that they can really challenge and for the first time in recent years appear to be quick out of the box, the Red Bulls pleasingly resurgent.

Max Verstappen (Neth, 22)

No 33 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 8 Poles 2 Titles 0 Best finish 3rd Last season 3rd

Showing every indication of now being a more complete driver, Verstappen has all the tools to fight for the title and if he has the car this year, intends to grasp his chance. Never intimidated and with control to match his exuberance, he can take the fight to Mercedes.

Alexander Albon (Thai, 24)

No 23 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best finish 4th Poles 0 Best qualifying 5th Titles 0 Best finish 8th Last season 8th

Parachuted in from Toro Rosso midway through his rookie season, the London-born driver who races under the Thai flag was hugely impressive. Earned his place and can be expected to only improve. Must be in the mix at the front to support Verstappen.

Red Bull’s Alexander Albon looks focussed as he prepares to improve on his impressive rookie season.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon looks focussed as he prepares to improve on his impressive rookie season. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

McLaren

Car MCL35 Engine Renault Principal Andreas Seidl Debut Monaco 1966 GPs 863 Titles 8 Last season 4th

Building on their strongest result since 2012, best of the rest remains the target as McLaren reap the rewards of a structural changes. Their car still has room for improvement but showing consistency and focus, McLaren and their two charging drivers will expect to be in the fight for fourth.

Carlos Sainz Jr (Sp, 25)

No 55 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 0 Best finish 3rd Poles 0 Best qualifying 5th Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 6th

Last year he delivered on the promise he has always shown, so much so that Ferrari have signed him for 2021. Sainz has touch and intelligence, is comfortable and confident at McLaren and will want to bid farewell with a flourish.

Lando Norris (GB, 20)

No 4 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best finish 6th Poles 0 Best qualifying 5th Titles 0 Best finish 11th Last season 11th

An outstanding debut last season that included some remarkable qualifying runs, outshining his more experienced teammate was just the platform Norris needed. Determined to work on his weaknesses and now entirely confident in an F1 car, he will be even stronger second time out.

Renault

Car RS20 Engine Renault Principal Cyril Abiteboul Debut GB 1977 GPs 383 Titles 2 Last season 5th

Disappointing last season performing poorly for a works team targeting the title, Renault have to be in the fight for fourth, especially with the company considering its future in F1. The driver pairing is strong, but it is Ocon who may have inherited the No 1 spot after Ricciardo’s decision to jump ship to McLaren for 2021.

Daniel Ricciardo (Aus, 30)

No 3 Debut GB 2011 Wins 7 Poles 3 Titles 0 Best finish 3rd Last season 9th

After a scrappy 2019 Ricciardo wants more. He has the class to deliver but has been frustrated by Renault’s failure to move forward. Still one of the best overtakers, but the Australian may have to take some early licks as the team come up to speed.

Esteban Ocon (Fra, 23)

No 31 Debut Belgium 2016 Wins 0 Best finish 5th Poles 0 Best qualifying 3rd Titles 0 Best finish 8th Last season N/A

Back from a year out after two seasons with Force India, Ocon is highly rated and will expect to prove it in a decent car. The Frenchman has speed, consistency and no little bravura in being unafraid to get his elbows out. Potentially a compelling combination.

Alpha Tauri (formerly Toro Rosso)

Car AT01 Engine Honda Principal Franz Tost Debut Bahrain 2006 GPs 247 Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 6th (as Toro Rosso)

Rebranded and with a fetching new livery, testing was positive enough for Tost to posit fifth place as their target and Sainz picked them out as a threat to McLaren. If Honda’s engine delivers they will likely be in that scrap.

Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri in action during the Formula One pre-season testings at Barcelona in February.
Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri in action during the Formula One pre-season testings at Barcelona in February. Photograph: Alberto Estévez/EPA

Pierre Gasly (Fr, 24)

No 10 Debut Malaysia 2017 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 7th Demoted mid-season last year from Red Bull, but showed strength in keeping it together to finish well for Toro Rosso, including a second place in Brazil. The car suited him, as it appears to this year, and will be eager to show he has improved.

Daniil Kvyat (Rus, 26 )

No 26 Debut Australia 2014 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 13th

Solid last season for another driver who has been through the Red Bull promotion and demotion mill. Can still impress, as he did with third in Germany last year, but needs to improve his qualifying performances if he is to match his teammate.

Racing Point

Car RP20 Engine Mercedes Principal Otmar Szafnauer Debut Belgium 2018 GPs 30 Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 7th Took a lot of flak for designing their car around last year’s title-winner, the “Pink Mercedes” is unsurprisingly very quick. Will be in the fight for best of the rest and a bullish team have targeted podium finishes. Sustaining their charge across the season may be more challenging.

Sergio Pérez (Mex, 30)

No 11 Debut Australia 2011 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 10th

Having made a long-term commitment to the team he has already served for some time, Pérez is the confident and capable pair of hands they need. A proven points-scorer, this might be his chance to show how good he is in a fight that could feature the big three.

Lance Stroll (Can, 21)

No 18 Debut Australia 2017 Best finish 3rd Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best finish 12th Last season 15th

Stroll’s chance to make a point, too. With decent machinery he can prove he is not just driving because of his father’s largesse. To do so he must drastically improve the qualifying performances which have left him repeatedly playing catchup.

Alfa Romeo

Car C39 Engine Ferrari Principal Frédéric Vasseur Debut Britain 1950 GPs 133 Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 8th

To follow last year’s aggressive design philosophy, Alfa once more have evolved their concept well; how far they can take it is the challenge. Expect early gains but without the resources to develop it much beyond those peaks.

The Alfa Romeo Racing C39 seen at its launch.
The Alfa Romeo Racing C39 seen at its launch. Photograph: Pixathlon/Shutterstock

Kimi Raikkonen (Fin, 40)

No 7 Debut Australia 2001 Wins 21 Poles 18 Titles 1 Last season 12th

F1’s grand old man seems to be enjoying his racing out of the spotlight more than ever. Still on course to take the record for most race starts if the season can deliver enough meetings, Raikkonen is also guaranteed to return points for Alfa.

Antonio Giovinazzi (It, 26)

No 99 Debut Australia 2017 Best finish 5th Poles 0 Best qualifying 7th Titles 0 Best finish 17th Last season 17th

Well beaten by Raikkonen, the Italian needs to step up in his second full season. Unnecessary errors have been costly but he has shown glimpses of pace, particularly in qualifying. Challenging the Finn would be a real achievement.

Haas

Car VF-20 Engine Ferrari Principal Guenther Steiner Debut Australia 2016 GPs 83 Titles 0 Best finish 5th Last season 9th Gene Haas has warned he will consider Haas’s future in F1 based on how his team perform this season. This year’s car has at least eliminated the tyre-wear problems that plagued them but they do not appear particularly quick. Desperately need their drivers to keep it clean too, if not to further enrage Steiner and Haas.

Romain Grosjean (Fr, 34 )

No 8 Debut Europe 2009 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 18th

Unforced errors and misjudgments have peppered Grosjean’s career yet can on his day be very quick. Struggled with the car last year but looks more comfortable now, his future in F1 surely depends on consistently delivering this time.

Kevin Magnussen (Den, 27)

No 20 Debut Australia 2014 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 9th Last season 16th

K-Mag remains fiercely independent, uncompromising and aggressive. Can be compelling to watch, albeit painfully so sometimes for those on his pitwall. If Haas are in a dogfight at the back of the grid, Magnussen could be the tool they need.

Williams

Car FW43 Engine Mercedes Principal Frank Williams Debut Spain 1977 GPs 727 Titles 9 Last season 10th

Rejoining the midfield is the target after last year’s battering while the proposed sale of the team hangs heavy over them, but they may yet attract the required investment. The car is quicker, has more downforce and is less of a handful to drive, all positive signs. Major advances are not expected but they target making it to Q2 and being in the back-of-the-field fight.

George Russell (GB, 22)

No 63 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best finish 11th Poles 0 Best qualifying 14th Titles 0 Best finish 20th Last season 20th

Did superbly to weather the storm last year, which he handled impressively. Now team leader, Russell is gaining experience the hard way but he has done so well and his talent will be on show if Williams can get among the other teams.

William’s George Russell looks focussed in Abu Dhabi ahead of last season’s final race.
William’s George Russell looks focussed in Abu Dhabi ahead of last season’s final race. Photograph: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Nicolas Latifi (Can, 24)

No 6 Rookie season Best finish 2nd F2 Championship 2019 (three wins)

Backed by billionaire father Michael, he drove six practice sessions for Williams last year and is well-liked at the team. A solid pair of hands for a rookie but must rise to the challenge, as Russell did last year.