F1: 2020 Australian Grand Prix Preview
The safety car is pictured in the Pitlane during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 11, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1, Getty Images)

Formula 1 returns for another season and it’s Melbourne’s Albert Park that hosts round one of the 2020 season, where the pecking order will start to become clearer.

2019 world champion Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of a historic season where he could match the feat of seven world titles achieved by Michael Schumacher.

Across the paddock the view is that Mercedes are prepped for yet another season of success, as several additions to the car aired on display for the first time in pre-season testing, putting them as the team to beat in 2020.

The new Mercedes W11 boasts a brand-new innovative DAS system which allows the drivers to adjust the toe angle of the car by pulling the steering wheel towards them in the cockpit.

Red Bull ended the 2019 season strongly and could pose the greatest threat to Mercedes in the shape of Max Verstappen who, beside Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, are closest favourites to topple Mercedes grip on a season of further dominance.

The battle for best of the rest in the midfield pack looks unpredictable. Racing Point have been accused of replicating last terms Mercedes and on the back of a strong pre-season many are touting them as potential midfield leaders.

McLaren improved drastically upon their 2018 woes last season and will look to build on the one podium they received, though they will have to battle Renault who are expected to come back stronger upon a disappointing 2019 campaign for the French outfit.

New season, two new faces

For the first time in a long time the grid remains almost untouched from the 2019 season with just two alterations to the drivers that lined-up wheel-to-wheel in Melbourne 12-months prior.

Nico Hulkenberg had been a mainstay in the sport for seven consecutive years but having been ousted from the Renault team at the backend of last season, former Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Ocon will partner Daniel Riccardo.

The Frenchman impressed throughout the 2018 season at then Force India, though having faced problems colliding with his teammate Sergio Perez, his contract was not renewed and was forced to bide his time and wait patiently for a 2020 seat.

Another new addition to the grid is former Formula 2 driver, Nicholas Latifi, who will step into the Williams car formerly occupied by Polish driver Robert Kubica who joined Alfa Romeo as their reserve driver for the 2020 season.

Latifi is an Iranian-Canadian driver who ended the F2 season as runner up, achieving four victories which was enough to land him a seat at Williams partnering George Russell in what is a season defining year for a team who will demand improvement after a dismal 2019.

The new Williams driver had spent the previous season as a test and reserve driver in 2019 having participated in practice sessions at six Grand Prix, therefore acclimatising to the 2020 model should be less of a struggle.

The track

Melbourne is set to host its 25th F1 Grand Prix this weekend, after hosting its very first in 1996.

The street circuit at Albert Park is known for being tight and tough for overtaking, as proven in the 2019 edition.

The most testing sequence for drivers will be through the high-speed chicane in turn 11 and 12, which could see a few drivers battle against the strong winds expected to be in attendance.

The weather forecast ahead of the season opener shows minimal risk of rain throughout each day of the race weekend, other than the likelihood of light showers in FP3. High speed wind is expected throughout the weekend.

When can I watch it?

Schedule:

Friday

Free practice 1: 01:00 – 02:30

Free practice 2: 05:00 – 06:30

Saturday

Free practice 3: 03:00 – 04:00

Qualifying: 06:00 – 07:00

Sunday

Race: 05:10

All times UK.

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