Pres-season news is coming thick and fast, with testing and launches of the cars we’ll see around the world in 2020 hitting our browsers. Renault teased before showing off their car in the flesh, Mercedes and Ferrari have already shown off theirs, and the newly renamed AlphaTauri, formerly Toro Rosso, have brought eyes aplenty to their cool looking livery.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will partner again in 2020. The Frenchman and the Dane saw solid and steady improvement in 2019. The end result of 9th for the season may not reflect the improvement, with a miserly 28 points for the team, ahead of the frankly pathetic 1 point for Williams. Grosjean collected 8 points last year, whilst his co-driver made a slightly better fist of the season, banking 20.
Haas launched the VF-20 in early February of 2020 and was the first team to do so. The livery of the car has returned to a more company specification black and white with red highlights. Gene Haas, the team’s principal, says: “I’m pleased to see the car return to the more familiar Haas Automation colours. It’s certainly a livery that people identify with. It’s important to me that we’re back in the mix and consistently scoring points. We certainly have the capability, and we’ve proved as an organisation we can do it.” But Haas had, it’s fair to say, a less than a stellar couple of days. Both drivers had off-track excursions, and Magnussen’s was a passenger in his off. A broken wheel spacer left the tyre rubbing against carbon fibre, rupturing the Pirelli and slamming the car into the barriers. Thankfully for Haas, the car pulled up just short of a heavy impact with the tyre barrier.
The big-ticket teams for this year are Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel is confirmed for 2020 alongside the shockingly talented Pierre Gasly. In his first season as a top tier driver, Gasly outclassed and outdrove his teammate, whilst winning fans for his geniality and graciousness.
Testing hasn’t been kind to Ferrari in the sessions so far. Vettel’s SF1000 car launched an engine on day three of the pre-season, leaving team principal Mattia Binotto to lament he is “not as optimistic” as he was at this stage last year. “At first we changed the approach to the testing and the programme so we focused the first session of these three days to try to map the car with various aero configurations without really trying to optimise the setup and look for overall performance.” Ferrari has gone hard on aero for the test sessions. It’s an attempt to work against the perceived lack of cornering grip the 2019 spec car was said to have exhibited.
Vettel was asked if he felt the testing thus far before the engine destructed and if the changes to the aero package had improved grip. “Obviously we had a clear plan of what we wanted to achieve with this year’s car, and it is going in that direction, but now I think it’s up to us to really explore the car back to front and see how it responds on track.”
Charles Leclerc weighed in, saying that the 2019 pre-season gave the team a sense of immediate superiority, only to have their expectations smacked down and their year off to a less than stellar start with the Silver Arrows winning at Melbourne, and beginning a run of eight consecutive victories en route to claiming the 2019 constructors’ championship that many thought would be Ferrari’s.
When it comes to the looks of the new crop, Vettel was enthusiastic. “The cars, they all look beautiful in a way. They all have got very high level of detail, all of them, it doesn’t matter if you go up or down the pit lane. Certainly compared to maybe two or three years ago where the top cars looked very fine and then the midfield and then bottom of the field, you were able to see the differences.”
Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll continue with the former Force India team. Their new car has already raised eyebrows with a nose said to be virtually identical to that as seen on the Mercedes car. However, it seems it’s a case of what you see isn’t necessarily what you think it is. The team’s technical director, Andrew Green, has categorically denied it’s an out and out copy. As the team do have supplies from Mercedes, it made sense, says Green, to follow some of the design influences.
Racing Point’s RP20 then, in an effort to step up as far as they can to be competitive, use a low rake design rather than the high-rake favoured by every team on the grid except for Mercedes. But the design? “I can tell you absolutely, categorically all those designs are Racing Point from absolute scratch, there has been no transfer of information on listed parts from Mercedes. They have never contemplated it, we have never asked for it,” stressed Green.
Racing Point is now also BWT Racing Point. Best Water Technology Group is a leading European water tech company, looking at modern purification systems and services for drinking water and highly purified water (WFI – water for injection) used in pharmaceutical and other processes, heating, boilers, cooling and air conditioning as well as water used in swimming pools. The team held their 2020 launch at Mondsee, Austria, the headquarters for BWT.
Testing for the team saw a vehicle rolled out in a startling mix of pink and white, with this car’s rear fin a more sharply angled look. Perez covered off 58 laps, whilst Stroll squeezed in 50. Times were fast, with a 1:17.375 for Perez and Stroll nailing a 1:18.282. Perez was happy, saying it was a positive start with no issues whilst the Canadian Stroll said the garage was enjoying a good atmosphere. Day two had Perez occupy the seat, and after 650 kilometres, the Spaniard was delighted. “I think it’s a solid base and I think we have something to work with for the coming races and for the start of the season.”
A startling look is what greeted watchers of the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN team. Clad in a vibrant and definitely eye-catching “snakeskin” wrap, the C39 made its debut on the Fiorano circuit at the hands of Kimi Raikkonen. Antonio Giovinazzi, reserve driver and former F1 driver Robert Kubica watched on as the car was put through its paces during the 100 laps allowed on the F1 filming day. As appealing as it would be to see the livery throughout the season, it appears that it was wrapped only for the testing.
And that would prove to be the case as the official team launch on February 19th showed. The chassis, C39, had its colour scheme developed with Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. It features the signature red of the brand, with red stripes running forward from the cockpit, and contrasting with the brilliant white on the lower half of the body. Like the rest of the field, there’s a fin that runs down the spine of the body behind the driver and from the air intake.
The team’s technical director, Jan Monchaux, says of C39, that the car carries over little visually from the 2019 spec car. He says in real terms only some internal components have been brought to the new car, along with 2019 wheels.
Testing itself saw 138 laps completed on the first day. Giovinazzi laid down 79 whilst Kubica remained fresh after 59. The Polish driver also clocked the quickest time for the pair with his 1:18.396 nearly two full seconds ahead of the younger driver. Day two and Raikkonen clocks 134 laps and extracts a 1:17 from C39. The laconic Finn said: “For my first testing day, it was an ok one. who knows where this is going to take us, but so far so good.”