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Azerbaijan F1 Postponed, Where Now For 2020?

The latest update for the 2020 F1 season is that the round scheduled for Azerbaijan in June has now also been postponed. This is the round that the organisers had tentatively penciled in as the start round after the Australian, Bahrain, Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix had all been sidelined.

However, Baku City officials have been working with F1, FIA, and World Health Organisation staff, and have concluded that this date appears to be no longer suitable as a starting point for 2020. Given that this takes the season close to the halfway point, a decision on what will happen in regards to the structure must be made soon.Chase Carey, the CEO of Formula 1, said in a statement released on March 19, said: “At the meeting there was full support for the plans to reschedule as many of the postponed races as possible as soon as it is safe to do so. Formula 1 and the FIA will now work to finalise a revised 2020 calendar and will consult with the teams, but as agreed at the meeting the revised calendar will not require their formal approval. This will give us the necessary flexibility to agree revised timings with affected race promoters and to be ready to start racing at the right moment.

What this means for the rules and regulations that were set to be implemented for 2021 have now been pushed back to 2022. It also puts a cloud over the mooted driver and team swaps. One thing that has come out as almost certain is that the drivers for 2021 are very likely to be the same as those in 2020. There had been talk that Lewis Hamilton may have gone from silver to red, however this appears to now be virtually impossible. The key reason is simple: the cars to be raced in 2021 have to use the same chassis as those developed for this year’s season. With early testing seeming to forecast the Mercedes chassis would be superior to the Ferrari’s, it would make no sense, apart from potentially a huge financial incentive, for Ferrari to open the door to the current world champion. This is crucial in the context that Hamilton is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of 2020, and it’s rumoured that the team would aim for a two year deal to carry Hamilton through the time required to stabilise under the forthcoming regulations.

Adding to the confusion is the constant murmurs that Ferrari will drop Sebastian Vettel, also out of contract come December 2020, and say hello to Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian is on a two year contract at Renault and after a sub-standard, by his standards, 2019, the lure of a top tier team surely must be strong. However the crux of this is what Ferrari would wish for Vettel. If talk that Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto has stated Vettel is their choice to drive alongside Charles Leclerc is true, then this would appear to lock down Ferrari for 2021 at least.Red Bull have no such issue as both Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon are pencilled in for the next couple of years.McLaren also appear to be stable with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris however the Ferrari equation comes into play with Sainz. His name also has been floated as a possible for the Italian team but there’s not much else to suggest anything other than simply conjecture.

Alfa Romeo are another team with a question mark and that is in the form of Kimi Raikonnen. He’s out of contract at year’s end, and turns 41 in October. This combination, plus a lacklustre 2019, may be enough for the Finnish driver to call time on a stellar career. What this means for Alfa Romeo is who to select to slot next to Antonio Giovinazzi, and could they throw a rope to Nico Hulkenberg? Or, even more intriguing is the possibility of signing one M. Schumacher. Mick has been driving well and has been garnering attention.

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