Verstappen’s title is in jeopardy. The fate of the championship in Formula 1 can be solved by the coronavirus
For the second year now, one of the main factors in the formation of the calendar for the Formula 1 season is the epidemiological situation in a particular country. This year, the situation with the search for a venue for the Grand Prix is much easier than in the previous year. However, some stages were canceled by local authorities anyway. And it is likely that the calendar for the remainder of this season will still change.
Against the background of the struggle for the title between Red Bull and Mercedes, canceling or replacing some stages is a very delicate topic, because the cars of the “bulls” and “silver arrows” have their advantages and disadvantages. Many racetracks differ from each other and are demanding on the most different qualities of the car. Accordingly, each of the teams has tracks that are most suitable for their cars. Given these factors, the slightest change in this season’s calendar could play a key role in the battle between Red Bull and Mercedes.
Changes to the calendar this season have benefited Red Bull rather than Mercedes.
Since the beginning of this year, the preliminary draft calendar for the 2021 season has already undergone significant changes. Back in January, the organizers of the Chinese Grand Prix submitted a request to postpone the stage. Subsequently, the race in the Celestial Empire will be postponed again, and today the stage in Shanghai is in limbo – with practically no chance of returning to the calendar. The next victim of the pandemic was the Australian Grand Prix, which was first postponed to November and then canceled altogether. Also this year, Formula 1 will not get to Canada, Singapore and Japan.
It is worth noting that the cancellation of these five stages specifically had a favorable effect on the champion’s intrigue this season. Indeed, among the tracks that fell into the “black list” were both those that were more suitable for Red Bull, and those that favored Mercedes more. The Bulls primarily counted on Suzuka and Singapore. The Japanese autodrome is corny one of the most demanding for aerodynamics – undoubtedly, the strong point of the Red Bull cars. As for Singapore, here the Mercedes, in theory, had to lose because of its long wheelbase – the track is still urban.
If we talk about the routes on which Mercedes was supposed to have an advantage, then Shanghai is the first to be noted. The long straight lines of the Chinese autodrome are a real boon for cars equipped with Mercedes engines. In addition, one should not forget that there are practically no slow turns on the Shanghai track – and this is the Achilles heel of the Silver Arrows cars in the first part of the season.
But with the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, things are much more interesting. After all, this track embodies a combination of slow turns and long straight lines. Therefore, it is simply unrealistic to determine in absentia which of the leaders this circuit is more suitable for. A duel between two giants on Canadian soil could have become a real gem of the season, but, unfortunately, F-1 never made it to Montreal.
Albert Park is another track, the favorite of which is difficult to guess in advance. Largely due to the fact that the configuration at the Australian circuit was slightly changed: some corners, let’s say, straightened, which is why they became faster. Although it should be admitted that this modernization of the “Albert Park” would be more beneficial to “Mercedes”, given their difficult relationship with slow corners.
As for the tracks, which have become a replacement for the racing circuits that have been eliminated from the calendar, here the scales have already tipped in favor of Red Bull. Due to the postponement and subsequent cancellation of races in China and Australia, by the beginning of the season a hole formed in the calendar, which was successfully closed by the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and the Portuguese Grand Prix. Verstappen and Hamilton exchanged victories there, and we can say that no one has benefited globally from the inclusion of these particular racetracks in the calendar. But the situation with the replacement of the summer stage in Montreal was clearly in favor of the “bulls”. Indeed, instead of the Canadian Grand Prix, the calendar of the season simply included one more race on the Red Bull Ring – the track that suits the bulls as much as possible. As confident as in Austria, Verstappen probably did not win this season.
Which stages are in danger of being canceled?
By far the most precarious position on the calendar for the remainder of the season is the Turkish Grand Prix. Initially, the stage in Istanbul did not appear at all in the context of this season. However, closer to the summer, news appeared that “Istanbul Park” was ready to host the F1 stage, which was originally supposed to take place in Canada. As we remember, Formula 1 never visited Turkey in June. Later it was announced that the Istanbul stage would still take place, but in October. Well, today, gradually, everything goes to the fact that the race in “Istanbul Park” will be canceled completely. Turkey is still on the so-called “red” list of countries, from which entry into the UK a 10-day quarantine is required. And taking into account the cancellation of the Japanese Grand Prix, the teams will have to return to their bases, many of which are located just in England.
As for the other remaining stages of this season, they are not yet threatened with cancellation. However, we must not forget what time we live in: the coronavirus pandemic is still here and, unfortunately, at any time in any of the countries hosting the Grand Prix, the epidemiological situation may deteriorate sharply. This scenario needs to be kept in mind.
To date, the stages in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia have the strongest positions in the calendar. After all, the races in these countries will take place in the near future, and, fortunately, there are no preconditions for their cancellation.
But with the American stages, things are no longer so rosy. For several months, from time to time there were rumors that the stages in Mexico and Brazil might not take place. Although lately there have been no loud statements regarding the cancellation of races in Latin America. At Interlagos, they generally gathered to hold the stage in front of full stands. However, one should not underestimate the factor of a pandemic, which at any time can intervene and disrupt the usual order of things.
Stages in Mexico and Brazil are needed for Red Bull, and Mercedes hopes for Turkey to be canceled
Interestingly enough, it turns out that of all the tracks that “hang in the balance”, none of them fit the “Mercedes”. From the likely cancellation of stages in Turkey, Mexico and Brazil, Red Bull may lose on all fronts.
In “Istanbul Park”, for example, a new asphalt surface should play for the “bulls”, which showed itself in all its glory last season. Slippery asphalt for a Mercedes will mean exactly one thing – problems with heating the rubber.
At the Rodriguez Brothers Circuit, the Red Bull advantage should be even more pronounced. The Mexican stage may become the second Austria for the “bulls”, because the track in Mexico City is located at an altitude of more than 2000 meters above sea level. This means that the air in that area will be thin, due to which the teams are faced with a lack of downforce. And the Austrian team, as you know, in this component has no equal in the peloton. In addition, as many experts note, at low atmospheric pressure, the turbine of the RB16B car engine works much more efficiently than that of a Mercedes.
On Interlagos, the only place where the Mercedes, in theory, could be faster than the Red Bull, is the long stretch after exiting the twelfth corner (about 15 seconds throttle to the floor). Thanks to the smaller chassis tilt angle, Silver Arrow cars are more efficient on the straights. However, all the same low atmospheric pressure should neutralize the advantage of “Mercedes” in the high-speed sections of “Interlagos”.
This, perhaps, ends the tracks remaining this season, which are one hundred percent suitable for the cars of the Austrian team. On the rest of the circuit, the favorite is either not at all, or it is already “Mercedes”. “Spa-Francorchamps” and “Monza” – motor routes, perfectly suited to the “silver arrows”. Although it should be admitted that in Belgium, the “bulls” will have some chances at low air temperatures – in this case, the “Mercedes” may have problems with warming up the rubber.
The tracks in Zandvoort and Sochi became “Mercedes” already during this season – exactly at the moment when the German team brought large-scale updates, thanks to which the “Silver Arrows” managed to stabilize the rear of the car – what is needed in the Netherlands and Russia.
The debutant of the Royal Races – the Jeddah circuit is generally a mystery. Computer simulation of passing a circle on an unfamiliar race track can only visually introduce us to a new track. It is quite difficult to predict who will be the winner of the first ever Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
Also, do not forget about the mysterious twentieth stage of the season, the venue of which has not yet been officially announced. To date, it is only known that the twentieth Grand Prix of this year will probably be held in the Middle East – from the point of view of logistics, it is absolutely logical. The most likely scenario is a race in Qatar on the Losail track. In this case, we will have another mysterious “joker” in the calendar of this season.
At the end, it is worth noting the most favorable scenario for the development of the calendar saga for each of the teams claiming the title. And here everything is quite trivial: under the threat of cancellation there are racetracks, which are the best fit for Red Bull. Accordingly, for the Austrian team, the best alignment is the absence of any changes in the order of the Grand Prix this season. The very jackpot for the Austrian team will be the holding of the second race in Baku instead of the already canceled Japanese stage (rumors have been circulating in recent days, although they have already been denied in Azerbaijan).
In turn, for “Mercedes” it would be very convenient to cancel those stages that are now in limbo. After all, it is on the racetracks in Turkey, Mexico and Brazil that the German team will not feel the best.