Four takeaways from the opening triple-header

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The opening three grands prix of the coronavirus-delayed 2020 Formula One season saw Mercedes organise its self-composed show, but the midfield provided with plenty of thrilling action to enjoy.

Thanks to the fantastic work of Formula One and FIA, the 2020 F1 season finally kicked off at Spielberg on July 5 with a thriller of a race. Mercedes did not let the biggest trophy slip through their fingers, but the multiple safety car periods provided plenty of drama with close racing and on-track battles. The subsequent two races showed that the governing body and the Commercial Rights Holder have done a wonderful job when working out the new protocols that were essential to get the racing going again.

Mercedes with insurmountable advantage

The third round of the 2020 Formula One Championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix saw Mercedes dominate the closing station of the first triple-header of the heaviliy-revised 2020 F1 calendar.

Mercedes. If one has to sum up the lessons learnt during the weather- influenced Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, the word of Mercedes should be come up at the top of the analysis. The Anglo-German outfit’s dominance was ominous as the saying goes among fans during a race weekend where the Brackley-based outfit’s advantage over its nearest rival, the Mercedes-inspired Racing Point was nearly a full second.

Although Mercedes’ controversial and questionable Dual-Axis System has been the number one topic, the team’s splendid W11 features several other key innovations. The innovative, all-new geometry for the rear suspension of the W11 features wishbones with smaller angle, allowing for aerodynamic gains. Both the DAS and the adventurous rear suspension have been known since the pre-season testing, but the first races have also shown that Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains has established itself as the engine manufacturer with the best, most powerful power unit in 2020. Ferrari has lost its advantage with its engine due to the new technical directives regarding the fuel flow and oil consumtion and Honda is also believed to have made a step backwards while Mercedes has managed to make use of the stricter engine rules.

Enjoying the mighty Mercedes power train in his Williams FW43, George Russell has revealed that he was surprised to see how much of a gain the Anglo-German team has made with its engine for 2020. “Mercedes have made really good gains from last year in our qualifying modes which definitely helps us in comparison to Haas and Alfa Romeo who I think have taken a step backwards in the power unit side from Ferrari."

Mercedes has already scored 121 points in the opening three grand prix of the season which is more than double the point tally of the second-placed Red Bull Racing. McLaren is third on this list with 41 points followed by Racing Point. The Silverstone-based outfit that admittedly took inspiration from the double title-winning Mercedes W10 machine has failed to exploit its opportunities to the absolute limit after it was dogged by reliability issues in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, was hindered by an underperforming car in the rain-affected qualifying session for the Styrian Grand Prix and slipped down the order on the damp track at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ferrari is currently holding the fifth spot on this list with 27 points. Despite its rejuvenated form following its two rather dismal seasons in the previous two years, Williams is yet to score a single championship unit in 2020.

When its comes to the Drivers’ Championship, Lewis Hamilton is on the top thanks to his wins in the last two grands prix. The Briton has 63 points, 5 more than his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Max Verstappen has scored exactly 33 points that matches his starting number. McLaren’s Lando Norris has been the biggest surprise so far with the Briton having scored 26 points in the first three races.

Reliability issues

Reliability has been a key topic during the opening phase of the revised calendar with several teams suffering problems of different natures in the first three races. Despite its dominant appearances, Mercedes’ 2020 power unit has not been the most robust when it came to the reliability. The Mercedes-AMG F1 M11 EQ Performance enigne seems to be the field-leading power unit in 2020, but it is believed that its cooling needs have increased after less oil can be burned this year – cutting back the allowed consumption to 0.3 litres per 100km.

Supposing that at least 15 grands prix will take place in 2020, each driver will be permitted to use no more than 3 engines (ICE), 3 motor generator units-heat (MGU-H), 3 turbochargers (TC), 2 energy stores (ES), 2 control electronics (CE) and 3 motor generator units-kinetic (MGU-K) during the entire season.

Following his enigne woes in the opening race, George Russell has the most to fear. The young Briton who has impressed with his excellent qualifying speed both on a dry and a damp track has already used two ICEs, TCs and MGU-Hs with only one fresh unit of all these three components available for him in 2020.

Ferrari has experienced technical gremlins with its control electronics with both its costumer teams. Both Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen have already started using their second and last control electronics. They are, of course, allowed to use their first unit any time in the season if that is still healthy to operate properly.

Honda also had problems related to the power unit electrical system. An engine electrical issue wrecked Alexander Albon’s battle at the Austrian Grand Prix. Honda introduced reliability fixes and changed the control electronics in the Thai driver’ car for the second race.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly’s Honda power unit also caused for headaches at the Hungaroring. The Japanese engine manufacturer installed a fresh ICE, TC, MGU-H and MGU-K into the AT01, but his race was brought to a premature end following drivetrain issues despite the fresh PU elements.

Hamilton hungry for new records

Formula One’s six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is gazing intently at the barrel of a record-equalling seventh drivers’ crown. Enjoying the benefits of his untouchable, ultra-dominant and unbeatable Mercedes W11, the 35-year-old has every chance this year to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles, Formula One’s most important feat. With the development freeze that has been introduced as a reaction to the coronavirus-induced financial issues, the Briton may easily wrap up his eighth title at the end of 2021 given the current dominance of Mercedes’ current splendid vehicle.

Hamilton is on the verge of setting other important records as well. When it comes to race wins, it nearly appears to be inescapable Hamilton will take the record, with the Briton’s 86 successes only five down on the amazing Schumacher’s 91.

The Mercedes driver is likewise chanced on to take the great German’s untouched podium record this year. Schumacher secured 155 podium finishes in his illustrious grand prix career while Hamilton has already 153 podium finishes to his name.

The Stevenage-born driver could also surpass Schumacher’s record for most wins with the same team. The Kerpen-born won 72 of his races with the fabled Ferrari team while Hamilton has already won 65 races for Mercedes.

Schumacher currently holds the one-venue record with eight wins at the French GP which was equalled by Hamilton at the Hungaroring just eight days ago.

Growing calendar

After the coronavirus outbreak forced the sport to suspend the action in Australia in March, the FIA and Formula One announced the first eight events of the heavily-revised 2020 F1 calendar at the beginning of June. The first phase of the new revised schedule incorporates eight races over a period of ten weeks – a demanding schedule for teams, drivers and travelling staff!

The condensed programme led to two triple-headers, something that teams were not enthusiastic about when it was first sampled back in 2018. However, the travel restrictions and the uncertainty revolving around the coronavirus pandemic left the sport with no other choice than exploit the European summer that was always going to bring a small improvement of the situation. This then led to two double-headers in Austria and Great Britain and single events in Hungary, Spain, Belgium and Italy.

The calendar has been extended since with further five venues joining the condensed schedule. The Ferrari-owned Mugello will play host to round 9 of the championship with Russia’s Sochi organising the last race in September. The Tuscan Grand Prix will see Ferrari, the most successful competitor in Formula One celebrate its 1000th race at the pinnacle of motorsport on home soil.

Germany’s iconic race track Nürburgring will welcome the field on October 9-11, followed by the inauaugral Portuguese Grand Prix. The latter will be staged on the thrilling, fast and flowing roller coaster of the Portimao circuit that hosted pre-season testing back in 2009.

Despite all the negative consequences and health issues caused by the coronavirus, fans will be able to enjoy a third race in the beautful Italy at the end of autumn. Imola’s Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari will make its comeback to compete Italy's three-race appearance in F1 in 2020. It will be the first time since 2006 and 2013 respectively that Imola and Nurburgring have hosted F1 Grands Prix.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and personnel safe, the sport has announced that it will not be possible to race in Brazil, USA, Mexico and Canada this season. Formula 1 expects the revised 2020 season to have between 15 to 18 races, ending in the Gulf region in mid-December. It is believed that Bahrain will host a double-header before the curtain falls on the unprecedented season at Abu Dhabi.