F1 2020: What has changed during the coronavirus delay?

By Sports Desk July 01, 2020

At long last, the 2020 Formula One season will finally begin this week.

The action will begin with the Austrian Grand Prix behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring, with the Steiermark Grand Prix being held at the same track the following weekend.

Silverstone will also stage two races this year, with Hungary, Spain, Belgium and Italy the only other confirmed events as things stand.

The season had been due to get underway with the Australian Grand Prix in March, but it was cancelled after a member of the McLaren garage tested positive for COVID-19.

A lot of things have changed since then, so we have recapped the biggest stories during the four-month coronavirus hiatus.

 

Vettel decision sparks driver changes

Ferrari announced that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel would not remain with the team beyond the end of this season.

The German has yet to find another seat in F1, with Carlos Sainz to replace him at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo leaving Renault for McLaren.

Toto Wolff confirmed Mercedes are monitoring Vettel's situation, though Valtteri Bottas claims he was told by the Silver Arrows there is nothing to the story.

Renault are yet to disclose who will take Ricciardo's place in 2021, with a shock return for two-time champion Fernando Alonso mooted.

Regulation changes pushed back to 2022

The pandemic forced a number of teams to furlough staff or reduce the size of their workforce, while F1 brought its mandatory mid-season shutdown period forward and extended it.

Together with the reduction in income from the lack of racing, sweeping changes to the technical regulations that were expected to challenge Mercedes' dominance of the series have been pushed back.

Teams will now contest the 2021 season in the same cars as this year, with the new rules instead coming into effect from 2022.

Budget cap implemented and reduced

In a bid to level the playing field in F1, for the first time a cost cap will come into effect from the 2021 season. This will limit the amount teams can spend on their cars to $145million.

The cap had initially been set at $175m but was lowered to avoid the possibility of some constructors spending up to that limit while others found themselves incapable of doing so due to the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

In 2022 the cap will be reduced to $140m, before dropping to $135m the following year and remaining there. This was done to make it easier for the bigger teams to adjust the size and scale of their operations.

Mercedes manoeuvring

A key member of Mercedes' six-year domination of F1 has left the team.

Managing director Andy Cowell, who had direct responsibility for the F1 power unit, helped establish Mercedes at the pinnacle of the sport in his 16 years with the team, but Hywel Thomas took over from him on July 1.

Mercedes team principal Wolff bought a stake in Aston Martin, which is controlled by Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll.

Wolff insisted a personal investment "has nothing to do with Formula One", despite the fact Racing Point will be rebranded as Aston Martin on the 2021 grid.

A push for diversity

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton criticised the Formula One community for its silence in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May, which sparked anti-racism protests around the globe.

The 35-year-old Briton subsequently partnered with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, looking at how more young people from black backgrounds can be brought into motorsport or be employed elsewhere in the field of engineering. F1 has also set up a new task force to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport.

Mercedes signalled their commitment to fighting racism and discrimination by unveiling an all-black livery in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, switching from their traditional Silver Arrows design.

Hamilton and Bottas will race in black overalls, while 'End Racism' will feature on the halo of both cars and the F1 initiative #WeRaceAsOne will appear on the mirrors.

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  • Michael Jordan becomes NASCAR team owner with Bubba Wallace as driver Michael Jordan becomes NASCAR team owner with Bubba Wallace as driver

    Michael Jordan has joined forces with NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin to form a team for the 2021 season that will have Bubba Wallace as its driver.

    Chicago Bulls legend Jordan, who is also owner of NBA team the Charlotte Hornets, announced the link-up with Hamlin via social media.

    The new team will see a high-profile pairing of a black majority team owner in Jordan and the only black driver in the top NASCAR series in Wallace.

    Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, said he is excited by the chance to create more opportunities for black drivers in a sport he loves.

    "Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I've been a NASCAR fan my whole life," the 57-year-old said in a statement. 

    "The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

    "Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. 

    "In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for black people in racing."

    Earlier this year, Jordan pledged $100million to initiatives tackling systemic racism over the next 10 years.

    By completing the purchase of a NASCAR team charter from Germain Racing, Jordan is the first black majority owner of a full-time race team in the premier series since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car from the 1960s to the early 1970s.

    Wallace, who has been vocal in leading protests against social inequality and helped secure a ban on the controversial Confederate flag from races, was at the centre of an FBI investigation after a noose was found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway during an event in June.

    It was later announced the investigation found the noose was in place since 2019 and no crime had been committed. 

    Wallace said the opportunity to work for Jordan a chance he simply could not pass up.

    "This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career," he said.

    "Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. 

    "I'm grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I'm super pumped to begin this adventure with them."

    Hamlin will be a minority partner while he continues to drive the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing and explained he had been friends with Jordan for some time.

    "Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends," Hamlin wrote. 

    "Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level. 

    "Deciding on the driver was easy it had to be Bubba Wallace."

    He added: "It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I'm done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level. 

    "Plus, Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it."

  • Five years on: The story behind Robert Lewandowski's five goals in nine minutes Five years on: The story behind Robert Lewandowski's five goals in nine minutes

    Robert Lewandowski famously scored five goals in just nine minutes for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg five years ago today.

    The Poland international achieved the astonishing feat on September 22, 2015 in a match that ultimately finished 5-1 to Bayern.

    A half-time substitute, Lewandowski's heroics ensured Bayern came from behind to thrash Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena.

    Here, we look at the story behind one of the finest moments of Lewandowski's career.

    WHAT HAPPENED

    Then a 27-year-old, Lewandowski was introduced at half-time and fired in a four-minute hat-trick before adding two more in a breathless spell from Bayern.

    Bayern had started the game on the front foot, but Wolfsburg stunned the home fans on 26 minutes as Daniel Caligiuri fired in emphatically following Julian Draxler's pass.

    Pep Guardiola's side struggled to break through a resilient away defence and they almost found themselves two down when Josuha Guilavogui hit the post from inside his own half, with Manuel Neuer stranded.

    But the half-time arrival of Lewandowski turned the game on its head as he became the first substitute to score five times in a Bundesliga match, leaving Wolfsburg shellshocked.

    THE FIVE GOALS

    With things not looking good, Guardiola threw on Lewandowski and the change paid dividends almost immediately, with his first arriving on 51 minutes. 

    Thomas Muller was denied by goalkeeper Diego Benaglio after a fine team move involving Mario Gotze and Arturo Vidal, but Lewandowski was on hand to poke the ball home on the rebound.

    The Poland striker put Bayern in front just a minute later, lashing the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

    He then sealed a stunning four-minute hat-trick - the fastest in Bundesliga history - as he prodded in after initially hitting the post after being set up by Muller.

    Wolfsburg were completely rattled and Lewandowski helped himself to a fourth in the 57th minute as he turned in Douglas Costa's cross with a crisp strike.

    But the former Borussia Dortmund man saved his best for last in the 60th minute - a sensational acrobatic volley which flew past Benaglio and left Guardiola speechless on the sidelines.

    IT COULD HAVE BEEN SEVEN

    A combination of Benaglio and Ricardo Rodriguez on the goal-line only just stopped Lewandowski from scoring again in the closing stages.

    There was another chance too - former Bayern defender Dante blocked another Lewandowski effort inside the area as the champions cruised to victory.

    The win put Bayern three points clear at the top of the table and they went on to win the title by a margin of 10 to nearest challengers Dortmund.

    After the match, Bayern defender Philipp Lahm said Lewandowski could, and perhaps should, have added to his total after the initial five-goal heroics.

    Lahm said: "At half-time a player came in who did a little something. It was incredible. Just madness. And he had two more chances, so he should have gone home with seven goals."

    WHAT HE SAID

    Immediately following the match, Lewandowski admitted it was an "incredible" feeling to score five goals in just nine second-half minutes and did not realise at the time how quickly his goals had come.

    "I am very satisfied, that was incredible," he said. "I just wanted to shoot, I didn't really think what will happen afterwards.

    "Having been one down, we knew that we must improve and score twice at least. But five goals, that's incredible.

    "I don't know how fast it was, but it was fast. But when you're on the pitch, you're just focused on football. I looked at the scoreboard, it was the 60th minute and I only thought: 'Ooh.'

    "Guardiola didn't need to say anything, I know what I have to do on the pitch."

    Lewandowski was asked to compare the game to Dortmund's 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in the 2012-13 Champions League semi-finals, in which he scored four.

    "It was a very important game - that was a very big event in my life," he said. "Now five goals, that is a great night for me."

    Reflecting on his performance the morning after, Lewandowski thanked fans on Instagram and apologised for not making himself available for requested media appearances due to Bayern's busy schedule.

    Lewandowski described it as "an amazing evening for me", alongside a picture of himself with the signed match ball.

    He insisted he was most glad to have helped the team and acknowledged messages of congratulations he had received from all over the world. 

    WHAT THEY SAID

    Speaking to reporters after the match, team-mate Jerome Boateng called Lewandowski one of the world's best strikers and was grateful he only had to compete with him in training.

    Guardiola, meanwhile, who had been visibly baffled on the touchline, was left in disbelief, saying: "I've never experienced such a situation, either as coach or as a player.

    "Five goals in nine minutes. I am very happy for Robert. You play poorly for 45 minutes and then grab five goals in nine minutes. I cannot explain it."

    Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking was less thrilled but fared no better in attempting to explain Lewandowski's showing. 

    He said: "What can I say? A world-class striker shot five times on goal and could have scored seven. That is how it happened.

    "But with our quality this should not happen. We had a good first half and Bayern could not up the pace of the game and then came these nine minutes. It's inexplicable."

    Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold could only rue the defensive collapse from his side, adding: "We can't explain that, five goals in nine minutes. There is no reason to talk about it, it's just s***."

    Lewandowski's agent Cezary Kucharski was thrilled with the impact the feat had on his client's market value, but all but ruled out a move to one of the Manchester clubs amid a flurry of increased transfer talk after the match.

    "Games like the one against Wolfsburg immensely help a player increase his value," he said. "I have a plan for the rest of Robert's career in my head.

    "Could that plan take him to Manchester? It's always raining over there. Munich is much more beautiful and a better place to live."

    Kucharski suggested a move to Spain would be more appealing, but as we know he ultimately remained at Bayern, signing a lucrative new contract in December 2017.

    That deal was extended with fresh terms in August 2019, tying him to the club until 2023.

    THE BEST OPTA STATS

    Since the start of the 2015-16 season - when Lewandowski's five-goal performance took place - there is only one player who has scored more goals than him in Europe's top-five leagues: Lionel Messi.

    - Messi has netted 158 times, compared to a magnificent 146 for Lewandowski over that period.

    - The Poland striker's total puts him above other greats like Cristiano Ronaldo (139), Luis Suarez (131), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (124) and Harry Kane (120).

    How does Lewandowski's feat compare to other similar achievements?

    - In Serie A, since 1986 there has only been one example of a player scoring five goals in a game, which was when Miroslav Klose did so for Lazio against Bologna in May 2013. That took him 40 minutes.

    - Five players have done that during the Premier League era in England: Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe, Dimitar Berbatov and Sergio Aguero. Manchester City striker Aguero was the fastest, scoring his five in 20 minutes.

    - No LaLiga player has scored five since 1960. Laszlo Kubala has the Spanish top-flight's record for the fastest five-goal streak at 19 minutes, as part of seven he scored in a 1952 match for Barcelona against Sporting Gijon.

    - In Ligue 1, there has only been one occasion since 1984, which was Carlos Eduardo's quintet for Nice against Guingamp in October 2014. The French top-flight record for fastest five goals is held by Carlos Bianchi at 31 minutes, scored for Reims against Paris Saint-Germain in 1974.

    - Lewandowski's nine minutes is the fastest in Germany and across the top-five leagues, though Luka Jovic emulated his haul three years later for Eintracht Frankfurt against Dusseldorf in October 2018.

    - Those two feats were the only occasions of a player scoring five or more in the Bundesliga since 1991. The great Gerd Muller did it four times between 1972 and 1976.

  • Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data

    Another season and another missed opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Prior to the season shutting down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks were the team to beat in the NBA.

    But Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not the same inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort – the Eastern Conference top seeds eliminated by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the semi-finals.

    While superstar Antetokounmpo claimed back-to-back MVP honours, there are more questions than answers in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are still waiting for their first championship since 1971.

    Antetokounmpo is also set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

    As the ageing Bucks try to pick up the pieces and provide adequate support for Antetokounmpo in pursuit of NBA glory, we review Milwaukee's season using STATA data.

     

    Bucks fall short… again

    In 2018-19, the Bucks finished with the best regular-season record at 60-22 as Antetokounmpo earned his first MVP award. But Milwaukee went down to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

    This season, the Bucks owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

    Unconvincing against the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks were no match for Jimmy Butler and the red-hot Heat as their wait for a first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 goes on.

    The Bucks are the second team ever to have the outright best record in the NBA two seasons in a row and not reach the Finals in either season, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

     

    Giannis struggles from the line

    For all his remarkable skill, Antetokounmpo's shooting remains an Achilles heel. The "Greek Freak" and his free-throw shooting was a lot worse this season – it was the third largest season-to-season decline in NBA history among players with at least 600 attempts in both campaigns.

    In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo was 72.9 per cent from the line but he was just 63.3 per cent this season, a differential of 9.6 per cent. San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan tops the list with a difference of 14.3 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal (13.2 per cent from 2002-03 to 2003-04).

    To put things into context, Antetokounmpo missed 231 free throws during the regular season, and the Bucks' 17 losses during the regular season were by a combined 157 points.

    When Giannis is shooting well from the free-throw line, the Bucks are usually winning. Over the past two seasons (regular season and playoffs), Milwaukee have a record of 61-8 (88.4 per cent) when he makes at least 70 per cent of his free throws in a game – including a 9-0 record in the playoffs. So him making more shots from the line could be a key to their future success.

     

    Antetokounmpo's health and fitness

    The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, missed Milwaukee's Game 5 loss to the Heat due to an ankle injury.

    Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle in Game 4 but sat out the must-win clash as the Bucks departed the playoffs, despite Khris Middleton's best efforts.

    Over his career, Antetokounmpo has played at least 35 minutes in less than half of his playoff games (21 of 43). Lakers superstar LeBron James (224 of 249), on the other hand, has done that in 90 per cent of his playoff games.

    Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 Spurs.

    So basically, if the Bucks are going to win a title, they are likely going to need their star player to play more minutes.

    Three-point defending

    As good as the Bucks are, they are obviously not without their flaws.

    Three-point defense was a big issue in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20. Milwaukee allowed 14 three-pointers per game in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, both of which were the most in NBA history (minimum 10 games for the playoffs).

    Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have plenty to figure out heading into 2020-21.

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