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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  • Hero to villain to idiot - Ibrahimovic costs Milan lions in Coppa Italia derby Hero to villain to idiot - Ibrahimovic costs Milan lions in Coppa Italia derby

    "You want to speak about my mother?"

    Romelu Lukaku was seething. A yellow card and a stern talking to from referee Paolo Valeri having done nothing to lift the red mist.

    Inter's diminutive playmaker Nicolo Barella attaching himself to Lukaku's torso in a bid to calm the powerhouse striker was one of the more memorable sights of an action-packed first 45 minutes in this Milan derby for a place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

    Or the Derby della Madonnina, to give the game its full, grander title. A game that takes its name from a pristine golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

    It seemed for all the world that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had not spoken about Lukaku's mother with such reverence.

    Here was Milan's 39-year-old talisman, who suggested the youthful make-up of the Serie A leaders' XI was a factor in their 3-0 weekend defeat to Atalanta, deciding to display his own brand of leadership in the guise of juvenile schoolyard bully.

    Ibrahimovic's crowing chuckle as mayhem unfurled around him (Arturo Vidal got involved - of course he did - for no apparent reason) was one of a player who had recently enjoyed a familiar feeling for the 499th time in his career.

    Freed from shackles of their knife-edge Scudetto battle, both teams played with freedom and the intent to land a psychological blow. The fact each team had the same idea appeared to irritate all concerned, but it made for great entertainment.

    It is doubtful Antonio Conte would consider such a cavalier selection in league combat as he rolled out on Inter's left flank here. Ivan Perisic was at wing-back, paying as much attention as you'd expect to the part of his position lurking after the hyphen.

    That increased the defensive burden on Aleksandar Kolarov on, a defender who has worn 11 for the bulk of his career. Kolarov's shirt number is a statement of particular intent.

    Ibrahimovic showed he recognised that point of weakness in the 13th minute, when he leapt athletically to meet a Rafael Leao cross, knocking Perisic and Kolarov to the ground in the process. Brahim Diaz was just unable to turn home.

    Kolarov still seemed distracted when he backed off enough for the former Sweden international to fire though his legs and beyond Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

    The script seemed written, goal 500 was surely on the way to take Ibrahimovic closer to yet another piece of silverware. Why not have some fun and wind up the opposition's star man.

    Ibrahimovic's language and his message seemed appalling, with ESPN footage showing him at one point appearing to yell: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

    A flaw in the plan to rile Lukaku was the yellow card that Ibrahimovic received for his part in the spat. Not a problem in itself, but in the 58th minute he clumsily and needlessly fouled Kolarov to collect a second booking.

    Displaying none of his vast experience, Ibrahimovic had gone from hero to villain to idiot within half an hour of playing time.

    And so, it was over to the youngsters and backup players who the star striker sometimes seems to consider walk-on extras in his one-man show.

    First there was on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori, who was quickly disabused of the notion he had escaped chaos by leaving Chelsea this week. Thrust into a debut by Simon Kjaer's first-half injury, he made a brilliant last-ditch block to deny Lukaku.

    Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez defended heroically down the Milan left but reduced numbers forced willing attacking players back to man unfamiliar barricades. Leao was pressed into action and brought down Barella. After consulting the pitchside monitor Valeri pointed to the spot.

    Lukaku has been known to roll his penalties home. On this occasion, he tested the structural integrity of the crossbar and the ball ricocheted into the turf and home. Then there was a shouting match with a team-mate (Yes, Vidal; nope, no idea).

    Enough mayhem? Nonsense. Valeri had to limp out of the action injured. Fourth official Daniele Chiffi looked like he was putting on the microphone and headset for the first time in his life and 10 minutes of stoppage time were required.

    In the seventh of those, wantaway midfielder Christian Eriksen curled home a sumptuous free-kick, leaving Ciprian Tatarusanu no chance to add to his fine catalogue of eight saves.

    Last act for Eriksen? Maybe. Definitely last laugh for Lukaku.

    Ibrahimovic likes to call himself a lion but Tatarusanu and the Milan players he left behind were the lions here, roaring defiantly at wave after wave of Inter attacks before buckling at the last. Nine of Inter's 27 shots were blocked.

    After fatefully dwelling too long in self-parody at the end of the first half, Ibrahimovic owes them an apology, and surely Lukaku is also due one. Perhaps they shouldn't hold their breath.

  • Chelsea appoint Tuchel: Fixing Werner woes on new coach's to-do list Chelsea appoint Tuchel: Fixing Werner woes on new coach's to-do list

    Thomas Tuchel's appointment as the new Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday - and the new man does not have a lot of time to get settled.

    Frank Lampard was sacked on Monday, with Tuchel's widely anticipated arrival promptly following.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain coach took charge of training on his first day and will be thrust straight into the spotlight when Chelsea host Wolves on Wednesday.

    The Blues entered the latest round of Premier League fixtures sitting ninth in the table and Tuchel will be looking for an immediate impact.

    But there are long-term tasks to complete, too, if the German is to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of his initial contract, which runs to 2022.
     

    HELP WERNER AND HAVERTZ

    Having worked with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar during his time at PSG, Tuchel knows all about the challenges of motivating some of the world's top talents.

    At Chelsea, that will mean eliciting an improvement in the performance of his much-criticised compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

    Werner, for whom Chelsea paid RB Leipzig close to £50million, scored 28 Bundesliga goals in 34 appearances last season but has mustered just four in 19 in the Premier League, the most recent of which came on November 7.

    Meanwhile, Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen with a price tag in the region of £70million and a reputation as one of Europe's most creative young stars but has one goal, two assists and just 11 key passes to date.

    Tuchel will be asked to get more from the Germany pair to boost a Chelsea team who have scored only four goals in their past five league outings.
     

    KEEP ACADEMY ACES INVOLVED

    Hindered by a transfer ban in his first season in charge, Lampard at least made use of Chelsea's impressive academy to bring a number of young talents into the team.

    Perhaps most exciting among those were Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour.

    Both Mount, 22, and Gilmour, 19, started Lampard's final game in charge against Luton Town and formed a creative double-pivot in an attack-minded side, earning praise from the coach for their discipline and movement.

    Mount will surely feature in Tuchel's immediate plans, but Chelsea will hope both the England midfielder and team-mate Gilmour can continue to develop over the coming years.
     

    SETTLE ON HIS BEST SIDE

    Between the big spending ahead of this season and the promotion of a number of academy talents, Lampard was certainly not short of options. But that might have been to his detriment.

    Looking to pack an array of star names into a first XI, the team too often lacked balance.

    Juggling club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James proved tricky, while Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma - seemingly Lampard's preferred centre-back pairing - have started together in only 14 of the 29 games so far this season in all competitions.

    There has been concern regarding the form of N'Golo Kante, perhaps played out of position, while Lampard struggled to work out the best fit up front in his 4-3-3.

    Tuchel must be more decisive.
     

    EFFECTIVELY MANAGE UPWARDS

    An increasingly strained relationship with director Marina Granovskaia reportedly contributed to Lampard's demise, so keeping the Chelsea board onside will be crucial for Tuchel.

    Dealings with the top brass at PSG in his previous job were not always straightforward for Tuchel and may have been a factor behind his departure from Paris, which came despite impressive results across recent seasons.

    Criticism of PSG's transfer business did not go down well with sporting director Leonardo, who fired back at the coach, telling him he "must decide to respect the choices of the sports management".

    Tuchel could hardly complain about the level of investment at Stamford Bridge over the past year, so similar comments towards Chelsea power-brokers would be unlikely to go down well.

  • Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge? Tuchel prospered at PSG - can he succeed at Stamford Bridge?

    A day after club great Frank Lampard was shown the door by Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has been confirmed as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge.

    Having departed Paris Saint-Germain in late December, the highly regarded tactician will now continue his coaching career in England.  

    Former Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel won two straight Ligue 1 titles and steered PSG to the Champions League final last season, yet ownership decided the time was right for a change in the French capital.

    Mauricio Pochettino's status as a free agent arguably persuaded PSG to act fast and the boot is now on the other foot for Tuchel, whose availability has allowed him to step straight in at Stamford Bridge.

    FROM PARIS TO LONDON

    There was little Christmas cheer for Tuchel, who left PSG with a record similar to his predecessor in the job - Unai Emery. Both recorded an average of 2.37 points per game in Ligue 1 - tied for the best in club history.  

    The German tops the list when it comes to top-flight win rate at 75.6 per cent (62 wins from 82 games), though that number dips slightly when taking into consideration all competitions, albeit only down to 74.8 per cent (Emery's was higher, at 76.3 per cent).

    Like Lampard, Tuchel lost his job on the back of a convincing home win. PSG thrashed Strasbourg 4-0 in his final game and, while that result on December 23 left them third in the table, they were sitting just a point behind leaders Lyon. 

    Only Laurent Blanc (173 games) was in the PSG post for longer than Tuchel in the time since Qatar Sports Investments purchased the French club. 

    Tuchel averaged 2.67 goals per game in Ligue 1.

    It helps to have a squad that contains stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, of course, though he was the first PSG boss to make it beyond the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, the one trophy that has so far eluded the owners.

    An unconvincing start this term was enough to lead to change. Tuchel became the first PSG head coach to be fired during a season despite sitting in the top three of Ligue 1 since Antoine Kombouare, who lost his job during the 2011-12 campaign.


    FAMILIARITY, PLUS A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

    Roman Abramovich made clear he has the "utmost respect" for Lampard in the statement released to confirm his departure. Still, there was no doubt left over the reason for making the change. 

    "We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as head coach of the club," the statement read from Chelsea.

    "However, recent results and performances have not met the club's expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement." 

    Chelsea have a home game against Wolves on Wednesday and Tuchel will get up and running by taking training on the eve of the match. He takes over a team in ninth place, though just five points off fourth in what is a congested league table. 

    It will be hoped the new man can get the best out of compatriots Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, two of Chelsea's big-money recruits in the previous window who have yet to fire. 

    However, Tuchel will also need to tighten things up at the back, particularly on the road. At PSG, his teams conceded 0.81 goals per game, while it should be noted they leaked just six in Champions League action in 2019-20.

    Since the start of the previous season, only Newcastle (54) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than Chelsea (50).

    They kept a clean sheet in just 17 per cent of their away games under Lampard; among those to have taken charge of 10 or more such fixtures in the competition, this is the lowest percentage of any Chelsea boss. 

    Tuchel will, of course, be able to call upon his old PSG captain Thiago Silva in trying to mastermind a defensive revival.

    There will also be an expectancy to improve the team's fortunes against their major rivals, too. 

    Since August 2019, Chelsea have won just 15 points against fellow 'big six' sides, a joint-low tally alongside Arsenal. During that run, they have scored 17 goals and conceded 28 times. 

    At least Tuchel understands the demands of working for owners with lofty expectations. There is still time to turn this season around but, like his most recent Stamford Bridge predecessors, he will be expected to produce instant results.

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