For the last couple of years, Formula 1 has been dominated by Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull.
These three teams have effectively had the upper hand since 2007. Bar 2009, when Brawn GP won both championships, it’s been a power struggle for supremacy between these teams.
Mind you, Mercedes-AMG bought Brawn GP in 2009 and subsequently renamed it to Mercedes for 2010 onward.
Behind the triumphant trio, battles have been raging - some in the midfield, and others at the back of the field. While the levels of the respective successes are varying, some of the players in the sport are left with tons of work to do.
The likes of Williams have been in the doldrums for almost 20 years, while Renault can’t deliver on the promised hype they conjure at the start of each season.
Be that as it may, some teams have all to play for this year as the sport readies itself for the all-important 2021 season. Though next year's cars will be vastly different to this year's, the financial incentives for scoring good results can go a long way in funding the next generation of F1 cars.
Mercedes' 2020 F1 car. Image: TeamTalk
ROKit Williams Racing
Following years of being the team's main sponsor, Martini packed their bags and withdrew their involvement. In comes ROKit, who will be looking for their investment to return the desired dividends. But Williams has a long way to go if they are to improve on their 2019 showing.
Last year, the team only scored one solitary point throughout the whole season - albeit by luck. They were never close to any competitive level and need the new F1 season to turn their fortunes around. To regard this season as a success, Williams’ team boss, Claire Williams, is looking to make it to Q2 of each race's qualifying session and finish every race in the in the top ten. Or at least try to.
Whether or not the team achieve their goals or not, they need to improve on their 2019 showing. In George Russell and Nicholas Latifi the team has two young drivers who are hungry for success, and who can help to lift the team from their last-place finish in 2019.
When Haas joined the sport in 2016, they had a very good debut season. In the subsequent years, the team fell from grace and struggled to string together a series of good results. In 2018 and 2019, Haas F1 fell victim to driver Romain Grosjean’s incident-prone racing, including clashes between him and team mate Kevin Magnussen.
In 2019, an out-of-contract Grosjean was rumoured to be replaced by ousted Renault driver, Nico Hulkenberg. Much to everyone’s surprise, Haas opted to retain Grosjean’s services.
Grosjean’s antics cost the team a full haul of points in many races and he’ll have to show the team that he can bring home the maximum result. One driver (Magnussen) can’t carry the team’s performance on his shoulders alone, and Haas will need Grosjean to pull his weight. If not, the team can prepare for another woeful season.
Renault F1 team
Following Hulkenberg’s ousting, the team opted to rake in the services of Mercedes reserve driver, Esteban Ocon. The new partnership between Renault and Ocon, and also Daniel Ricciardo and Ocon, should see the team return to the podium - hopefully.
In 2019, Renault was bested to fourth place overall by McLaren who, ironically, is racing with a Renault engine. The team suffered from poor reliability last year, as well as on-track incidents with rival teams.
2020 is a particularly big year for Renault, because Ricciardo will be out of contract come year-end, and teams like Ferrari are rumoured to have interest in him for the 2021 season. Going into next year, Renault will want to keep stability in the team and Ricciardo is an integral part of that.
2020 Renault F1 car. Image: Getty Images
It’s probably a bit strange to see Ferrari make the list, but the team has been carrying the ‘best of the rest’ tag since 2008. The great Italian F1 team struggled against Red Bull Racing (2010 – 2013), and now Mercedes (2014 -). Even acquiring the services of Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen (twice), and Sebastian Vettel did little to improve their showing.
In 2019 things improved for the better when Charles Leclerc joined the team, but Vettel, the team’s quadruple world champion, could not match his younger team mate for pace.
Ferrari wants to topple Mercedes in 2020, but they also have to decide on their driver line-up for 2021. Vettel, who’s contract expires at the end of this year, has until May to convince Ferrari’s top brass that he is still competitive. If not, he could be replaced by Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, or even Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
The 2020 F1 season begins in Australia, 13 - 15 March.