How very Formula 1 to focus on 2021 before this new season is even born. That’s down to a virulent driver ‘silly season’, in which Lewis Hamilton and his Ferrari flirtation will take centre stage, and the new technical rules designed to improve the racing spectacle next year. But hold the horses: it’s January. Let’s get excited about 2020 first, as we gaze into the void of a season ripe with promise.
Hamilton needs seven more grand prix wins to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91, as he also chases the German’s benchmark of seven world titles. But the ‘new-gen’ chargers, led by Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, will pick up from where they left off in 2019 and bid to dethrone him. Then there’s Sebastian Vettel: can he break the perception of a career in the throes of a long, slow decline? We asked that last year, too, but now an answer is vital if he is to have an F1 future beyond this year.
In the World Rally Championship, new king Ott Tänak will engage once more with the man he’s dethroned, six-time champion Sébastien Ogier. Both will wear new colours. Estonian Tänak has abandoned Toyota despite his title success in favour of Hyundai, creating a tasty intra-team dynamic with spiky incumbent Thierry Neuville. Meanwhile, Ogier has quit Citroën – which has promptly departed the WRC in a French strop – to fill Tänak’s still-warm seat at Toyota. In their hands, world rallying is at long last enjoying a new golden era.
Another era is fizzling out with barely a whimper in the World Endurance Championship. Even more than F1, it’s the (near) future where the intrigue lies. Toyota is likely to claim a hat-trick of wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours as the final curtain for the once-great LMP1 class falls, before Gazoo Racing takes on Aston Martin in the WEC’s shiny, new hypercar code. A shame we can’t skip the pages and flick straight to 5 September for the first round, at Silverstone.
The British Touring Car Championship rides again from March, with Colin Turkington bidding to become the series’ outright most successful driver, in terms of titles – he wants to ‘claim the fifth’ in his BMW 3 Series. Meanwhile, record race winner Jason Plato is bound to be back to chase a personal ton. At the final round of 2019, he broke a lengthy drought to score his 97th BTCC victory. Has he really got three more in him? One thing is sure: he’ll back himself to do it.