With just under 80 days until Formula 1 action resumes at Australia in 2020, we take a look at some of the biggest news updates for the upcoming season(that were not reported when announced).

Esteban Ocon To Replace Hulkenberg At Renault

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The Renault F1 team has opted to substitute Nico Hulkenberg with some fresher talent by bringing on fellow-compatriot Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman used to drive for the Force India team but did not have a position under the new management of Racing Point. Ocon has had chances to showcase his racing potential as a batchmate of Verstappen but has often been thwarted by his own temperament. In 2020, he will be racing alongside Daniel Ricciardo as the Renault team aims to fight for podiums. Esteban has been far from idle in 2019 as the Mercedes academy driver became the top team’s development driver, spending long hours in the company simulator and testing other products aiding the R&D. The 23-year old has a lot to prove as he prepares to line up on the grid for the next two seasons and will avoid driving into his Aussie teammate.

Williams Sign Latifi As Kubica Bids Adieu

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When it was first reported that Robert Kubica would be making a return to Formula 1 after his horrific rally crash from 2011, many race fans were really looking forward to it. But it didn’t take long to realise that he would spend his time at the back of the grid in an embarrassment of an F1 car called the ROKiT Williams Racing FW42. A car that just about made it to the grid at the start of the season after many hurdles in development. He was also driving alongside 2018’s F2 champion George Russell who outqualified him at every race this season(a new record). Understandably, Robert has decided to close the F1 chapter and Williams have roped in Nicholas Latifi to fill his space. Latifi was already the team’s reserve driver and has made a few outings during practice sessions too. The 24-year old was the final signing for the 2020 grid that also confirmed Hulkenberg’s exit from the sport.

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While I’m sure Kubica has plenty of racing left in him, even with his slight physical disadvantage, it appears F1 is not the format in his future. Still, it was good to see him get a full season before he got to retire from it, properly. The Pole is expected to be seen in the DTM. While it doesn’t change anything, it still blows my mind that Robert is the same age as Lewis and was showing a lot of promise until that rally accident. Funny how things can turn out in life.

Everyone Else Retains Same Lineup For 2020

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While four of the top six seats were spoken for, most other seats got confirmed around mid-way through the season. Valtteri Bottas will stay with Mercedes while Alexander Albon will keep his seat in Red Bull Racing next to Verstappen. That means Pierre Gasly will spend another season with Toro Rosso with Daniil Kvyat as his teammate. Best of the rest McLaren are delighted to keep both of their young talents – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. Haas already had Kevin Magnussen for 2020 while Romain Grosjean got confirmed during the season but the team will likely get a new title sponsor.

Alfa Romeo had already signed Kimi Raikkonen till 2020 and has decided to retain Antonio Giovinazzi. Meanwhile, Racing Point signed an extension to keep Sergio Perez for another three years while Lance Stroll still keeps his seat in the team that his father owns.

Vietnam To Debut On 2020 F1 Calendar

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A sport like F1 is always looking to grow its audience and reach new markets. Under American ownership, the first all-new venue to be added to the calendar will be the Hanoi Street Circuit for the Vietnamese GP. It is a mix of both street as well as permanent track sections, taking inspiration from iconic tracks such as Suzuka and Monaco. In the final version, it has 23 corners including a 1.6km long straight. There is a virtual lap on the F1 website while the track structures are still under construction. From that virtual tour, it is my opinion that this circuit may turn out to be a lot like Sochi and Melbourne – look cool but don’t deliver much excitement. The corners seem too quick for overtaking excitement and the fast sections will make the DRS advantage a bit too overpowered. It also seems to lack significant changes in elevation. The addition of the Vietnam GP also make the 2022 F1 calendar the busiest one ever, with 22 races packed into one season. It will be the third race, before China, scheduled for 5th April.

Icon Swaps: Netherlands In, Germany Out

The 2020 F1 calendar will not feature a trip to Germany, no Hockenheimring nor Nurburgring. Instead, F1 is making a return to the Netherlands where the grid will line up on the Zandvoort circuit. This track hasn’t hosted F1 since 1985 and if you look up the podium for that GP, get ready to be awestruck – Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Artyon Senna. The Dutch GP will be Verstappen’s home race and I’m excited to see the orange army in full force. In fact, Zandvoort will kick off the European leg of the 2020 season with the race scheduled for 3rd May.

At the same time, it’s a shame to see the German GP skipped after being voted the most exciting race of 2019. Meanwhile, other F1 venues such as Mexico, Azerbaijan and Britain have all extended their contracts for a few more years.

While the Dutch circuit is being spruced up to host the 21st-century version of the sport, get a rough idea of what it’s like onboard with Verstappen himself:

These are some of the biggest news updates for the upcoming 2020 Formula 1 season. To know more about the rule changes for 2021, a season that no teams have officially signed up for, click here.

Stay tuned for more updates and don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons blog and follow us on Twitter too (@autoloons).

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