F1 News 2020 January Week 1 Update: Formula 1 Fridays

F1 News 2020 January Week 1 is the first F1 news round up and serves as our overture into a decade of impending Formula 1 regulation change. This week’s news highlights are focused on changes of the different sort – team personal. McLaren fill out their leadership structure to brighten their future in F1 while Kubica returns to the grid in a reserve seat to Alfa Romeo. Meanwhile at Ferrari, the contraversy is reignited thanks to recent Binotto comments in the face of Leclerc’s contract extension. 

McLaren Promote Stella To Racing Director Ahead Of 2020 Season

Andrea Stella has been promoted to racing director at McLaren from his previous duties as the performance director of the Woking based squad who finished fourth in the Constructors Championship last year.

This is positive news for McLaren fans out there as this will line up with the 2019 appointment of James Key as technical director. Having come from Toro Rosso, Key has history with Sainz and Key’s input will be felt for the first time in 2020. The internal promotion of Stella is the realization of Team Principal Andreas Seidl’s vision to a clear, 3-pronged approach to how the team operates as seen below:

James Key

Technical Director

Piers Thynne

Product Leadership

Andreas Stella

Racing Director

 Team Principal Andreas Seidl has been credited in many circles for the team’s agility and ability to maximize the car in 2019 thanks to his leadership and org structure. This move to officially remove himself as the interim race director until he could find a suitable replacement and empower capable minds around him is consistent with his original vision and rings true before he even announces Stella’s new responsibilities:

McLaren F1 Team Principal Andreas Seidl

It was important for me to have these characters straight from the beginning, because I like clear responsibilities and also clear reporting lines, plus an organisation which is easy to understand for the entire team. Now knowing how the regulations look, we’re in the middle of the process to really analyse for each of these departments how do we think they need to be shaped in the future in order to extract the maximum as a team.

This new, lean McLaren is shaving the fat and streamlining the operation from top to bottom. 2019 truly was a testament to how an optimized team can, at times, punch above its weight.

Combined with two strong drivers, the pieces are in place for McLaren to continue their upward trend in 2020 and beyond. 

Kubica Confirmed As Alfa Romeo’s 2020 Reserve Driver

Robert Kubica exited his Williams drive at the conclusion of the 2019 season and has since been exploring his options. It was announced that he has been confirmed as the 2020 Alfa Romeo Reserve driver. Along with the change, the team has brough on the Polish petroleum company PKN Orlen as their co-title sponsor in a multi year “major partnership”.

So you should now be calling Alfa Romeo, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN. But not to be confused with Scuderia Alpha Tauri Honda – previous named Scuderia Toro Rosso. 

Yeah, should be fun.

Especially having barely recovered from incorrectly referring to a “Force India” car all of the 2019 season. 

Robert had this to say about his return to the team that he previously raced for in 2006 and 2009 when the name was something else entirely under BMW Sauber:

Robert Kubica, The 2020 Reseve Driver For Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

I am really happy to be starting this new chapter in my career as I join Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN. This team holds a special place in my heart and I am pleased to see some faces still here from my years in Hinwil. Time and circumstances are obviously different, but I am convinced that I will find the same determination and hunger to succeed. I am looking forward to helping Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN make the next step forward.

While the concept of pay drivers has been around for a long time and has an important role in the sport, I am not diminishing Robert Kubica’s contribution as a reserve driver to be predicated on his sponsor. The fact is, Orlen have been keen to be in Formula 1 despite the presence of of Robert Kubica.

As an experienced Formula 1 driver, knowledge of the engineering and car is paramount. Execution of race strategy is not priority and is well behind ability to convey feedback and partner with engineering teams to develop a car. It’s far too simple to suggest “Robert performed poorly at Williams therefore he can’t develop a car.”

It’s worth noting, however unlikely I feel it may be, that Kubica is still seeking a drive in an alternate series as well. He reported having issues with handling in a DTM drive after his December BMW Jerez test in an M4.

Leclerc’s Ferrari Extension & Other Contracts

Charles Leclerc has reportedly been confirmed with Ferrari through 2024 after securing 2 wins, 10 podiums, and 7 poles in his 2019 campaign. Just level set, compare that to Alonso in 2010 in his maiden year with Ferrari where he scored 5 wins on 2 poles also with 10 total podiums.

Ferrari have clearly changed their tune to favor Vettel in the upcoming season as Leclerc is one of the only long-term secured drivers on the grid. But with Leclerc getting a long-term committment, what is the current climate for existing contracts on the grid? Now seems like a great time to check in on the silly season we have brewing.

Here is a list of drivers with expiring contracts in 2020:

  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Sebastian Vettel
  • Max Verstappen
  • Alex Albon
  • Lando Norris
  • Carlos Sainz
  • Daniel Ricciardo
  • Kimi Räikkönen
  • Antonio Giovinazzi
  • Kevin Magnussen
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Valtteri Bottas
  • Nicholas Latifi
  •  Romain Grosjean
  • Kevin Magnussen

Here are the drivers with contracts beyond 2020:

  • Esteban Ocon
  • George Russell 
  • Sergio Perez
  • Charles Leclerc
  • Lance Stroll (speculated, but secured)

Prepare yourselves for the ultimate silly season. T-minus 5 months. 

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