TRENDING TOPICS: 7 talking points ahead of Australia

Special Contributor

Chris Medland
MELBOURNE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90 during the

A new season is finally upon us, and there are plenty of talking points to consider ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

So as the countdown to the opening race of 2020 in Melbourne continues, we’ve got a brand new feature for you, highlighting the stories that we expect will be making the news over the coming week in the Formula 1 paddock.

1. Ferrari’s power unit settlement

The FIA reached a settlement with Ferrari regarding the operation of their power unit last year, but the terms remain confidential.

That has led to an angry response from the seven teams that do not use Ferrari engines, resulting in a back-and-forth of statements from the teams and the FIA. The teams are unhappy at a lack of transparency from the governing body, and once they all convene in the same place, there are sure to be some strong opinions voiced…

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner, Ferrari Team

The other team principals are unlikely to let the Ferrari/FIA 'settlement' issue rest

2. Coronavirus

It’s impossible to ignore the global health situation as the season gets started, with the Chinese Grand Prix having already been postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Racing is going ahead as planned in Australia, but it’s an ever-changing situation that needs constant monitoring, and the second round in Bahrain is set to be a behind-closed-doors event.

Teams have been faced with a few logistical challenges to try and ensure racing can take place safely and with as little disruption as possible.

3. Mercedes' DAS system

It was the talk of the first week of pre-season testing, and it is very likely to be an area of focus as soon as practice starts on Friday.

The Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system that has been developed by Mercedes is not only innovative but potentially a performance differentiator that will give the defending champions an added edge. It remains to be seen if it will be deployed on all circuits or just specific ones with long straights, and where it will have the biggest impact.

TECH INSIGHT: Have Mercedes just changed the game with new steering wheel system?

One thing’s for sure, we’ll all be watching those onboard shots of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas very carefully…

Hamilton & Allison quizzed on Mercedes' new 'Dual Axis Steering' system

4. Testing pace

It wasn’t just DAS that helped Mercedes emerge as favourites for the 2020 season, as they enjoyed a strong six days of testing in terms of outright pace and long run performance. There were reliability concerns for the Silver Arrows though, while both Red Bull and Ferrari also seemed to be hiding their full potential.

We might be expecting Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to be the pair to beat in Melbourne, but remember how good Ferrari looked last year in Barcelona? There’s always a question mark until the cars hit the track in anger.

POWER RANKINGS: From 10 to 1 – where do the teams stand ahead of the Australia GP?

5. Racing Point’s 2020 car

And the intrigue doesn’t stop with the top three teams, as the midfield battle looks like being as tight as ever this season. Racing Point in particular caught the eye during testing, with the team unveiling a car design that is very similar to last year’s title-winning Mercedes.

Not only did the car look familiar, it performed strongly too and that meant a few rival teams were voicing some dissent regarding the partnership between Mercedes and Racing Point. If the RP20 is clear of the rest of the midfield, those complaints will only grow louder.

TECH INSIGHT: Why the new Racing Point RP20 caused a stir at pre-season testing

2020 Pre-Season Team Guide - Racing Point: Will the 'pink Mercedes' emulate the Silver Arrows' performance?

6. The new Renault livery

After an extremely hectic launch season that saw teams unveiling their cars and liveries on a daily basis ahead of the first test, it’s easy to forget that we still haven’t seen one team’s look for 2020.

Renault ran during testing using a special black livery, and as cool as the car looked, the team are going to reveal their official colour scheme on Wednesday afternoon at the Albert Park circuit. We get the feeling there might be a bit more yellow involved than on the car seen in Barcelona...

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 28: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Renault Sport Formula One

Renault's all-black testing livery will be changed before the Australian Grand Prix gets underway

7. Bottas 3.0

Last year, Valtteri Bottas stole the show in Australia with a dominant performance and strongly-worded radio message after claiming victory in the season-opener. At the time it raised the prospect of ‘Bottas 2.0’, who looked ready to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship as Mercedes started with five consecutive one-two finishes.

In the end, Bottas’ challenge faded and he was unable to prevent Hamilton winning the title in Austin, but the Finn returns refreshed this season and promising an even better version of himself. Just how big a threat will he be?

READ MORE: Our writers' predictions and hot takes on the new season


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