The coronavirus pandemic has already made a significant impact on Formula 1, with a good portion of the 2020 season already postponed or cancelled. But the pandemic-caused delay in the season could very well have significant ramifications on other aspects of the sport.
For instance, the 2021 driver market looked set to be a fascinating one, with a number of the top drivers — Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Daniel Ricciardo to name just three — heading toward the end of their contracts in 2020.
But with the FIA deciding to delay the implementation of the 2021 rules, which are expected to make a great impact on the sport as a whole, the driver market could be impacted as a result.
Let’s take a deep dive into the issue and find out just how the delay of this rule will affect the fate of Hamilton and Vettel, as well as the driver market as a whole.
Hamilton looking more likely to stay at Mercedes
Without a doubt, all SBOTOP Formula 1 fans’ eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton and what he decides to do about his future. The reigning world champion has been absolutely brilliant with Mercedes, winning the title in five of his seven years on the team.
And if the season were to push through, the Formula 1 2020 would have him as the runaway favourite to clinch his seventh career title, which would put him tied with the great Michael Schumacher.
Ever since last year, though, there have been rumours linking the Brit to Ferrari, who just so happen to have a seat opening up at the same time.
But the delay in implementing the 2021 rules — which were set to put in financial regulations aimed at levelling the playing field — almost certainly means Mercedes would still be the top team on the grid by a significant margin over Ferrari and the others in a year. That would give him pole position to claim that record-setting eighth title.
If the 2021 rules were implemented next season as planned, then maybe Hamilton would consider his options elsewhere more seriously. But with such a great shot at making history on the line, it would come as a major surprise if Hamilton were to walk away from such an advantageous situation with Mercedes.
Vettel future at Ferrari still in flux
On the other hand, Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari has been far from an advantageous situation. The four-time world champion has been a massive disappointment for Scuderia, which has fueled speculation about his future with Ferrari with his contract set to expire.
Despite Vettel’s underwhelming results, there is some Formula 1 2020 news claiming Ferrari have offered the German a new contract, but it is just a one-year deal with a sizable pay cut. Vettel has also been linked with a move to Renault — with Daniel Ricciardo potentially going the other way — as well as possible retirement at the end of the 2020 season.
It remains unclear exactly how the 2021 rules delay will affect Ferrari’s decision on Vettel, if it even does. On one hand, there is a familiarity with Vettel, and with the rules set to stay the same until next season, sticking with the German could be the most sensible option in the short term.
But on the flipside, Ferrari struggled to keep pace during pre-season testing, and due to the rules delay, their chances of catching up to Mercedes within the next couple of years aren’t all that promising. So if they were to bring in a new driver now, he would be able to bed into the team without as much pressure to perform right away.
Either scenario is very much on the table at this point, but whatever decision Ferrari end up making, it better be the one that finally brings positive results.
Ricciardo and the rest of the grid
Vettel’s future at Ferrari will likely have a knock-on effect on Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. The 31-year-old Aussie has been one of the drivers most heavily linked to replace Vettel in Ferrari. But obviously, that move won’t be possible if Vettel stays put.
Ricciardo had a disappointing debut season with Renault last season, finishing a mere ninth in the drivers’ standings. Nevertheless, he’s still one of the most talented drivers on the grid — hence Ferrari’s rumoured interest — and it would only benefit Renault if they held onto him.
But chances are Ricciardo will want to see how the whole Vettel-Ferrari situation plays out before he fully commits to Renault, which is not ideal for the team. And if he does move in the end, that could set off a chain reaction with the rest of the grid as they look to replace Ricciardo.
With the delay of both the 2020 season and the 2021 rules, everyone will just have to wait a little longer to see how the whole driver market shakes out.
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