Formula 1’s 2020 season will begin on the afternoon of July 5 – the latest start ever – and run through until December. But in past years what has happened by that date? MotorsportWeek.com delves into the archives.
1989, 1990 – 39 drivers had tried to qualify for a race
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were well over a dozen teams trying to race and as such there was pre-qualifying before the qualifying session even got underway. In both 1989 and 1990 a total of 39 drivers had tried to bag a spot on the 26-strong grid across the opening six rounds of the respective campaigns. There will be just 20 when Formula 1 returns this weekend.
1995 – Mansell had returned, stepped back, returned, quit
After replacing the late Ayrton Senna at Williams for part of 1994 Nigel Mansell made a return with McLaren in 1995. However he missed the first two races after allegedly being unable to fit in the car. Mansell made a comeback at Imola but after a second underwhelming outing two weeks later in Barcelona, Mansell and McLaren parted ways before spring had turned into summer.
2002 – Schumacher was 16 days away from glory
Michael Schumacher’s 2002 campaign was undoubtedly his most dominant as he finished on the podium at each race. Schumacher’s crushing superiority, allied with his rivals failing to mount anything resembling a challenge, meant he had a huge advantage after nine of the 17 events when July rolled around. Schumacher clinched the crown after winning round 11, the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, on July 21. It is the earliest anyone has ever won the title.
2004 – Schumacher had won nine races
The 2004 Formula 1 season was over halfway complete on July 5, the day after the British Grand Prix, with eight of the 18 rounds left to run. Up until that point Schumacher – well on his way to a seventh title – had won nine of the 10 races. Only the Monaco Grand Prix, in which he collided with a lapped Juan Pablo Montoya in the tunnel, eluded his grasp. He eventually sealed the title in late August in Belgium.
2012 – Seven different drivers had tasted victory
Eight grands prix were held before July 5 in 2012 and they had seven different winners from five teams. Jenson Button triumphed in Australia, Fernando Alonso in Malaysia, Nico Rosberg in China, Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain, Pastor Maldonado in Spain, Mark Webber in Monaco, and finally Lewis Hamilton in Canada. Alonso finally doubled up in Valencia, in late June, the eighth round of a season which went all the way to a nail-biting finale.
2014, 2015, 2016… and 2019 – Mercedes had won all but one race
In four of the last six seasons Mercedes’ dominance was such that it had rarely tasted defeat by the summer months. In its first three years of supremacy from 2014 to 2016 its record read seven from eight by July 5, while after Ferrari’s brief resurgence in early 2017/18 last season was even better. Mercedes went eight from eight before being defeated in Austria, giving it a record of 8/9 by July 5.