F1 will reawaken from its winter slumber when six days of pre-season F1 testing get underway at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
After three months without any track action, the Formula 1 cars will roar back to life as the 2020 challengers are put through the wringer ahead of a record-breaking 22-race 2020 calendar which begins in Australia on March 15.
The six days of pre-season F1 testing, from February 19 to February 21 and February 26 to February 28, will give Formula 1 teams a first opportunity to see their development plans come to life after countless months of preparation and planning.
The drivers, whilst building up their own fitness for the demanding year ahead of them, will be tasked with collecting valuable data for the team as they simultaneously look for reassurances that their car is an improvement on their 2019 models and address weaknesses before they potentially threaten to stunt the rate of progression throughout the 2020 campaign.
It is only natural for Formula 1 fans to see which team are quickest come the end of pre-season testing, but you only need to look at Ferrari’s recent winter dominance to know that can still very easily lead to zero World Championships come the end of the season.
Speed will always grab the headlines, but arguably most important at this very early stage in the 2020 schedule is the reliability of the car.
The drivers will be carrying out a whole host of programmes, including qualification and race simulation runs, to give teams an idea of what to expect from their car for the year ahead.
However, fans new and old can be rest assured that teams will never display their strongest hand until the engines are cranked all the way up in Q3 at the Australian Grand Prix.
Let the mind games begin.
F1 testing 2020: schedule and start times
The dates and session times for the 2020 testing period are as follows:
First Test, Day 1: Wednesday February 19, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
First Test, Day 2: Thursday February 20, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
First Test, Day 3: Friday February 21, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
Second Test, Day 1: Wednesday February 26, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
Second Test, Day 2: Thursday February 27, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
Second Test, Day 3: Friday February 28, 0900 local time start, 1800 local time finish (0800-1700 GMT)
In recent years, pre-season testing has seen all teams have eight days of running available to them but, with the Formula 1 calendar expanding to 22 races in 2020, there was an unanimous decision to scale back to six days, consisting of two three-day tests in February.
The two two-day in-season tests at Bahrain and Barcelona have also been scrapped in a bid to prevent teams, especially those with fewer resources and personnel, suffering from burnout in what was already a gruelling schedule.
With two full days of pre-season testing lost, that should increase the on-track activities for fans to feast their eyes on the drivers as they blow off the winter cobwebs and teams gather precious data from their programmes.
Where does F1 testing take place in 2020?
Pre-season testing ahead of the Formula 1 2020 campaign takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. The Circuit de Catalunya shared duties with Jerez back in 2015 but has since become the only dedicated place for winter testing.
That has not come without its own difficulties. The freak snowstorm that hit the track in 2018 had a big impact on the team’s pre-season programme and had many calling for testing to be moved to warmer climes such as Bahrain.
However, having pre-season testing in Barcelona makes sense from a logistical point of view as most teams have their main bases in Europe, making it easier and cheaper to ship and fly their precious cargo to and from the circuit.
The characteristics of the track also provide the perfect balance for a testing environment. The first and second sectors provide ample opportunity for the engine to put through its paces, but the technical final sector will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the chassis as it navigates tight, twisty corners.
F1 testing 2020: TV channel and live stream
The first pre-season test of the winter, beginning on Wednesday, February 19 will be screened live in the UK by pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports on its dedicated Formula 1 channel.
On each of the first three days of testing, their live coverage begins with the morning session at 0800-1200 GMT before returning on-air at 1300 GMT until 1700 GMT to cover the afternoon session. The one-hour break in between live coverage is in conjunction with the lunch break at the Circuit de Catalunya. Following the live broadcast, a one-hour round-up show of the day’s events begins at 1700 GMT.
In a new first, Sky Sports F1 also plan to broadcast the entire second pre-season test, which starts on Wednesday, February 26, with the same on-air schedule as the first test.
UK viewers can also access Sky Sports’ pre-season test coverage via Now TV with a 24-hour pass.
The official Formula 1 website will provide the latest timesheets and data throughout the entirety of winter testing, while F1TV Pro subscribers will also be able to watch live coverage of the entire first and second pre-season tests which is then followed by a one-hour review show on a daily basis.
F1 testing 2020: PlanetF1 live coverage
PlanetF1 will be providing comprehensive coverage of all six days of pre-season testing from Barcelona with a live, daily blog beginning as soon as the track lights go green at 0900 local time and finishing as chequered flag waves at 1800 local time.
The live blog will include the very latest updates from the track, regularly updated leaderboards and lap counts, and we will be combing through the social media channels of the teams and the most established voices within Formula 1 for valuable information that could provide key insights into the season ahead.
PlanetF1 will also have not one, but two session reports on each day of testing. Firstly covering the events of the morning session before publishing a full round-up of each day’s action.
Reaction from the drivers and teams will follow, as well as features focusing on the key talking points and conclusions from Barcelona.
PlanetF1’s Torquing Point podcast will also be poring over the key events and data from pre-season testing as we head toward the season opener in Australia.
F1 testing 2020: How to buy tickets
Pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya is open to the public, giving fans an early opportunity to see the 2020 driver line-up in action as well as the new liveries that will feature on the cars.
Fans can purchase tickets via the official Circuit de Catalunya website with prices ranging from €23 for general admission to €109 for entry to the paddock.
Fans can also buy Montjuic Club tickets for €266.20 which includes access to the VIP grandstand, a tour of the paddock and pit-lane areas, plus catering in the hospitality lounge which is situated above the team garages.
F1 2020 driver lineup: tracking the changes
Ahead of the 2019 season, Mercedes and Haas were the only teams to retain their driver line-up as Formula 1’s ‘silly season’ went into overdrive.
But the chaos of 2019 and has made way for relative calm on the 2020 grid. The biggest change has come at Renault, who decided to part ways with Nico Hulkenberg and cut Esteban Ocon free from his Mercedes ties to partner Daniel Ricciardo for the 2020 campaign.
The Frenchman, who made a great first impression during his initial stints with Manor Racing and the team formerly known as Force India, was forced to spend a year on the sidelines after Lance Stroll took his seat for the 2019 season once his father, Lawrence, took control of the renamed Racing Point.
The only other change comes at Williams after Robert Kubica brought his spectacular return from life-changing injuries to an end after just one season as a fully fledged Williams driver. Taking his place on the grid is Canadian driver, Nicholas Latifi.
44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes W11
77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes W11
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari TBC
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari TBC
33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull RB16
23 Alex Albon Red Bull Red Bull RB16
3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault Renault RS20
31 Esteban Ocon France Renault RS20
8 Romain Grosjean Haas Haas VF-20
20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Haas VF-20
55 Carlos Sainz McLaren McLaren MCL35
4 Lando Norris McLaren McLaren MCL35
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point Racing Point RP20
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point Racing Point RP20
7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Alfa Romeo C39
99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Alfa Romeo C39
26 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri TBC
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri TBC
6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Williams FW43
63 George Russell Williams Williams FW43