The Formula 1 season kicks off in Melbourne on Sunday. Not even the coronavirus outbreak is likely to stop Lewis Hamilton topping Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 F1 wins and equal his seven world titles this year.
Six different road-car makers are competing in the 2020 championship, including four that produce cars ordinary motorists can afford.
They’ll be hoping a strong F1 performance will get British buyers flocking to their showrooms.
What if it wasn’t like this? If F1 drivers had to switch their hi-tech hybrid racers for the fastest road cars their teams produced, what would the grid look like? Ben Oliver explains
But what if the six had to field their fastest road car in Melbourne? With the most powerful street-legal cars from Mercedes, Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari now matching or even exceeding the horsepower of a modern F1 car, a race between the cars you can actually buy wouldn’t be much slower or less exciting.
But how would the F1 grid change? Would Lewis’s record-breaking season be imperilled if he had to race a Merc with number plates? Let’s find out…
Grid position: 1
Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing’s tie-up will come to an end after this season after rival F1 team owner, Lawrence Stroll, invested in the car company
Team: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Based: Milton Keynes
Star driver: Max Verstappen
Aston Martin claims its Valkyrie will be the world’s fastest street-legal car.
That won’t be verified until it’s tested against the Mercedes-AMG One, but we think it would be enough to deny Mercedes the World Championship for the first time since 2013.
The Valkyrie is the vision of Briton Adrian Newey, the most successful F1 designer of all time.
Max Verstappen is seen as the hottest young talent in the paddock and will be one of Lewis Hamilton’s fiercest rivals for the 2020 crown
The Aston Martin Valkyrie has a claimed 1,160bhp and is set to become the world’s fastest street car
Aston and Red Bull have developed the Valkyrie together, but unlike the One, it doesn’t use an F1 powerplant. Instead it has the most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever fitted to a road car: a 6.5-litre V12 monster making 1,000hp.
A hybrid electric motor adds 160bhp.
At just over a ton, the Valkyrie weighs less than most city cars, which is almost certain to give it pole position over its Mercedes rival.
Only 150 will be made at about £2.5million each.
Grid position: 2
The Mercedes-AMG One is the closes thing you can buy (if you can afford the £2m motor) to an F1 car for the road
Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Star driver: Lewis Hamilton
Car: AMG One
Power: ‘In excess of 1,000bhp’
Mercedes may be cheating a little here because its One hypercar uses the drivetrain of its 2017 World Championship-winning F1 car.
Making an F1 engine usable on public roads has been a huge challenge. The One has been delayed by two years, with deliveries starting in 2021.
But with the addition of two more electric motors driving the front wheels, the One will easily exceed the power output of an F1 car.
Lewis Hamilton is gunning for a record-equaling seventh F1 world title in 2020, which would equal Michael Schumacher
The Mercedes-AMG One hypercar uses the drivetrain of its 2017 World Championship-winning F1 car
Mercedes says only that it will be in excess of 1,000bhp.
It may get close to the 1,160bhp that Aston Martin has declared for the Valkyrie, but that car’s lower weight and higher downforce will probably give it the edge.
Even if the One comes second, you have to give kudos to Mercedes for having the nerve to essentially put number plates on a Formula 1 car.
Even at £2million, all 275 have already been sold.
Grid position: 3
The latest supercar to come out of Maranello is the achingly beautiful SF90 Stradale
Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Based: Maranello, Italy
Star driver: Charles Leclerc
Car: SF90 Stradale
Unlike the Mercedes one, Ferrari’s latest range-topper borrows only its name from last year’s F1 car, but it’s still the fastest-accelerating roadgoing Ferrari ever.
Its 4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine is boosted by three electric motors that can drive the car unaided for 15 miles.
Charles Leclerc was the rising star of 2019, out-performing his more experienced teammate – and four-time champion, Sebastian Vettel. Their in-team rivalry will continue this season
The SF90 Stradale uses a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine producing a whopping 986bhp
Just like last season, it won’t be quite enough to beat the Mercedes.
But it should beat McLaren’s quickest car, which has more power but will lack the Ferrari’s agility on track.
Priced at about £700,000, there’s no limit on production, but a very long queue.
Grid position: 4
McLaren finished a creditable fourth last season. It would finish a road-car race in the same spot, according to Ben Oliver
Team: McLaren F1
Star driver: Carlos Sainz Jr
McLaren finished a creditable fourth last season. It would finish a road-car race in the same spot.
But even among its quick rivals, the new McLaren Speedtail stands out.
Unlike the three cars above, the Speedtail is an elegant grand tourer, capable of carrying three people from London to Monaco in comfort and great haste.
Carlos Sainz Jr (pictured) narrowly out-pointed his teammate Lando Norris last season, with the good friends sharing one of the better relationships between drivers in the same garage
The Speedtail is a 1,035bhp twin-turbo V8 rocketship capable of speeds of up to 250mph
Its 1,035bhp is produced by a twinturbocharged V8 petrol engine – with hybrid assistance.
The Speedtail’s teardrop shape gives it the lowest drag of any road-going McLaren, and combines with that power output to produce the highest top speed of any McLaren, at 250mph.
Just 106 will be made, and all are sold at £1.75million.
Grid position: 5
Alfa Romeo doesn’t make a hypercar – or even a supercar since the 8C Competizione went out of production a decade ago – but the all-new Giulia GTAm is as hardcore as a family motor gets
Team: Alfa Romeo Racing
Based: Hinwil, Switzerland
Star driver: Kimi Raikkonen
Car: Giulia GTAm
Alfa’s star driver, Kimi Raikkonen, has two kids and is the only F1 driver over 40, so a practical saloon would suit him.
But he might be disappointed to find that the back seats in the Alfa Romeo GTAm have been replaced by a roll cage.
Based on the already blisteringly fast Quadrifoglio version of Alfa’s standard Giulia saloon, the new GTA revives a name used by famous racing Alfas of the past.
Alfa’s star driver, Kimi Raikkonen, has two kids and is the only F1 driver over 40, so a practical saloon would suit him
The 533hp twin-turbo V6 used in the Giulia GTAm was designed by the same guy who created the V8s used by Ferrari. Buyers can opt to have the rear seats stripped out to save weight
It’s likely to top £100,000 and get close to 200mph.
The 533hp twin-turbo V6 was designed by the same guy who created the V8s used by Ferrari.
The regular GTA will have rear seats, but this even more extreme GTAm version ditches them to save weight and adds a bigger wing and carbon race seats, so it’s the obvious choice for our road-car Grand Prix.
Grid position: 6
Back of the grid: The Renault F1 team would make it to the grid in a Megane, but likely get lapped a few times by the front runners in this list
Team: Renault F1
Star driver: Daniel Ricciardo
Car: Megane RS Trophy R
Mass-market brand Renault can’t offer a road car to compete with an Aston or a Ferrari.
Its fastest is a hot version of its family-friendly Megane hatchback, but it offers more track performance than you might expect.
This RS Trophy R version set a new lap record for a front-wheel-drive at Germany’s Nurburgring last year, and you can buy the same car for £72,140.
Daniel Ricciardo made the controversial switch from Red Bull to Renault last season, and will be hoping for better fortunes in 2020 in his new colours
The Megane might look like a modest family hatchback, but the RS Trophy R is decked in high-performance kit. It’s the lap-record holder for a front-wheel-drive car around the Nurburgring and costs £72,000
That’s pretty eye-watering for a hatchback, but you’re getting a car with genuine F1 heritage: its chief engineer worked on Fernando Alonso’s World Championship-winning Renaults, and the car uses F1-style diffusers to keep it pinned to the road in fast corners.
If 72 grand is a bit much, you can get a version of the car without some of the crazier details for 20 grand less. Still a lot for a hatchback, but it’s huge fun to drive.
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