To close the week in which The Race launched as the new home of motorsport for the new decade, here are 20 things we predict will happen in the 2020s…
1. Formula 1 and Formula E will have a combined event
The world is always changing. Formula 1 will need a new engine formula that not only reflects the shift in the automotive landscape but also future-proofs itself against changes we know are coming, and those that may come.
Formula E will surely become ever-more the domain of the manufacturer in motorsport and an alliance of some kind would help bolster F1’s image.
As FE cars get faster and battery technology develops, a race on a full (or adapted) grand prix circuit becomes a realistic prospect. Why not share a weekend? -Scott Mitchell
2. MotoGP will be looking at alternative vehicle technology
The current MotoGP rules are locked in place until 2021, and as we normally work on five-year cycles it’ll be at least 2026 before we see a major move towards alternative technology.
But Dorna has done what F1 couldn’t and kept electric vehicles under its own banner with MotoE, meaning it’s well aware of the technology and how it’s developing.
There’ll be no step to hybrid in MotoGP (not enough room on a bike), but with the rapid rate at which EVs are improving, someone will have an electric bike that’s faster than a GP bike by the end of the decade. -Simon Patterson
3. Mercedes will leave F1 unbeaten
Don’t expect Mercedes to be going anywhere anytime soon – the scale of recent work at Brackley and the commercial deals it’s currently signing are not the activities of a company looking at the door.
Yet right now it’s hard to see how – even as F1 closes up and then revamps its rules – Mercedes is going to be beaten in the near future.
The calm, humane approach it takes to identifying and resolving its weak points has turned it into the most politely relentless winning machine in F1 history, and created an internal system always nimble and deep enough to respond to challenges.
But like all dominant manufacturers in any form of motorsport, there will come a time when the story isn’t how many consecutive titles it’s won but when it’s going to be dethroned, the moment when endless success actually effectively becomes negative publicity.
Mercedes is too smart to risk that. Ten in a row then a graceful exit? There’s logic to that. -Matt Beer
4. Part of a Formula E race will be subterranean
Elon Musk has long been advocating more underground road infrastructure and I think Formula E would pioneer part of a track, as Paul Weller once said: “Going Underground”.
Think a sector like the pit exit at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 track to make up a street circuit. NB: We badgered a mole at Formula E but they refused to comment… -Sam Smith
5. The wait for a female F1 driver will end…
Racing drivers shouldn’t be a big deal just because of their gender. But such is the world of motorsport that female drivers are a rare breed.
I’m convinced F1 will have a female driver again naturally when one is good enough and has the right contacts, but I suspect that process could be fast-tracked thanks to initiatives like W Series and a brand like Ferrari targeting a female F1 protege.
That’s not to say the driver will not deserve their spot on the grid, but I think a helping hand to get them there is coming. -SM
5.5. …But will the next trailblazer be ready?
The historic paucity of female F1 drivers is a travesty and an imbalance that simply has to be rectified for motorsport to achieve its true potential. But it’s an imbalance that’s been decades in the making, decades of women being implictly told that their main function in a paddock was to be leered at.
Every female engineer, every young girl at a kart track is a step forward, and things are now accelerating much more rapidly. But the admirable eagerness to put this injustice right could lead to the 21st century’s first female F1 racer being someone fast-tracked to too great an extent and not properly prepared for what awaits them.
Though it’s very hard to imagine the 2020s will pass without female F1 racers, the women who’ll ultimately prove that there’s no gender barrier to F1 championship success may be yet to even step into a racing car for the first time. -MB
6. Fabio Quartararo will be a multiple world champion
This is almost a given. He was the rookie sensation of 2019, he’s still only 20 years old, and he’s already signed up to be a factory Yamaha rider in 2021.
It might take him some time to beat Marc Marquez, but he’s the only rider on the grid who will be up to the challenge in the near future. -SP
7. Motorsport will face its biggest existential crisis
The majority of global motorsport is still based on petrol engines – a technology effectively being outlawed in countries including the United Kingdom within the next decade and a half, and a method of propulsion that could become increasingly socially unacceptable by the end of the 2020s. It’s not just the technology that the latter point applies to – flying around the world may soon be heavily frowned upon too.
Formula E is obviously ahead of the game, F1, MotoGP, the World Rally Championship, the top end of sportscar racing, rallycross, several touring car series and others are showing ever-increasing green-tech consciousness.
But that leaves a huge amount of motorsport that will need an absolute rethink of its technology during the decade after this, and the pressure on it will only increase in the forthcoming years. Huge swathes of the current racing scene will surely not survive. -MB
8. F1 pitstops will become autonomous
With autonomous car technology improving apace, what better showcase than to have a gaming-style lack of control during pitstops?
Between speed limit lines, it’s perfectly feasible to have the car under full autonomous, which should improve safety as well as acting as the perfect promotion of an emerging technology.
Plus, it would allow such systems to be used without impinging on the driver doing the work when it matters on track. -Edd Straw
9. There will be a motorsport event at the 2028 Olympic Games
The FIA and SRO’s toe in water exercise with the Motorsport Games isn’t happening just as a bold initiative in isolation.
The International Olympic Committee will at least look at it and if it’s done correctly it could be considered for a place at the Games within the coming decade. -SS
10. Marquez will leave Rossi’s records far behind, but won’t truly surpass him
Fourteen years younger than Valentino Rossi and within one premier-class title of him (and 33 race wins behind), Marc Marquez will surely be statistically the greatest motorcycle racer of all time before the 2020s are too old.
The likes of Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa all retired from racing far younger than Rossi is now, so there’s no guarantee that Marquez will race into the 2030s. But making it this far with comparatively few injury worries – current shoulder surgeries aside – is surely good for career longevity.
The bigger question is not whether Marquez will surpass Rossi statistically in the 2020s, though. It’s whether he’ll come anywhere near ‘The Doctor’ for levels of public affection. Given that Rossi started building his legend with his antics right from the start of his career, that seems impossible. -MB
11. A publicly LBGTQ+ driver will race in F1
There have been a few known LGBTQ+ drivers in F1 in the past, but not ‘out’ to the wider world on the scale that would be involved today.
The hope is not that any driver would be compelled to come out publicly, simply that they would be comfortable enough to do so – and weight of numbers suggests that there surely will be LGBTQ+ drivers appearing in F1 over the next 10 years.
The world has progressed, but there’s still further to go and hopefully F1 can be part of a positive trend. -ES
12. Esports could democratise the racing ladder
It’s actually surprising it’s taken this long, but the journey that began with Jacques Villeneuve declaring he learned F1 tracks on his Playstation in 1996 and accelerated with the likes of Jann Mardenborough proving the gamer-to-racer route in the 2010s was legitimate is really getting some traction as we go into the 2020s.
While we’re not yet at a point where a child aspiring to be an F1 driver sees a simulator as a better option than a kart, that tipping point could come sooner rather than later as simulator testing and Esports’ integration into the motorsport scene both intensify.
Given that the junior single-seater ladder has often been seen as expensive and dysfunctional, some view Esports’ rise as a chance to level out the grassroots. But that might be utopian – just as an ambitious young star needs to get themselves into top-tier karting rather than just being the standout at their local amateur indoor track, so well-backed gamers with expensive personal simulator set-ups are going to have a clear advantage over an at-home Xbox ace. -MB
13. McLaren will win in F1 again
If I’d predicted in 2010 that McLaren would end the decade clawing its way to the front of the midfield after becoming one of F1’s worst-performing teams, I’d have needed to be quite drunk.
Now it’s 2020 and it feels ridiculously bold to predict it’ll be back on top by the end of the decade.
But McLaren is the midfield team with most momentum and security, two excellent drivers, a proper team boss and (soon) a Mercedes engine again. That plus the 2021 rules changes offer a huge chance I think the team will eventually take. -SM
14. Mick Schumacher will be an F1 race-winner
This is just too good and emotive story for it not to find some way to becoming a reality.
Already involved in Ferrari’s F1 programme, a Formula 3 champion and likely to be a Formula 2 title contender in 2020, Michael Schumacher’s son is on a rapid trajectory.
Schumacher Jr and a female team-mate leading Ferrari’s F1 line-up into the late 2020s? That might be a publicity dream ticket too far… Expect Schumacher to win grands prix, though. -MB
15. Formula E will lead the way with robot technology
FE will have the first autonomous safety car and potentially first robot race director (Sorry Scot Elkins!).
The work that Roborace is doing shows what is possible and by 2030, to engage younger generations, robotics will be part of the sporting regulations landscape as well as the technical. -SS
16. There will be more F1 race winners in the 2020s than in the 2010s
Only a dozen different drivers won grands prix during the 2010s, three fewer than the preceding decade but the 2020s should improve on this.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will retire during the decade, leaving the way for new drivers to get race-winning opportunities and the sincere efforts to level up the playing field should ensure there is more variety.
And if the 2021 regs don’t achieve that, F1 will be forced to get even more creative to ensure it happens. -ES
17. KTM will win a MotoGP title
The biggest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe, backed by a giant of sports sponsorship, and with both parties bringing a Germanic sense of planning to the party, KTM is in MotoGP for the long term.
Making big steps forward and with both the budget to poach a superstar and the talent development programme to build its own, it’s a matter of when not if. -SP
18. JEV will win a fourth FE title – as a team boss
Approaching the age of 40, Jean-Eric Vergne will celebrate a fourth Formula E title but this time not as a driver.
After taking over the former Techeetah franchise with which he scooped a hat-trick of titles in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2021/22, Vergne will add to his titles by sealing a fourth success from the pitwall – as F1 outcast Lando Norris takes his first championship since his up and down decade long grand prix career came to an end in 2028… -SS
19. Valentino Rossi will still be racing into 2030…
Sure, he’ll be 50 years old by the end of the decade – but does anyone think Rossi is really going to let something as unimportant as age hold him back?
No, he won’t be a MotoGP rider by then, and he probably won’t even be on two wheels – but there’s a whole world of four-wheeled action for him to throw himself into after ‘retirement’. -SP
20. …And so will Jacques Villeneuve
By the end of 2029, Jacques Villeneuve will have competed in every single major international and national championship, and still not have achieved anything that the outside world will have considered particularly impressive since 1997.
But he won’t care about that, he’ll just be doing precisely what he wants to do with his life. And fair play to that. -MB