2020 Formula One Season Review

(Image credit: LAT Images)

With the 2020 Formula One season now at a close after 17 races in 23 weeks following a tough Spring lockdown, it’s time to reflect on a thrilling campaign which saw various records broken. 

From Hamilton’s seventh title to two first-time winners and a thrilling midfield fight to boot on top of a reminder that motorsport isn’t bulletproof safe, this season has certainly given us so many contrasting emotions.

Now after 1037 laps across 17 races at 14 tracks over 23 weeks, we now reflect the performance of each individual team and hand out final grades and there is just one team to start with.

 

Mercedes

Driver Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas
Qualifying H2H 11 5
Pole Positions 10 4
Race H2H 12 4
Points 347 223
Best Finish 1 x (11) 1 x (2)
Championship Position 1st 2nd

 

Driver  George Russell Valtteri Bottas
Qualifying H2H 0 1
Poles 0 1
Race H2H 0 1
Points 2 4

Simply another dominant season by Mercedes who absolutely blitzed the field to clinch a record-breaking unchallenged seventh consecutive constructor title with 13 race victories and 15 poles.

My only irk with the Silver Arrows though has been pit wall strategies because if they had at least split driver strategies at the 70th Anniversary GP, they could of potentially won a heatwave dominant race which fell the way of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who executed the better tyre strategy despite blistering.

Abu Dhabi is another faux pas of note because if Mercedes had split approach with one driver at usual power whilst the other had theirs turned down, they could of potentially held on to their dominance around that circuit in this hybrid era yet allowed Verstappen to take the win there too.

There are also those smaller errors like Hamilton’s ill-timed pit stop in a closed pit lane at Monza and that pit-stop farce at Sakhir concerning Russell’s car, which coincidentally hurt Bottas’ race too.

I am therefore not going to hand Mercedes an A because those sort of errors was avoidable with mixture of intelligence and split strategies.

Now on the topic of drivers, Hamilton could of easily let a slightly harsh time penalty in the season-opener affect his performance mentally throughout this season yet he hit back with a series of stunning drives with an one-stop strategy in the damp Turkish GP to claim his seventh title a notable highlight.

Another highlights include his excellent fightbacks in Monza and Portugal, of where the latter saw him break Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record with a 25.592 second victory which was the largest winning margin this season.

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Bottas meanwhile started brightly but his form just declined throughout the season rather worryingly, only finishing as Vice-Champion by nine points from Verstappen which is uncharacteristic of a Mercedes driver standards.

Saying that, Bottas didn’t exactly have the best of luck in British, Italian, Eifel, Turkish and Sakhir Grands Prix, of which only Eifel wasn’t really his fault because he could of managed tyre wear and car issues better in the other mentioned races.

I therefore feel that the only sliver lining which Bottas can take from this season is that he managed to finish ahead of Russell who was standing in for Hamilton, although he was outclassed on pace by Russell who was only denied victory by a late puncture, preventing a humiliating loss for Bottas if he had won.

Either way, 2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions for Mercedes who need to use this off-season wisely to reflect and make plans to avoid same or further repeats creeping in next season.

2021 though is going to a huge season for Mercedes because if Bottas continues his downward spiral and Russell keeps up his rising credentials at Williams, you have to ponder whether a mid-season switch could be on the cards if not ahead of 2022.

It therefore is appropriate to hand Mercedes a B this season because they haven’t exactly been at their usual A* best this season for various reasons, despite recording their biggest constructor title winning margin since 2016.

Grade = B

 

Red Bull

Driver  Max Verstappen Alex Albon
Qualifying H2H 17 0
Pole Positions 1 0
Race H2H 12 5
Points 214 105
Best Finish 1st x (2) 3rd x (2)
Championship Position 3rd 7th

Well this is one easy team to review because Verstappen has simply been the shining star outside of Mercedes in terms of performance.

In fact, I would say that the lack of challenge apart from up front has allowed Verstappen to mature in race performance, although Turkey highlighted small room for improvement because he failed to play the waiting game against Perez and spun which cost him a potential win given his position at that stage of race.

Abu Dhabi though was a masterclass from Verstappen who simply dominated the race to end Mercedes’ unbeaten run in Yas Marina since 2014, even though he was robbed of a first-ever Grand Chelem coincidentally by former Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.

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Albon though was pretty lacklustre but if he had pulled off an audacious overtake on Hamilton for second in Austria, I wonder if he would of pushed on and grown in confidence and in turn pushed Verstappen more than he did.

It is worth noting though that Albon did collect 13 points more than in entirety of his 2019 season across two teams, plus finished one position higher in seventh but that is not good enough from a Red Bull driver and it therefore is no surprise why Sergio Perez is replacing him next season.

I therefore am going to give Red Bull a C simply because they haven’t really made much progress other than draw closer to Mercedes in terms of deficit, whilst relying on tyre strategy and luck to get two wins with Verstappen this season.

Grade = C

 

McLaren

Driver  Carlos Sainz Lando Norris
Qualifying H2H 8 9
Race H2H 8 9
Points 105 97
Best Finish  2nd x (1) 3rd x (1)
Championship Position 6th 9th

For a team who begun this season dressed in what looked like bizarre onesie style team overalls at the car unveiling, McLaren have certainly enjoyed a stunning season despite taking one less podium than their two rivals for third.

I think Norris is the best place to start with here because the young Brit again edged the Qualifying head-to-head against Sainz, whilst managing to reduce his deficit in the race head-to-head down to a single race despite Sainz having the better race trim overall across their two seasons together.

One particular aspect of Norris’ race skills that has improved is his late race pace because he took two fastest laps this season, of which the first came in the season opener and produced enough to give him his maiden F1 podium after a time penalty for Hamilton was applied.

Now onto Sainz, who has again been the more consistent although double bad luck in Silverstone on top of Belgium, Tuscany and Russia prevented him from potentially finishing fourth in standings if had amassed 21 points across those particular races.

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Consistency though has been the defining key to McLaren’s campaign in both garages with four non point finishes each, plus Norris managed to nearly double his overall total of 49 points from last season as he improved to 96 points and ninth in the championship.

B therefore is a fitting grade for McLaren because they have been a joy to watch both on and off track, especially the maturity of Norris who has kept his relatable young-adult humour whilst applying himself more on track.

2021 though will be a season of adaption as McLaren return to Mercedes power for the first time since 2014, whilst welcoming Ricciardo to the team following Sainz‘s departure to Ferrari.

Grade = B

 

Racing Point 

Driver  Sergio Perez Lance Stroll
Qualifying H2H 10 4
Pole Positions 0 1
Race H2H 9 5
Points 125 75
Best Finish 1st x (1) 3rd x (2)
Championship Position 4th 11th

 

Driver  Lance Stroll Nico Hulkenberg
Qualifying H2H 1 1
Race H2H 2 0
Points 10 6

 

Driver  Sergio Perez Nico Hulkenberg
Qualifying H2H 1 0
Race H2H 1 0
Points 12 4

Racing Point might of found themselves embroiled in controversy this season but what a campaign for the Pink Panthers, ahead of their rebrand to Aston Martin.

Perez is simply the best place to start because for the Mexican to miss two races due to a positive Coronavirus test, yet still manage fourth in the championship on pure consistency with often outstanding alternative tyre strategies compared to many on the grid.

We could talk about his excellently executed one-stop strategy in tricky conditions in Turkey to second, but his Sakhir fightback after a first lap spin to position himself for a brilliant win was simply exceptional and was impossible to find anyone not in awe of his maiden win after his 190th F1 start.

Add in the fact that the spin left him last in the order then that win will go down as an all-time classic and coupled with his consistency, really showed that Red Bull would of been stupid to not sign him for next season – eventually they did after the season concluded.

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Stroll meanwhile seems to often be at his best in wet conditions when everything from tyres to car plus track conditions are in sync as his maiden pole in Turkey demonstrated, although he does need to improve his overall Qualifying head-to-head which is at least consistent compared to last season.

It is however worth noting that bad luck from both car and Coronavirus hindered the Canadian’s potential throughout the second half of this season, although he showed his quality when needed on occasions but Sebastian Vettel as teammate next season will be a tough test.

Stroll though is right to believe that 2021 is ‘a big opportunity with Aston Martin to bring this team to an even higher level…’ because the foundations have definitely been laid this season, even though Turkey was a race that got away from Stroll through front wing damage.

We must also give Nico Hulkenberg who came in as emergency stand-in for the team on three occasions and did a solid job in both one and race lap pace, even though his head-to-head against Perez is unfairly skewered by Hulkenberg only having Q1 in the car but to finish eighth from last on grid is incredible.

Admittedly, it is easy to give Racing Point a B simply for their improvement compared to last season, but if we consider various factors like driver form, reliability issues and Hulkenberg’s emergency stand-in on three occasions then an A seems more appropriate here.

Grade = A

 

Renault

Driver  Daniel Ricciardo Esteban Ocon
Qualifying H2H 15 2
Race H2H 13 4
Points 119 62
Best Finish 3rd x (2) 2nd x (1)
Championship Position 5th 12th

Compared to 2019, Renault have enjoyed vast improvement this season as a consequence of Ferrari’s unexpected slump because they have been more consistent, despite the contrast in driver consistency and three lucky podium finishes.

Following overheating issues in the season opener, Ricciardo has shown amazing consistency with 14 points finishes in the following 16 races to finish fifth in the standings, whilst inheriting two lucky podiums through strategy errors for Perez.

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Ocon meanwhile hasn’t been quite as consistent as Ricciardo but for someone who spent 2019 on the sidelines, he has done a solid job with fifth in Belgium being his stand-out drive despite lucking in to a first podium in Sakhir with a solid defensive late drive to see off Lance Stroll for second.

Renault themselves though have made real strides forward with their car and are unlucky to finish fifth because if McLaren and Racing Point hadn’t got their act together, the French constructor could of finished higher.

This therefore has been a real season of progress at Enstone but with Ricciardo moving to McLaren next season and Fernando Alonso returning, Ocon faces a tough task to lead the team even further forward and continue their forward moving development.

Grade = B

 

Ferrari

Driver  Charles Leclerc Sebastian Vettel
Qualifying H2H 13 4
Race H2H 12 5
Points 98 33
Best Finish 2nd (x1) 3rd (x1)
Championship Position 8th 13th

Oh how the mighty falls is the only way to describe Ferrari’s season because they began the season mired in controversy over a private agreement concerning an FIA investigation into their 2019 power units without punishment being disclosed.

It however was noticeable to see Ferrari struggling for power at tracks where they dominated last season like Spa Francorchamps, Italy and Monza, which pretty much confirms that their power units were illegal in one aspect or another.

Driver difference therefore was key because Leclerc was able to extract more from the car this season than Vettel, including seven race run in the points which proved enough for the Monegasque to finish eighth in the standings.

Vettel on the other hand knew that he was set to leave at end of season since May and that knowledge seemed to seep into his race performance because after four points finishes in first six races, he only collected 18 points from the last 11 races.

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Now that is a huge contrast in driver performance at one team because Leclerc scored 74.8% of Ferrari’s 131 constructor points this season, which is something that we shouldn’t expect from a team like Ferrari because both drivers should be roughly contributing their fair share of overall points. ]

The only positive from this season though is that the car suited wet conditions perfectly judging by their performance in a wet Turkish GP.

Sixth therefore feels like an achievement in itself because AlphaTauri finished within one win of them in seventh, which is quite embarrassing for a team of Ferrari’s stature.

Giving Ferrari a C therefore is purely down to Leclerc’s efforts and that wet race performance, particularly when he put the car fourth on the grid in Sakhir whilst Vettel struggled all season in Qualifying.

Grade = C

 

AlphaTauri

Driver  Pierre Gasly Daniil Kvyat
Qualifying H2H 13 4
Race H2H 9 8
Points 75 32
Best Finish 1 x (1) 4th x (1)
Championship Position 10th 14th

2020 has been a tale of two halves for AlphaTauri in regards to their drivers but to finish seventh overall and 24 points off Ferrari is a great achievement.

Gasly simply has been impressive in terms of consistency this season which is the perfect boost from his podium at 2019 Brazilian GP, even if he had to wait nearly eight months for this season to start because he didn’t let anything faze him at all.

Italy in particular was Gasly’s finest moment yet because once he seized the lead following a red flag and penalty for Hamilton, he simply wasn’t fazed despite Sainz rapidly chasing him down whilst continuing to set his own pace even when under pressure to claim victory.

Gasly and AlphaTauri however did experience a low of Imola because he showed incredible pace all weekend but a power unit issue pre-race manifested itself into a terminal failure, because he could of easily been on for a potential podium given the events of that race.

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Kvyat on the other hand meanwhile just often had rotten luck fall his way with 11 or 12th placed results in nine of the 11 races that he failed to score points in, but his results overall haven’t really been good enough in comparison to Gasly.

Add in confirmation that F2 highest-placed rookie, Yuki Tsunoda has earned a AlphaTauri seat, Kvyat has simply had a year of pure bad luck through little fault of his own but little mistakes here and there have ultimately cost him his drive.

I am therefore giving AlphaTauri a C because it has been quite a mixed season marked with an excellent maiden win for Gasly, yet Kvyat dragged them down from a B to C with his poor results even if finishing one point behind a four-time champion in Vettel is no mean feat for the Russian.

2021 though could be a positive season of progress if Gasly continues to grow and Tsunoda can show more race pace than Kvyat managed and importantly get extra points.

Grade = C

 

Alfa Romeo

Driver Kimi Raikkonen Antonio Giovinazzi
Qualifying H2H 8 9
Race H2H 12 5
Points 4 4
Best Finish 9 x (2) 9 x (1)
Championship Position 16th 17th

Alfa Romeo have often relied on crazy races in order to gather their eight points from this season because their car has looked steady but slightly uncompetitive at most circuits.

Raikkonen in particular is beginning to show his age with a disappointing haul of two ninth placed finishes at best, although he clearly has the speed still given his start from 18th to eighth in Portugal which earned him an FIA award for Best Action of 2020 across all racing series within FIA.

Raikkonen also featured near the front upon the restart of the red-flagged Italian GP but a wrong tyre choice saw him tumble down the order, missing out on valuable points.

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Giovinazzi meanwhile hasn’t really kicked on from his promising end to 2019 and I personally would of dropped him for Callum Ilott, although with regulations largely staying the same in 2021 I can see why Alfa have opted for consistency over a driver change.

Alfa Romeo therefore are getting a D because although they have shown moments of quality, they haven’t really been at the races much this season but the foundations are set for improvement next season.

We must also acknowledge the fact that Sauber reached an incredible milestone of 500+ Grands Prix this season, whilst Raikkonen became F1’s most experienced driver ever after he surpassed Rubens Barrichello’s 322 race starts at Eifel GP.

Grade = D

 

Haas

Driver Romain Grosjean Kevin Magnussen
Qualifying H2H 7 8
Race H2H 8 7
Points 2 1
Best Finish 9 x (1) 10 x (1)
Championship Position 19th 20th

 

Driver  Pietro Fittipaldi Kevin Magnussen
Qualifying H2H 0 2
Race H2H 0 2
Points 0 0

Haas will simply be relieved to escape 2020 without a fatality after Romain Grosjean’s accident in Bahrain, although this season has been massively disappointing.

Personally, there isn’t much to say other than Haas has been the quietest team of this season with several races outside the points and often battling Williams drivers, which is quite a comedown from recent seasons.

Add in the fact that Haas had two experienced drivers in Grosjean and Magnussen behind the wheel then there is very little to say other than Haas are getting a E for a lack of progress, despite Pietro Fittipaldi doing a solid yet unspectacular job in the final two races.

Grade = E

 

Williams

Driver George Russell Nicholas Latifi
Qualifying H2H 16 0
Race H2H 11 6
Points 0 0
Best Finish 9* 11 x (3)
Championship Position 18th* 21st

*George Russell scored three points when driving for Mercedes at Sakhir Grand Prix rather than Williams.

Driver  Jack Aitken Nicholas Latifi
Qualifying H2H 0 1
Race H2H 1 0
Points 0 0

Williams have enjoyed an excellent season by their low standards because the FW43 has shown a vast improvement in competitiveness compared to last season, with Russell often battling Alfa and Haas cars.

Latifi meanwhile has settled solidly into F1 despite the intense scheduling but he does need to improve his qualifying pace because Russell has now beaten teammates at Williams 37-0 which is mightily impressive from the young Brit.

In terms of seizing opportunities in crazy races though, it has been Latifi who has often extracted more from the car, even if failed to yield any points on three occasions with three lots of 11th placed race finishes.

Sakhir however was their stand-out race for contrasting reasons because Russell got promoted to Mercedes and his first set of points in F1, which will only boost his confidence in this team next season whilst Jack Aitken replaced him and did a solid job to outqualify Kimi Raikkonen in an Alfa Romeo.

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Aitken’s race pace also wasn’t too shabby for an unexpected rookie debut either with the Brit finishing just over a second behind the experienced Haas of Magnussen, which should give Williams something to ponder if Russell gets promoted in 2022 to Mercedes.

Off track, Williams were taken over mid-season by Dorilton Capital and their investment is already looking promising, even though the team failed to score points this season because the foundations are there for further progress next season.

A D therefore would be a fair grade for Williams because they have made considerable progress but they still have that extra bit of work to do if want to push forward and challenge for points regularly.

Grade = D

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