The season that almost never happened…
F1 fans were waiting in anticipation for months to once again witness the high speed thrills of Formula 1 this year. Although fans around the world were not able to go the circuits to watch the action, a mammoth effort was put in to bring us a full season of racing.
This season will primarily be remembered for the coronavirus pandemic, however, it will also be remembered for some exciting and one of a kind races. A seventh successive Mercedes dominated season didn’t dampen the spirits of F1 fans who were still able to enjoy some thrills, most notably at Monza and Bahrain short circuit.
Record-Breaking Year for Lewis!
Lewis Hamilton successfully equalled the record held by F1 legend Michael Schumacher by claiming his 7th World Championship. In doing so he also equalled another of Schumacher’s records by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix as both drivers now hold the record for the most wins at a single circuit with 8 each.
Hamilton can now also claim the title of the most successful F1 driver of all time as he took the record of most career wins off Schumacher at the Portuguese Grand Prix, held at the Portimão circuit for the first time. Hamilton was rewarded for these efforts in F1 with a Knighthood in the Queen’s honours. Despite not yet formally agreeing a contract for next season, it is still expected that Lewis is to return in 2021 extend his records.
Something New, Something Old, Something Familiar…
The 2020 calendar looked very different to a usual season as restrictions in various countries and limited time leading to a shake up that saw the the start of the season occur in July. Back to back weekends in Austria started the season instead of the usual Australia, however an F1 season wouldn’t be an F1 season without the borefest of Abu Dhabi.
Long awaited returns to Imola, Turkey and the Nurburgring brought plenty of nostalgia to F1 fans, although the circuits have varying degrees of excitement on track. Imola lived up to its reputation of being unsuitable for overtaking, which was made abundantly clear in the modern day with wider cars that suffer from a downforce reduction when following behind an opponent. A late puncture for Verstappen brought about a late scramble for points, which made the painfully boring start to the race somewhat worth it.
The return to Turkey provided all the excitement one could wish for in a race, as newly resurfaced track paired met with heavy rain to give us plenty of spins and uncertainty. Lance Stroll was able to take a surprise first F1 pole position for himself, however, it was the experience and skill of Hamilton that shone through in the race to earn him yet another career win.
The 2020 season also gifted us with some brand new circuits as Portimao, Mugello and the outer circuit at Sakhir were featured for the first time. These introductions gave hope to fans that wanted to see some new and exciting tracks on the calendar in the near future, alas the release of the 2021 calendar showed this not to be the case. Despite the new tracks giving us some more interesting and exciting races, money still prevails in F1 and we are unlikely to see these tracks return to the calendar in the distant future.
A season dominated so much by Mercedes still allowed us to have some new and exciting first time occurrences. A long overdue first win for Sergio Perez came at the Sakhir GP after 190 starts in F1. An emotional ending in what would have been Perez’s penultimate race in F1, having not secured a seat for the 2021 season at the time, although the Mexican has now secured the second seat at Red Bull.
The short circuit at Sakhir was also host to the first F1 race for Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken, whose final corner crash led to the safety car that triggered the double stacking pit mistake of Mercedes where George Russell, who was having his much deserved first drive in the Mercedes car, fell victim to receiving the wrong tyres.
Three weeks earlier the Canadian Lance Stroll earned himself a first F1 pole position of his career after overcoming the treacherous conditions of the newly resurfaced track at Istanbul Park. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Stroll as minor damage to his car denied him his first F1 win, despite taking a Hamilton-like lead at the start of the race. Although the action in the race was artificially made through the resurfacing of the track, the Turkish GP showed us that a return to some old circuits could be what the sport needs to bring back the action that is missing from the more modern circuits.
Twelve years after their first and only F1 win and in the same location, Alpha Tauri (then Torro Rosso) gave Frenchman Pierre Gasly his first F1 win at Monza. After being dropped by Red Bull part way through the 2019 season, Gasly had fought back with some impressive 2020 drives and earned himself a victory.
An Ode to Safety Regulations!
The biggest shock of the season came at the Bahrain GP where a first lap incident sent Romain Grosjean crashing into the barrier. After his car split into two and went up into a fireball, it was miraculous to see Romain emerge from the fire in under 30 seconds after impact. Grosjean came away with only burns to his hands and feet which is a true testament to how far safety regulations has come in the sport. The introduction of the initially controversial halo to the cars was ultimately what saved Grosjean’s life as it pierced through the barrier and crucially protected his head.
The crash was the first time a car had split into two since Monaco in 1991 and the first time a car caught fire in a crash since 1989. Of course, the incident could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the work done by the brave race stewards and most importantly the doctors, Ian Roberts and Alan van set Merwe, who selflessly ran towards the flames to help Romain out of the car. I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you to those who helped on the day during the incident and to everyone who has worked to make F1 a safer sport for those involved.
Lewis Hamilton – 10/10
- Dominant all the way through the season, broke and equalled multiple records.
Valterri Bottas – 7/10
- Pace at times, though Bottas was unable to get close to Hamilton on most occasions and struggled to keep up with Russell in Bahrain.
Max Verstappen – 9/10
- Showcased his quality as per usual, picking up two wins the season, however, unable to match the pace of Mercedes due to an inferior car.
Alex Albon – 7.5/10
- Some mistakes during the season and found it difficult to keep up with his team mate in most races, though he found some pace late on in the season.
Charles Leclerc – 7.5/10
- Made the most of a poor Ferrari car, good results early on, but started to struggle more as the season progressed.
Sebastian Vettel – 5/10
- A season to forget for the former World Champion, unable to get any pace from the car.
Carlos Sainz – 8.5/10
- Showed good pace and was able to pick up a few podiums in the season.
Lando Norris – 8/10
- Consistently in the points and a podium in the first race helping to give Mclaren 3rd in the constructors .
Sergio Perez – 9/10
- Obtained his first F1 win this season and showed real pace and race craft when needing to cut through the field. Should have gained an extra podium at Imola, though poor team strategy cost him.
Lance Stroll – 8/10
- Obtained his first pole position and two podiums, but wasn’t always able to match pace with his teammate.
Daniel Ricciardo – 8.5/10
- Consistently in the points throughout the season and outpaced Ocon in the majority of races, showed glimpses of his former Red Bull self.
Esteban Ocon – 7.5/10
- Picked up his first podium in Sakhir, but was unable to keep up with Ricciardo for majority of the season.
Pierre Gasly – 8/10
- Improved a lot through the season and took his first win at Monza, showing the skill he has and why he was initially promoted to Red Bull in 2019.
Daniil Kvyat – 6.5/10
- Showed glimpses of pace, however still inconsistent in results.
Kimi Raikkonen – 5.5/10
- Struggled in a massively underperforming car, an impressive first lap at Mugello showed that he still has his old pace in him, but he unable to show it through most of the season.
Antonio Giovinazzi – 6/10
- Similarly, Giovinazzi struggled in an underperforming car like Kimi, but was unable to show his potential that many were expecting to start coming through this season.
Romain Grosjean – 6/10
- Finished with only a couple of points in the standings, but was stuck in a midfield battle throughout the majority of the season.
Kevin Magnussen – 5.5/10
- Failed to finish in seven races this season and only able to pick up one point, struggled to battle the midfield like Romain.
George Russell – 8.5/10
- Should have had his first points finish at Imola but a rookie mistake cost him, showed his potential when given the chance in the Mercedes where he should have won and needs to seriously be considered as the future of Mercedes.
Nicholas Latfi – 6/10
- Outqualified by Russell all season and unable to match his in-race pace.
By Shaun Dunn
Images provided by F1/Twitter