A Review of the 2020 F1 Season
This F1 season was nothing short of eventful. From the shock cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix (from here on GP as you will see often), a frankly ridiculous silly season, to a legendary and much deserved 7th World Championship for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. While the 23 race calendar for 2021 promises even more action, there is much to look back on in the past 6 months. So here is a quick rundown of the season’s good, the bad and the ugly.
Austria kicked off the 2020 races at the Red Bull Ring, where we saw Lando Norris chase down Hamilton with the fastest lap to earn his first podium in his F1 career. Then the two British races saw Hamilton win the British GP with a last lap tyre puncture (with Max Verstappen hot on his heels with fresh softs) and the return of #Hulkenback. Nico Hulkenberg drove a brilliant race to place 7th as Sergio Perez’ replacement in the 70th Anniversary GP, and Verstappen claimed a victory as the first non-Mercedes winner of the season.
A couple of races later came the Italian GP, where fans saw Pierre Gasly claim a stunning and his first F1 win in Monza, making him the first driver since Kimi Raikkonen in 2013 to win for a team outside of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. Then the second of the three races in Italy finally gave Alex Albon his twice denied podium, while the Eifel GP awarded Daniel Ricciardo his first podium as a Renault driver and the team their first since 2011. (And Cyril Abiteboul a free tattoo as part of a bet with Ricciardo)
The Portuguese GP was where Hamilton achieved his record-breaking 92nd race win (and counting!) and two races later in Turkey he sealed the 2020 World Drivers’ Championship to tie Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 titles. In the same race, we also saw Lance Stroll take pole in qualifying, the first non-Mercedes car to do so in 2020 (the other being Verstappen in Abu Dhabi), and Sebastian Vettel achieve his only podium this year.
Two races were held this year in Bahrain, and both were filled with drama. Romain Grosjean suffered a crash in the Bahrain GP, but thanks to the quick actions of the safety team, was unharmed apart from burns on his limbs. Sakhir gave us a glimpse of George Russell in the Mercedes and him his first points in his F1 career, and fans finally saw Perez’ winless streak come to an end after a brilliant drive from p20 to p1. The Abu Dhabi GP tied off the season with Verstappen dominating the race from pole, and Ricciardo just pipping him for fastest lap on the last lap.
Hamilton and Mercedes now celebrate their historic 7th World Championship title, and Hamilton will be honoured with knighthood and the naming of the Hamilton Straight in Silverstone.
Verstappen was set for good results in Italy, but he completed none of the three races. A few other upsetting DNFs include Perez’ car lighting up in Bahrain, Norris suffering power loss in Germany (but giving us endless memes on the other hand) and Russell losing control behind the safety car in the points. Ferrari had a slew of tyre issues, Carlos Sainz Jr and Magnussen had a couple of bad stops, and Bottas and Russell suffered from a botched double stack in Sakhir. And perhaps a more poignant loss was Claire Williams, as the former Williams team principal left her role and the previously family-owned team on the weekend of the Italian GP.
There are a fair number of changes among the teams as well, with some of the drivers not returning to the grid in 2021. As of now, the drivers without a seat include the Haas duo Grosjean and Magnussen (who is slated for a drive in the IMSA SportsCar Championship), Daniil Kvyat, Perez (though there are rumours that he is being considered as Albon’s replacement) and Albon himself. Hamilton has yet to secure his 2021 contract but is expected to remain with Mercedes with talks hopefully “tied up by Christmas”.
Speaking of switches to the 2021 grid, this year’s silly season has been shocking. Ferrari did not resign Sebastian Vettel, opting to go for Sainz instead, who has had a consistent season. Vettel moved to Racing Point where they let Sergio Perez go, even with an ongoing contract. Haas replaced its drivers with an all-rookie lineup, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Mazepin’s seat was met with criticism from many fans, due to recent and past controversies (see last week’s article for more information), but Haas have deigned to deal with the matter privately, though it seems that Mazepin will retain his seat. McLaren signed Ricciardo in Sainz’ absence, and his vacated Renault seat was taken up by the returning Fernando Alonso. (met with some controversy in particular with his participation in the “young” drivers test today) There is still a vacancy each in Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, with Verstappen and Gasly signed. Names rumoured for those seats include Albon, Perez, and Yuki Tsunoda. (who now has a super license after his win in Bahrain) Alfa Romeo, Williams and possibly Mercedes are set to keep their current duos.
Best Moment of 2020
It would be remiss to review the season without commenting on its best moment, and there is no doubt that it is Romain Grosjean coming out safe from his Bahrain incident. Much of the credit goes to track personnel (medical car, the marshalls, on-site medic team) whose quick reactions contributed to his safety, and all the safety measures developed (halo, monocoque, race suit materials etc) that led to Romain being safe today. Although he missed out on the last three Grands Prix, seeing him cheerful and with his family on social media is certainly the most heartwarming and best moment of the 2020 season.
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Image credit: Formula 1 and Romain Grosjean