The belated F1 2020 Season Review

Driver Review of the Season

New to this year’s Review of the season is a ranking of each drivers campaign. The ratings are out of 10 and are the result of an average produced by the Grand Prix ratings I gave each driver for each Grand Prix. So, unless someone was rated 10 for each race, a score of 10 is impossible.

The drivers included all raced at least four races. Therefore, stand in drivers such as Nico Hulkenberg, Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken are not included though they all did solid jobs when called upon. As for super-sub Hulkenberg, his efforts were fantastic and on average hs three Grand Prix efforts had him rated behind only Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. 

Sebastian Vettel

0 Wins
Best Finish: 3rd (x1)
Best Qualifying: 5th (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
2 DNF
33 Points
Championship Position: 13th,
Average Rating Ranking: 20th
Average Rating: 6.09

2020 was an unmitigated disaster for Sebastian Vettel. The four-time world champion knew before racing got underway in Austria that this would be his last year with Ferrari but I can’t imagine he would have expected it to be this bad. I was actually surprised when averaging the ratings up that Vettel was last of the 20 full-time drivers.

For the vast majority of the season, Vettel struggled with his car and could not quite get to grips with it as much as his younger teammate. While Leclerc was battling into Q3, Vettel was struggling to get out of Q2 and often found himself battling the Alfa Romeo’s and Kimi Raikkonen in particular. 33 Points and finishing 13th in the standings is Vettel’s worst return since his 2007 with Toro Rosso but that year he did not compete the whole season. The highlight was certainly his podium finish in Turkey claiming it dramatically in the final few turns but those moments were few and far between as he managed to beat Leclerc in race trim only three times when they both finished.

It is needless to say that Vettel will be hoping for better with his fresh start at Aston Martin. Will he find the environment that he craves, that sort of care that Otmar Szafenaur spoke of when they announced him and could that fresh start help him thrive?

Nicolas Latifi

Best Finish: 11th (x3)
Best Qualifying: 15h (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
3 DNF
0 Points
Championship Position: 21st
Average Rating Ranking: 19th
Average Rating: 6.12

Nicholas Latifi’s rookie season wasn’t bad but it wasn’t spectacular or eye-catching ether, it was average. The Canadian would have finished ahead of his teammate in the standings if Russell had not had a race with Mercedes courtesy of finishing 11th three times and just missing out on the points. His race pace was certainly stronger than Qualifying where he averaged being half a second adrift of his teammate and would have hoped for a more convincing margin to stand-in Jack Aitken when they were paired at the Sakhir Grand Prix. Latifi never out-qualified Russell and that said, he was the worst performer of the backmarkers. He needs to improve in 2021 otherwise he may well develop a reputation as a pay-driver.

Alex Albon

2 Podiums

Best Race Finish: 3rd (x2)
Best Qualifying: 4th (x3)
0 Fastest laps
2 DNF
105 Points
Championship Position: 7th
Average Rating Rank: 18th
Average Rating: 6.14

After a positive 2019 where he made a positive impression after his mid-season promotion to the Red Bull team, 2020 was a disappointment for the London born Thai driver. What could have happened if not for that late incident with Hamilton when a podium looked likely in Austria. Albon seemed devoid of confidence at times and was rarely close enough to Verstappen in Qualifying which didn’t help him. He never beat Verstappen and was the only driver to be white-washed by his teammate in both Qualifying and race trim when they both finished. More often than not in the races he was struggling in the midfield battles like Gasly did before him. Albon secured his first podium at Mugello and a second in Bahrain but it wasn’t enough to save his job.

Alex Albon scored two podium finishes but more often than not he was nowhere near Verstappen and appeared out of his depths in 2020. [Image from formula1.com].

They gave him the whole season which is more than what they gave Gasly but compared to what Red Bull want, with a 109 point deficit to Verstappen and finishing 7th in the standings, it is disappointing. It is not where Red Bull want their driver to be so it was but absolutely clear to see why Red Bull made the decision they did, having backed him all year to replace him with Sergio Perez.

Antonio Giovinazzi 

Best Finish:
9th (x1)

Best Qualifying: 10th (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
3 DNF
4 Points
Championship Position: 17th
Average Rating Ranking: 17th
Average Rating: 6.24

2020 saw a slight improvement from Antonio Giovinazzi as he got closer to the level set by his more experienced teammate and beat him more regularly. It was not enough to finish ahead of Raikkonen in the standings but his performances were such to be rewarded with a deal for 2021. The Italian’s pace was certainly improved in 2020 as he out-qualified Raikkonen 9-8 in the inter-team stakes and also caught the eye with some impressive race starts, gaining 48 places on the opening lap of races. That said, the Italian’s race pace was not as strong and will be something he will want to improve as while he got three top 10 finishes to Raikkonen’s two, he finished behind the Iceman on nine occasions. That said, finishing on the same number of points after finishing…points adrift in 2019 is an improvement.

Antonio Giovinazziput in some decent performances in his second season and improved slightly, getting closer to Raikkonen  but 2021 could be a big year for him. [Image from The Checkered Flag].

That improvement justified his retention but I feel he will need a bigger improvement in 2021 to stay in F1 for 2022 with Ferrari juniors Calum Illot and Robert Schwartzman waiting in the wings, competing again in F2.

Kevin Magnussen

Best Finish: 10th (x1)
Best Qualifying: 15th (x3)
0 Fastest laps
7 DNF
1 Point
Championship Position: 20th
Average Rating Ranking: 16th
Average Rating: 6.29

2020 was not a great year for Kevin Magnussen in F1. After two seasons finishing ahead of Grosjean in the standings, he found himself beaten by his teammate but not a lot of that was down to his performances. It was mostly down to the car. Only once did he get a genuine opportunity to score points, which he did after an opportune strategy call in Hungary. Like Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo, Magnussen made several eye-catching opening laps such as in Russia but overall the performance just was not I the car for him to get more than one point. It will be a disappointing end to an F1 career for Magnussen who at 28 could still offer more. That said, he will be satisfied that he was not shown up by stand-in teammate Pietro Fittipaldi in the final two races of his F1 career.

Romain Grosjean

15 Races
Best Finish: 9th (x1)
Best Qualifying: 14th (x1)
0 Fastest laps
3 DNF
2 Points
Championship Position: 19th
Average Rating Ranking: 15th
Average Rating: 6.5

Following on from a couple of seasons where he was outperformed at Haas by Magnussen and made several high profile errors (crashing behind the Safety car in Baku 2018, crashing on the pit exit Silverstone 2019), 2020 was an improvement for Romain Grosjean. He made fewer mistakes, was generally better than Magnussen in Qualifying and finishing 9th in Germany was enough to ensure he finished ahead in the Standings. With the Haas not being very competitive, the most he could do was take advantage of any opportunities that presented which is what he did at the Nurburgring. It was not enough for Haas to retain him and while I felt he could’ve vee replaced at the end of 2019, Haas felt it was ultimately time for a fresh approach. After 179 Grand Prix, it seems that will be the end of his F1 career and thankfully he came out of that horrific crash in Bahrain in one piece.

Lance Stroll

2 Podiums
Best Finish:
3rd (x2)

1 Pole Position
0 Fastest Laps
5 DNF
75 Points
Championship Position: 11th
Average Rating Ranking: 14th
Average Rating: 6.69

With Sergio Perez seemingly on his way out for much of the early part of the season after the announcement of Sebastian Vettel and being given car updates before the Mexican, it is fair to say that more could and should have been expected than what lance Stroll actually delivered. Stroll scored 50 points fewer than his teammate despite having had an extra race. A lot of that was down to bad luck. He failed to finish five times but the vast majority of those he was not at fault for such as his horrid run of three successive DNFs after finishing on the podium at Monza. His first pole position in Turkey was undoubtedly a highlight and in terms of podiums, this was his best season yet.

Lance Stroll was in prime position for the win at Monza but a poor restart and locking up into turn 4 cost him that chance but still got a podium. That denied him a top 10 finish in the standings to Gasly. . [Image from formula1.com].

That said, there were mistakes when it mattered in those races. Running wide at the restart at Monza and locking up allowing Perez through at the Sakhir Grand Prix are both moments that arguably cost him potential victories. In the case of Monza, it was the deciding moment in denying him a top 10 spot in the final Championship standing. Gasly finished 10th thanks to that win. Stroll also had the unwanted statistic of being the only driver to be put-qualified by a stand in in 2020. Nico Hulkenberg beat him by more than three-tenths in Qualifying for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. 

It will be a big year for him in 2021 alongside World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Kimi Raikkonen

Best Finish: 9th (x2)
Best Qualifying: 8th (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
1 DNF
4 Points
Championship Position: 16th
Average Rating Ranking: 13th
Average Rating: 6.97

By Kimi Raikkonen’s high standards, 2020 was a difficult year. The 2007 World Champion had never qualified on the back row until this year and he Qualified last three times. Four points was also his worst ever return in an F1 season in which he set the records for most Grand Prix starts and distance raced. The gap between him and his teammate was closer in 2020 than it was in 2019 and that low points tally doesn’t quite do his season justice. Some of his performances were superb as he fought his car, arguably the 7th quickest car into the top 12 positions on seven occasions and battled the Ferrari of Vettel more often than not. After seeing his start in Portugal and point-scoring exploits it is clear Raikkonen still has the skills and ability for F1 and by signing on for 2021 despite having had one of the worst cars of his career, still has the hunger and desire.

Daniil Kvyat

Best Finish:
4th (x1)
Best Qualifying: 6th (x1)
0 Fastest laps
2 DNF
32 Points
Championship Position: 14th
Average Ranking Rating: 12th
Average Rating: 6.97

It was not a terrible season for Daniil Kvyat as he finished 14th in the Championship scoring 43 points. He and Gasly were always fairly close in the timesheets for much of the season but when it mattered most in terms of Qualifying and the race, it was the Russian who could not find that extra level. He was beaten eight times in race trim, 11 in Qualifying and finished 43 points adrift of his teammate. While Gasly won his first Grand Prix, Kvyat’s best finish was 4th. That 4th place finish came at Imola where he could not he ran out of laps to catch Ricciardo.

Daniil Kvyat best finish was 4th at Imola but those results were few and far between as he ultimately struggled to match what Gasly was producing in the same car. [Image from formula1.com].

However, with Red Bull looking to bring in Japanese talent Yuki Tsunoda and the sheer brilliance of his teammate’s performances and the gap between them in 2020 meant Kvyat had cruelly not done enough to stay in F1. This is likely the end of the Russians F1 career.

Esteban Ocon

1 Podium
Best Finish: 2nd (x1)
Best Qualifying: 5th (x1)
0 Fastest Lap
4 DNF
62 Points
Championship Position: 11th
Average Rating Ranking: 11th
Average Rating: 7

After a year out from F1, it was perhaps always going to be a difficult year for Esteban Ocon as he not only got himself back up to speed in F1 but also adjusted to a new car. The Frenchman was incredibly consistent before being dropped for 2019 and was not quite the same driver in 2020 as he struggled against Daniel Ricciardo. In Qualifying, he beat his teammate only three times; once in the dry and in the race, on several occasions he found himself having to follow team orders which would not have done his confidence any favours. However, his performances did improve in the latter stages of the season as he got closer to Ricciardo and was rewarded with his first F1 podium for the Sakhir Grand Prix. Hopefully, he can take confidence from that maiden podium as he partners Fernando Alonso next year.

George Russell

Best Finish:
9th (x1)

Best Qualifying: 2nd (x1)
1 Fastest Lap
4 DNF
3 Points
Championship Position: 18th
Average Rating Ranking: 10th
Average Rating: 7.03

What a crazy year it was for George Russell. The Brit spent the majority of the season with Williams and got the surprise call up to drive the Mercedes for the Salhir Grand Prix in place of the unwell Lewis Hamilton. Bad luck denied him his maiden win in what was a stellar performance but crucially he got his first points in F1. There was a real danger that the opportunity had already passed him by after spinning behind the Safety car at Imola.

George Russell had an impressive 2020, especially in Qualifying as he got his Williams into Q2 nine times and had a stellar weekend in the Mercedes replacing Hamilton. He is still one for the future. [Image from fomrula1.com].

At Williams, Russell was again delivering consistently getting the most he could out of the car. Mr Saturday delivered in Qualifying getting into Q2 on nine occasions in the Williams and whitewashed Latifi. Race starts were an issue for him (which arguably denied him points at the final restart at Mugello) and so his wider racecraft on the opening lap but his performance in the Mercedes, totally outclassing Bottas indicates that he is still a developing talent in F1 who still surely destined for a big future. Mercedes meanwhile have a lot to think about beyond 2021.

Valtteri Bottas

2 Wins
11 Podiums
5 Pole Positions
2 Fastest laps
1 DNF
223 Points
Championship Position: 2nd
Average Rating Ranking: 9th
Average Rating: 7.12

Valtteri Bottas had a fantastic start to the season in Austria winning the season opener from start to finish in a composed drive. However, that was the highlight of his season as he struggled to match Hamilton and pose much of a championship challenge. The Finn only beat Hamilton in race trim five times as the Championship challenge disappeared almost every race with the worst performance in his 4 season spell at Mercedes coming on the day the title race ended in Turkey. when he spun no less than six times and was then outshone by George Russell, who had only jumped into the car for the weekend covering the Covid hit Hamilton. Bottas finished ahead of Hamilton when he returned in Abu Dhabi but there will be huge question marks of Bottas’s position within the team.

Charles Leclerc

0 Wins
2 Podiums
Best Finish: 2nd (x1)
Best Qualifying: 4th (x4)
0 Fastest lap
4 DNF
98 Points
Championship Position: 8th
Average Rating Ranking: 8th
Average Rating: 7.38

After an impressive 2019 debut campaign with Ferrari at such a young age, it was very much a different challenge for Charles Leclerc as Ferrari struggled for performance. While he was not challenging for wins, his performances were generally excellent as he obliterated Vettel in the inter-team stakes. The Monegasques early podiums in Austria and at Silverstone were fantastic performances and so too were his Qualifying efforts as he got into the top 4 four times. However, as the season progressed and he still got the car that high, it proved more difficult to keep others in the midfield behind in what was probably the 7th quickest car on the grid. For a young driver wanting to fight for the championships, managing those expectations will be a character-defining year for Leclerc and generally, he rose to the challenge well.

Charles Leclerc had some fantastic performances in an underperforming Ferrari but some rashness let him down at times. [Image from formula1.com].

His rating is brought down however by some rash lunges, most notably colliding with his teammate on the opening lap of the Styrian Grand Prix and on the inside of Perez on the opening lap of the Sakhir Grand Prix and not to mention the last few turns in Turkey in which he was undoubtedly his own harshest critic. Eliminating those rash decisions will be key to his development.

Lando Norris

1 Podium
Best Finish: 3rd (x1)
Best Qualifying: 4th (x2)
2 Fastest Laps
1 DNF
97 points
Championship Position: 9th
Average Rating Ranking: 7th
Average Rating: 7.59

After a fairly impressive debut season in 2019, Lando Norris improved in his second season and caught the headlines in the first two races with sublime late charges for positions which rewarded him with his maiden podium in Austria. Racecraft and in particular starts were an issue for Norris to improve on and he did that in 2020 and was rewarded with six top 5 finishes.

Lando Norris secured his maiden podium in 2020 and certainly improved! [Image from formula1.com].

While Norris ultimately was beaten by his teammate in the Championship standings, his race craft was certainly improved and helped McLaren finish 3rd in the Constructors by outscoring more than Ocon and Stroll. Norris is still young and his form in the final three races indicate he will be no pushover when he is paired alongside Daniel Ricciardo in 2021.

Pierre Gasly

1 Win
1 Podium
Best Qualifying: 4th (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
3 DNF
75 Points
Championship Position: 10th
Average Ranking Position: 6th
Average Ranking: 7.74 

2019 was a very tumultuous year for Pierre Gasly. He struggled to adapt to the Red Bull and was unceremoniously returned to Toro Rosso at the summer break bouncing back to secure his first podium. 2020 was a continuation of that upward trend as gasly had his best season to date in terms of the level of performance. He got the most out of the Alpha Tauri, regularly getting into Q3 and heavily outscored Kvyat by 43 points. His 2020 tally of 75 points was the best of any driver for the Red Bull sister team and more than the team had scored with two drivers in any other year. He was rewarded by going one better than his podium in Brazil; winning the Italian Grand Prix; the first Frenchman to win a Grand Prix since Olivier Panis in 1996. It was a thoroughly deserved result and he really had to work for it as he defended against Sainz.

Pierre Gasly had a fantastic season in the Alpha Tauri and the win at Monza was the icing on the cake. [Image from PlanetF1].

The win was followed up with three more top-six finishes before the end of the season as he finished within the top 10. That win in Monza cementing the top 10 berth ahead of Stroll who’s best finish was 3rd. He was certainly worthy of a mention in the battle for driver of the season but that was not enough to earn a recall to red Bull. 2021 will be a new challenge for him alongside a rookie teammate but if he performs like this, he will not stay at Alpha Tauri for long…

Carlos Sainz

1 Podium
Best Finish: 2nd (x1)  
Best Qualifying: 3rd (x2)
1 Fastest Lap
2 DNF
1 DNS
105 Points
Championship Position: 6th
Average Rating Rank: 5th
Average Rating: 7.76

Carlos Sainz had mixed fortunes in his second and final campaign with McLaren. The Spaniard was slightly slower getting to speed as Norris started making the headlines. Sainz was beaten in both Qualifying and the race 4 times in the opening five rounds but he made amends in the latter stages of the season with some impressive consistency. The turning point was Monza with his best performance of the season as he pushed so hard for the win. He was disappointed not to get a win for McLaren. The other highlight was his impressive opening lap in Portimao as he led briefly from 6th the highlight as he ended 2020 with a consistent run of 6 top 6 finishes in the final 7 races as he helped McLaren to their best finish in the Constructors Championship since 2012.

Daniel Ricciardo

2 Podiums
Best Finish: 3rd (x2)
Best Qualifying: 4th (x1)
2 Fastest Laps
1 DNF
119 Points
Championship Position: 5th
Average Rating Ranking: 4th
Average Rating: 7.97

In what would be his second and final year at Renault, there was a lot of intrigue there due to the rumoured bet between him and Cyril Abiteboul about getting a tattoo if he secured a podium finish. After a difficult start fighting at the lower reaches of the points for the first six races, the honeybadger eventually had an excellent season. Ricciardo out-performed highly rated teammate Esteban Ocon, beating the Frenchman 15-2 in Qualifying (including a run of 14 in a row) and 13-4 in race trim.

It was a shoey second time round for Daniel Ricciardo and one of the highlights of a great season! [Image from Fox Sports].

He was Renault’s strongest driver and added tyre management to his arsenal which enabled him to secure not just one podium, but two in 2020. The emotion on getting his first, Renault’s first since returning to the sport at the Nurburgring was a joy to watch and so was his level of performances as he pushed Renault as far as he could in the battle for 3rd in the Constructors. He leaves Renault with McLaren with his head held high.




Sergio Perez

15 Races
1 Win
2 Podiums
Best Qualifying: 3rd (x1)
0 Fastest Laps
2 DNF
125 Points
Championship Position: 4th
Average Rating Ranking: 3rd
Average Rating: 8.2

Sergio Perez has been a consistent performer during his F1 career but in 2020 he took it to a whole other level! The Mexican was one of the top performers as he delivered points in every race he finished, something only Lewis Hamilton achieved. That helped him to finish 4th in the standings; his best ever result and that s despite missing two races at Silverstone due to contracting Covid.

Sergio Perez thoroughly deserved his win which topped off an exemplary season for the Mexican! [Image from formula1.com].

Not long after that, it was announced that he would be replaced by Sebastian Vettel despite having a contract for 2021. With his spell in F1 appearing to be over, his performances only improved including his best ever Qualifying in Turkey (3rd) and two stunning comeback drives after first lap incidents. In Portimao, he recovered from first lap contact to finish 7th but in Sakhir came back to win his first race at a record 190th attempt. The win meant he became only the second Mexican to win a Grand Prix and the first in over 50 years since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970. He more than deserves his shot at Red Bull in 2021.

Max Verstappen

2 Wins
11 Podiums
1 Pole Position
3 Fastest Laps
5 DNF
214 Points
Championship Position: 3rd
Average Rating Ranking: 2nd
Average Rating: 8.68

Max Verstappen was a breath of fresh air as he performed at an incredibly consistent level. The Dutchman (who I sometimes nickname the Flying Dutchman from his speed) regularly outperformed his car to be closest to the Mercedes pair in both Qualifying and the race. In doing so, he provided most of the real intrigue and excitement at the front. Although he completed the least laps of any driver in 2020 to have started each race, that is largely not his fault retiring through incidents he had little to no fault in such as his first lap retirement in Sakhir. He was the innocent party.

Max Verstappen had a phenomenal season as he single handedly tried to beat the Mercedes pair. [Image from formula1.com].

Performance-wise, this was Verstappen’s best season to date, he performed at an incredible highly consistent level driving the wings off that car and coming very close to splitting the Mercedes pair in the Championship. Ending the season with his only pole position of the year and then lights to flag win, he demonstrated he could be a real threat to Mercedes if red Bull could give him a better car.

Lewis Hamilton

16 Races
11 Wins
14 Podiums
14 Pole Positions
6 Fastest Laps
0 DNF
347 Points
Championship Position: 1st
Average Rating Ranking: 1st
Average Rating: 8.81

Apart from a few questionable moments such as the incident with Alex Albon in Austria, it was a very strong year for Lewis Hamilton as he surpassed the win and podium records of Michael Schumacher (which stood at 91 and 155 respectively) and equalled the german’s record seven World Championships. Some of the driving in 2020 was dominant and some of the most composed drives of his career such as Spain where he didn’t even realise he was on the final lap.

It was an emotional year for Lewis hamilton as he rewrote the F1 record books!  [Image from Europsort].

The races at Portimao, Imola and Turkey showcased a very mature Hamilton as he bided his time after setbacks and still came back to take the win. The latter two of those three were truly impressive drives in tyre management. Contracting Covid denied him the opportunity of recording a sixth successive win for the first time in his career (you wouldn’t have bet against him such was his firm) but also matching Schumacher and Vettel’s 13 podiums in a single season as well as surpassing his career best win tally for a season (11).  This was undoubtedly one of Hamilton’s best seasons.

Will he be able to make it 8 championships in 2021?

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