That was an incredible season of F1. Incredible that it even got going during the Coronavirus pandemic, let alone getting to the finale in Abu Dhabi. It is testament to the FIA, Liberty media, F1, the circuit organisers, the teams and drivers that we even had a season of F1 in the first place after the Australian Grand Prix started but never went ahead after two McLaren team members tested positive for the virus and the first 8 races were cancelled.
The season eventually got underway in July, 217 days after the 2019 season finale; the third longest gap between seasons in F1 history as the 70th anniversary season started. It was historic as Michael Schumacher’s win record (91), podium (155) were beaten and his seven World Championship were equalled by Lewis Hamilton [Feature image above from formula1.com].
Austria became the first country to host successive races in F1 history with the Red Bull Ring opening the season with two races. Valtteri Bottas won the opener for the second successive year while Lewis Hamilton’s difficult weekend culminated in a collision with Alex Albon and the stewards giving him a 5s penalty which saw Lando Norris rewarded with his maiden F1 podium! Hamilton bounced back seven days later to win in commanding style as he shared the podium with his teammate and Max Verstappen; the first of eight occasions in 2020. Ferrari’s troubles were there for all to see with a lack of performance but also Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel colliding on the opening lap. Then, it was to the Hungaroring where Hamilton again dominated as he took his 8th victory at the circuit. Miraculously, Verstappen finishing 2nd having crashed on his lap to the grid.
After the opening triple-header and it was to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix and 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Covid struck as Sergio Perez tested positive and missed both races with Nico Hulkenberg stepping into the Racing Point. Hamilton ultimately recorded a record-breaking 7th British Grand Prix victory but only just as a tyre failure for both Mercedes in successive laps saw Hamilton crawl across the finish line on three wheels. Verstappen had pitted as a precaution and arguably cost him victory. The Dutchman, ever the threat to Mercedes made amends seven days later to win the Anniversary event. Following Silverstone and later than usual was the Spanish Grand Prix from Catalunya. Tyres were again a big feature in the scorching Spanish heat but Hamilton took the win for his record-breaking 156th podium finish as Kimi Raikkonen took the record for most distance raced in F1; now stands at over 52,000 miles.
F1 returned to The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps at the originally intended date (one of only four races), almost a year on from the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert. Mercedes dominated again as Max Verstappen pushed them as hard as he could and Renault were a surprise package with Daniel Ricciardo only 3s away from that elusive podium in yellow. The form book went out of the window in Italy. Hamilton pitting while the pit lane was closed and a Safety Car period opened the door for a surprise winner. Step forward Pierre Gasly who controlled the race thereafter as he became the first Frenchman to win in F1 since 1996 and the first man to win for Alpha Tauri (formerly Toro Rosso) since Sebastian Vettel in 2008. Mugello hosted its first-ever F1 race the following week as Ferrari marked their 1,000th race! It produced some chaotic scenes at the Safety car restart which saw no fewer than 12 drivers reprimanded and amazingly only 6 cars were already of the race before lap 10. Hamilton again took the honours as Alex Albon secured his first-ever podium!
On to Sochi now and the first Grand Prix in 2020 that hosted fans. Russia is a race that Valtteri Bottas tends to perform well in as he took only his second win of the season from 3rd on the grid. While he was helped by Hamilton gaining a penalty for his practice starts, Bottas had the upper hand in terms of pace. It was roles reversed next time out as F1 returned to the Nurburgring for the first time since 2013. This time it would be Hamilton winning from 2nd on the grid as he matched Michael Schumacher’s meteoric 91 race win record. Nico Hulkenberg became the super sub driver at Racing Point again as Lance Stroll fell ill and took the car to a memorable 8th place finish from last on the grid while at Renault, is that a podium? It certainly was for Danel Ricciardo and tattoo time for Cyril Abiteboul! That was Renault’s first podium since returning to the sport in 2016.
Portimao became the second circuit to make its F1 debut as the Portuguese Grand Prix returned for the first time since 1995. The undulating circuit became a fan favourite over its one weekend and could best be described as a rollercoaster. The race was itself and arguably the most entertaining of the season but out in front, it was a day of history for Lewis Hamilton. The Brit won again to break Schumacher’s record! Imola returned next the following weekend for the first time since 2006. The tight circuit didn’t endear itself to much overtaking but had agony for George Russell as he spun out behind the Safety Car in a race Hamilton dominated. Sergio Perez pitting behind the Safety Car proved costly as Danie Ricciardo took a second podium for Renault.
In the final race in Europe, F1 returned to Turkey for the first time since 2011. The newly laid surface and race in both Qualifying and the race made for some tricky conditions. Lance Stroll became a pole sitter in the Racing Point. It wouldn’t be his day in the race though and Sergio Perez took their first podium of the year dramatically as he battled both Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.
F1 left Europe for the final three races in the Middles East with Bahrain hosting two back to back followed by Abu Dhabi. Bahrain saw horrific scenes as Romain Grosjean crashed on the opening lap into a fiery ball. It is a credit to F1 and how safety has improved during the years including the halo that he was able to get out of that with only minor burns. The race was eventually won by Hamilton, his 5th in a row. Then, Covid struck again. This time it was Hamilton and the chance came to George Russell for the Sakhir Grand Prix. Passing Bottas into turn 1, he had the race firmly under control before a pit stop error saw him put o the wrong tyres behind the safety car and then a late puncture denied him the chance of challenging the lead car of Sergio Perez for what would’ve been a special win. It was special for Perez though as he took the chequered flag at the 190th attempt; the longest run in F1 history and the first Mexican race winner since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970.
Esteban Ocon claimed his maiden podium in 2nd and Lance Stroll came home 3rd. Third in the Constructors looked to be heading to Racing Point at this stage but Abu Dhabi would turn it on its head. Perez failing to finish and Stroll struggling on the Hard tyres coupled with the McLaren pair of Norris and Sainz finishing 4th and 5th meant that McLaren took the ‘best of the rest’ spot. Hamilton returned for this race but it was Max Verstappen who took pole and the win in the final race having led every lap uninterrupted only to be denied his first Grand Slam by Ricciardo.
F1 2020 in Stats and Facts
Countries Raced in: 12
Circuits used: 14
Debuts for: Mugello and Portimao
Laps Raced: 1,036
Race Winners: 4
Most Wins: Lewis Hamilton 11
Race winning Constructors: 3
Pole Position Drivers: 4
Pole Position sitting Constructors: 3
Drivers on the Podium: 13
Constructors on the Podium: 7
Most Fastest Laps: Lewis Hamilton 6
Total number of DNFs: 55
Most driver DNF’s: Kevin Magnussen 7
Most Constructor DNF’s: Haas 10
Most overtakes in a race: 58, Portuguese Grand Prix
Least Overtakes in a race: 6, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Biggest Winning Margin: 31.633s Turkish Grand Prix
Smallest Winning Margin: 0.413s Italian Grand Prix
Number of different Race winners: 5
Race Winners: Lewis Hamilton 11, Valtteri Bottas 2, Max Verstappen 2, Pierre Gasly 1, Sergio Perez 1
Number of different drivers on the podium: 13
Podiums: Lewis Hamilton 14, Valtteri Bottas 11, Max Verstappen 11, Sergio Perez 2, Charles Leclerc 2, Lance Stroll 2, Daniel Ricciardo 2, Alex Albon 2, Pierre Gasly 1, Esteban Ocon 1, Lando Norris 1, Carlos Sainz 1, Sebastian Vettel 1,
Pole Positions: Lewis Hamilton 10, Valtteri Bottas 5, Lance Stroll 1, Max Verstappen 1
Fastest Laps: Lewis Hamilton 6, Max Verstappen 3, Lando Norris 2, Valtteri Bottas 2, Daniel Ricciardo 2, Carlos Sainz 1, George Russell 1
DNF’s by driver: Kevin Magnussen 7, Max Verstappen 5, Lance Stroll 5, Charles Leclerc 4, Esteban Ocon 4, George Russell 4, Pierre Gasly 3, Antonio Giovinazzi 3, Romain Grosjean 3, Nicholas Latifi 3, Alex Albon 2, Carlos Sainz 2, Sergio Perez 2, Sebastian Vettel 2, Daniil Kvyat 2, Valtteri Bottas 1, Lando Norris 1, Daniel Ricciardo 1, Kimi Raikkonen 1,
DNS: Nico Hulkenberg 1, Carlos Sainz 1
Most Laps completed: Lando Norris 1,016
Least laps completed (Min. 4 race starts): Lance Stroll 784
Laps completed by driver: Lando Norris 1,016, Kimi Raikkonen 1,009, Valtteri Bottas 994, Alex Albon 994, Daniil Kvyat 986, Daniel Ricciardo 979, Lewis Hamilton 950, Nicholas Latifi 915, Sebastian Vettel 914, George Russell 910, Antonio Giovinazzi 893, Carlos Sainz 882, Sergio Perez 879, Esteban Ocon 861, Pierre Gasly 861, Charles Leclerc 822, Kevin Magnussen 814, Romain Grosjean 801, Max Verstappen 795, Lance Stroll 784, Pietro Fittipaldi 141, Nico Hulkenberg 112, Jack Aitken 87
Laps led: Lewis Hamilton 613, Valtteri Bottas 187, Max Verstappen 87, George Russell 59, Lance Stroll 32, Sergio Perez 27, Pierre Gasly 26, Carlos Sainz 5, Alex Albon 1
Most Wins: Mercedes 13
Most Podiums: Mercedes 25
Constructors gaining Podiums: 7
Podiums by Constructors: Mercedes 25, Red Bull 13, Racing Point 4, Renault 3, Ferrari 3, McLaren 2, Alpha Tauri 1
Most Pole Positions: Mercedes 15
Pole Positions by Constructors: Mercedes 15, Racing Point 1, Red Bull 1
Fastest Laps by Constructors: Mercedes 9, Red Bull 3, McLaren 3, Renault 2
Most DNF’s by a Constructor: Haas 10
DNF’s by Constructors: Haas 10, Red Bull 7, Racing Point 7, Williams 7, Ferrari 6, Renault 5, Alpha Tauri 5, Alfa Romeo 4, McLaren 3, Mercedes 1
Laps completed by Constructors: Mercedes 1944, Alpha Tauri 1909, McLaren 1898, Renault 1876, Williams 1825, Red Bull 1789, Racing Point 1775, Haas 1756, Ferrari 1736, Alfa Romeo 1442
Laps led by Constructors: Mercedes 859, Red Bull 88, Racing Point 59, Alpha Tauri 26, McLaren 5
Rowan’s F1 2020 Awards
Driver of the season: Lewis Hamilton
There were a few contenders for this one. Charles Leclerc was considered. The Monegasque put in some fantastic performances as he secured podium finishes in a Ferrari that was nowhere near capable but then there were the opening lap incidents at the Styrian and Sakhir Grand Prix. I also want to give an honourable mention for ‘super-sub’ Nico Hulkenberg. The German stepped into the Racing Point car for three races due to Covid absences and performed admirably.
In the top three for this, I have Sergio Perez who had a fantastic level of consistency in 2020. Despite missing two races, Perez finished 4th in the Championship; his best yet and got the win that his consistency deserved in 2020 at Sakhir. Thankfully, he will be on the grid in 2021 alongside Max Verstappen whom when he was not let down by opening lap incidents or reliability concerns beyond his control was the only real threat to the Mercedes dominance. However, in a year he secured his 7th World Championship, some of the brilliance and controlling drives from him means it has to go to Hamilton.
Constructor of the season: Mercedes
It couldn’t be any other! Mercedes came into 2020 hoping to continue their dominance of the sport and they did just that. Leading 82.9% of all racing laps in 2020, Mercedes took 15 pole positions, won 13 races and won the Constructors Championship for an unprecedented and record-breaking 7th successive time by a mammoth 254 points. After how long they have been successful now in the hybrid era, it must be admired how they keep pushing themselves and delivering year on year but this was arguably one of the best cars in F1 history.
Worst Constructor of the season: Haas
A look at the Constructors Championship and seeing Williams with zero points will make this decision look very surprising. This will come as a surprise given that Haas finished 9th in the Constructors. However, they did not develop the car from an early stage of the season and as it progressed they consequently went backwards. They scored points in Hungary and Germany but they spent much of the season struggling behind a Williams in terms of raw pace. They will need to do better with a much-changed line up in 2021.
Most improved Constructor: Racing Point
This is a difficult one as a few of the midfield teams made huge gains in 2020 mostly at the expense of Ferrari who really struggled. McLaren finished 3rd in the Constructors, a step better than last season while Renault got their first podium finishes since the team returned to the sport in 2016. Racing Point jumped from 7th in the 2019 Constructors to 4th in 2020; they secured their first podium under the Racing Point name in Monza, then again in Turkey and got their first win in Sakhir. Alpha Tauri in their new guise deserves an honourable mention as well. In terms of consistency, it was the Red Bull sister teams best campaign and topped off with their first win since a certain Sebastian Vettel in 2008.
It is a hard one but I am going to go for Racing Point but only just.
Race of the season: Portuguese Grand Prix
On formula1.com, fans voted for the Tuscan Grand Prix and for the chaotic nature of proceedings, especially the opening 11 laps it certainly has to be considered. It comes in 3rd in my mind. I want to give an honourable mention to the race the prior weekend at Monza. Pierre gasly was a surprise winner and it was great to watch but in 2nd I am going with the Sakhir Grand Prix. With its short almost oval layout, it was a new experience for F1 and the 87 laps flew by though you had to feel sorry for Russell at the same time as being elated for Sergio Perez.
The best race for me in 2020 though was the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao. It was a new circuit F1 had never been to before, there was the rain just before the start to spruce it up but it was the most entertaining race of the season for me. Carlos Sainz led from 6th on the opening lap, you had Perez, unfortunately, spun by coming back for an impressive finish. Then, there was Hamilton matching Michael Schucmehr’s 91 wins but there was action everywhere. 58 overtakes was the most of any race for all of the above, I’m saying the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Disappointing race of the season: Emilia Romagna
We did not see as much overtaking in 2020 as we did in 2019. Maybe the second half of 2019 spoiled us for on-track action. There are four contenders for this one: the Styrian Grand Prix held at the Red Bull Ring just seven days after the season opener? The Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t a spectacle but with 21 racing overtakes was on par with its 2019 edition. The one I’m going to go for is perhaps the one that disappointed me most and that was the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. I was so looking forward to seeing F1 cars race around Imola (I started watching F1 a few months after it last raced there in 2006) but with its narrow layout overtaking proved difficult. There were only 6 racing overtakes over the 63 lap race and while it lit up a bit at the end mostly due to the late Safety Car I have to go for that one.
Best individual performance: Lewis Hamilton in Spain
There are a few that come to mind. Most recently, Max Verstappen’s commanding win in Abu Dhabi ahead of both Mercedes drivers or maybe Sergio Perez’s phenomenal comeback from last on the opening lap to taking the chequered flag in Sakhir. They are all worthy contenders, so too is Nico Hulkenberg’s drive from 20th to 8th in a Racing Point he had not known he would be driving barely 24 hours prior. Alternatively, it could either Lewis Hamilton’s dominant performance in Spain or Belgium. I’m going to go for the former as this was the race he did not realise it was finished as he was that I the zone having led from start to finish, not to mention taking the Meidum tyres 40 laps to the end. His drive in Turkey is a very, and I mean very close second in this list.
Worst individual performance: Valtteri Bottas in Turkey
Looking back at the ratings I gave on each Grand Prix, this one goes to Valtteri Bottas at Istanbul Park. Reviewing that race, I gave the Finn 3.5 out of 10. The conditions were tricky enough on the newly resurfaced track before the rain came down but on the weekend he needed to outscore his teammate by 8 points to keep the championship battle alive, he had his worse qualifying performance of the season (9th) and spun no less than six times in one of his worst performances since joining Mercedes.
Controversial moment of the season: Racing Point copying Mercedes?
I can’t think of there being many controversial moments in 2020 other than the 15 point deduction Racing Point received for their car. It came after a couple of protests from Renault regarding their racing Point ‘pink Mercedes. Let’s face it, there was a striking similarity. At the time of the decision, specifically focused on the rear brake ducts of the car, there were protests from racing Point, Ferrari, Renault and a few more. Racing Point eventually had to accept the penalty having stated their intention to appeal. Those 15 points ended up being the difference between them finishing 4th and 3rd in the Constructors.
Most dramatic moment: Romain Grosjean in Bahrain
There are certainly a few to consider such as the late drama on the final lap of the Turkish Grand Prix between Perez, Vettel and Leclerc for the podium positions and the dramatic final lap of the Brtish Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton limping to the finish to take the win on only three wheels but there this one has to be Romain Grosjean’s fiery incident in Bahrain.
Biggest mistake of the season: George Russell behind the Safety Car at Imola
Racing in Europe during the colder months of October and November is not something F1 drivers are used to. However, trying to get heat into the tyres led to at least what looked like from the outside, an embarrassing error from George Russell. He spun out behind the Safety Car! They weren’t even racing but trying to get temperature into the tyres saw him spin off into the barriers. He was 10th at the time and could have earned his first F1 point. You could tell exactly what it meant to him just seeing his reaction.