Formula 1: 2020 Season Review

We have had a week to breathe now, and it seems like a good time to look back at the 2020 Formula 1 season, analysing each team individually and briefly. The season itself was a strange one, but also an exciting one, with visits to several tracks we wouldn’t ordinarily have gone to, such as Mugello and Portimao, whilst Istanbul and Imola made their returns to help fill the depleted calendar. In this article, we will look at what went well for each team this season, what didn’t go well for them, and a brief look at any team changes being made, and what it could mean for them next season.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen

SHORT NAME: Alfa Romeo

BASED IN: Zurich, Switzerland

DRIVERS: Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) and Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA)

ENGINE: Ferrari

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 16th (Raikkonen) and 17th (Giovinazzi)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 8th

ANALYSIS:

Alfa Romeo are one of the teams who have the drivers to get points, but can’t seem to rack them up as much as some perhaps expect them to. Any team with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen knows they can get top 10 finishes in races, and Antonio Giovinazzi has shown previously that he has the talent to be in Formula 1 in a period filling in for Pascal Wehrlein at the beginning of the 2017 season. However, when you put both drivers in the cars, it doesn’t quite seem to click as much as some want it to. Raikkonen has only had two points finishes this season, whilst Giovinazzi has had three, but neither has finished higher than 9th place, and that is where the quality of the drivers is hindered a little by the car. It’s not a bad car, but this is the team formerly known as Sauber, so they would like to be fighting for places a little higher up the Championship, and just aren’t in the same league at the moment. To highlight this point, the team above them, Haas, finished on 107 points, whereas Alfa Romeo only managed to win eight.

Next season, with them keeping the same drivers for 2021, it will be interesting to see how they look to develop, and whether they are able to win any more points or finish any higher up in races. With Raikkonen in particular in the team, there is always a chance of that.

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda

SHORT NAME: AlphaTauri

BASED IN: Faenza, Italy

DRIVERS: Daniil Kvyat (RUS) and Pierre Gasly (FRA)

ENGINE: Honda

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 10th (Gasly) and 14th (Kvyat)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 7th

ANALYSIS:

AlphaTauri have been knocking on the door of the chasing pack in recent seasons, but this season they really started to challenge for serious points in races. Daniil Kvyat had a mixed time with the Red Bull team back in 2015 and 2016, but seems to be much more comfortable with the junior team, and has shown some signs this season of the talent that got him noticed by Red Bull initially. However, he was overshadowed this season by his teammate, Pierre Gasly, who had his best season to date, gaining 10 points finishes in the 17 Grand Prix races this season, and winning the Italian Grand Prix, his team’s home race. There is no doubting that this season was the one where AlphaTauri showed everyone else what they are really capable of, and joined the likes of Renault, McLaren and Racing Point as teams capable of podium finishes and, in this season at least, race wins.

Next season, they will definitely look to improve even more, but with a slightly different lineup. Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda, who finished third in Formula 2 this year, will take Kvyat’s place, whilst I really think Gasly will be a driver to watch next season. I don’t think he will get many wins, but I do feel he will get a few more high points finishes, whilst how well Tsunoda settles into Formula 1 will also be worth keeping an eye on, especially as Japanese drivers on the whole have not been too successful so far.

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Window

SHORT NAME: Ferrari

BASED IN: Maranello, Italy

DRIVERS: Sebastian Vettel (GER) and Charles Leclerc (MCO)

ENGINE: Ferrari

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 8th (Leclerc) and 13th (Vettel)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 6th

ANALYSIS:

Where do we start with Ferrari this season. Frankly, it would be better for them and for us if we just didn’t go into it at all, and moved on to next season, when, hopefully, they will do better and challenge at the top again. It was almost embarrassing to see them struggling so much, with strategy calls, car issues, driver mistakes and everything else that could possibly go wrong in a Formula 1 season going wrong at some point for them. We don’t need to extend this analysis by going into everything that needed to be better – we all saw what happened this season for the Prancing Horse.

Next season, they will have a different look to them, with Sebastian Vettel no longer with them, having moved to Aston Martin (as Racing Point will be renamed next season), and being replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr, who is moving to the Prancing Horse from McLaren. Sainz is a good driver, and has shown in his time with Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren that he has the pace and quality to drive for one of the top teams in the Championship. Partnering him with Leclerc will solve the driver issues that they had in 2020, but they will still need to work on everything else in the off-season.

Haas F1 Team

SHORT NAME: Haas

BASED IN: Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA

DRIVERS: Romain Grosjean (FRA) and Kevin Magnussen (DEN)

ENGINE: Ferrari

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 19th (Grosjean) and 20th (Magnussen)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 9th

ANALYSIS:

Haas opted not to make any changes to their driver lineup for the 2020 season, and this was perhaps one reason why they looked a bit stale at times, never really threatening the other teams above them. Magnussen only scored one point all season, with a 10th-placed finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the third round of the Championship, whilst Grosjean didn’t fare much better, with one ninth-placed finish at the Eifel Grand Prix (Nurburgring) his best result. Three points for the team all season showed how much they struggled to compete with the other teams in the Championship. However, we also need to reflect on probably the worst moment of the season, which was Grosjean’s horror crash in Bahrain, when his car collided with Kvyat’s, crashed into the barrier, split in two and caught fire – fortunately Grosjean survived this and escaped with only burns on his hands, and will make a recovery, which is good news for everyone.

Next season, the American team are ringing the changes, with Grosjean and Magnussen both moving on, and being replaced by 2020 Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher, the much-talked-about son of legendary driver Michael, as well as Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, who finished fifth in Formula 2 this season. We have seen some Formula 2 drivers do well in Formula 1, and some not do so well, so it will be interesting to see how both drivers cope with the step up in 2021. As a result, Haas are a team I’m going to be keeping an eye on, to see how they improve and how both drivers do.

McLaren F1 Team

SHORT NAME: McLaren

BASED IN: Woking, UK

DRIVERS: Lando Norris (GBR) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP)

ENGINE: Renault

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 6th (Sainz) and 9th (Norris)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 3rd

ANALYSIS:

In my 2020 season preview, I talked about the form McLaren had shown in 2019, and how they could be the one to challenge the top three (as it was then) of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, and how those teams needed to be at the top of their game if they wanted to prevent McLaren overtaking them in the Championship. However, Ferrari, as we know, did not have a good season, and my prediction came true. This season saw McLaren turn a good 2019 season, where we just sat back and enjoyed them getting back to their best, into an amazing 2020 season, where they really closed the gap between them and Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship; 2019 saw Red Bull finish third with 417 points, and McLaren fourth with 145 (a difference of 272 points), whilst 2020 saw Red Bull finish second with 319 points, and McLaren were third with 202 points (a difference of 117 points). There were fewer races, but this doesn’t detract from how much McLaren improved this season.

Next season, it can only get better for them. Yes, they have lost Carlos Sainz to Ferrari, and he was a really good driver for them, but they have replaced him with another who can help them continue to climb in Daniel Ricciardo, who impressed for Renault this season. Lando Norris will stay with the team, and the partnership between these two drivers is one of the most exciting on the grid next season, and hopefully we see McLaren close the gap to the top teams even more, adding to the excitement for fans. This will also be helped by the change in engine, with the team moving back to Mercedes, reigniting the partnership that brought them so much success between 1995 and 2014, and we have seen how the teams powered by Mercedes engines in 2020 performed well on the whole (Williams aside).

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

SHORT NAME: Mercedes

BASED IN: Brackley, UK (chassis) and Brixworth, UK (power unit)

DRIVERS: Lewis Hamilton (GBR) and Valtteri Bottas (FIN)

ENGINE: Mercedes

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 1st (Hamilton) and 2nd (Bottas)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 1st

ANALYSIS:

A little like with Ferrari, our analysis of Mercedes will not be long, because there isn’t much to say about them that hasn’t already been said. The majority of races were fairly straightforward for them, and there was never any danger that they weren’t going to gain another Constructors’ Championship. However, that is not to say that it was a completely flawless season for them, because they did have a few races where some strategy calls and bad luck went against them. The last two races, Sakhir and Abu Dhabi, saw them have bad weekends overall; Sakhir, which was without Lewis Hamilton of course, saw them mix up the tyres during a double-stacked pit stop, and George Russell, racing in Hamilton’s place, was denied a first win in Formula 1, having to settle for eighth place instead, whilst Valtteri Bottas finished in ninth. Abu Dhabi didn’t have mistakes, but they just couldn’t match the pace of Red Bull and Max Verstappen at all.

As far as next season goes, it would take a lot to topple them from their perch, but there are other teams looking to close the gap. In another article, I have looked at how close those chasing teams really are, but I don’t see them overtaking Mercedes next season. Therefore, it does seem that the Silver Arrows will be as dominant in 2021, even with a few technical points being changed in the rules, which will lead to Mercedes needing to slightly change their car design.

BWT Racing Point F1 Team

SHORT NAME: Racing Point

BASED IN: Silverstone, UK

DRIVERS: Sergio Perez (MEX) and Lance Stroll (CAN)

ENGINE: Mercedes

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 4th (Perez) and 11th (Stroll)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 4th

ANALYSIS:

Racing Point in 2020 was very different to Racing Point in 2019. Like with a few other teams, they had shown some promise last season, ending up in seventh place in the Championship, but they were much improved this season, and threatened the top teams in plenty of races and in the overall season. We knew a good few races before the end of the season that Sergio Perez would be leaving the team, but that didn’t stop him giving his all for the team, and his results reflected that; he only had one finish outside the top 10 in a race all season. A fourth-placed finish in the Drivers’ Championship meant that every team with a vacancy for next season would have been crazy to not look at him; he is so consistent and regularly secures points for the team. Lance Stroll has not brought back quite as many points, but still had a solid season. However, he did have five retirements, which hindered his hopes of finishing inside the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Next season, the team will be rebranded to Aston Martin, and will have former world champion Sebastian Vettel on its books; I personally am quite interested to see whether this move works out, given the hype around it. It feels like a last chance for the German, because, if he doesn’t improve whilst with Aston Martin, then we have to come to a conclusion that the problem is the driver not the team or car, and there have been questions in previous seasons about his form and driving style, getting the car where it won’t go, and causing some collisions and retirements for himself and others. As for the team, I don’t think they will finish any higher than they did this season, but matching their fourth-placed finish from this season would still be a good result for them.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

SHORT NAME: Red Bull

BASED IN: Milton Keynes, UK

DRIVERS: Max Verstappen (NED) and Alex Albon (THA)

ENGINE: Honda

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 3rd (Verstappen) and 7th (Albon)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 2nd

ANALYSIS:

Red Bull have been a team standing in the doorway of Championship titles, but just can’t find a way through it. We have seen how they seem to have everything to challenge, winning races from time to time, and pushing Mercedes all the way. However, what they need to do is to find the next step, because, whilst they are pushing the Silver Arrows in races, they don’t quite have the look of a title-winning team just yet. This is because of reliability problems with the car, and, if we look at the number of retirements they had this season with both cars, it shows this problem; Max Verstappen had five, including back-to-back non-finishes at Monza and Mugello, whilst Albon had just one, at the Nurburgring. However, compare that to Mercedes, who had one all season, for Bottas at the Nurburgring, and you can see how big a difference it made. Not all of Reb Bull’s retirements were for technical problems, I should point out, but it still means that Red Bull are in the doorway, but not able to really force their way in yet.

Next season, the driver lineup has been altered, with Alex Albon dropped to the reserve driver role after an inconsistent season, and being replaced by Sergio Perez, who was dropped by Racing Point in favour of Sebastian Vettel. It’s a difficult one, because I like Albon, but, in terms of race results, despite the promise he showed for the team in the latter stages of 2019, he hasn’t delivered what the team needs to challenge Mercedes. That has been the problem for them. Given Red Bull are the second-best team in the Championship (if you factor Ferrari out after the season they have had), they need to be targeting top four finishes for both cars, and Albon has only had four finishes in those placings all season, although he did finish in the points in most races. Perez, meanwhile, is consistent, and has shown he has the pace to match the top drivers, and, even though the decision was difficult, I do feel that, with Perez and Verstappen, we might see a Red Bull side that closes the gap slightly on Mercedes next season. It will be interesting to see if this is the case.

Renault DP World F1 Team

SHORT NAME: Renault

BASED IN: Enstone, UK (chassis) and Viry-Chatillon, France (power unit)

DRIVERS: Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) and Esteban Ocon (FRA)

ENGINE: Renault

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 5th (Ricciardo) and 12th (Ocon)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 5th

ANALYSIS:

When you look back at this season, you feel that Renault took an enormous step in the right direction. In 2019, they looked to be in the shadow of most of the teams above them, not able to challenge in the Constructors’ Championship, and finished fifth, a whole 54 points behind McLaren in fourth place. However, this season, they picked up 90 more points than last season, and looked a much better team in all aspects. When Daniel Ricciardo went to the team, I felt he was going backwards in his career, and last season did nothing to disprove that. However, everything looks better now, and we saw how the Australian had a few podiums as well, gaining third-placed finishes at the Nurburgring and Imola, with the first of those being Renault’s first podium since Malaysia in 2011. Esteban Ocon has had a solid season as well, with 10 points finishes, including a second-placed finish at Sakhir, but he also had four retirements, and almost went a little under the radar a bit at times.

Next season, Renault will be another team undergoing a name change, becoming known as Alpine. They will also have a new driver, with Fernando Alonso rejoining the team who he won two World Championships with back in 2005 and 2006. With Ricciardo leaving, they needed to bring in a driver who could deliver what he had been bringing to the team, and Alonso has the obvious experience to do that. I think they will be fine next season, but I also think they will do well to finish any higher than fifth, because that will mean toppling a very good McLaren team and a vastly improved Racing Point team, complete with Sebastian Vettel.

Williams Racing

SHORT NAME: Williams

BASED IN: Grove, UK

DRIVERS: George Russell (GBR) and Nicholas Latifi (CAN)

ENGINE: Mercedes

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS: 18th (Russell) and 21st (Latifi)

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP PLACING: 10th

ANALYSIS:

The main thing to mention about Williams in 2020 is that they, unfortunately, didn’t win a single point all season, often finishing as the last two drivers in each race’s standings. This is something that can be seen from looking at the table, but what we will focus on is the performances. George Russell in particular has shown good pace this season, but has been hindered by the car he has been driving, which has just been no match for the others around them in the Championship. I would say let’s hope they can close the gap a little in 2021, but that seems unlikely, in all likelihood. Nicholas Latifi’s highest finish was 11th, which he gained in the season-opener in Austria, as well as at Monza and Imola, but he never really troubled the rest of the drivers at any point during the season.

Next season will be their first full season without Claire or Sir Frank Williams in charge of the team, with the family having stepped down midway through the 2020 season, handing control over to US investment group Dorilton Capital. It looks to be the beginning of a new era of rising up the Championship again, but we will have to see if that is the case. I would be very surprised to see them troubling the teams above them next season, and I think if they can put noticeable pressure on Haas next season, and pick up points in some races, then that will be a successful season for them.

This article has been written simply to look back at the 2020 Formula 1 season, and reflect on the good and the bad for each team, now that we have had a week to digest what happened this season. There have been several highlights and a lot of talking points, and some of those will continue to be discussed going forward. However, the one thing we can all agree on is that we can’t wait for the 2021 season to return, hopefully with a calendar looking more like what we were expecting for this year as well.

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