Formula 1 2020 season review – The Strangest Season Ever

In my 13 years of watching Formula 1, the 2020 season has to be one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. 13 podium sitters, 2 new race winners, tracks holding their first-ever F1 race and a driver walking away from an accident that seemed impossible to walk away from. One thing did remain the same though – Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s utter dominance in the hybrid era.

Mercedes-Benz – Class of the field

It was arguably Mercedes’ most dominant season since 2016. Unfortunately, this did result in some races which were completely one-sided and difficult to watch. On the other hand, when Mercedes weren’t at their best and usually, when they made a mistake, this resulted in some fantastic races.

Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 16 races he competed in 2020, leading some to brand the sport as predictable

Faltering Ferrari allows more podium sitters

I don’t think anybody was truly expecting Ferrari to be as bad as they ended up being this season, but what that did result in was the opportunity for many drivers and teams to capitalise when one of the standard three podium sitters this season – Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas ran into an issue of any kind.

Sergio Perez was one of two shock winners in 2020

Notably in Monza and Sakhir, when the safety car was deployed, Mercedes made crucial errors which cost them races they were banked on to win. From a fan’s perspective, this was brilliant as it gave us our first winner from outside the top three teams since 2013.

Watching Pierre Gasly cross the line to take his first win in Formula 1 was unbelievable considering the dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari teams since 2014.

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I’d forgotten what it felt like for a complete surprise winner, but at a time when the sport was going through a pretty bad phase, Gasly’s win in Monza really was a brilliant result not just for him and his team, but for Formula 1.

Not too long after, Sergio Perez claimed his first win in the sport after 190 races and capped off what has been surely his best season in Formula 1 which has rightfully earnt him a seat at Red Bull Racing next year.

Tumultuous Time at Red Bull

I won’t go too much into Red Bull’s young driver programme and the teams interesting decisions over the last few years in terms of driver signups. But in short, I don’t think Alex Albon did enough to keep his red bull seat, something that not many can argue against.

That isn’t to suggest though that I don’t feel at least a bit for him. I personally think Red Bull have made some bad decisions in the past few years which have hampered a few drivers’ careers. Including putting Albon into a high-pressure seat when he clearly wasn’t ready.

That aside, I am really intrigued to see what Checo can do in a Red Bull next season alongside one of the best drivers on the grid.

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I have a feeling Max will comfortably beat Perez over the course of the season, but I assume what Red Bull will expect from the consistent Mexican is him to be at the front during races to give them strategic options against the two Mercedes. As good as Verstappen may be, it’s hard for him to do much when it’s 2 vs 1.

If Perez performs poorly, this will indicate that there is something wrong with the team or the car rather than the driver. Sergio has proven over his career that he is one of the best drivers out there.

What could 2021 bring?

I sensed a lot of excitement and optimism after Verstappen’s dominant win in Abu Dhabi and hopes that 2021 can finally be the season Red Bull take the fight to Mercedes. But haven’t we said the exact same thing for the past 5 to 6 years? Why is 2021 going to be any different?

Verstappen has ended the season well, but can he and his team carry it into 2021?

Considering there are not any major regulation changes for next year, I am keeping my hopes very low for any real challenge for the Silver Arrows in 2021. Another argument is that now Red Bull have two very good drivers so they should be able to beat Mercedes.

Wasn’t that the case when they had Ricciardo though? They weren’t able to mount a credible challenge back then.

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I am a little more optimistic that Ferrari can at least get back to 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship after what was surely just a one-off bad season for the Scuderia. You would think a team with the amount of resources they have would be able to find a way back to where they should be on the grid.

One of my drivers of the season was Charles Leclerc, who carried his car way higher up the pecking order than it should’ve been on many occasions.

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As for his teammate, I suspect Sebastian Vettel was the happiest to see the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi after what has been a horrid season for the 4-time world champion. Coupled with his poor race performances, his relationship with Ferrari has deteriorated so significantly over the course of his five years there.

I hope he goes to Aston Martin and performs like the Sebastian Vettel who we are used to watching.

Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly also deserve recognition for their brilliant performance this season. It will be exciting to see what Ricciardo can bring to a McLaren team on the up and how Sainz can fit into a Ferrari team which has become increasingly focused around Charles Leclerc.

The strangest season ever

When I said at the start of this review that this season has been very strange, what I meant was how topsy-turvy it has been. We have had fantastic and sometimes crazy races such as Austria, the 70th anniversary Grand Prix, Turkey and Sakhir.

Pierre Gasly’s shock win in Italy epitomised the season.

When a race was bad, though, it was often very bad. At one point, it looked as if we potentially weren’t going to have a 2020 Formula 1 season, but in the end, we got a real calendar shake up with with tracks like Imola, Mugello, and Portimao all featuring.

I hope we can see some of these tracks on the calendar in the future but realistically, I don’t think we should expect to see some of these appear again.

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Out of all the surprises this season, including a Racing Point and AlphaTauri winning a race, the biggest surprise for me this season was seeing Romain Grosjean survive what has to be the worst accident I can remember in Formula 1.

Romain Grosjean’s crash in Bahrain was a testament to the safety of modern F1 cars

It’s incredible to think how a driver could survive his car splitting in half and being able to climb out of his car after just experiencing a 52G impact. I think it was a stark reminder for everyone just how dangerous Formula 1 can be. But also, a reminder just how much has been done since Bianchi’s tragic death in 2015.

Overall, I really enjoyed the 2020 season. Even though it was lacking a title fight, which I hope we can see next year. But as I have finished previous season reviews, I just can’t see anybody stopping Lewis Hamilton from running away with it again.

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