The KartCMP1 column: Some observations about the 2020 F1 season

f1 formula 1 formula one 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

Clinching the championship in convincing fashion at the Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton forged a level of dominance ranking him eighth this century in terms of average finishing position – 1.88 excluding retirements and his COVID-19 absence.

It was the third-best performance of his career bettered only by his 2015 (1.72) and 2014 (1.44) average finish. Michael Schumacher managed an average finishing position of 1.41 in 2002 which is the best of this century.

While Lewis continues to deliver performance at all-time high territory levels, the same cannot be said for his teammate Valtteri Bottas who despite claiming that nobody could do more in his car than himself after the Sakhir GP, rode home to an average race finish result of 4.31 which is by far the worst average finish of his four-year tenure at Mercedes. He mistakenly diagnosed a puncture at Monza, spun half a dozen times at Turkey and was pressured into an error on three occasions conceding position and narrowly held off the advances of Max Verstappen for second in the standings.

Verstappen, who often announced defeat to Mercedes prior to any on-track running during the weekend, put up a solid average finish this season of 2.42, nearly eclipsing Hamilton’s average finish of 2.38 in 2019 which convincingly won him the championship. Unfortunately, three power-unit issues, a tire puncture and a first lap squabble which Charles Leclerc took responsibility for, saw the Dutchman record five DNF results this year, an absolutely devastating blow and a brutal showcase of how unfair the nature of motorsport can be.

Brewing behind the top three, a midfield fight from hell from eight drivers of seven different teams in a season-long battle which saw Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, and Lance Stroll all hold fourth position in the championship at some point, with Sainz and Gasly also in the thick of the excitement as well.

Perez, like Verstappen and Hamilton, scored points in every race he finished and strung together an impressive 12 points finishes in a row, having to fight particularly hard at Spa after being put on what appeared to be the worst strategy call for any driver this season. Perez left Monza a season-worst 11th in the championship before flexing his muscles during the remaining races of the season. Despite having a lesser car, Riccardo admirably fought Perez home every step of the way with supreme consistency, and the two exchanged fourth position in the championship three times in the final four races, with the Australian managing to string together an impressive 11 points finishes in a row.

Stroll, a name unfairly followed by something to the effect of the son of billionaire Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll who part-owns the team Lance races for, much like Verstappen had a turbulent season leaving Monza at a season-high, joint-fourth in the championship. What followed was a horrendous seven, count em’ seven races in a row, a series of unfortunate events plunging him to 11th in the championship by the time the nightmare had finally come to an end. It started with a tire puncture during the Tuscan GP, then contact from Leclerc in Russia. He then missed the Eifel GP due to COVID-19, suffered contact with Norris in Portugal and endured a poor performance during the Emilia-Romagna GP. In Turkey, the team took a poor decision to pit him for new tires after he had dominated the early phase of the race and he ended the Bahrain GP upside down from contact with Daniil Kvyat. Putting things into perspective, the only poor result of all seven races where Stroll could be blamed 100% was in Imola where he appeared lost putting in his worst performance of the year.

Norris and Sainz, Sainz and Norris, what a pairing. While Norris enjoyed a good start to the season, the second half of the season was not so nice to him. Sainz endured a terrible start to the season and it was topped off by a crash during the Russian GP that he was so embarrassed about he stayed off social media the Monday after. During the ‘No Strings Attached’ bit by McLaren he admitted that he could have won the internet had he posted the frame just before hitting the wall captioned “and it was at this moment he knew… he f***ed up” to which Norris supported him saying “you should have done it”. What followed from Sainz was not a joke though and the Spaniard went on to score seven points finishes in a row lifting him from his season-low 11th in the championship after the Russian GP to an impressive sixth ahead of Norris.

The story of Alexander Albon was a captivating one this year, but the numbers are not quite as interesting as the rollercoaster of emotion that came with it. Gasly’s win was the second time while driving for Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri that he had surpassed Albon’s eventual best finish of third in the Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton caused a stir that would go on to torture Red Bull for the remaining portion of the season when the world champion suggested that Gasly be given a second chance. Red Bull immediately defended their position with Albon as he imploded under the direct spotlight and continued to do so right to the absolute bitter end.

Albon responded after Monza by getting his first podium at the Tuscany GP silencing the critics briefly before completely losing his form. Albon left the Italian GP at Monza sixth in the championship in what should have been fourth which just so happened to be his championship position leaving the prior race in Spa after the Belgian GP. During this highly bizarre period where Red Bull allowed Albon to ‘claim his seat’, Albon fell to ninth in the championship and headed to Turkey just a single point ahead of Gasly, eventually finishing seventh in the championship tied with Sainz in points for sixth. What should have been an average finish of fourth or better, Albon only managed to score 57 points, which was only seventh-best of every driver’s points haul after the Italian GP forward which included two third-place finishes at Mugello and Bahrain. Albon performed worse on average during the time he was put under pressure to perform while getting the full support of his team to do so than the first half of the season despite getting his two best finishes eventually sealing his fate.

f1 2020