Despite another dominant campaign from Lewis Hamilton, 2020 has provided fans with possibly some of the most unpredictable moments in recent memory. In this article, we review the top 8 winners from a turbulent and unforgettable season.
8 – George Russell
It was been somewhat of a break through season for the highly touted Briton. However, the first thing that will come to the minds of many when thinking about George Russell’s season is the devastating loss of a certain win at the Sahkir Grand Prix.
But, when looking at his season as a whole, 2020 can be considered a significant win. Numerous Q2 appearances in the slowest car on the grid immediately grabbed attention and reinforced the incredible reputation this driver possesses.
Something Russell displayed back at the Virtual Grand Prix at the beginning of the year is his ability to adapt. The Sahkir GP only amplified this. Qualifying 0.026s adrift of polesitter Bottas was immense. But, to then take the lead and dominate from the front showed the world what the GP2 champion is capable of.
However, perhaps most impressive of all was the way he acted in defeat. A botched pit-stop and puncture tore away a fairy tale result. Yet, while there was audible frustration, he acted as a leader and gracefully accepted the result. Something many racers, including a 7-time world champion, may not have been able to do.
7 – Pierre Gasly
Half way through 2019, Pierre Gasly was demoted from a championship contender team after a string of bad results and no silverware. A year and a half later, Gasly has now visited the rostrum twice and once as a race winner.
Gasly’s 2020 season has been miraculously strong. Consistent points finishes, far above the ability of his Alfa Tauri have long thrown away the reputation he gained at Red Bull. Dependable and reliable, Gasly has been his own best advert this year.
However, there is moment in particular that has been set apart from the rest. A shock victory at the temple of speed, Monza. Gasly put himself in an incredible position after Leclerc brought out the red flag and held his nerve as Sainz closed in. Winning by less than a second, the Frenchman achieved a complete fairy tale.
Gasly has signed on with Alpha Tauri for another year, but now, it is almost certain that every team on the grid has taken note. A phenomenal turn around.
6 – Max Verstappen
Yet another season where Max Verstappen might have been wondering ‘what could have been’. Red Bull’s development race has been strong over 2020, but they were outclassed every step of the way by Mercedes. Yet, Verstappen’s performances have shown that he still has the fire and determination when required.
When asked to hold back and save tyres at the 70th Anniversary GP, Verstappen gave a resoundingly negative answer and took the fight to the Mercedes, something that gave Red Bull an unlikely victory around the Silverstone track. He won as many races and visited the podium the same amount of times as Bottas, despite retiring from 4 more races. The fact that he missed out on 2nd by 9 points, despite the dominance of the Mercedes highlights his skill.
If Red Bull have a car that is even mildly a contender, 2020 has shown that Verstappen will extract the absolute maximum.
5 – Sergio Perez
As his Racing Point pulled up during the Abu Dhabi GP, it appeared that Perez’s tenure in F1 may have come to an anticlimactic end. After being forced out from the team he saved from bankruptcy, a shock race win and 4th place in the championship, it truly seemed that his best was not good enough.
However, the Mexican’s story is not quite over yet. Red Bull’s Alexander Albon has been demoted to a reserve driver and the vacant seat was gifted to Perez. After 10 seasons of outperforming his midfield cars, a once in a lifetime opportunity awaits. Despite rarely having the performance to take the battle to Mercedes, Red Bull definitely won the development battle. By the end of 2020 Mercedes were starting to have their feathers ruffled. As 2021 will be using essentially the same cars, Red Bull and Perez may be able to deliver some shock results.
4 – McLaren
In 2017, McLaren were 9th in the constructors with a paltry 30 points. The previous champions were at rock bottom and had only improved by 3 points in comparison to their 2015 campaign. 3 years later, Mclaren have been elevated to 3rd with 202 points and the trajectory only seems to be rising.
While superb efforts from Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz must be noted, 1 podium each in 2020, the team effort that has seen this miraculous turn around cannot be ignored. Key figures such as Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl have been instrumental in reshaping the group. All of this effort was most notable in how the team melds together in times of success and failure. The reactions from Norris’ maiden podium, Sainz’s near victory and stealing 3rd overall at the last race of the season show the dedication of every member in this team.
Moving forwards, McLaren appear to have all the pieces in place to succeed in 2021. Despite losing Sainz, highly touted Australian Daniel Ricciardo joins from Renault. And to further whet fan’s appetites, the McLaren Mercedes partnership will be rekindled from next year.
It appears the only way is up for the Papaya team.
3 – Lewis Hamilton
What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Lewis Hamilton has dominated another F1 season and has now put himself, statistically, as the most successful driver in Formula 1 history.
Previously, Hamilton had already taken the record for most pole positions. This year he not only equalled Schumacher’s 7 world titles but surpassed his incredible win total as well. But what’s more, the Briton does not seem to be slowing down. The obvious favourite for the 2021 title, Hamilton may clinch the final record to himself, most titles.
Many will claim that the car has been the deciding factor. But Hamilton let his ability do the talking this year and his incredible win in Turkey is testament to that.
2 – The Fans
Mere hours before the first practice session of 2020 was due to take place, fan’s hearts sank, but with a degree of understanding. After McLaren began a chain of teams pulling out after one of their members contracted COVID-19. From there, all bets were off toward any hope of a season in 2020.
It started with the Virtual Grand Prix, racers and celebrities alike flocked to take part and help entertain the confined masses. Then, news started to gain traction. A revised calendar, new races, back to backs at the same tracks, new layouts, one of a kind events and somehow, 17 races were held in 2020.
From this alone, the fans could possibly be considered the greatest winners this year. But then, the quality of the racing this year defied all expectations. 13 different podium sitters, 2 new race winners, 20 point scorers, 3 stand in drivers and races of such high quality have made this season truly unforgettable.
However, as lucky as the fans were, there was someone else who won out more than any other.
1 – Romain Grosjean
All Formula 1 fans are aware of the danger that the drivers take. In recent memory, the tragedies of Jules Bianchi and Antoine Hubert have shown that, despite all the development and security measure taken, lives are still at risk.
As Romain Grosjean’s car was engulfed in fire after a horror crash the the Bahrain GP, everyone assumed the worst. High speed, a huge explosion and a car piercing the armco barriers should equal only one result. But the pictures of Grosjean climbing from the flames has become one of the iconic motorsport pictures of 2020. The introduction of the halo brought derision from many fans, but now it’s value has been placed beyond all doubt.
Dr Ian Roberts and Dr Alan van der Merwe also deserve recognition as their heroic efforts changed the outlook of the incident completely, their bravery, far beyond the call of duty should be remembered for years to come.
Romain Grosjean, his wife and 3 children have won far more than any result they could receive in Formula 1.
And so, we look ahead. It is almost certain that some races will still be affected by COVID-19 next year, but a 23 race calendar has been confirmed. New teams, multiple driver switches and some returning faces may give us a season that actually surpasses what we saw in 2020.
Well.. we can hope, right?
Featured Image Credit: @Formula1.com