Following the conclusion of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, we review the performances of each team that participated in the Championship. This is Part 1 of a 5 Part series. For Part 1, we focus on the 2 teams who finished at the bottom of the standings – Williams & Haas.
Team Personnel & Car Details:
Team Principal: Claire Williams (pre-Tuscan GP), Simon Roberts (Acting, post-Italian GP)
Race Drivers: George Russell (#63, R1-15, R17), Nicholas Latifi (#6, All Rounds), Jack Aitken (#89, R16)
Car: Williams FW43
Designers: Doug McKiernan (Design and Development Director), David Worner (Chief Designer), Jonathan Carter (Head of Design) & Dave Wheater (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Mercedes M11 EQ Performance
Gearbox: Williams 8 Speed + 1 Reverse
Best qualifying position: P12
Best finish: P11 (x4)
Constructors’ Championship position: P10 (2019 position: P10)
Constructors’ Championship points: 0 (2019 points: 1)
Points per driver: George Russell (0), Nicholas Latifi (0), Jack Aitken (0)
Season in a nutshell: Unlucky. Very Unlucky.
2020 was a turbulent year of transition for Williams. The team started out the year as ROKiT Williams Racing, ending the year as Williams Racing. The team also started the year as a family-owned team, and ended the year owned by an American private investment firm, Dorilton Capital. Changes to team management also occurred, with the Williams family entirely stepping aside.
Ahead of pre-season testing, after the revelation came that the FW43 was an evolution of the FW42, many fans were expecting the worst. The FW42 was by far the worst car ever-produced by the Grove-based team. It had just a single point to its name, scored at the 2019 German Grand Prix. A race of attrition, where just 13 cars crossed the finish line. A point which had been earned only due to a penalty for Alfa Romeo’s cars.
However, by the time pre-season testing concluded, fans of the Grove-based team had something to cheer about. Not only had the car run on all days of the test, it wasn’t dead last in the timesheets. On shorter runs, the car was seventh overall in the timesheets. On longer runs, it was ninth.
When the season finally rolled about in Austria, things looked to be generally alright. George Russell barely missed out on a Q2 berth by a tenth, while Nicholas Latifi would come in 11th in the attrition-hit race. Following Austria, things seemed to be looking up for the season, at least on Saturdays. Russell’s efforts saw the FW43 enter Q2 regularly, but once it came to Sunday, the car’s achilles heel was evident. The poor race-pace saw Russell fall down the order often, meaning that even at the season mid-point, where the evidently slower Haas cars had already scored once, Williams had yet to score, despite having 3 near-misses in P11.
Round 13, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, then saw Williams see it’s only realistic chance of scoring points this season fall apart. George Russell had been running in 10th late in the race, until he crashed during the Safety Car period. Nicholas Latifi would finish just outside the points again, in 11th.
The Sakhir Grand Prix then saw George Russell loaned out to Mercedes, to replace Lewis Hamilton, who was down with COVID-19. Jack Aitken would take his seat, finishing 16th. The Anglo-Korean driver had a relatively decent weekend, and showed much improvement in each session, to qualify under a tenth behind Latifi despite his inexperience with the FW43. However, had it not been for a mid-race spin, which would up affecting Russell’s race in the Mercedes, he would have finished 15th or even higher on his Formula One debut.
All in all, Williams was just unlucky at the end of the day. With the team having its first point-less season since 1979, the 2020 season ranks as the worst season in the team’s history, while the FW43 is now the “least successful” Williams car. Did the FW43 deserve to earn the title of the “least successful” Williams car? Certainly not. The aerodynamic regulation changes for 2021 could see it freed from this dubious honour, but that truly remains to be seen until the new season begins…
The key takeaway for Williams this season, has without a doubt been it’s improved pace, a far cry from the disaster that was 2019. With new ownership puttting the team in a much better financial position, there are many reasons for the team to look forward to a better 2021.
Season Rating: 4/10
Haas F1 Team
Team Personnel & Car Details:
Team Principal: Guenther Steiner
Race Drivers: Kevin Magnussen (#20, All Rounds), Romain Grosjean (#8, R1-15), Pietro Fittipaldi (#51. R16-17)
Car: Haas VF-20
Designers: Rob Taylor (Chief Designer), Ben Agathangelou (Chief Aerodynamicist)
Engine: Ferrari 065
Gearbox: Ferrari 8 Speed + 1 Reverse
Best qualifying position: P14
Best race: P9 (x1)
Constructors’ Championship position: P9 (2019 position: P9)
Constructors’ Championship points: 3 (2019 points: 28)
Points per driver: Romain Grosjean (2), Kevin Magnussen (1), Pietro Fittipaldi 0
Season in a nutshell: We look like a bunch of wankers. For a very good reason.
2020 was certainly a year to forget for Haas. It has been a quick fall from the high that was 2018, where the team challenged for 4th in the Constructors, to this point where the team is struggling to finish in the points. …
Granted, the struggles Haas faced in 2020 were in-part due to the Ferrari Power Unit. However, the team as a whole is just as responsible. For the 2020 season, the VF-20 received a grand total of zero upgrades on the Aerodynamic side of things. The car that started the Austrian Grand Prix, was effectively the same one that finished the season at Abu Dhabi.
Team principal Guenther Steiner mentioned in June that no updates were planned as he was not sure of the team’s budget, which was dependent on the number of races. In September, he again defended the decision to “freeze” the car, stating that in order to develop an Aero Package, it would take 2 months for it to be ready. Beyond the lack of Aerodymanic upgrades, the team as a whole appeared to fail to understand the car, with Grosjean publicly stating that the team was struggling with an “overheating” rear suspension, which was causing the team problems with aerodynamic balance. New parts trialled on the car in Portugal also seemed to fail to fix the problem.
2019’s points haul of 28 points was 1 less then what Haas scored in its debut season. For 2020, Haas scored a measly 3 points. Magnussen took 10th in Hungary courtesy of a bold strategy from the team & an excellent drive from himself, which was sufficient to negate a time-penalty incurred. That aside, there were no points finishes; even in the carnage of Monza and Mugello, 12th was the best Haas could do.
It was only 8 races after Hungary, that points would be scored again. Following a strong drive, which saw him fight back from 20th, Grosjean scored finished 9th to score 2 points at the Eifel Grand Prix. Following this, the team would not score for the rest of the season, with Grosjean taking the highest finish of 13th for the team following it in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
In the wake of his accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean would be replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi for the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekends. Fittipaldi would finish 17th in Sakhir, and 19th in Abu Dhabi
All in all, the combination of the following factors, namely a lack of aerodynamic development, a poor engine, and a lack of understanding of the car were the root causes behind the team’s poor performance. With the team switching out its experienced lineup for a pair of fast rookies, it looks like the situation may not improve for the team in the near future. 2021 could potentially be even worse…
Season Rating: 2/10