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 4 of a 5 Part series. For Part 4, we focus on the 2 teams who finished 4th & 3rd – Racing Point & McLaren
BWT Racing Point F1 Team
Team Personnel & Car Details:
Team Principal: Otmar Szafnauer (CEO & Team Principal)
Race Drivers: Sergio Perez (#11, R1-3, R6-17), Lance Stroll (#18, R1-10, R12 to 17), Nico Hülkenberg (#27, R4-5, R11)
Car: Racing Point RP20
Designers: Andrew Green (Technical Director), Akio Haga (Design Director)
Ian Hall (Chief Designer), Simon Phillips (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: BWT Mercedes (Rebadged Mercedes M11 EQ Performance)
Gearbox: Mercedes 8 Speed + 1 Reverse
Best qualifying position: P1
Best race: P1 (x1)
Constructors’ Championship position: P4 (2019 position: P7)
Constructors’ Championship points: 195 (2019 points: 73)
Points per driver: Sergio Perez (125), Lance Stroll (75), Nico Hulkenberg (10)
Season in a nutshell:
When looking at the season for the team once-known as Force India, there are 2 ways to describe it. A “disappointment”, or a “Season to Celebrate”.
The team scored it’s first win since 2004, and it’s first pole since 2009. Shouldn’t that be something to celebrate? Well, for 2020, Racing Point took a radical approach to it’s car. Past years saw the team utilise a high-rake concept, which was paired to a customer Mercedes gearbox designed around a low-rake car. I chose to adopt a variation of the “semi-customer car” model adopted by the Haas F1 team since it’s debut, purchasing selected “non-listed parts” from another team. In the case of Haas, it has been Ferrari. In the case of Racing Point, it has been Mercedes. Following the purchase of “non-listed” components from Mercedes, as well as extensive analysis derived from photographs of the Mercedes W10, the team arrived at a car that, to many observers, seemed like a total copy of the W10.
Throughout pre-season testing, Racing Point stayed near the top of the timesheets in the “Pink Mercedes”, and needless to say, expectations were high. However, when the season started, things were far from smooth for the British squad.
The opening 2 rounds in Austria saw a pair of 6-placed finishes for Sergio Perez, and 7th in the Styrian GP for Lance Stroll. Meanwhile, midfield rivals McLaren scooped up 3rd & 5th in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, and snatched 5th & 9th in the Styrian Grand Prix. Hungary then saw the team make up ground relative to McLaren in the Constructors, with a 4th-placed finish by Stroll, and Perez in 7th. However, the 2 rounds held at Silverstone, the British Grand Prix, and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix saw mixed fortunes for the team.
COVID-19 saw Perez sit out both races due to him testing positive. Nico Hulkenberg deputised for him for both races. For the British Grand Prix, it was a disaster. Hulkenberg failed to start the race from 13th, while Stroll finished 9th from 6th on the grid. However, for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, things were much better. In fact, one could go as far as saying that the 70th Anniversary GP was the turning point of the team’s campaign. Hulkenberg qualified 3rd, and wound up 7th, while Stroll finished 6th.
The next race in Spain saw Perez return, with Stroll leading Perez home in a 4-5 finish. On his return, Perez would go on a 9 race streak of points finishes, topping it off with a 2nd placed finish in Turkey. Perez had been seemingly set to finish 3rd in Bahrain, until his power unit failed. However, when it came to the Sakhir Grand Prix, Perez made a strong comeback, to take his maiden win, and the team’s first win. Ultimately Perez would retire from his last race with Racing Point, suffering from a Power Unit issue…
On the other side of the garage, post-Silverstone, things weren’t so smooth… After leading Perez home for the Spanish, Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, topping it off with a Podium in Italy. After this however, Stroll had 2 consecutive retirements. In Tuscany, Stroll had a suspension failure, that saw him retire. In Russia, Stroll then had an accident with Charles Leclerc, putting him out of the race on Lap 1. Stroll then was diagnosed with COVID ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, and was replaced by Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg managed to finish 8th, rising up the order from 20th on the grid. Upon his return at Portugal, Stroll retired once more, following collision damage, after a clumsy overtake on Lando Norris. He then followed it up with a no-points finish at Imola, before scoring Pole in Turkey, where he struggled with his tyres and fell back to 9th by the chequered flag. Stroll was then eliminated on lap 2 of the restarted Bahrain Grand Prix. The subsequent race, the Sakhir Grand Prix saw Stroll join Perez on the podium in 3rd, before Stroll ended the season with 10 in Abu Dhabi.
On paper, the team had actually finished 3rd in the Constructors with 210 points. However, the team were subjected to a 15 point deduction by the FIA, following an FIA investigation into the team’s brake ducts. The 15 point deduction left them with 195 points, allowing McLaren to seize 3rd.
All in all, Racing Point had a decent season. Should the team have done better? Absolutely. The slow start to the year was what ultimately cost them in the Constructors. However, this should not detract from their achievements in 2020, namely a win, and a pole. Looking ahead to 2021, Racing Point have established a strong foundation for the year, and will be looking to make progress.
Season Score: 6/10
McLaren F1 Team
Team Personnel & Car Details:
Team Principal: Zak Brown (Chief Executive Officer), Andreas Seidl (Team Principal)
Race Drivers: Lando Norris (#4, All Rounds), Carlos Sainz Jr (#55, All Rounds)
Car: McLaren MCL35
Designers: James Key (Technical Director), Peter Prodromou (Chief Engineer), Mark Ingham (Head of Chassis Design), Guillaume Cattelani (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Renault E-Tech 20
Gearbox: McLaren 8 Speed + 1 Reverse
Best qualifying position: P3
Best race: P2
Constructors’ Championship position: P3 (2019 position: P4)
Constructors’ Championship points: 202 (2019 points: 145)
Points per driver: Carlos Sainz 105, Lando Norris 97
Season in a nutshell: A breakthrough year for the resurgent McLaren team
For McLaren, 2020 was the most successful year the Woking-based squad had seen since 2012. For the first time since 2012, the team made it to the podium on multiple occasions and managed to score over 200 points across a season. McLaren didn’t always have the fastest pace in the midfield, as evidenced by their points record. But what helped them beat Racing Point at the end of the day (points deduction aside), was the sheer consistency of the team, with numerous 4th, 5th & 6th placed finishes being logged.
Had it not been for Russia, McLaren would have been the only team besides Mercedes to score points at every race.
In addition to the consistency of the team, the team also made the best of it’s opportunities to rack up points. Almost all of the team’s best results came in chaotic races. 3rd for Lando Norris came at the retirement-hit Austrian Grand Prix, where Sainz finished 5th. 2nd for Carlos Sainz came at the dramatic Italian Grand Prix, while Lando Norris came 4th in the race.
Cruelly, Sainz suffered from a puncture at the British Grand Prix, with 2 laps to go while in 4th, which promoted Norris up the standings. At the Eifel & Turkish Grand Prix, Sainz again finished 5th amid the chaos of both races, before claiming 4th in the Sakhir Grand Prix. The season finale saw both drivers coming home 5-6, with Norris leading, allowing them to overhaul Racing Point in the season standings.
All in all, McLaren should be proud of the results achieved this season. It has been a long climb for the Woking-based squad, from finishing almost at the back of the pack in 2015 & 2017, to 3rd in 2020. Granted, the team did not entirely finish 3rd on merit, having benefited from the penalty incurred by Racing Point, which saw them lose 15 points. However, regulations must be followed to the word, and Racing Point had not done so, which led to their penalty.
Regardless if whether McLaren finished 3rd or 4th in 2020, the team still has plenty of reason to celebrate. 2020 showed a marked improvement in the team’s consistency and speed. If McLaren can continue on this upward trajectory, it will not be long before we could see a McLaren driver standing on the top step of the podium once more.
Season Score: 7/10