2020 F1 Season Review Part 5: Red Bull & Mercedes

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

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 5 of a 5 Part series. For Part 5, we focus on the 2 teams who finished at the top of the standings – Red Bull & Mercedes.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Christian Horner
Race Drivers: Alexander Albon (#23, All Rounds), Max Verstappen (#33, All Rounds)

Car: Red Bull RB16
Designers: Adrian Newey (Chief Technical Officer), Pierre Wache (Technical Director), Rob Marshall (Chief Engineering Officer), Dan Fallows (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Honda RA620H
Gearbox: Red Bull Technology 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P1
Best race: P1 (x2)
Constructors’ Championship position: P2 (2019 position: P3)
Constructors’ Championship points: 319 (2019 points: 417)
Points per driver: Max Verstappen (214), Alex Albon (105)

Season in a nutshell: Realistically, the best the team could have done in the standings. Points wise could have certainly been better for the second car…

Truthfully speaking, this was the really the only place that anyone expected Red Bull to be at the end of the Season. 2nd. But points-wise, Red Bull could, and should have done better. The points distribution was split 214/105. 214 for Verstappen, including 1 pole, 2 wins & 9 podiums. 105 for Albon, including 2 podiums.

From pre-season testing, it was clear that Red Bull would be finishing a clear second. Mercedes was outpacing every team, including Red Bull by a huge margin. Ferrari had effectively eliminated themselves with a weak Power Unit. However, it was clear that as usual, Red Bull was holding their cards close to their chest, and “sandbagging”.

Unlike most teams who set their fastest times on the softest tyre, the C5 Compound, Red Bull had not done so. Both drivers set their fastest laps on the C4 compound.

Max Verstappen was the standout driver for Red Bull this season, and the consistency he exhibited each weekend really showed how refined the Dutchman had become. He finished on the podium at nearly every race he finished, bar Turkey. A mix of 2nd and 3rds. Had it not been for 5 retirements, the Dutchman would have looked to set a new points record for himself. It should also be noted that only 1 of his 5 retirements were caused by an action of himself, in Sakhir, where he ran into a barrier trying to avoid a collision.

On the other side of the garage with Albon, it was generally a frustrating season, which held some promise in the first few rounds, before his form plummeted. 2 podiums were the only takeaway for the British-Thai driver, who will be sitting out the 2021 season, having been replaced by Sergio Perez for 2021.

All in all, Red Bull may come away from the 2020 Season being somewhat disappointed. 2 wins were all that the team received, but this was really the best that the team could expect. Especially given the sheer size of the gap between themselves and Mercedes then..

For 2021, Red Bull will be looking to balance it’s efforts between 2021 and 2022, with a greater emphasis on the latter, with the aim of putting up a fight against Mercedes for the long-term.

Season Score: 8/10

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Renault R.S.20 / Daniel Ricciardo / AUS / Renault F1 Team
Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Zak Brown (Chief Executive Officer), Andreas Seidl (Team Principal)
Race Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (#44, R1-R15, R17), Valtteri Bottas (#77, All rounds), George Russell (#63, R16)

Car: Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance
Designers: James Allison (Technical Director), Mike Elliott (Technology Director), John Owen (Chief Designer), Kevin Taylor (Head of Engineering), Jarrod Murphy (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Mercedes-AMG F1 M11 EQ Performance
Gearbox: Mercedes 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P1
Best race: P1
Constructors’ Championship position: P1 (2019 position: P1)
Constructors’ Championship points: 573 (2019 points: 739)
Points per driver: Lewis Hamilton (347), Valtteri Bottas (223), George Russell (3)

Season in a nutshell: Yet another year of domination for Mercedes.

For Mercedes, 2020 was a re-definition of the word “dominant”. The team won 13 of the 17 races, scored 15 of the 17 pole positions, while having at least one driver finishing on the podium at almost every race. On the technical side of things, Mercedes had effectively outdone, and one may even say, crushed any potential opposition right from the get-go.

From pre-season testing, it was already clear to everyone that Mercedes were almost certain to dominate the season. Across the 6 days of testing, Mercedes had managed to complete a whopping 903 laps, far ahead of any other team, with the nearest being Ferrari at 844 laps. Not only that, Mercedes had even managed to beat the whole field by a huge margin. 0.6 seconds on long-run pace, and over a second faster on one-lap pace. Then there was the DAS debacle, which saw the device banned for 2021, but still allowed for 2020, which was part of the reason for the W11’s sheer pace over the competition.

However, it should be said, that even without DAS, it was still clear how much faster the W11 was over it’s “competitors” on track. At the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mercedes removed the DAS system from both cars. Removing the DAS system really just showed how far ahead Mercedes were, over the competition on the Technical front. Lewis Hamilton took pole, with a 1:16.652. The fastest non-Mercedes was the RB16 of Max Verstappen. Verstappen was almost 4 tenths down on Hamilton. By the time the chequered flag flew, Hamilton had won the race with a lead of over 30 seconds on Verstappen.

In the world of Formula One, where time is measured in milliseconds, it may as well have been an eternity. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas finished 25 seconds behind him. How far behind was Verstappen? Another 9 seconds. Granted, the race was chaotic. But there was absolutely no denial that Mercedes was far ahead of the competition on the technical side of things.

So what happened in the other 4 races that Mercedes “lost”? Well, at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the W11 struggled with it’s tyres. When it came to the Italian Grand Prix, the team made the mistake of sending Hamilton into the pits when it was closed. At the Sakhir Grand Prix, a messy double stack pit stop ruined what could have been a surefire 1-2, and the maiden win for Hamilton’s stand-in, George Russell. At Abu Dhabi, the team turned down the engines on both cars for “reliability reasons”.

All in all, Mercedes simply had a great season. Sure. On the Race Operations side of things, several major blunders. But these blunders were simply insignificant when it came to the big picture, courtesy of the Technical department. While Mercedes should work on preventing the blunders from reoccurring next season in the Race Operations department, the Technical Department, and the team as a whole, is fully deserving of the praise it is receiving.

Season Score: 9/10

2020 F1 Season Review Part 4: Racing Point & McLaren

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

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

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

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

Season Stats:

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

Renault R.S.20 / Daniel Ricciardo / AUS / Renault F1 Team
Image by Artes Max (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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

Season Stats:

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

2020 F1 Season Review Part 3: Ferrari & Renault

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

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 3 of a 5 Part series. For Part 3, we focus on the 2 teams who finished 6th & 5th – Ferrari & Renault

Scuderia Ferrari

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Mattia Binotto
Race Drivers: Sebastian Vettel (#5, All Rounds), Charles Leclec (#16, All Rounds)

Car: Ferrari SF1000
Designers: Simone Resta (Head of Chassis Engineering), Enrico Cardile (Head of Chassis Design), David Sanchez (Chief Aerodynamicist)
Engine: Ferrari 065
Gearbox: Ferrari 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P4
Best race: P2 (x1)
Constructors’ Championship position: P6 (2019 position: P2)
Constructors’ Championship points: 131 (2019 points: 504)
Points per driver: Charles Leclerc 98, Sebastian Vettel (33)

Season in a nutshell: A truly awful season for the Scuderia.

The 2020 season should have been a year of celebration for the Scuderia, except it wasn’t to be. For the Scuderia, the 2020 season was effectively a disaster on all fronts. 2020 saw the team fall. And fall hard it did.

In 2019, Ferrari didn’t have the best chassis. But it was still a chassis that was able to fight Mercedes on certain tracks. However, when it came to 2020, the car was a step backward, and for the first few races at least, it was entirely undeveloped. But this wasn’t the real kicker that ruined the season for Ferrari. On the engine front, it was a total bloodbath. The Scuderia had been the leading PU Supplier in 2019. But after a series of clampdowns by the FIA, the engine lost a significant amount of power for 2020. The effects of this were significant. At qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, 2019 pole-sitter Leclerc was over 9 tenths slower than his pole-time for 2019…

The weaknesses of the car meant that the drivers suffered. 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who was unceremoniously announced to be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr for 2021, was effectively a lower-midfield runner. Vettel failed to score points for almost 2 thirds of the season, and nearly failed to reach the podium; had it not been for a late race-mistake in Turkey for Leclerc, he would have been 4th. Charles Leclerc had a much greater season, hugely outscoring Vettel, while earning himself 2 podiums, and finishing 4th thrice. He was able to wrest the car to places it didn’t deserve to be in many instances on Saturday & Sunday, but when it came to power-sensitive tracks like Spa & Monza, he was no different from Vettel.

All in all, Ferrari’s poor 2020 season boils down to the following: A very weak engine, and a subpar chassis. For the 2021 season, Ferrari will be introducing a brand new power unit, in a bid to claw back the lost power. Given that Ferrari’s main weakness lay within the engine, as opposed to the chassis, it is safe to say that if Ferrari can claw back the lost horsepower, the 2021 season could certainly be much improved….

Season Score: 5/10

DP World Renault F1 Team

Renault R.S.20 / Daniel Ricciardo / AUS / Renault F1 Team
Image by Artes Max (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Cyril Abiteboul (managing director). Marcin Budkowski
(executive director)
Race Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo (#3, All Rounds), Esteban Ocon (#31, All Rounds)

Car: Renault R.S.20
Designers: Marcin Budkowski (Executive Director), Nick Chester (Chassis Technical Director), Simon Virrill (Chief Designer), Matthew Harman (Engineering Director), Dirk de Beer (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Renault E-Tech 20
Gearbox: Renault 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P4
Best race: P2 (x1)
Constructors’ Championship position: P5 (2019 position: P5)
Constructors’ Championship points: 181 (2019 points: 91)
Points per driver: Daniel Ricciardo (119), Esteban Ocon (62)

Season in a nutshell: A breakthrough year, and a fitting finale for the revived Renault factory squad

Compared to the complete disappointment of 2019, which saw the team’s upward momentum halted, 2020 was certainly a huge leap forward. In the Coronavirus-hit season, which saw just 17 races compared to the 21 races in 2019, Renault not only outscored it’s tally from the previous season. The team actually managed to double it’s points tally.

2 droughts were also brought to an end for the team, and they certainly serve as indicators of progress the team has made since the days when it was owned by GENII Capital. For the first time since 2015, the team managed to reach the podium, with a single appearance for each driver, after a near-miss at Italy in 2019 for Ricciardo. In addition, the team managed to score it’s first Fastest Lap since 2013, when it was known as “Lotus”.

However it should be stated, that the final result of 5th in the constructors was something that really could have been better. Think 4th, or even 3rd in the constructors. It was a slow start to the season, which saw spotty performances prior to Spa, with the sole exception being at Silverstone, where both drivers got into the points.

Given the results produced by the team across the season, it should also be said that in a “normal” Formula One season, Renault could have realistically fared much worse… As was the case in 2019, Renault excelled at lower-downforce tracks, while struggling at times on higher-downforce tracks. The return to a “standard” calendar for 2021 could see Renault slip back once more…

All in all, 2020 was a fitting finale for “Team Enstone” under the guise of “Renault”, ahead of yet another rebranding in 2021. The key takeaway for “Team Enstone” in 2020, is it’s improved pace, which was a significant factor in the improved result compared to 2019’s disappointment.

With the return of Fernando Alonso to the team for a third spell for 2021, expectations are high. If “Team Enstone” can carry forward the momentum of 2020, while addressing its weakness at High-downforce circuits into the 2021 season & beyond, we could well see the Alpine F1 Team challenge for glory at the front of the pack in the near future…

Season Score: 7/10

2020 F1 Season Review Part 2: Alfa Romeo & AlphaTauri

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

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 2 of a 5 Part series. For Part 2, we focus on the 2 teams who finished 7th & 8th with a huge points disparity between them – Alfa Romeo & AlphaTauri.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Frédéric Vasseur
Race Drivers: Kimi Räikkönen (#7, All Rounds), Antonio Giovinazzzi (#99, All Rounds)

Car: Alfa Romeo C39
Designers: Jan Monchaux (Technical Director), Luca Furbatto (Chief Designer), Alessandro Cinelli (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Ferrari 065
Gearbox: Ferrari 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P8
Best race: P9 (x3)
Constructors’ Championship position: P8 (2019 position: P8)
Constructors’ Championship points: 8 (2019 points: 57)
Points per driver: Kimi Raikkonen (4), Antonio Giovinazzi (4)

Season in a nutshell: A decent result, considering the engine Handicap

On the surface, to the casual F1 fan, the 2020 season was a disaster for the Alfa Romeo team. For 2019, the team had scored 57 points, an improvement over 2018’s haul of 48 points. But for 2020, the team had scored a grand total of just 8 points, just over 1/7 of what they had scored in the previous year.

However, was it really a disaster for Alfa Romeo? One could perhaps say it was far from a disaster. If anything, the team had certainly done well to make the most of any points scoring opportunity. On the chassis side of things, Alfa Romeo had certainly not done a poor job. At some races, not only did they out-qualify their engine supplier, they even managed to out-race them.

If anything, the single weakest link on the car was perhaps the Ferrari Power Unit. The Ferrari unit had gone from being the most powerful on the grid, to become the weakest following the FIA Investigation in the 2019 post-season. With the number of power-sensitive circuits on the calendar, notably those designed by Hermann Tilke, any Ferrari powered car was bound to lose competitiveness over the course of the season.

In the attrition-filled Austrian Grand Prix, Giovinazzi took 9th, taking advantage of the carnage to take 2 points. However, following the race, the team went on a run of 7 races without scoring points. At the Styrian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen, finished just outside the points in 11th. This would be the closest the team would be to scoring points during this drought, which ended at the Tuscan Grand Prix, after Raikkonen finished 9th.

Giovinazzi then finished just outside of the points at Russia, before scoring again in the next race, the Eifel Grand Prix. The subsequent race, the Portugal Grand Prix then had Raikkonen again finish outside the points. The next race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, then saw both cars finish in the points for the first time in 2020. This would also be the last time either car would finish in the points. This was enough for the team to create a huge gap to it’s rivals in Formula One’s “Class C”. As a result, they were able to secure 8th in the standings.

All in all, Alfa Romeo made the most of it’s equipment. With the weak Ferrari PU, things could not possibly have gone much better. They convincingly beat the 2 teams they could realistically beat, and should be proud of what they achieved. For 2021, which should see the introduction of a revised PU that will claw back the lost power, Alfa Romeo could potentially challenge the lower-midfield once again, breaking clear of Haas & Williams.

Season Score: 8/10

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Franz Tost
Race Drivers: Pierre Gasly (#10, All Rounds), Daniil Kvyat (#26, All Rounds)

Car: AlphaTauri AT01
Designers: Jody Egginton (Technical Director)
Engine: Honda RA620H
Gearbox: Red Bull Technology 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P4
Best race: P1 (x1)
Constructors’ Championship position: P7 (2019 position: P6)
Constructors’ Championship points: 107 (2019 points: 85)
Points per driver: Pierre Gasly (75) , Daniil Kvyat (32)

Season in a nutshell: A breakthrough year for the new-look Faenza-based team

2020 marked a year of change for the Faenza-based team. The team once known as Scuderia Toro Rosso became rebranded as Scuderia AlphaTauri, & with the new identity came a new purpose. In it’s former guise as Scuderia Toro Rosso, the team’s purpose was to serve as a “junior team”, tasked with developing the skills of promising drivers for the senior team. As AlphaTauri, the team is now considered the “sister team” of Red Bull Racing.

So. Did AlphaTauri perform well enough to live up to the newfound status conferred upon it? Yes, and at the same time, no.

Year One with it’s newfound status as a “sister team” saw the team continue on it’s upward trajectory. With the 107 points, this number is the highest in the team’s history. For the most part, the team proved to be competitive in the midfield. Gasly emerged as the lead driver early on, showing great consistency & scoring points on a regular basis. However, when it came to Kvyat, things were much less consistent. While the Russian driver should certainly be applauded for some heroic drives, it must be acknowledged that he suffered from a lack of consistency at times. This lack of consistency ultimately cost the team ground in the constructors to it’s midfield rivals.

Highlights of the season for the Italian squad included Pierre Gasly’s first F1 win, at it’s home race, alongside Kvyat’s heroic drive at Imola to finish 4th.

Pierre Gasly will continue with the team in 2021, as he continues to rebuild his career, following his mid-season demotion at Red Bull in 2019. In the other car, Honda-protege & 2020 Formula 2 Rookie of the Year Yuki Tsunoda makes the leap up to Formula 1, replacing Kvyat. The second half of the season saw the Russian pick-up his form, but ultimately it was not enough for him to keep his seat.

All in all, AlphaTauri had a decent season, with a significant highlight coming in the form of Pierre Gasly’s Monza victory. For 2021, the goal for AlphaTauri will likely be to build upon its success in 2020, and climb up the grid. With Alfa Romeo set to receive a Ferrari power unit with lost power reclaimed for 2021, competition in the midfield will be increased for AlphaTauri. How successful the team will be is an unknown, but expectations remain high.

Season Score: 7/10

2020 F1 Season Review Part 1: Williams & Haas

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

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.

Williams Racing

Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

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

Season Stats:

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

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

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

Season Stats

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

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Preview: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Featured Photo by Abed Ismail on Unsplash

The Sakhir Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, at the Bahrain International Circuit saw a surprise podium. Amid the trouble at Mercedes, alongside the retirement of Max Verstappen on Lap 1, Sergio Perez & Racing Point emerged victorious, with Esteban Ocon in 2nd for Renault, alongside 3rd for his Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Yas Marina Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain, for the final race of the season. Max Verstappen starts from Pole, with Valtteri Bottas behind him in second.

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix”

Preview: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Featured Image by Tobias Sattler on Flickr

The Bahrain Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Max Verstappen in 2nd for Red Bull, alongside 3rd for his teammate Alex Albon. This weekend sees changes everywhere, in both Formula One & Formula 2, with a new circuit, and several driver changes.

For today’s Sakhir Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position, with George alongside him on the front row of the grid. Ahead of the race, we have compiled a list of things to look out for…

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix”

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Weekend Preview

Featured Image by Tobias Sattler on Flickr

The Bahrain Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Max Verstappen in 2nd for Red Bull, alongside 3rd for his teammate Alex Albon. This weekend sees changes everywhere, in both Formula One & Formula 2, with a new circuit, and several driver changes.

This weekend will also see the finale of the 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship. The Sakhir GP weekend marks the final weekend where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.

Last weekend, Felipe Drugovich scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, while Sunday saw Robert Shwartzman win the shortened Sprint Race.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. Ahead of any on-track action in Formula 1 & 2, we have compiled a list of things to look out for, as the weekend unfolds ahead, and on-track action begins!

Continue reading “2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Weekend Preview”

Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

Featured Image by Habeed Hameed on Flickr

The Turkish Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Sergio Perez in 2nd for Racing Point & 3rd for Sebastian Vettel & Ferrari. The race also saw Lewis Hamilton achieve his 7th World Drivers’ Championship title, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record for the most WDC titles.

Lewis Hamilton starts today’s race from pole, with Valtteri Bottas alongside him on the front row. Trailing the 2 Silver Arrows, are the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen, and Alex Albon in 3rd & 4th respectively.

The Circuit – Bahrain International Circuit

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bahrain_International_Circuit--Grand_Prix_Layout.svg

Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0

This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on the Grand Prix Circuit of the Bahrain International Circuit. The track, also set to host next week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, on the Outer Circuit, is a permanent race track in the Sakhir desert, located in outskirts of the Bahraini capital, Manama. Construction on the track began in 2002, with the track being fully complete in 2004.

The track features 6 configurations, alongside a Drag Strip (Dark Grey) . The layouts are as follows:

Grand Prix Circuit (5.411km)
Endurance Circuit (6.299km)
Paddock Circuit (3.705km)
Outer Circuit (3.644km)
Inner Circuit (2.550km)
Flat Oval (2.5 km)

Track maps by Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0

Aside from the Test Oval & Drag Strip, all configurations meet the FIA Grade 1 standard. The Test Oval & Drag Strip are unrated. As of time of writing, Formula One has used mostly used the Grand Prix Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix, bar the 2010 edition, which used the longer Endurance Circuit.

The 5.412km long Grand Prix Circuit features a mix of long straights, alongside a diverse variety of corners, ranging from high-speed to slow corners, and the resultant heavy braking zones. The circuit features 3 DRS zones, located on the pit straight, the straight between Turns 3 & 4, alongside the straight between turns 10 & 11. The 3 DRS detection points are placed 50 metres before Turn 1, 10 metres before Turn 9 and 110 metres before Turn 14.

This means that the circuit remains relatively unchanged, with the sole change being the DRS detection point ahead of Turn 14 being moved back by 2 metres.

Pedro de la Rosa holds the official lap record, a 1:31.447 set in the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix in the McLaren MP4-20. Charles Leclerc holds the absolute lap record with a 1:27.866 set in Qualifying for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, in the Ferrari SF90.

Formula One:

The Battle for 3rd in the Constructors

Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, a close fight for 3rd in the Constructors Championship is emerging. Currently, 4 teams are vying for 3rd in the Constructors Championship. Racing Point, McLaren, Renault & Ferrari. Racing Point, which currently sits 3rd, with 154 points (following a deduction of 15 points), is trailed closely by McLaren with 149 points. Further behind the 2 are Renault with 136 points, and Ferrari with 130 points.

A total of 24 points separate the 4 teams, meaning that if one team is to score a good result at Bahrain with both cars in the top 6, the trailing teams (McLaren, Renault & Ferrari) could realistically leapfrog up the standings.

Alex Albon: Sink or Swim in the desert battle?

Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Alex Albon had been on a streak of poor performances following his Tuscany Grand Prix podium. During the Eifel Grand Prix, Albon started the race in 5th, before the race began to unfound around him. A lockup on Lap 1 left him with a flat-spotted tyre, compromising his race strategy, and leaving him plummeting down the order. Later on, a clumsy overtake on Daniil Kvyat saw him rip the Russian’s front wing, resulting in a 5 second time penalty for the Anglo-Thai Driver. Albon would wind up retiring from a punctured radiator.

Portugal was no different. Starting from 6th, he plummeted down the order to 12th. Neither was the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Starting from 6th, outqualfied by the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, he spun on his own accord while in 5th, finishing far down the order in 15th.

Turkey was perhaps a turning point for Albon. From the outset, Albon was on the pace, finishing in the top 6 for each FP session, including 2nd in FP1, and 3rd in FP3. He then qualified in 4th, before going onto finish 7th in the tricky conditions, just behind teammate Verstappen.

By all accounts, Turkey was perhaps the best race weekend Albon had in a long time. Could this be the turning point Albon needs to finish the season on a high? We certainly hope so. Albon’s weekend has been relatively decent thus far, and he managed to secure 4th on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying session.

A good result today will only serve to boost his confidence, and improve his chances of retaining his seat for 2021.

Can Ferrari make some gains in the race?

Ferrari had yet another miserable qualifying, with both cars unable to make it out of Q2. While Ferrari was expected to struggle at Bahrain, given the characteristics of the circuit, it comes after several weekends where the Scuderia made much progress up the order.

An interesting thing to note, however, was that the previous few circuits exhibited characteristics which were somewhat similar to Bahrain, with long, power demanding straights, alongside high speed corners. Even at those circuits, Ferrari had been able to get Leclerc into Q3, to start near the front of the grid…

Unlike most of the other circuits, which are notorious for being difficult to overtake at, Bahrain is a track where overtaking is relatively easy. Could this help Ferrari make progress up the field? It’s certainly a possibility, but this could also prove to be a problem for Ferrari..

Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix – Formula 2 Sprint Race

Featured Image by Qasim Al Khuzaie on Flickr

This weekend, Formula 2 returns, after a break of nearly 2 months. The Bahrain GP weekend marks the final 2 weekends where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.

Last time out in Russia, Mick Schumacher scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, , while Sunday saw Guan Yu Zhou won the shortened Sprint Race. The Sprint Race victory was the Chinese driver’s first Formula 2 race win.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. For the Formula 2 Feature Race, Callum Ilott starts from pole, while his championship rival and points leader, Mick Schumacher started from 10th on the grid.

At the end of the race, Felipe Drugovich took the flag, while pole sitter Ilott finished 2nd, and championship leader Schumacher finished 4th.

For the Sprint Race, Robert Shwartzman starts from pole.

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix – Formula 2 Sprint Race”