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 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.

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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…

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Preview: 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix – Formula 2 Feature Race

Last week’s Formula 2 round at Monza saw Mick Schumacher take the Feature Race win, with pole-sitter Callum Ilott finishing 6th, before finishing second on the road on Sunday’s Sprint Race, subsequently being promoted to first place. This came after Dan Ticktum was disqualified for not providing a sufficient post-race fuel sample due to a leak in the spec fuel tank.

This weekend, we remain in Italy, moving from the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on the outskirts of Milan, to the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, located in the outskirts of Florence. Ahead of today’s Feature Race, we take a look at some storylines that could play out during today’s race.

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Preview: 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

Image By Michał Obrochta on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

For the third round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Formula One returns to the Hungaroring. We have compiled a list of things to watch out for, as Sunday approaches.

Formula 1 – Things to Watch Out for:

The Battle for 3rd (& Points in the top 10)

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An Introduction to Motorsport: Formula 2

Featured Image by Takayuki Suzuki on Flickr

Are you new to Motorsport? Curious about the differences between Racing Series? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Ahead of the resumption of motorsport worldwide, we’ve decided to produce articles introducing the various aspects of Motorsport to our readers, with our series, An Introduction to Motorsport & An Introduction to Sports Car Racing. This Article covers the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

Formula 2 is the top step of FIA’s European Single-Seater Racing Ladder, the FIA Global Pathway. Most casual viewers of the Championship may think that the Championship started in either 2017 or 2005 which was the first year of the GP2 series. (In 2017, the GP2 Series was rebranded as the Formula 2 Championship) However, the FIA Formula 2 Championship has its origins dating back to the late 1960s…

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