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

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 Turkish Grand Prix Weekend

Featured Image By Adbar on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, while Valtteri Bottas finished second, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s win saw him eclipse Michael Schumacher’s race win record of 91 wins, while dealing yet another blow to Valtteri Bottas’ title fight.

This weekend, we find ourselves in Turkey after a 9 year absence, for the Turkish Grand Prix. Formula One returns to the Intercity Istanbul Park for a one-off event, after a 14 year absence.

Ahead of the weekend’s first on-track action, we take a look at things to look out for this weekend

The Circuit – Intercity Istanbul Park

Map by Will Pittenger on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Intercity Istanbul Park, also simply known as Istanbul Park, is a permanent motorsports complex located in Tulza, located east of Istanbul. The track was designed by Hermann Tilke, and opened on 21 August 2005.

The track runs anti-clockwise, featuring a total of 2 configurations, a Grand Prix circuit, and an Intermediate circuit. Formula One will use the 5.333 km Grand Prix circuit. The circuit is no stranger to Formula One, previously hosting the race from 2005-2011. The circuit has not undergone changes since Formula One’s last visit.

2 DRS Zones are on the circuit, located on the backstraight, and the start/finish straight.

Things to Watch:

Overtaking

How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook could be good….

Istanbul Park is a circuit with several overtaking opportunities, most notably at Turn 1, alongside the long run from Turn Nine to the final three corners. Prior to the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix also saw the highest number of overtakes on a dry race, with 80 overtakes.

Formula 1 drivers have said that they anticipate easier overtakes compared at the track at Imola. Daniel Ricciardo stated: “I think it will provide good racing as overtaking should be more straightforward [than Imola],”

How will driver inexperience & reduced data affect teams?

Today’s FP1 was essentially being held on a half-damp track, with almost zero grip, resulting in numerous spins. The half-damp surface came after officials opted to wash the track in the morning, and the water failing to dry in time for FP1.

With the low track grip in FP1 and half-damp surface, it appears that the data collection for teams to understand the track has been hampered. The situation for most teams is not helped by a lack of experience on the circuit for most drivers, with only Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel having ever raced at the track.

This comes alongside a recent resurfacing which effectively led to Pirelli bringing the “wrong” tyres for the race. Mario Isola, Pirelli Formula 1 boss revealed that Pirelli was not aware of the track resurfacing at Istanbul Park, following FP2.

Ferrari

Can Ferrari maintain it’s Free Practice Form? Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Ferrari had been expected to struggle, given Istanbul Park’s reputation for being a power-demanding circuit. This was even admitted by team personnel..

Ferrari Sporting Director Laurent Mekies stated in an interview with Pitpass, stating: “Looking at the track characteristics, it won’t be an easy weekend for us. Nevertheless, the pecking order behind the top three drivers is always very close as it has been all season and the slightest thing can make the difference between fighting for a place on the second row or not making it to Q2.”

Needless to say, Ferrari’s Free Practice results have suggested that good things could be on the horizon this weekend for the Scuderia. In the spin-filled FP1, held on a half-damp track, Ferrari managed to finish 3rd (Charles Leclerc) & 5th (Sebastian Vettel). In FP2, Ferrari managed to come home with 2nd (Charles Leclerc) & 8th (Sebastian Vettel).

Hamilton’s 7th title this weekend?

This weekend also sees Hamilton have the chance to win his 7th Formula One title, equaling that of Michael Schumacher’s record. Below, we have placed a table depicting the scenarios which will grant Hamilton his 7th title.

For Bottas to deny Hamilton his title, Bottas must finish no lower than 7th on Sunday…

If Bottas Finishes

Hamilton Must Finish

1st + Fastest Lap

Title fight continues at Bahrain

1st

2nd

2nd + fastest lap

4th

2nd

5th + fastest lap / 4th

3rd + fastest lap

5th

3rd

6th

4th + fastest lap

7th

4th

8th + fastest lap / 7th

5th + fastest lap

8th

5th

9th + fastest lap / 8th

6th + fastest lap

9th

6th

10th

7th & Below

Hamilton wins 7th title

Preview: 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix Weekend

Featured Image by Klugschnacker on Wikimedia Commons

The Eifel Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, while Max Verstappen finished second, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s win saw teammate Valtteri Bottas’ title fight dealt yet another serious blow, with the Finn retiring due to a power unit issue.

This weekend, we find ourselves in Portugal, with the Portugese Grand Prix returning to Formula One for a one-off event, after a 24 year absence. Formula One’s return to Portugal comes with a change in the race venue too, with the race moving from the Circuito do Estoril to the Algarve International Circuit.

Ahead of the weekend’s first on-track action, we take a look at things to lookout this weekend

The Circuit – Algarve International Circuit

This weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix will be held at the Algarve International Circuit, also known as the Portimao Circuit. The Portimão Circuit is a permanent motorsports complex located in the town of Portimão. The complex was built in 2008, and has hosted various series since then, such as the FIA GT Championship, the Le Mans Series, and the FIM World Superbike Championship.

The track features a total of 32 configurations, ranging from 3.465km to 4.684km, with several elevation changes. Formula One will use the 4.684km variant of the circuit, without the Turn 1 Chicane. The track may be new to the Calendar, but it is not new to Formula One, having been used for testing previously.

The track features a number of flowing fast corners and elevation changes, alongside a fast final sector, which is reminiscent of Catalunya in it’s original form..

Things to Watch:

Overtaking

How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook appears to be good. Portimao is a relatively wide circuit, with hard braking zones that could provide opportunities for drivers willing to take the risks.

How do we expect teams to perform this weekend?

Given the nature of the circuit, expect teams to run cars in a medium downforce aero configuration. For the podium, it looks to be a Mercedes v Red Bull battle again, while Renault, McLaren and Racing Point will be eying a spot on the podium, should a car from Red Bull or Mercedes face issues.

Ferrari-powered teams could see themselves having yet another woeful weekend, with the high-speed third sector being a potential issue for the teams, owing to the Ferrari engine being down on power.

Can Red Bull bring an end to Mercedes dominance on Saturday?

Mercedes have had a clean sweep of pole positions this season, although Red Bull have shown that they can potentially give a challenge on Saturday, with Max Verstappen having put the RB16 on the front row of the grid twice this year.

In addition, while Mercedes has effectively ended any development on the 2020 car, Red Bull has continued to push updates to the car, which has allowed the team to close the gap to Silver Arrows. The updates have also appeared to fix the RB16’s inconsistency in rear grip, with Verstappen having reporting at the Eifel Grand Prix that the team had seemingly fixed the issue.

Preview: 2020 Eifel Grand Prix

Featured Image by Wolkenkratzer on Wikimedia Commons

The Russian Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Valtteri Bottas & Mercedes emerge victorious, with teammate Lewis Hamilton in 3rd, rounding off the podium.

This weekend, we find ourselves in Germany, moving from the Sochi Autodrom in Russia, to the Nürburgring GP-Strecke, located in the outskirts of Nurburg. Valtteri Bottas starts from Pole, with teammate and Championship rival next to him.

Ahead of the lights going green later today, we have compiled a list of things to watch out for ahead of the race.

The Circuit – Nürburgring GP-Strecke

The Nürburgring is a permanent motorsports complex located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate. The complex has a rich history, and is renown for it’s North Loop, better known as the Nordschleife.

The track features a total of 14 different configurations, utilising the 2 main layouts, the GP-Strecke, and the Nordschleife. Of the 14 configurations, the longest is the Combined Circuit, clocking in at 25.947km and utilising the Full Track, while the shortest configuration, the Müllenbachschleife, clocks in a mere 1.489km. For the Eifel Grand Prix, F1 will be using the 5.148 km long GP-Strecke, inclusive of the Mercedes Benz Arena.

The official lap record for the GP-Strecke stands at 1:29.468, set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. Yesterday’s pole time set by Valterri Bottas, stands at 1:25.269.

The Things to Watch Out for:

Overtaking

How much or how little overtaking will we see as Formula One returns to the GP-Strecke? F1’s previous outing at the circuit saw a total of 41 on-track passes.

Given the fast, flowing nature of the track, expect overtaking to be difficult around the narrow circuit, with dirty air in the wake of cars being the chief obstacle for drivers. However, the cambered nature of several corners around the track could provide overtaking opportunities for drivers bold enough to use alternate lines.

The main overtaking points are at the run down to Turn 1, ahead of the Mercedes Benz Arena Complex, alongside the Turn 13 chicane.

Valtteri Bottas

Can Bottas carry his momentum from Russia forwards? This is the question on everyone’s mind this weekend, after the Finn broke his 8 race win drought a fortnight ago. If the Finn can successfully carry his momentum forward for the rest of the season, he could breathe further life into his title battle with Hamilton.

Bottas arrives at the ‘Ring, with a 2 wins, 2 poles, and 161 points. His biggest rival, and teammate, Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, arrives with 6 wins, 7 poles, and 205 points. Ahead of Russia, the gap between the pair stood at 55 points, and now stands at 44 points. Should Mercedes continue achieving 1-2 finishes, Bottas would need to achieve the fastest lap and the victory, alongside the win for the next 6 weekends in order to overhaul Hamilton in the standings. Should he fail to achieve fastest lap, he will need to win every remaining race this season…

With just 7 rounds to go to the season finale, this leaves Bottas with little to almost no margin of error.

Bottas topped FP3 yesterday, and followed it up with Pole in Qualifying. If the Finn can carry his pace demonstrated in FP3 & Q3 forward into the race, he could certainly give his title hopes a further boost, by claiming both the victory and fastest lap. If Red Bull & Max Verstappen can prove a threat to Mercedes, they could certainly do Bottas a favour if the Finn is able to break free of Hamilton right from the start of the race…

Leclerc & Ferrari

Charles Leclerc’s 4th place starting spot on the grid today came as a surprise to the fans and media, and can perhaps be described as a wonderful surprise for the Scuderia. Leclerc’s performance comes after several poor race weekends for the Prancing Horses recently, held at tracks which did not suit the SF1000.

Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel failed to reach Q3, which may not have been a major surprise to many. However, Leclerc’s 4th place can certainly be something for the Scuderia to cheer about. Laurent Mekies, Scuderia Ferrari Sporting Director felt that Leclerc’s performance at the Nurburgring was an indicator that the team had made strides in the right direction in terms of car development, the team having introduced new parts this week.

Could potentially bode well for Ferrari, who could luck their way to the podium with Leclerc today…

Nico Hulkenburg

2009 GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg has made yet another shock return to F1, replacing Lance Stroll, who had skipped FP3 after being hit with a stomach upset.

In his previous outings, Hulkenberg performed admirably, coming in 13th in Quali for the British GP, before storming to 3rd in Quali for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, and eventually finishing 7th. However, the German was thrown into the car without any FP3 run this weekend, and ended up qualifying down the order at the back of the grid.

Given the tight & twisty nature of the Nurburgring, it will certainly be a challenge for the Hulk to charge is way to the front, and many eyes will be looking at how he performs today.

Preview: 2020 Eifel Grand Prix Weekend

Featured Image by Wolkenkratzer on Wikimedia Commons

The Russian Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Valtteri Bottas & Mercedes emerge victorious, with teammate Lewis Hamilton in 3rd, rounding off the podium.

In Formula 2, Mick Schumacher scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, while Sunday saw Guan Yu Zhou win the shortened Sprint Race, his first Formula 2 race win. Formula 2 will not race this weekend, and will be back on 27 November in Bahrain.

This weekend, we find ourselves back at the Nürburgring, after a 7 year absence. The track, located in the Rhineland-Palatinate, in Germany, is a 3,158 km journey by road from Sochi in Russia. Ahead of any on-track action in this week, we have compiled a list of things to look out for…

The Circuit – Nürburgring GP-Strecke

This weekend’s Eifel Grand Prix will be held at the Nürburgring. The Nürburgring is a permanent motorsports complex located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate. The complex has a rich history, and is renown for it’s North Loop, better known as the Nordschleife.

The track features a total of 14 different configurations, utilising the 2 main layouts, the GP-Strecke, and the Nordschleife. Of the 14 configurations, the longest is the Combined Circuit, clocking in at 25.947km and utilising the Full Track, while the shortest configuration, the Müllenbachschleife, clocks in a mere 1.489km. For the Eifel Grand Prix, F1 will be using the 5.148 km long GP-Strecke, inclusive of the Mercedes Benz Arena.

The official lap record for the GP-Strecke stands at 1:29.468, set by Michael Schumacher in 2004.

Things to Watch:

Overtaking

How much or how little overtaking will we see as Formula One returns to the GP-Strecke? F1’s previous outing at the circuit saw a total of 41 on-track passes.

Given the fast, flowing nature of the track, expect overtaking to be difficult around the narrow circuit, with dirty air in the wake of cars being the chief obstacle for drivers. However, the cambered nature of several corners around the track could provide overtaking opportunities for drivers bold enough to use alternate lines.

The main overtaking points are at the run down to Turn 1, ahead of the Mercedes Benz Arena Complex, alongside the Turn 13 chicane.

Can Bottas carry Russia’s momentum forward?

Can Bottas carry his momentum from Russia forwards? This is the question on everyone’s mind this weekend, after the Finn broke his 8 race win drought a fortnight ago. If the Finn can successfully carry his momentum forward for the rest of the season, he could breathe further life into his title battle with Hamilton.

Bottas arrives at the ‘Ring, with a 2 wins, 2 poles, and 161 points. His biggest rival, and teammate, Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, arrives with 6 wins, 7 poles, and 205 points. Ahead of Russia, the gap between the pair stood at 55 points, and now stands at 44 points. Should Mercedes continue achieving 1-2 finishes, Bottas would need to achieve the fastest lap and the victory, alongside the win for the next 6 weekends in order to overhaul Hamilton in the standings. Should he fail to achieve fastest lap, he will need to win every remaining race this season…

With just 7 rounds to go to the season finale, this leaves Bottas with little to almost no margin of error.

FP1: How will our F2 Title Contenders Fare?

The Eifel Grand Prix also sees 2 young stars in the form of Mick Schumacher & Callum Ilott make their F1 Weekend debuts, with Alfa Romeo & Haas respectively. Both drivers have pushed each other on track in F2, and are currently locked in a battle for the title.

Both drivers know they cannot falter or succumb to the pressure, as all eyes will be on them in FP1, and especially so, since there is a three-way fight for 1-2 seats on the grid…

Preview: 2020 Russian Grand Prix Weekend – Formula 1 & 2

Featured Image by Arne Müseler on Wikimedia Commons

The Tuscany Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with teammate Valtteri Bottas in 2nd, to make a 1-2 finish. This marked the 3rd 1-2 finish by the Brackley-based Mercedes factory team for the 2020 season.

In Formula 2, Nikita Mazepin scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, with the young Russian earning his second Feature Race victory, while Sunday saw Christian Lundgaard win the Sprint Race. The race win was the Danish rookie’s second Sprint Race victory in Formula 2.

This weekend, we find ourselves in the Sochi Autodrom, located in Western Russia, a 3,222km journey by road from Mugello in Italy. 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 “Preview: 2020 Russian Grand Prix Weekend – Formula 1 & 2”

Preview: 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Weekend

Formula 1 returns to Silverstone, once more on the Arena Grand Prix Circuit after an action packed race last Sunday. The 2020 Britsh Grand Prix saw a chaotic ending, with drivers encountering various issues with tyres, and with both categories running softer, and less durable compounds this weekend, it could prove to be an exciting race to watch…

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Weekend”