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

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: Tuscan Grand Prix

Featured Image by PROPOLI87 on Wikimedia Commons

Last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was a hectic and action-packed race, which saw a shock victory for Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri. The race marked the first win for the Faenza-based squad in over 10 year, and a maiden win for the Frenchman.

This weekend, we remain in Italy, moving from the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on the outskirts of Milan, to the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, better known as the Mugello Circuit, located in the outskirts of Florence. Ahead of the lights going green this weekend, we have compiled a list of things to watch out for ahead of the 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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