It’s race week for 2021’s first Grand Prix so I’m reflecting a bit on the previous season.
I got interested in Formula 1 during while staying home during 2020. In the past I’d watched a few races (my dad was a big fan) as well as playing some of the F1 games. It was great to rekindle some of that old fascination in the broader context of today’s Formula 1 landscape.
Thanks to Drive to Survive and extensive social media campaigning, F1 is more accessible to new fans than ever before. Yes, you can only really watch it on streaming services but that just seems to be par for the course in the 21st century. Nothing is free, after all. On the other end of the spectrum is extensive information available on the technical innovations made by the teams, timing data, driver comparisons, YouTuber expert analysis, and much more available to quench the thirst of diehard fans.
Towards the end of last year I was watching every practice and qualifying session of all the Grand Prix. It was thoroughly addicting.
I’ve collected some of my thoughts on the 2020 season below.
Throughout the year I became a huge admirer of Lewis Hamilton. Lewis has the Championship winning powerhouse car available to him. But I don’t think it’s just that that has now allowed him to claim 7 World Championships.
With the exception of a few incidents (for instance, entering the pit lane while it was closed or doing a practice start in the wrong place - both earning heavy penalties), his racecraft has been absolutely beautiful. I think that throughout all of 2020 if Lewis was in a situation where he could win, he did.
While I’m here.. I have felt that Lewis’ political messages and activism have been tremendously valuable and pertinent.
Valteri Bottas is a great driver in a great car who had a very unlucky season. He came second in 2020 - which is good - but it was by quite a long way, unfortunately. I look forward to seeing what he can achieve in 2021.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Charles Leclerc is the future star of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 Team. He’s had such a dramatic rise to fortune over the last few years that from one point of view, you must wonder where it’ll end. I find myself wondering, though.. how far can he go?
Thanks to the poor performance of the Ferrari SF1000 I don’t think we ever really saw Charles’ true potential. There were glimpses, but nothing more.
It’s impossible to not compare Charles’ success with the team to Sebastian Vettel’s fall from grace. Before the season began, it was announced that Vettel would be parting ways with the Prancing Horse. Sadly, it was a messy divorce.
Despite the frustratingly good performance of the Mercedes car, Max Verstappen ended up exactly where he should have been. Third in the Championship and consistently fighting for podiums. Great season from Max.
Alexander Albon was not so lucky. Despite what you might imagine just from looking at the results Alex is an excellent racer. But unfortunately if you’re the 100th best race driver in the world, you’ll be last in F1.
Ultimately, I feel sorry for Alex. He looked promising in 2019 rising up from Toro Rosso to the main Red Bull team. He had some good races in 2020, but not enough. If not for the fact that Sergio Perez was on the market looking for a drive in ‘21, I think that Alex may have had another chance this year. Bad luck.
As a team, Haas were really disappointing last year. It was somewhat not their fault due to them being a Ferrari customer team. (Their power unit was gutted after having been found to be contravening the regulations). That said, Haas cars have generally performed poorly over the last few years.
The Grosjean crash at Sakhir was the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in F1 so far. It reminded me of Mark Webber flipping his car at Valencia in 2010. But worse.
The accident was a tremendous demonstration of how far safety practices have come as well as a timely reminder that the sport is still dangerous. I was profoundly moved to see that Romain survived the accident and has been able to get back to racing.
It’s interesting to note that from 2019 to 2020 the team that most improved their lap times was actually Williams. This is a step in the right direction for the team (now operating under new management) however it didn’t win them anything during the season.
Williams came last again in 2020.
It’s not all bad though. We saw at Sakhir that George Russel is a superb driver with immense potential. I’m looking forward to seeing what George is able to do in the future.