If you were to tell a motorsport fan back in March that the 2020 Formula One season would be the most entertaining and action-packed season in recent memory, they would probably worry for your mental stability. The season opener in Australia had been cancelled on qualifying day, McLaren had pulled out of the GP after positive COVID tests to team members and the World Champion Duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel had left the track overnight unbeknown to the FIA. It was an utter shamble. So, after a tragic start, only a small minority would have believed in anything more than a ‘filler season’.
To start of with the obvious, Lewis Hamilton seemed to break almost every record on the grid. The Mercedes man just completed his 14th season in Formula One, and equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Drivers Championships. In addition to this he broke the Germans record of race wins, claiming his 92nd victory in Portugal, and adding three more wins by the end of the season.
Something that I need to reiterate for the people that may have forgot, is Hamilton’s fight and stance towards inequality and racial prejudice. His influence on the matter would have helped his Mercedes team make the decision to change their car livery from silver to black, in support of Black Lives Matter. This was done after the German manufacturer discovered only 3% of its team identified as a minority.
To carry on from this, the ‘Race As One’ mantra that the whole of F1 has carried on respectfully throughout the season has been monumental. Before every race, the drivers either took the knee or stood in solidarity in the light of racial inequality around the world.
One area that the sport could help with would be to support BAME drivers from karting upwards. We have only had one black driver in the 70 years of F1, and that is Lewis Hamilton, the greatest of the modern era. Furthermore, only a handful of Indian and central Asian drivers have made the grid.
13 different drivers made the podium. 13! That is over half the grid making the podium at least once this season. The sport is dominated by Mercedes and their only real threat for race wins you would have thought would be Max Verstappen. It did become an online joke this season that Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen finished as the top three in all sessions, and they were, the three appeared on the podium together eight times this season, but there was still 15 times that a different driver was up on the podium. With two races where none of the top three were on the podium.
The race that will live on in the memory of fans for a long time will be the Italian Grand Prix. The redemption of Pierre Gasly. Dropped from RedBull halfway through last season, and mourning the death of close friend and racing partner for over a decade Antione Hubert, the Frenchman took his first win in Formula One in emphatic circumstances.
Not since 1996, when Olivier Panis won in Canada has France had a Grand Prix winner, and neither have Alpha Tauri (or Torro Rosso) had a winner since Sebastian Vettel in Monza 2008. The young talented driver, named driver of the year by many rewrote the history books.
The rest of the podium would be almost as big a shock, McLaren driver Carlos Sainz jr battled until the very end with Gasly to take second- the teams best finish since Kevin Magnussen second place in Australia 2014;128 races previous.
Lance Stroll wrapped up third place meaning for only the fourth time since the introduction of V6 engines in 2014, both Mercedes cars would both finish the race and fail to achieve a podium. The feat aided by Hamilton’s 10 second stop go penalty and Bottas ‘not having enough power.’
Sergio Perez won his first Grand Prix at the 190th time of asking in Sakhir, the Bahrein short circuit holding the shortest lap on the 2020 calendar. He was joined on the podium by teammates past and present as Esteban Ocon earned second and his maiden podium for Renault, whilst Stroll once again finished third.
McLaren snatched third in the constructors table on the last race; Lewis Hamilton won the first of two races at Silverstone on three wheels; Ferrari struggled; Romain Grosjean escaped death; we visited Portugal, Turkey and Imola for the first time in decades and we have seen a glimpse of the future with George Russel driving for Mercedes in Shakir.
Nico Hulkenburg returned thrice, Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi made debuts, Fernando Alonso returned to drive his 2005 championship winning car, and Mick Schumacher drove his dads 2004 winning car to give us a look at him for next year
We may have missed races at Monaco, Baku, Brazil, Canada, COTA and Japan, but we were more than compensated.
The season which many had thought would be a write off turned out to have a storyline every race. A new race winner, a new podium sitter, another record broken, new tracks visited. Most importantly, a new generation of Formula One fans.