The 2020 Formula 1 season was one of the most unique in its history as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the start of the season back to July. Many races such as the Monaco and United States Grand Prix were replaced in the schedule and they only ran 17 races instead of 21.
Mercedes continued their dominance as they won a seventh-straight Constructor’s Championship, while Lewis Hamilton cruised to his seventh world championship. Despite this, 2020 was a year full of storylines in the sport and here are my four takeaways from this season.
- George Russell needs to replace Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes as soon as possible
When Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19, Mercedes decided to go with young star George Russell, who is currently racing at Williams, instead of their reserve driver, Stoffel Vandoorne. Russell ran tests with Mercedes before and is considered next in line to drive for the team. He got his chance for the Sakhir Grand Prix and made the most of it. He led for most of the race and after a poor pit stop from the team, Russell overtook teammate Valtteri Bottas and ran in second place before a tire puncture ended his chance at a podium. Russell blasted his way into ninth place with the fastest lap of the race, earning him his first three points in Formula 1.
Despite this disappointing result, Russell more than showed he deserves to replace Bottas at Mercedes sooner rather than later. He dominated Bottas during the race and was just barely out-qualified, which is impressive considering Russell was announced as the replacement driver two days before the first practice and had to go down a shoe size to fit in the car.
Bottas has shown this season he is not on Hamilton’s level andhad multiple poor showings in races he should have easily won such as the Italian Grand Prix and the Emilia Romagna GP.
Russell does not belong with a team that couldn’t build a car to get a single point in the championship and his performance at the Sakhir GP displayed his ability to excel in a Mercedes car.
Toto Wolff should embrace the future as soon as possible and replace Bottas with Russell as Hamilton’s teammate.
2. McLaren is on the rise
In 2017, McLaren hit rock bottom as they finished ninth out of 10 teams in the constructor’s standings. 2018 saw them finished sixth, but it was still a rocky season as they were essentially controlled by Fernando Alonso in his final season before his two-year retirement. They rebooted their drivers by adding Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris. Together, these two helped turn around their fortunes as McLaren finished fourth and third in the standings the past two seasons. Sainz was consistent, finishing sixth in the driver standings each season and Norris improved from 11th to ninth in the standings in his first two seasons in F1.
It has been a resurgence for McLaren and their future is bright. They are switching to Mercedes engines for the 2021 season, which should make their cars even better and compete with the top teams. Also, Sainz is leaving for Ferrari next season but McLaren is replacing him with Daniel Ricciardo, a seven-time race winner and the driver who finished fifth in the driver standings this season. Even though Max Verstappen is a dominant driver for Red Bull Racing, I think it is a distinct possibility McLaren is a direct competitor for Red Bull next season.
3. Sergio Perez should race for Red Bull Racing in 2021
Speaking of Red Bull, they still have a vacancy with their drivers as they have not decided whether Alexander Albon will return to race for Red Bull in 2021 or if Sergio Perez will take his spot. After his podium at the Turkish GP, I wrote in detail why Perez belongs at Red Bull but since that, he won his first career race at the Sakhir GP. Perez finished fourth in the driver standings despite two DNFs due to engine failures in the final three races.
Perez was one of the best drivers in 2020 and fought through COVID-19 and having an uncertain future throughout most of the season. It would be devastating to see Perez out of F1 in 2021, but if Red Bull want to compete with Mercedes, they should not let that happen. Red Bull have played second-fiddle to Mercedes since Sebastian Vettel won four world championships in a row from 2010-13, and having a mistake-prone Albon will keep them in that position. Christian Horner needs to make the right decision if Red Bull is to compete for the Constructor’s Championship again.
4. Sebastian Vettel leaving Ferrari was the perfect decision
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had his worse full season in F1 as he finished 13th in the driver standings with 33 points and only one podium (Turkish GP). He had a run of constant bad luck in 2020 but the biggest reason for this was the drastic drop in speed from the Ferrari cars. Vettel only reached Q3 three times this season and Charles Leclerc failed to reach Q3 six times. Ferrari, who usually finishes in the top three in the constructor standings, finished a shocking sixth place, 50 points below Renault.
Vettel will drive for the re-branded Aston Martin (was Racing Point) in 2021 as he replaces Perez. In 2020, Racing Point finished fourth in the constructor standings, seven points below McLaren, and won a pole, the Sakhir GP and secured a total of four podiums.
Vettel is an all-time great driver in F1 and he does not deserve to waste the final years of his career with a Ferrari car that has tanked in speed this year. With Aston Martin, Vettel has the chance to recapture his mojo and compete at the top of the grid once again. This may be the most intriguing storyline heading into the 2021 season.