2020 Formula One mid-season review

The 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship season has officially reached its halfway point in a bizarre season like none other in recent years. Mired by a delayed start spanning four months and changes to its racing schedule amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the sport, celebrating its 70th anniversary of the first Formula One season, is currently in its third off-weekend break from a 17-race schedule revised from 22 before the drivers and the teams embark on an eight-race stretch to the conclusion of this season. With that, here is a rundown of all that has occurred throughout this year’s competitive F1 season as the competitors and teams prepare to finish this season on schedule while also setting their sights for next season and beyond. 

Through the first nine Formula One races of this season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team leads the Constructors’ standings with 325 points while its two-driver lineup, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, lead the way in the Drivers’ standings. Even in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, the resilience and dominance of the Mercedes team led by Team Principal & CEO Toto Wolff continues to be exemplified on the track and on a race weekend. With eight Drivers’ championships, six consecutive constructors’ championships and 109 career wins in F1, the team strives to achieve another pair of championships (Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings) and extend the winning legacy brought forth by the late Niki Lauda, three-time F1 champion and a former non-executive chairman of Mercedes.

For Hamilton, the reigning six-time Formula One champion from Stevenage, England, who is on the cusp of tying Michael Schumacher for the most F1 titles at seven, the 2020 season marks his second consecutive season where he has achieved six victories through the first nine races of a new season. He started off on a rough note this season by being penalized to a fourth-place result in the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg after making late contact with Alexander Albon. Since then, he went on to claim Grand Prix victories at Styrian, Hungary, Silverstone, Spain, Belgium and the recent GP event in Tuscany, Italy. With 90 career wins in F1, Hamilton is one victory away in tying Schumacher for the most wins of all time at 91. By finishing no lower than seventh place through the first nine races of the season, Hamilton leads the standings by 55 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas. Though he is primed for another championship run this season and a shot at making history on the track, Hamilton has yet to confirm his racing plans for the 2021 Formula One season. 


American Muscle

Teammate Bottas, who is in his fourth season with Mercedes and achieved a career-best second place in the Drivers’ standings last season, has had a consistent start to this season that started off on a high note when he won the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg. Since winning his eighth career F1 race, Bottas has achieved six additional podium results, including three second-place results, a fifth-place result in the Italian Grand Prix and a season-low 11th-place result in the British Grand Prix. The Nastola, Finland, native trails teammate Hamilton by 55 points as he attempts to become the sixth competitor to win an F1 title while driving for Mercedes. Unlike Hamilton, Bottas is already set to remain with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team for the 2021 Formula One season.

Trailing behind in second place in the Constructors’ standings and with a total of 173 points is the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team with Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon currently driving for the team. Having achieved four Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships, none since 2013, the team managed by Team Principal Christian Horner has been lurking behind the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari in recent years. With Ferrari struggling to keep pace this season, Red Bull Racing is currently the second-best team in the garage and aims to take the next step forward to return to the top of the standings and back as champions of the world.

After achieving seven career victories in Formula One from 2016 to 2019 and notching a career-best third-place result in the Drivers’ standings last season, Max Verstappen approached the 2020 season with momentum and high expectations to challenge Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for this year’s title run. His season did not start off on a strong note, however, in the Austrian Grand Prix when his car experienced electrical issues. The 22-year-old Dutch competitor rebounded the following three races by finishing in the podium, including back-to-back runner-up results. In the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix in Silverstone, United Kingdom, he achieved his first victory of the season and became the first non-Mercedes competitor to win in 2020 while recording the 63rd F1 career win for Red Bull Racing. He went on to achieve two additional podium results the following two races, but is coming off back-to-back retirements in two Grand Prix races in Italy. He is situated in third place in the Drivers’ standings behind the two Mercedes competitors and trails Hamilton by 80 points while he continues to pursue his first F1 title. While multiple Formula One competitors have contracts set to expire this season or next season, Verstappen is locked into a contract with Red Bull Racing through 2023.

For Albon, who took over one of Red Bull Racing’s two rides late last season and recorded enough impressive results to earn a full-time seat with Red Bull this season, the first half of the 2020 season has been an up-and-down year for him. During the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, Albon was involved in a late incident with Lewis Hamilton while battling for a podium spot (marking his second incident with Hamilton since Brazil in 2019). He rebounded the following six races by posting top-10 runs in all of them while achieving a best result of fourth place. After finishing 15th in the Italian Grand Prix, Albon achieved his elusive maiden podium result, third place, in the Tuscan Grand Prix. Albon’s first podium result came in his 30th start in F1 as he became the first Thai competitor to achieve an F1 podium result. Through the first nine races, Albon is in fifth place in the Drivers’ standings as he trails Hamilton by 127 points. Unlike Verstappen, Albon and Red Bull have yet to announce if their partnership will continue beyond this season.

The third-best team in the Constructors’ standings with 106 points is the McLaren F1 Team with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. driving for the team. Having achieved 12 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’ titles, none in either category since 2008, the team currently managed by CEO Zak Brown has struggled in keeping pace with the competition for wins and titles since the start of the 2013 season. From 2013 to 2018, the team’s best result in the Constructors’ standings was fifth place (twice) In addition, Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button recorded the team’s lone podium results during the six-year span. Last season, the competitiveness of the team began to turn around for the better as the team’s two competitors, Sainz and Norris, racked up strong results, including a podium result with Sainz in Brazil, to place the team in fourth place in the Constructors’ standings. By being the third-best team through the first half of this season, McLaren aims to extend their current on-track success, return to competitive form like from the past and contend for their first F1 win since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

For Norris, who achieved 11 top-10 results and concluded last season in 11th place in the Drivers’ standings, the 20-year-old competitor from Bristol, England, kicked off a new season of racing on a positive note by finishing in third place and claiming his maiden podium in F1 as a result of Lewis Hamilton being penalized for a late on-track incident with Alexander Albon and Norris finishing 4.8 seconds behind Hamilton, thus promoting him to the podium. At age 20 years, seven months and 22 days old, Norris became the third-youngest competitor to achieve an F1 podium result. Since his podium result, Norris has finished in the top 10 in all but one event. He is currently in fourth place in the Drivers’ standings, trailing Hamilton by 125 points, and looks to add his name as a potential title threat for this season and for years to come.

For Sainz, who achieved 13 top-10 results, his maiden podium in the Brazilian Grand Prix and a sixth-place result in the Drivers’ standings last season, this season has been an up-and-down season for him. The 26-year-old competitor from Madrid, Spain, opened this season by recording three consecutive top-10 results. For the next four races, however, he only achieved one additional top-10 result and he did not make the starting grid for the Belgian Grand Prix due to a power unit issue. Nonetheless, he rallied the following race by notching a career-best second-place result in the Italian Grand Prix and claiming his second career podium result in Formula One. An early elimination due to a wreck in the recent Tuscan Grand Prix, however, places Sainz in 11th place in the Drivers’ standings, 149 points behind Hamilton. Nonetheless, Sainz aims to join Fernando Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, as the lone competitors from Spain to win a Formula One race. Unlike Norris, who will remain with McLaren next season, Sainz is set to join Scuderia Ferrari for the 2021 season, replacing Sebastian Vettel.

Next is the BWT Racing Point F1 Team, the first team with double-digit points at 92 and currently ranked in fourth place in the standings with Lance Stroll and Sergio “Checo” Perez driving for the team. The team has experienced an abundance of bright on-track moments and results in their second full-time F1 season under the Racing Point banner with Otmar Szafnauer serving as the CEO & Team Principal of the team and with Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll supporting the team as a part-owner. The only controversial moment for the team this season was when Racing Point was docked 15 points and fined €400,000 between the two GP events in Silverstone as a result of fielding RP20 race cars at the beginning of this season that had an identical design to the 2019 Mercedes car, a protest that was launched by Renault and upheld by the FIA upon review of the team’s use of rear brake ducts that were not refined while being used into the DNA of the RP19 car. Despite the controversy, 15 top-10 results between three competitors through the first nine races have kept the team in contention of emerging as the third-best team for this season. The team is also set to rebrand as Aston Martin F1 Team in 2021.

For Lance Stroll, the 20-year-old son of Lawrence Stroll and who achieved six top-10 results and a 15th-place result in the Drivers’ standings last season, this season marks his strongest start to a Formula One season compared to his previous three seasons. After retiring in the season opener in the Austrian Grand Prix due to engine issues, Stroll went on a seven-race stretch of finishing inside the top 10. This included a third-place result in the Italian Grand Prix, which marked his first podium achievement since finishing in third place in the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Though he retired in the recent event, the Tuscan Grand Prix, following a late accident, he is in sixth place in the Drivers’ standings, which would mark a career-best result for him, and is 133 points behind Hamilton. Despite a strong start to this season, Stroll has yet to confirm his racing plans for next season.

For Perez, who achieved 11 top-10 results and a 10th-place result in the Drivers’ standings last season, this season marks his strongest start to a new season of racing in three years. The 30-year-old Guadalajara, Mexico, native started the season by notching three consecutive top-10 results. His season, however, took a downhill turn when he was forced to sit out of both Silverstone races and was replaced by Nico HĂĽlkenberg after being tested positive for COVID-19 symptoms. Once he returned to the track, Perez went on to finish in the top 10 through the last four races. His best results have been a pair of fifth-place finishes (Spain and Tuscan GP) as he strives to achieve his first podium result since finishing in third place in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Despite his results, Perez will not be remaining with the team that is set to be rebranded to Aston Martin and his future plans in racing is currently unknown. 

For Hülkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride for this season following a three-year run with Renault, this season marks his first absence from the season-opening race since he failed to take the starting grid for the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. The opportunity for the Emmerich am Rhein, West Germany, native to return to F1 came during both races at Silverstone when Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19 symptoms. For the British Grand Prix, he was due to start in 13th place, but he did not make the grid due to an engine failure. Returning for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Hülkenberg redeemed himself by starting in third place and finishing in seventh place. The seventh-place result marked his 96th top-10 result in his 178th career start in Formula One as he is still pursuing his first elusive podium result. Though Hülkenberg is not a full-time competitor this season and has not raced since August, the six points he recorded at Silverstone are more than Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi, George Russell and Romain Grosjean combined through the first half of this season. Despite his two-race stint at Silverstone, Hülkenberg is still searching for a full-time ride and a return to F1 racing next year.

Rounding out the top five and the first half of the Formula One teams in the Constructors’ standings is the Renault DP World F1 Team, currently with 83 points and with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon driving for the team managed by Cyril Abiteboul and Marcin Budkowski. Having won two championships in 2004 and 2005, the team has finished no higher than third place in the standings since winning back-to-back titles. From 2009 to 2019, the team emerged as the fifth-best team in the final Constructors’ standings three times, including last season. This season, through the first nine races, Renault is situated in fifth place in the Constructors’ standings, ironically, and have tallied 11 top-10 results between its two-car lineup. Like the Racing Point organization, Renault is set to be rebranded as Alpine F1 Team and sport the French national colors of red, white and blue on their race cars. The team is also set to feature two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso as one of their two competitors for next season as they strive to return to championship contention. The 2021 F1 season will mark Alonso’s return to the sport since he retired in 2018 and his return to Renault since 2009.

For Ricciardo, this season, which marks his second with Renault, started off as a season for him to rebound and reignite his past achievements and competitiveness on the track throughout his career and following a disappointing 2019 season highlighted with eight top-10 results and a ninth-place result in the Drivers’ standings. The season, however, did not start on a high note when he retired early due to overheating issues. Nonetheless, Ricciardo has achieved a total of six top-10 results through the first nine races of this season and he is ranked in seventh place in the Drivers’ standings while trailing Hamilton by 137 points. Finishing as high as fourth place three times on the track indicates how hungry he is in returning to the podium and winning an F1 race for the first time since 2018. Despite the recent strides and strong results on the track, Ricciardo is set to join McLaren next season and be a teammate to Lando Norris.

For Ocon, who made his return to full-time Formula One racing this season following a one-year absence, the 2020 season was a year for him to rejuvenate his career and past success when he drove for Force India/Racing Point F1 Team. The 24-year-old Évreux, France, native started the season with an eighth-place result before he retired the following race due to overheating issues. Over the next seven races, he has achieved four top-10 results, a best result of fifth place, and one additional retirement. He is ranked in 12th place in the Drivers’ standings and is 160 points behind Hamilton while also being 13 points behind in cracking the top-10 mark. Ocon is set to remain with Renault and be a teammate to Fernando Alonso next season.    

The team that leads the second half of the 10-team field in this year’s Formula One grid/standings with 66 points is Scuderia Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc currently driving for the team led by Team Principal Mattia Binotto. Having won 16 Constructors’ championships and 15 Drivers’ championships since 1950, the Ferrari powerhouse organization has struggled on the track throughout this season. With the team emerging as the second- or third-best team over the last decade, only two podium results through nine races this season marks their worst since 2014 as the team aims to rebuild itself back into competitive form approaching next season.

For Vettel, a four-time Formula One champion and a 53-time race winner who achieved only one victory and a fifth-place result in the Drivers’ standings last season, the 2020 season marks his slowest start to an F1 season in recent years. He started the season with a 10th-place result in the Austrian Grand Prix. Over the next eight races, Vettel has achieved four additional top-10 results and two retirements. Thus far, his best on-track result is sixth place, which occurred in the Hungarian Grand Prix. He is in 13th place in the Drivers’ standings and trails Hamilton by 173 points with a tall mountain to climb to fight his way back into winning contention. After six seasons with Ferrari, including this season, Vettel is set for a fresh start by joining Aston Martin F1 Team in 2021.

For Leclerc, who is in his second season with Ferrari and achieved his first two victories in Formula One last season before concluding the season in fourth place in the Drivers’ standings, this season has also been a struggle. Unlike Vettel, this season started off on a promising note for Leclerc when he finished in second place in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix. Since then, Leclerc has managed to achieve one additional podium result, third place at the British GP, and two additional top-10 results. Mired within his season are three retirements as he is in eighth place in the Drivers’ standings and trails Hamilton by 141 points. Unlike Vettel, Leclerc is set to remain with Ferrari for next season.

Next is the newly formed Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team, the last team in the current Constructors’ standings with double-digit points at 53 and with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat driving for the team. Formerly known as Toro Rosso and as a junior team to Red Bull Racing with the philosophy of providing newcomers a chance to compete in Formula One, the team was rebranded to promote the AlphaTauri fashion brand, a parent company of Red Bull, while continuing to run on Honda engines. In addition to retaining drivers Gasly and Kvyat, Franz Tost remains as Team Principal of the team, Graham Watson remains as Team Manager and Jody Egginton runs as Technical director. On the track this season, the results have been mixed between Gasly and Kvyat from one race to another. The team’s lone highlight has been winning at the Italian Grand Prix in September with Gasly, indicating how primed the team is in pursuing more victories in the near future.

For Gasly, who was demoted from Red Bull Racing to Toro Rosso in the late stages of last season but concluded the season on a high note by scoring his maiden podium in the Brazilian Grand Prix with a second-place run, this season has provided its share of the highs and lows. The 24-year-old Rouen, France, native finished seventh in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and recorded three additional top-10 results through the Belgium Grand Prix. Then, at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, Gasly shined the brightest of the field when he emerged with the lead late in the race following a stop-and-go penalty involving Lewis Hamilton and held off Carlos Sainz to win his first Formula One career race. With his accomplishment, he became the 109 different competitor to win a Formula One race and the first French F1 competitor to win since Olivier Panis made the last accomplishment in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix. The win vindicated his resilience to triumph against his struggles and his potential in competing for wins on a weekly basis. Coming off his recent Grand Prix event in Tuscany, Italy, where he was involved in an opening lap multi-car wreck, Gasly is in 10th place in the Drivers’ standings and is 147 points behind Hamilton. Despite the success this season, Gasly has yet to confirm his racing plans for next season and beyond.

For Kvyat, who achieved a podium result last season during the German Grand Prix along with a total of 10 top-10 results before finishing in 13th place in the Drivers’ standings, his results of this season’s first half mirrors his progress from the first nine races of last season. He started the season by finishing 12th in the Austrian Grand Prix. Since then, he recorded four top-10 results, including a best result of seventh place in the Tuscan Grand Prix, and has sustained only one DNF. Despite the progression, he is in 14th place in the standings, 180 points behind Hamilton, and needs to gain 33 points to crack the top 10 in the Drivers’ standings. Like Gasly, Kvyat has yet to confirm his racing plans for next season and beyond.

The first team in line with single-digit points, four, is the Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen team with Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi driving for the team currently led by Frédéric Vasseur. Since the team began racing under the Alfa Romeo Racing banner in 2019, their two-car lineup have achieved a total of 15 top-10 results through the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix. Their best results are fourth and fifth place with Räikkönen and Giovinazzi in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. Like last season, the team continues to run as the eighth-best team on the grid.

For Räikkönen, who is in his second season with Alfa Romeo and achieved nine top-10 results and a final result of 12th place in the Drivers’ standings last season, just a single top-10 result marks the lowest top-10 results he has recorded through nine races into a season. Having won his first and only F1 title in 2007, Räikkönen’s lone top-10 result this season was a ninth-place result in the Tuscan Grand Prix. He is tied for 16th place in the Drivers’ standings and with his first two points to this season. Räikkönen has yet to announce his racing plans for next season and beyond.

For Giovinazzi, who is in his second full-time season in F1 racing and recorded four top-10 results and a final result of 17th place in the Drivers’ standings last season, the 2020 season started off on a promising note in ninth place. Since then, his next highest result on the track over the next eight races was 14th. In addition, he has sustained two retirements. He is tied for 16th place in the Drivers’ standings with Räikkönen and with two points recorded this season. Like Räikkönen. Giovinazzi has yet to announce his racing plans for the 2021 F1 season.

Trailing behind with only a single team point in ninth place in the Constructors’ standings through the first nine races is the Haas F1 Team with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean driving for the team led by the team’s principal Guenther Steiner. Compared to their previous four seasons in F1, where the results have been up and down between its two-car lineup, the first half of the 2020 season has been a down season for the team as they continue to struggle in keeping pace with the competition like all of last season. 

For Magnussen, who is in his fourth season with the Haas organization and has achieved only four top-10 results last season, just a single top-10 result through the first nine races into an F1 season marks his lowest since 2016. His top-10 result, nonetheless, remains the lone highlight for the Haas team this season. Aside from the top-10 result, Magnussen has finished no higher than 12th place while he has also sustained five retirements this season, including the season opener in Austria and the two recent Grand Prix races in Italy. Currently, the 27-year-old Magnussen from Roskilde, Denmark, has yet to confirm his racing plans for the 2021 F1 season.

For Grosjean, who has been with the Haas F1 team since its inception in 2016 and who notched three top-10 results last season, the 2020 season marks the first time where he has completed the first nine races without a single top-10 result and without recorded points. Grosjean started the season with a retirement in the Austrian Grand Prix. Though he was able to finish the next eight races, he has finished no higher than 12th place (twice). He joins Nicholas Latifi and George Russell as the lone F1 competitors to achieve zero top-10 results through the first nine races of this season. Like Magnussen, Grosjean has yet to announce his racing plans for next season.

Finally, the Williams Racing team occupies the 10th and final spot in the Constructors’ standings with no points recorded this season and with Nicholas Latifi and George Russell driving for the team. Having won seven Drivers’ championships and nine Constructors’ titles, none since 1997, the team slipped back in the standings since finishing in third place in 2015 and have been the 10th-place team on the grid since 2018. Amid a struggling start to this season, the Williams team was acquired by Dorilton Capital, an American investment group, for €152 million. Following the purchase of the team, Claire Williams, Team Principal of Williams, departed from the team following the Italian Grand Prix. Though the team remains under the Williams banner and operates in the United Kingdom, the Williams family is no longer involved in Formula One racing since the team’s inception in 1977 by Sir Frank Williams.

For Latifi, who is in his first full-time season in F1 racing and spent the previous two seasons as a test/reserve competitor, this season started off on a promising note when he finished in 11th place in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and came up one spot short in recording a point for the Williams team. Since the season opener, he has achieved an additional 11th-place result in the Italian Grand Prix, which marks his highest result this season. Despite the on-track struggles and strives, the good news for Latifi is that he is set to remain with Williams for the 2021 F1 season.

For Russell, a former Formula 2 champion who is currently in his second season in F1 racing and concluded his first full-time season last year in 20th place in the Drivers’ standings, this season started off on a low note when he retired due to fuel pressure issues. Over the next eight F1 races, the 22-year-old King’s Lynn, United Kingdom, native finished in the top 15 three times and his highest result is 11th place, which occurred in the Tuscan Grand Prix. He joins teammate Latifi and Grosjean as the lone F1 competitors to record zero points through the first half of this season. Like Latifi, Russell is set to remain with Williams for the 2021 F1 season.

With the first half of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship season complete, the second half of the season will commence on September 27 at Sochi Autodrom for the Russian Grand Prix followed by the return of NĂĽrburgring for the Eifel Grand Prix on October 11 and at PortimĂŁo’s Algarve International Circuit for the Portuguese Grand Prix on October 25. Next on the revised schedule will be the Emilia Romangna Grand Prix at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy, on November 1 followed by the Turkish Grand Prix at Tuzla’s Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15. Formula One will then race at the Bahrain International Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix on November 29 followed by the Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain’s Outer Circuit layout on December 6. The revised 17-race schedule will conclude at Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 13.


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