F1, the pinnacle of Motorsports, celebrates its 70th year of racing in 2020. The Formula One Management drew up an elaborate plan for the season - a 22 race calendar, the longest ever in the history of the sport.
Unfortunately, the world got hit by the Pandemic COVID-19 and the start of the season seemed to be in jeopardy. Nevertheless, the FOM decided to proceed with the season-opener in Australia until they had to call it off on the Friday of the event when a couple of personnel tested positive for the virus in the paddock. The entire world then went into lockdown from mid-March, with a host of races getting cancelled or postponed. Thankfully, things started to improve, and new plans got drawn up for the season.
The season opener got shifted to Austria with most of the races announced as "closed-door" events. The 2020 season would now have 17 races consisting of triple-headers and double-headers. Some iconic tracks made an unlikely return while a couple would host an F1 Grand Prix for the first time.
The 2020 F1 Season has reached the halfway point ( an achievement in itself in 2020 ), and eight races remain before the Champions of 2020 get crowned.
It is time to review the performance of the teams and drivers at the halfway point of the season!
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :
Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Red Bull had a strong end to the 2019 season and continues its momentum into 2020. It has emerged as the only challenger to the Mercedes, but the deficit remains wide. Unlike the table toppers, Red Bull hasn't been able to have both its drivers in the sharp end of the grid to fight for top honours. Albon has struggled to get to grips with his car on Saturday, which eventually denies him better results on a Sunday. His career-best finish and the first podium of his F1 career in Mugello would have reinstilled some confidence in his abilities. Red Bull is also doing its best to make the car suit Albon's driving style. Albon is 5th on 63 points, with a podium, and six other finishes in the top 10. His performances in the second half of 2020 will determine his retention for next year, so a lot is at stake.
Verstappen is Red Bull's trump card, and the Dutchman has capitalized on most of the opportunities presented to him. He isn't out of the reckoning for the Drivers' Title ( mathematically ), and can also easily surpass Bottas who is going through a lean patch. Verstappen is 3rd on 110 points, only 25 short of Bottas in P2. It would have been a much closer affair with Hamilton had it not been for his three retirements ( all mechanical failures ).
Honda, the engine supplier for Red Bull, has speeds comparable to that of the Mercedes power unit but still lacks the reliability of the latter. If Verstappen and Red Bull want to win championships, they need everything to be working in perfect harmony, and currently, they come up short in the face of the mighty Mercs. It also remains to be seen as to how long Verstappen will persist with Red Bull in his quest for the title. The team can't afford to lose a driver of his talent and racecraft to a rival, so they need to ensure he gets the fastest, the most reliable, and the best equipment.
McLaren F1 Team :
McLaren, one of the oldest teams in F1, is going from strength to strength in 2020. The team is third at the halfway point of the season, 14 points clear of Racing Point in 4th.
Lando Norris leads the intra-team battle with 65 points to his name while Sainz Jr has managed 41. The midfield battle is a tight affair with Albon just two points adrift of Norris in 4th and Sainz two points behind Gasly in 11th. Norris and Sainz have scored a podium each ( 3rd and 2nd respectively ), but have had mediocre Sundays too; while Norris has finished in the points on seven other occasions, Sainz has managed only four. The Spaniard has also suffered from a technical issue in Belgium and an accident in Mugello. He would like to sign off from McLaren on a strong note before heading off to Ferrari in 2021.
McLaren has done enough to attract the attention of a top driver in Daniel Ricciardo for next year, and with the switch to Mercedes power, things can only get better in 2021. They have a brilliant aero package and should retain 4th by the end of 2020. It isn't going to be a walk in the park though with Racing Point having strong points finishes practically every weekend. The team, with its capable leadership, has learnt to grind out results, even on tracks where good results were unlikely. The second half of 2020 will be an intriguing affair.
Racing Point F1 Team :
Its been an eventful year for Racing Point F1. The team's challenger, RP 20, got dubbed the "Pink Mercedes" for its uncanny resemblance to the 2019 factory Mercedes car, the W10. The controversial brake-duct design attracted the attention of various teams, leading to a series of protests and a docking of points, 15 to be exact along with a financial penalty of 400,000 Euros by the FIA. The team had breached the sporting regulations and decided against contesting the fine.
There was activity in their driver lineup for 2021 as well - Sebastian Vettel got the nod ahead of Sergio Perez to partner Lance Stroll. The news drew mixed reactions from the fans. The team will also race under a new name ( Aston Martin ) in 2021, so exciting times await the Silverstone-based outfit.
Ontrack, Perez and Stroll have been doing a commendable job, and the team sits 4th, splitting McLaren and Renault in a tightly contested midfield. Stroll bagged a podium ( 3rd place ) in Italy along with points finishes in six other races and sits 6th in the Championship. Perez is in 10th with 43 points. The Mexican's 2020 campaign suffered a setback when he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to sit out the two race weekends in the UK. Nico Hulkenberg got called as the replacement but could compete in only one race ( 70th Anniversary GP ) after technical trouble ruled him out of the British GP.
Racing Point has a capable car and will need both its drivers to maintain this momentum if they are to relegate McLaren at the end of 2020.
Renault Sport F1 Team :
Renault brought in Esteban Ocon to partner Daniel Ricciardo for 2020. The French brand has been steadily improving since its return to the sport as a full works team. The team is currently 5th in the standings, hot on the heels of Racing Point F1. Daniel Ricciardo, who announced that he would be switching to McLaren, came close to getting that elusive podium thrice this year. If we were to go by current form, he should accomplish this feat for the team in the second half of the season. Besides his three 4th place finishes, the Australian has scored points in three other races and sits 7th in the Championship with 53 points.
Ocon, on the other hand, has had a more challenging time with 5th place in Belgium being his best result. He is currently 12th in the Championship with 30 points.
Renault's commitment to F1 is unquestionable. They will race under a new avatar - Alpine Racing F1, in honour of the brand's performance division besides re-signing ( for 2021 ) Fernando Alonso, the man who won them two championships in the early 2000s. There is no substitute for experience, and Alonso will be pivotal in helping them return to winning ways. They need to keep pushing in the second half of 2020 to try and finish 4th and build themselves a great platform for 2021.
Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen" is the English saying that is synonymous with Ferrari's mid-term report card. The controversial double fuel flow sensor became the bone of contention and got done away with for 2020. However, this led to a sudden loss of straight-line speed for the Ferrari powered cars. In their quest to improve the aerodynamics package, the team added more downforce complicating matters. The loss of speed, coupled with the added drag, has left the team contending in the lower half of the midfield. Their decision to sign Carlos Sainz Jr for 2021 without offering Vettel a new contract has caused further unrest within the team. Fans and experts alike aren't happy with the treatment meted out to the four-time World Champion.
Charles Leclerc, the future according to Ferrari, is P8 in the Championship with two ( fortunate at best ) podium finishes and two other finishes in the points. Vettel meanwhile, managed five finishes in the points but is in 13th with sixth being his best finish ( Hungary ). Both drivers have suffered a couple of retirements ( each ).
Ferrari is in a lowly 6th in the Constructors' standings with Alpha Tauri threatening to relegate them further. Their chances of improving to fifth seem bleak, their supremo admitting that they won't return to winning ways up until 2022.
The most successful team in the history of the sport completed the milestone of 1000 GPs recently. Unfortunately, this iconic season hasn't given them much to celebrate. However, the ruling of having "closed-door" races has saved them the blushes in front of their beloved Tifosi.
They have the resources and the men to turn it all around. It is never too late.
Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :
Scuderia Toro Rosso got rechristened as Scuderia Alpha Tauri, to promote Red Bull's fashion brand in 2020. The Red Bull B Team is having a fantastic season.
Pierre Gasly is leading the team-mate battle, having scored an unlikely victory at the Italian GP! Monza has always been a happy hunting ground for the Italian outfit, and the win is like gold-dust in a tightly contested midfield. Gasly has also scored points finishes in four other races ( Austria, Great Britain, Spain and Belgium ). The Frenchman is making a strong case for himself and should go from strength to strength in the second half of the season.
Daniil Kvyat, on the other hand, has been struggling with 7th being his best effort at the Tuscan GP. The Russian sits 14th in the Championship and needs to step up his performances to warrant a seat in 2021. His performances will be pivotal in the team's quest for P6 in the Constructors' Championship.
Alpha Tauri is only 13 points adrift of Scuderia Ferrari, and the prospect of beating the most successful team in the sport doesn't present itself every year! Franz Tost, the Team Principal, is considered to be one of the best in the business and has the will and vision to accomplish this feat. Can't wait to see what is in store in the second half of the season!
Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :
Alfa Romeo Racing was the best customer Ferrari team in 2019 with regular points finishes. Kimi Raikkonen was 6th in the standings going into the mid-summer break last year. However, all has changed come 2020. The team lies 8th in the standings with only 4 points to its name. Both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi have finished in the points only once with Giovinazzi yet to make an appearance in Q2. The lack of straight-line speed in the 2020 Ferrari engine is the cause of their undoing. The team's aero setup has faired well, even beating the works Ferrari on a couple of occasions, but they remain a mere shadow of their former self. A seventh-placed finish seems like a distant dream with their rivals Alpha Tauri having bagged an unlikely win this year. The team must aim to capitalize on points finishes ( whenever the opportunity arises ) for the remainder of 2020.
Raikkonen and Giovinazzi are yet to get a drive for 2021 with Raikkonen the popular choice for a contract renewal. Mick Schumacher, the legendary Michael Schumacher's son, is performing well in Formula 2, and if he meets the terms set by Ferrari ( which is finishing at least 3rd in the Championship ), the 2021 drive will be his! Giovinazzi had a strong start to the year but had a blip in form, both in qualifying and on race day. He has the talent to do well in F1, and a step-up in performances from the Italian could leave the team spoilt for choice for 2021.
Haas F1 Team :
It has been another torrid year for Haas F1. The American owned outfit persisted with their lineup of Grosjean and Magnussen contrary to beliefs that one of them would lose his drive for 2020. The duo is having yet another lacklustre year with Magnussen managing a solitary point for the team at Hungary. Lack of power in the 2020 Ferrari PU coupled with balance issues, has left the team sparring with Williams Racing at the back of the field.
It is time for them to shift their focus to development for next year besides exploring the option of hiring a new driver lineup altogether. The team has made its commitment to the sport up until 2025 by signing the new Concorde Agreement, and Gene Haas, the owner, would not want his team to be an "also-rans" in the sport.
Williams Racing F1 Team :
Williams has been unable to stem their slide in the Turbo-Era. Russell and Latifi, their drivers for the 2020 season, have languished in the rear of the field despite having better outings on Qualifying day. The team came close to opening their account with Russell on three occasions but came up short.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The takeover by the American-based investment firm Dorilton Capital brings a promise of things getting better in the future. It is sad to see the Williams family bow out of the sport, but a change was necessary. They will finish tenth and last but can focus on building a faster car for a renewed challenge in 2021.
All teams have handled the various challenges of this fast-paced but truncated racing calendar with aplomb. 2020 has produced some unpredictable and exciting races. A lot can happen in the final eight rounds.
Time will reveal all!