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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Lewis Hamilton Ties Michael Schumacher's Win Record With Eifel Grand Prix Victory

 Photo Credit: Zak Mauger / LAT Images/ Pirelli


The 11th event in Formula 1's modified 17-round schedule for 2020, the Nurburgring once again hosts the top open wheel competitors after a seven-year absence. One of the world’s most famous motorsport venues in the world, the German race complex predates the Formula 1 World Championship holding its first grand prix in 1927. Operating as the Eifel Grand Prix in reference to the vast European mountain region surrounding the Nurburgring, the 2020 race is the first time the 5.148-kilometer GP-Strecke track welcomes the vehicles of Formula 1's current turbo/hybrid race car era.  

Set for 60 laps, Sunday’s 2020 Eifel Grand Prix assembled with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team providing a patriotic presence with both cars on the front row. In a tight Saturday qualifying, Valtteri Bottas found enough speed to place him ahead of Lewis Hamilton for pole position on the race grid. In addition to Sebastian Vettel starting in 11th place for Ferrari, the German crowd was granted a second home country driver to cheer on as Nico Hulkenberg was selected to sit-in for Lance Stroll who reported being unwell on Saturday. 

Compared to the calamity that took place at the start previous grand prix events, the opening laps of the Eifel Grand Prix were a very tame affair. The Mercedes-AMG team cars battled into first corner with Valtteri Bottas fending off Lewis Hamilton. Drivers able to gain ground on the opening lap of the race was Antonio Giovinazzi and Nico Hulkenberg who both moved up by three positions.  


Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd


Williams driver George Russell was the first retirement of the Eifel Grand Prix. On lap 13, Russell entered into the Nurburgring’s first corner battling the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen who were both following the recently pitted Ferrari driven by Sebastian Vettel. Exiting the turn, the left front wheel of Raikkonen’s car made contact with Russell’s right rear tire sending the right side of #63 Williams FW43 race car into the air for a brief second. The Williams Racing vehicle landed back on four wheels but suspension damage caused the impact led George Russel to stop on track later in the lap requiring a virtual safety car period for track workers to recover the machine. Kimi Raikkonen was assessed as a 10-second time penalty for the collision and continued to finish 12th in the grand prix where he set a series record for total starts.

In addition to the accident towards the back of the running order on lap 13, a major incident occurred at the front. Braking hard into the first corner, leader Valtteri Bottas locked-up the front tires of his #77 Mercedes race car. Taking advantage of Bottas’ misstep, teammate Lewis Hamilton surged by on the exit of the turn and took the lead. Pitting for a new set of medium compound tires at the end of the lap, Valtteri Bottas suffered a race-ending issue almost immediately after the pit stop. The power unit installed on the #77 car began to fail dropping well off the pace and forcing Bottas to retire after 18 laps at the Nurburgring. Valtteri Bottas’ early exit from the Eifel Grand Prix was the first retirement of the season for the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team as a whole. The Renault of Esteban Ocon as well as the Red Bull Racing car of Alexander Albon were also parked into their paddock garages a handful of laps after Bottas. 

As one of the Mercedes-AMG racers dropped out of the race, a podium position was up for grabs amongst drivers not usually given a chance to seize such a valuable finishing spot. In prime position heading into the middle portion of the Eifel Grand Prix, the McLaren of Lando Norris held third place behind Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen competing for his second podium of the 2020 season. Sadly for the young British driver, issues with his vehicle’s Renault power unit began to slow his progress before his lap 29 pit stop. Though Norris was able to persevere in the race just gradually sliding down the running order, the #4 McLaren was retired on lap 44 stopping beyond the runoff area of turn six. The placement of McLaren required a physical safety car period to recover Norris’ vehicle. With the Mercedes-AMG GT-R safety car briefly leading the field from lap 45 until the end of lap 49, the Eifel Grand Prix became the fifth consecutive Formula 1 race to feature a safety car period. 

In a final 10-lap run, Lewis Hamilton flew to the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix for what was a major record-tying victory. The British driver achieved his 91st career win placing him alongside the all-time Formula 1 grand prix victor Michael Schumacher. Capturing his momentous victory in the seven-time world champion’s home country of Germany, Hamilton’s accomplishment was farther honoured by Michael Schumacher’s son Mick presenting him with one of his father’s helmets. “It was beyond my wildest dreams to be equaling his number of race wins and it just shows that dreams can come true. It’s an incredible honour and something that will take some time to sink in.”, said Hamilton in a post-race release on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s website.


Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd


Crossing the line in second place 4.470 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, Max Verstappen posted his eighth podium of the 2020 season. The Red Bull Racing driver also narrowly captured the single point for posting the fastest lap at the Nurburgring with a 1-minute, 28.139-second lap time. Set on the final lap, Max Verstappen’s best time was effort beat Lewis Hamilton’s top lap by 6/1000ths of a second.


Photo Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for Honda North America


Triumphant in the fight for the third and final podium spot was Daniel Ricciardo. The first podium for Ricciardo since his victory on the streets of Monaco in 2018, the Australian’s result was the Renault F1 Team’s first top-three finish since rejoining Formula 1 in 2016. “Oh wow, it feels like the first time I ever got a podium. These emotions and that feeling you get when you get out the car, hug the team, the mechanics slapping you on the helmet, it’s just amazing and I am so happy we did it! It’s obviously my first one with Renault and it’s something I wanted to achieve when I set out on this journey with the team.”, said Daniel Ricciardo on the Renault DP World F1 Team’s website. Ricciardo will be leaving the team after the 2020 season for McLaren while his vacant seat will be filled by Fernando Alonso.

For the second race in a row, Sergio Perez brought his Racing Point RP20 car to a fourth place finish. Carlos Sainz Jr. driving the remaining McLaren completed the Eifel Grand Prix in fifth place ending an undesirable two-race streak of early retirements. Pierre Gasly scored his second-best finish of the 2020 season collecting a sixth place result crossing the line ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / LAT Images/ Pirelli



The final three points-paying positions in the Eifel Grand Prix were obtained by competitors not generally associated with the top-10 runners this season. From 20th place, Nico Hulkenberg’s relief driving performance for Racing Point netted an impressive 8th place after 60 laps in home of his home crowd. Hulkenberg was also the highest finishing German driver at the Nurburgring as fellow country-mate Sebastian Vettel crossed the line in 11th place. Enduring a dismal season with a consistently slow Haas F1 Team race car and bad luck, Frenchman Romain Grosjean finally collected his first championship points for 2020 finishing in ninth place through the employment of a single-stop pit strategy. Italian Antonio Giovinazzi grabbed the tenth position spot at the end of Eifel Grand Prix driving for Alfa Romeo Racing. 

The next round for the 2020 Formula 1 championship will be the Portuguese Grand Prix with the race scheduled for October 25th.


2020 Formula 1
Eifel Grand Prix
Race Results







Bottas Becomes King of the Hill After Qualifying for Eifel Grand Prix

 

Photo Credit: FIA Pool/LAT Images/Pirelli

Staging 40 grand prix events between 1951 and 2013, the Nurburgring exists as a popular German locale for automotive speed has assembled races under the banner of the German Grand Prix, European Grand Prix and Luxembourg Grand Prix. For 2020, Formula 1 cars return to the track to participate in the Eifel Grand Prix weekend.

Formula 1's return to the Nurburgring as literally dampened by weather on Friday. The 5.148-kilometer GP-Strecke within the historic German complex was soaked and covered in heavy fog. Though race cars are equipped to run in wet weather, the fog created a safety concern in relations to accessing hospital care in case of a worst case scenario. Fog prevented flight of a medical helicopter while the road travel to the nearest FIA-approved hospital was beyond a travel distance of 20 minutes. The sanctioning body elected to cancel the two practice sessions for Friday leaving team with only the Saturday morning practice to familiarize themselves with a track the series hasn’t raced on for seven years.

Prior to the start of Saturday’s action, Racing Point driver Lance Stroll withdrew from competition citing feeling unwell. In relief of the Canadian, Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg was called back for a third time in 2020 by the Racing Point organization teaming up with Sergio Perez (the driver he substituted for the two Silverstone races in July). 

Posting the fastest time in the one and only practice ahead of Eifel Grand Prix qualifying, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team pilot Valtteri Bottas scored pole at the Nurburgring in a captivating late minute battle with teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. Bottas knocked Hamilton off the top spot for Sunday’s main event with a 1-minute, 25.259-second lap time. The pole for the driver of the #77 Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car is his third of the season. Valtteri Bottas is riding high after his impressive win at the last Formula 1 stop in Russia.


Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.



Beaten by 0.256 seconds, Lewis Hamilton settled for the second place spot on the grid. Losing their full season consecutive run of front row occupation for 2020 after Russian Grand Prix qualifying, the Mercedes-AMG team celebrates the revival of their time trial domination. Racing on home soil, the Mercedes-Benz factory team once more faced a fierce challenge from the Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. The Honda-powered race car was only 0.037 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joined Verstappen on the second row of the Eifel Grand Prix’s starting grid.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images Pirelli



The third row for the race at the Nurburgring is shared by the second Red Bull Racing race car piloted by Alexander Albon and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. Registering a lap time just 0.019 seconds slower than his teammate Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon will start in seventh place in the Eifel Grand Prix beside Lando Norris driving for McLaren. Sergio Perez for Racing Point and the second McLaren wheeled by Carlos Sainz Jr. rounds out the top 10 starting position for Sunday’s 60-lap main event.

Called to the track on Saturday morning in reserve for Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg had no time to adjust to the Racing Point machine ahead of qualifying resulting in him posting the slowest track time. Hulkenberg will start in 20th place for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.


2020 Formula 1
Eifel Grand Prix
Starting Grid






Thursday, October 8, 2020

Honda To Abandon Formula 1 After 2021 Season

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/Motorsport Images through American Honda Co., Inc.



Throughout the history of Formula 1, the sport has featured a revolving door of automobile manufacturers who have entered and exited for miscellaneous reasons. 

Lamborghini, Subaru and Spyker Cars are some prominent names in the automotive world that had an involvement in Formula 1 too brief for some to remember. Other companies such as BMW, Toyota and Porsche have previously operated as heavy hitters in the global open wheel series but are not actively part of the sport. Formula 1 also contained a number of names that have operated in several prominent stints. First involved in grand prix racing in 1964, Honda’s Formula 1 history is defined as both a constructor and engine supplier. Currently supplying power units to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, Honda has announced intentions to end their most recent participation in Formula 1 racing.

With the end of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the Japanese automaker will no longer contribute propulsion to entrants. In a speech made by President, Representative Director and CEO of Honda Motor Co., LTD Takahiro Hachigo, Honda’s cited reason to discontinue their present role in the sport is related to the company’s increasing focus on developing new technologies for production vehicles to comply with environmental targets. Planning to have 2/3rds of the automobiles sold across the world electrified, Honda is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. After the completion of the 2021 obligations to Formula 1, Honda plans to divert staff and personnel working with their Formula 1 power unit program into their research and development department to create carbon-reducing powerplant technologies.

The decision by Honda leaves two teams in search of a new power unit supplier for the 2022 season. Both teams having won grand prix events in 2020 with Honda power, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri seemed pleased with their propulsion for the year. This year, Max Verstappen won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix with Red Bull Racing while the AlphaTauri group celebrated victory at the Italian Grand Prix with winning driver Pierre Gasly. Reacting to the news, Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal Christian Horner commented in a team statement posted online, “As a Team we understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision to step back from Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season.” Horner also expressed the team’s disappointment in the announcement but also conveyed gratitude to Honda for the five wins scored by the Red Bull-owned grand prix organizations. While announcing their departure, Honda is still devoted to creation of a competitive power unit for the 2021 season with both teams.

Honda’s recent stint in Formula 1 came following the announcement of the sport’s current turbocharged/hybrid power unit configuration introduced for 2014. Partnering with McLaren (a team which Honda had enjoyed some major success in the past), the Japanese auto brand elected to wait until 2015 to enter competition with their gasoline/electric powertrain. Performing poorly with McLaren from 2015 to 2017 with the power unit receiving much ridicule due to lack of competitiveness and reliability problems, Honda secured a new deal for the 2018 season with Scuderia Toro Rosso (transforming into AlphaTauri this year). Toro Rosso’s corporate relative Red Bull Racing adopted Honda performances in 2019 and secured a victory for the auto company at the year’s Austria Grand Prix before winning two more times.

Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri have a tricky job ahead finding a power unit supplier for the 2022 Formula 1 season and beyond. The use of all three remaining powerplant options will provide obstacles to the teams. The top contender would be Mercedes-Benz but they’re slated to supply four teams next year including their factory team that is a top adversary for Red Bull Racing. Renault had previously provided engines to both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri but the relationship ended on a sour note a few seasons ago. Finally, the option of Ferrari may be appealing by the performance of the 2020 competition package. Other rumoured alternatives could involve a new Formula 1 powerplant supplier or Red Bull Racing developing their own power units.

Though saying Sayōnara to Formula 1 on October 2nd, the Japanese automaker sent somewhat of a mixed message about competing with a gasoline/electric hybrid powerplant platform in open wheel racing one day later. Honda reaffirmed its commitment to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 by confirming their involvement of a power unit to conform with the racing tour’s upcoming introduction of hybrid technology in competition cars for 2023.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Valuable Victory for Valtteri Bottas in Russian Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix



The tenth round of the 2020 Formula 1 championship, the 53-lap Russian Grand Prix is effectively the first race in the second half of the improvised season created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 5.848-kilometer race course assembled within a complex where the 2014 Winter Olympic games were held, the Sochi Autodrom was the second Formula 1 race to take place with spectators present. 

Winner of four of the past six events on the Russian course, Lewis Hamilton earned pole for the event but the honours for his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team was tarnished slightly by the end of a 2020 streak. The Mercedes-AMG team’s front row ownership after qualifying concludes after nine rounds thanks to Max Verstappen driving his Red Bull RB16 to second place on the grid. Valtteri Bottas would start third for Mercedes-AMG F1 in an event where the organization has been historically strong in.


Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/Pirelli




Lewis Hamilton was potentially setting the stage for a race victory that would tie him with Michael Schumacher as the most winningest Formula 1 driver. However, the Mercedes driver complicated his quest for his 91st win before the start by engaging in two practice starts as he left the pits to position his Mercedes-AMG race car on the grid during pre-race. Under investigation when the race commenced, race stewards issued Hamilton two five-second penalties in the early laps in Russia.

One race following the Tuscan Grand Prix that was remembered for crash-filled early laps, the start of the Russian Grand Prix presented two retirements due to collisions in the first session of the first lap. As the field entered through turn two, the #55 McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. went wide and misjudged his return to the track clipping the wall with the left front of his race car. The second casualty of the Russian Grand Prix was Lance Stroll. After a strong start where the Canadian moved from his 13th place starting spot to 7th, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc impacted the side of Stroll’s Racing Point through the fourth turn. During the first lap that concluded with the appearance of a safety car (the fourth consecutive race where a Mercedes-AMG GT R was used while track crew removed debris after a race crash), Valtteri Bottas had been able to manoeuver his way around the Red Bull Racing to second place.  


Photo Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Images/Pirelli



In all the chaos of the opening lap, the two Haas F1 Team cars are able to work their way into the top 10 runners. Unfortunately for the American Formula 1 team, momentum of the early race surge didn’t last over the course of the 53-lap event. Both drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have been vocal about the team’s struggle during the race weekend in Russia.

On lap 16, Lewis Hamilton relinquished the lead of the Russian Grand Prix when he pitted for tires. During the pit stop for the #44 car, Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG chose to serve the time penalty. The car would return to the track behind Bottas and Verstappen where it will remain out of contention for victory prolonging the six-time Formula 1 World Driving Champion’s pursuit tying Michael Schumacher’s win record.  

Pitting on once on lap 26, Valtteri Bottas would go on to win the Russian Grand Prix crossing the finish line 7.729 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen. Although Bottas has secured his spot with the Mercedes-AMG group for 2021, the Finnish driver was seeking a performance to quiet his critics. The pilot of the #77 car relished this triumph on the Sochi circuit. “Now I need to keep this momentum up. There are quite a few races to go and you just never know, so I’ll keep pushing, I won’t give up and we’ll see how it turns out in the end.” said Bottas in post-race comments issued by his race team. Valtteri Bottas’ victory maintains the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s streak at the Russian Grand Prix. Since the Sochi race was added to the Formula 1 calendar in 2014, the German factory squad has won all seven annual events. Bottas have previous won the 2017 event that was also his first-career Formula 1 victory.


Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix



After two races that ended in retirements, Max Verstappen took his Honda-powered Red Bull Racing machine to his seventh podium result for 2020. With Valtteri Bottas scoring first place points as well as the fastest lap in the Russian Grand Prix, Verstappen unfortunately lost some ground in this year’s drivers’ championship to the second-place position. The first and second place finishers of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix both started the event on medium compound Pirelli tires.


Photo Credit: Yuri Kochetkov/Getty Images for Red Bull Content Pool


While a third place finish isn’t the performance typical of Hamilton, it’s decent compared to the challenges presented to the championship contender throughout the 2020 Russian Grand Prix weekend. His pole qualifying performance followed a nervous Q2 where the driver of the #44 Mercedes-AMG succeeded to lock in a time with seconds remaining in the session after his initial lap time was disallowed due to exceeding track limits. Lewis Hamilton still holds a big lead in the drivers’ championship but the gasp is dropped to 44 points.

Following Lance Stroll’s second-consecutive race retirement, Racing Point’s dedication was to the #11 car of Sergio Perez. Fighting for a new ride for 2021, Mexico’s Perez scored a stellar fourth place serving as his best finish this season.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth with Renault but the effort for the French team in Russia is also marked by a poorly-executed strategy when the team cars were running together. Spotting that Ricciardo was faster, a team order was issued to Esteban Ocon to swap positions on track. However, as Esteban Ocon slowed to allow Daniel Ricciardo to pass entering turn 2, the #3 Renault braked heavily into the corner and overshot the track limits. The mistake resulted in five-second penalty being levied against Ricciardo and cost Ocon time on track that allowed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to emerge from a pit stop between the two Renault F1 Team cars. Leclerc would finish the race in sixth place with Estaban Ocon taking seventh.

Competing in front of spectators in his home country, Daniil Kvyat drove a quiet yet productive race finishing in eighth place. Until this race, Kvyat had only scored points once in the Russian Grand Prix when he finished in fifth place driving for Red Bull Racing back in 2015.


Photo Credit: Dan Mullan/Getty Images for Red Bull Content Pool



The final two point-paying positions in the late laps of the Russian Grand Prix featured a strong three-way fight between McLaren’s Lando Norris, Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Pitting on the first lap for hard compound Pirelli slicks, Norris attempted to fend off Albon and Gasly (the latter driver pitted on lap 42 for new soft compound tires). After first battling and prevailing over the Red Bull Racing car, Gasly charged on Norris’ McLaren that was holding ninth place on lap 48. With his tires losing an effective life, Lando Norris fell prey to Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon on the same lap surrendering tenth place. Pitting at the end of the lap, Norris finished 15th after battle to stay in the points. The race ended as the first in the season where McLaren Racing failed to score constructors’ points.

Following a one week break, Formula 1 action will return with the Eifel Grand Prix taking place on Germany’s famous Nurburgring race track. 


2020 Formula 1 
Russian Grand Prix
Race Results




Lucky Lewis: Hamilton Barely Escapes Q2 to Take Russian Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli


Understanding that the word ‘chaotic’ could be used to describe many aspects of the 2020 Formula 1 season, qualifying in the series in the first nine races had concluded in a generally humdrum manner due to the talent and execution of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. As the series arrives in Sochi for this year’s Russian Grand Prix, there has not been a qualifying session in 2020 that did not result in an all-Mercedes front row on race day. 

One-half of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s routine of qualifying dominance came with Lewis Hamilton’s 96th Formula 1 pole position. Lapping the 5.848-kilometer race course in a time of 1-minute, 31.304 seconds in Q3 (a new track record in Russia), Hamilton is still seeking his 91st career victory in Formula 1 that will tie seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in the all-time ranking. 

Spoiling the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s ownership of the front row for the first time in 2020, Max Verstappen posted a 1-minute, 31.867-second lap time in his Honda-powered Red Bull Racing car. Verstappen effectively split the two Mercedes drivers by being 0.089 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas who was able to mount a last-minute lap to better an earlier time. Starting alongside Bottas in Russia will be the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll didn’t advance into Q3 due to concerns of power unit temperatures in Q2 settling for a 13th place starting spot.

Although the final Q3 session that locks in a race grid is often granted the most attention on Saturday, time trials for the Russian Grand Prix contained some of the highest suspense in the earlier sessions. Q1 and Q2 sessions of Saturday qualifying at Sochi involved several drivers having times disallowed for exceeding track limits including the eventual pole winner. With roughly two and a half minutes left in Q2, the attempts to secure a spot in the top-10 fastest cars were hindered when the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel crashed in turn 4 of the Sochi Autodrom. Vettel’s wrecked vehicle required the qualifying session to be red-flagged setting up a mad rush by many drivers and teams when Q2 would be restarted. The time remaining in the session was just enough for some drivers to complete a warm-up lap ahead of a timed lap. Lewis Hamilton lost his earlier Q2 lap time but was narrowly able to post a fourth fastest time before the session ended. In fact, Hamilton crossed the start/finish line with only seconds to spare in his Mercedes AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car. 

The seventh Russian Grand Prix in the modern Formula 1 era will be a 53-lap affair on Sunday.


2020 Formula 1
Russian Grand Prix
Starting Lineup




Sunday, September 27, 2020

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card Roundup

Photo Credit: Steven Tee LAT Images/Pirelli



The year of 2020 has been one that has a period where almost everyone on Earth has been forced to make adjustments to accept duty of fending off a dangerous health threat. In battling COVID-19, measures to minimize the spread managed effectively by individuals and groups have given us some abilities to enjoy some a few indulgences. Along with a good part of the sporting world operating under strict health and safety guidelines, Formula 1 was finally able line up for their first event in Austria at the beginning of July. 

Eventually assembling a 17-race calendar consisting mostly of European tracks, the 70th Formula 1 season has completed their first nine races. With eight races occurring without spectators, the open wheel racing tour has put on some very entertaining events. Though the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team has shown the same strong form as seen in previous seasons, the 2020 season already contained some of the most intense and surprising Formula 1 action we haven’t seen for a long time. We’ve been treated some memorable wins that included a wild British Grand Prix finish where Lewis Hamilton limped his Mercedes to victory on only three inflated tires, Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing triumphant in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix as well as the underdog win of Pierre Gasly at the Italian Grand Prix. The 2020 Formula 1 championship season has also consisted of a fierce battle in the top 10 with McLaren, Renault and Racing Point in a tight constructors’ championship fight for third place. 

Celebrating 70 years as a world-leading auto racing spectacle, Formula 1 has faced trouble in honouring the milestone without the usual parties and fanfare they would have obviously wanted to generate. Mugello was the first time spectators were allowed to experience this year’s on-track suspense during the same race where Ferrari commemorated their 1,000th grand prix entry. 

Crossing the halfway for the 2020 season, all 10 Formula 1 teams have been able to clearly establish their performance potential in what is a very strange year overall. As the tour sets course towards some interesting grand prix such as a race in Turkey, Portugal and the Nurburgring not initially part of the 2020 schedule, let’s take a look at the season so-far from the perspective of the teams making up this year’s grid. 

Please click below on the Formula 1 team's name to view their 2020 Mid-Season Report Card: 


Mercedes-AMG

Red Bull Racing

McLaren Racing

Racing Point

Renault F1 Team

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Alfa Romeo Racing

Haas F1 Team

Williams Racing 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Mercedes-AMG

 

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix


Team Grade: A


Driver’s Grade:

Lewis Hamilton: A+

Valtteri Bottas: B+


Summary of First Nine Races:

Despite the delay in the 2020 season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team appeared in Austria ready to dominant in the same fashion as previous years  maintaining its edge over the competition. A top driver lineup consisting of six-time and reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton paired with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, the superiorly-engineered Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car as well as a strong support crew at the race track and at headquarters has proven to be the combination cementing an ongoing dynasty. In the first nine races of the 2020 Formula 1 season, Mercedes-AMG group has won seven grand prix events and has taken pole after every qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton has won six races already in 2020 and left the Tuscan Grand Prix with a commanding 45-point lead over teammate Bottas. The only major change within the team compared to previous years is the primarily black colour scheme adopted to support social equality. 

Innovating to stay ahead, this year’s car caught the ire of competitors by deploying a Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system that allows Mercedes drivers to adjust the front toe of the vehicle. DAS was permitted to operate on this year’s Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance car but will be banned for 2021. Competitors also attempted to negate Mercedes’ perceived edge in qualifying by eliminating a special engine setting. So-called ‘Party Mode’, the Mercedes-Benz power unit could run at an especially high performance level for a brief time. During the Italian Grand Prix round, a single engine mode was mandated for qualifying and the race. The notion that the special engine setting with the Mercedes-Benz power units was a key advantage over the competition appears to be little more than a red herring.

The reason for the ‘A’ grade rather an ‘A+’ was due to two instances. This year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, while ultimately a victorious outing for the Mercedes-AMG team, was also a minor embarrassment as both vehicles suffered late-race tire failures. Though many teams were left concerned with their tires throughout the race, the Mercedes-AMG cars endured the most dramatic instances of wear perhaps contributed to their reliably quick pace. Lewis Hamilton crossing the line on only three inflated tires could be one of the team’s chaotic wins. The second mishap for the Mercedes-AMG team was at Monza where Hamilton’s car came to pit road when they were closed costing the Brit the Italian Grand Prix victory. In the week following the unusual event in Italy, the team has explained and acknowledged the mistake learning how to avoid it in the future. 

 


Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


Heading into Russia with a 152-point lead in the Formula 1 Constructors Championship, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team on the path to easily ride to a seventh-consecutive team title. Lewis Hamilton is also in prime position to clinch his seventh Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship currently leading in the season-long standings by 55 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas. For Bottas, Mercedes-AMG has been impressed enough with his performance this season to lock him into a contract for 2021. 

The addition of new race tracks to the 2020 Formula 1 schedule may serve as a wild card to the German factory team. However, the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s ability to spoil Ferrari’s party at Mugello only goes to show the organization’s adaptiveness as another one of the squad’s high-ranking qualities.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Red Bull Racing

Photo Credit Bryn Lennon/Getty Images through Red Bull Content Pool

 


Team Grade: B


Driver’s Grade:

Max Verstappen: A

Alexander Albon: B-


Summary of First Nine Races:

Since the Formula 1 series adopted the current turbo/hybrid power unit layout in 2014, Red Bull Racing has been fighting to regain its dominance that made the team an imposing threat to win everything during the early 2010s. With the super-talented Max Verstappen and dependable power from Honda, Red Bull Racing reached the point last year where it could easily threatened for podium as well as the odd race win against the Mercedes-AMG F1 team. That being said, the Austrian-based race team has been missing key elements in recent years to mount a full charge against the Silver Arrows (or Black Arrows in 2020).

Competing with Mercedes once again in 2020, Red Bull Racing also faced a new threat from Racing Point through much of the grand prix this season. With a driver lineup consisting of Max Verstappen and Thailand’s Alexander Albon, Verstappen has been the leading source of performance with the squad. The highlight in the first nine races for the 2020 season was winning the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix held on the Silverstone Circuit. Taking advantage of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s tire wear issues at the Silverstone race course, Red Bull and Max Verstappen may have arguably had an opportunity to win the British Grand Prix under similar circumstances. At one point second in the drivers’ championship, Verstappen’s more recent races have resulted in him being overtaken by Valtteri Bottas. 

Installed in the second Red Bull Racing car last year at the Belgian Grand Prix, Alexander Albon has been under great pressure to perform in 2020 especially after Max Verstappen’s win at Silverstone. Albon has almost scored a podium finish on two occasions in his career with one of the closest and most crushing failed attempts being the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. Running second with two laps remaining, Alexander Albon was knocked out of a podium position due to an aggressive, mistimed pass attempt by Lewis Hamilton. 

With a fourth place finish at the Styrian Grand Prix and two additional fifth place results over the course of eight races in the 2020 Formula 1 season, Alexander Albon scored his first podium finish at the Tuscan Grand Prix behind the two Mercedes-AMG team cars. The third place result for Albon appears to have provided some relief to the Thai driver. Prior to the podium, parallels could have been drawn between Albon’s 2020 performance with Red Bull Racing and Pierre Gasly’s 2019 efforts ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. 

Considered the best non-Mercedes powered race car for 2020, Red Bull Racing’s RB 16 has been a consistent performer in qualifying and race scenarios. In five races, Max Verstappen qualified third behind the Mercedes machines of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Along with the Red Bull Racing team’s victory at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the RB16's engineering also contributed to AlphaTauri’s AT01 that won the Italian Grand Prix. Only three vehicle-related retirements can be linked to the RB16 with electronic issue leading to both cars retiring at the Austrian Grand Prix and a power unit failure for Verstappen at Monza.

 

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


Competing against the Mercedes-AMG F1 team that has demonstrated outright superiority in the series since 2014, Red Bull Racing has proven itself capable of breathing on the neck of the German squad on occasions this season. A well-built race car with decent Honda power and a competent driver lineup may be able to steal a few more race victories from the Mercedes when given a chance. 

Red Bull Racing will have to overcome some recent bad lack heading into the second half of the 2020 Formula 1 season. Prior to the podium at Mugello, Alexander Albon finished 15th sustaining damage after an early race collision. Max Verstappen is arriving in Russia with two consecutive retirements causing him to lose ground to the Mercedes drivers in the season standings.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: McLaren Racing

 

Photo Credit: Andy Hone LAT Images/Pirelli


Team Grade: A-


Driver’s Grade:

Carlos Sainz Jr.: B+

Lando Norris: A-



Summary of First Nine Races:

During the 1980s and a portion of the 1990s, McLaren and Williams were among two of the top teams in Formula 1. In the modern auto racing world championship, both constructors have been striding for more modest goals in recent years. Because of the massive global pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Williams as well as McLaren reportedly faced great battles off the track. Prior to the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix due to the surging spread of COVID-19, McLaren had withdrawn from the weekend when a member of their crew tested positive for the virus. Later, as the financial burden of a delayed Formula 1 season weighed on McLaren, a partial sale of the Formula 1 team was considered to raise extra capital. A combination of a bank loan and new sponsorship partners including Gulf oil lubricants has given the organization a lifeline. 

The McLaren Racing team’s survival of a potential financial crunch was quickly rewarded. In the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, the driver of the #4 McLaren Lando Norris posted a podium result of third place as well as the fastest lap of the race. After nine races, Norris scored points in all events except the Hungarian Grand Prix with his consistency placing him currently in fourth among drivers in the 2020 Drivers’ Championship. 

McLaren Racing’s Carlos Sainz Jr. has endured more of a roller coaster year than his teammate but has also been involved in some big moments. Although Sainz has qualified third on two occasions and posted the fastest lap at the Styrian Grand Prix, finishes have been less consistent for the Spaniard. In 2020, Sainz also delivered his career-best race performance at the Italian Grand Prix with a runner-up finish and narrowly missed scoring McLaren its first victory since 2012. 

Competing with the MCL35 chassis with Renault power units, McLaren Racing is regularly running alongside or in front of the factory Renault F1 Team. Only one retirement due to a mechanical issue has been recorded by the 2020 car caused at the Belgian Grand Prix where an exhaust problem prevented Carlos Sainz Jr.’s vehicle from starting ahead of Sunday’s race.



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


This year’s McLaren Racing team has been a regular contender for the top five in the running order. Under the right racing conditions (specifically with some faltering of Mercedes and Red Bull Racing team cars), Lando Norris and/or Carlos Sainz Jr. may likely be a podium challenger within at least one of the remaining events.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Racing Point

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli



Team Grade: A-


Driver’s Grade:

Lance Stroll: B+ 

Sergio Perez: B-


Summary of First Nine Races:

Following a mediocre first full season last year, Racing Point has picked up the pace drastically for 2020. With Mercedes-Benz power, a driving lineup consisting of the young Canadian Lance Stroll and dependable Mexican driver Sergio Perez, the team has been a regular mainstay in the top-10 of the running order. The 2020 Italian Grand Prix marked the Racing Point organization’s first podium. However, the on-track success for Racing Point has also been accompanied with a sense of mockery.

At the start of this year, many observers quickly took note of Racing Point’s RP20 race car design attempting to draw comparisons to the Mercedes-AMG team’s 2019 machine (the Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+). The similarities between the two cars have even resulted to the Racing Point entry being deemed a ‘Pink Mercedes’. While speculation on the appearance of the RP20 in pre-season testing was largely dealt with as comical, Renault’s protest of the cars’ rear brake ducts after the Styrian Grand Prix was no laughing matter. Racing Point was docked 15 constructors’ points and received a monetary fine of 400,000 euros from Formula 1's sanctioning body the FIA. The team sits in fourth place in the 2020 Formula 1 Constructors Championship following nine races.     

The 2020 success of Racing Point has started to mute the outspoken critics of Lance Stroll. Although the 21-year-old Canadian has won championships in Italian F4, the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand and the FIA European F3 series, his career in Formula 1 has involved a sizable amount of social media detraction. Since Lawrence Stroll (Lance Stroll’s father) is part of the current ownership group behind Racing Point, some insist his place in the sport is due to nepotism and not merit. A competent racer on Sunday, Lance Stroll’s Achilles’ heel has been qualifying on Saturday. This year, his performance in qualifying is vastly improved missing out on Q3 only once in the first nine races.

With ten seasons in Formula 1, Sergio Perez has been effectively in the same ride since 2014 when Racing Point operated as Sahara Force India. Perez has performed an impressive feat of finishing in the points for every race he has started in 2020 season. Contracting COVID-19 ahead of the British Grand Prix, the Mexican missed both races at Silverstone. Nico Hulkenberg was called in to substitute for the British Grand Prix and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix scoring a seventh place result in the latter event.


Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Racing Point has gained many of the important ingredients to become not only a regular top-10 runner but ideally a podium contender. In fact, it is a surprise or the team’s infancy that they have only captured one podium this season. A race victory for Racing Point may not be completely out of the question but is somewhat a long-odd gamble. Announced to be leaving Racing Point, Sergio Perez could be a very popular race winner if presented with an opportunity similar to that granted to Pierre Gasly at Monza. The Mexican’s attention-grabbing second-place finish in the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix for Sauber remains his best Formula 1 outing.   

Undergoing a massive transition over the course of two years, Racing Point is preparing for more changes coming in 2021. Along with renaming the team Aston Martin, the squad’s driver lineup will pair Sebastian Vettel with Lance Stroll next season. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Renault F1 Team

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli


Team Grade: B


Driver’s Grade: 

Daniel Ricciardo: B

Esteban Ocon: C+


Summary of First Nine Races:


Since reacquiring their team from Lotus GP in 2016, the Renault factory Formula 1 team has been mired deep in the middle of the racing pack leading up to the 2020 season. Aspiring to be among at least the top-five in the open wheel racing tour and potentially a podium-contending make this season, the Renault F1 Team appears to have made several steps in the right direction. 

For 2020, the Renault F1 Team welcomed Frenchman Esteban Ocon as a teammate to Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The more experienced Ricciardo has been the leader for the squad posting three fourth place finishes as well as the fastest lap of the race in the Belgian Grand Prix. His recent run at the Tuscan Grand Prix almost netted the organization its first podium result since Renault’s returning stint as a Formula 1 constructor. Renault’s R.S. 20 race car has shown itself to be a formidable competitor on the grid for 2020. The vehicle apparently excels on tracks with higher overall speeds showing up strong at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps as well as Monza. 

One of only two driver changes to occur throughout the Formula 1 grid over the off-season, Esteban Ocon’s move to join Renault in this unusual season may be hampering the progress of the Frenchman. Being a reserve driver for the Mercedes-AMG F1 team last year, Ocon’s 2020 campaign started with the competitor making up for a one-year absence from grand prix action. Esteban Ocon has finished in the two-10 for five of the nine races so-far on this year’s calendar posting a career-tying fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix.



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

The Renault F1 Team remains in striking distance of third place in the constructors championship after nine events in 2020 sitting 23 points away from the spot currently held by McLaren Racing. At least one podium result for the Renault F1 Team is very possible in the remaining races of the 2020 season. Daniel Ricciardo, set to leave the Renault squad for a seat at McLaren for 2021, appears very committed to departing his current team on a high note.

The remainder of the 2020 Formula 1 calendar will serve as the late opportunity to see the Renault brand’s greatness in the sport. In early September, Groupe Renault announced the organization will be rebranded as the Alpine F1 Team. Additional planning ahead for the 2021 season also has two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso reuniting his association with the team. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Scuderia Ferrari

 

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.


Team Grade: D+


Driver’s Grade:

Charles Leclerc: B+

Sebastian Vettel: C-



Summary of First Nine Races:

After the 2019 Formula 1 season, Scuderia Ferrari had a decent sense of optimism. Asserting itself as a stable podium-contending team and securing the young, talented Charles Leclerc as a teammate to Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari also faced scrutiny as allegations were made that the Italian team found a power unit exploit.  

For Scuderia Ferrari, the ongoing 2020 Formula 1 season has been a combination of disaster and drama. A less-than competitor car, race incidents as well as an emotional team culture that has not gone unnoticed by outsiders have plagued the organization. 

One of the major targets cited for Ferrari’s difficult 2020 season is the SF1000 race car. According to a BBC Sport article by Andrew Benson, the team realized flaws with the SF1000 after February’s pre-season testing and instituted an upgrade to the vehicle following the first race of the season. Said to have been an uneasy car to drive by both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at the early part of the season, the Ferrari SF1000's performance lagging has brought last year’s power unit issue into the conversation for their recent competitive problems.

Charles Leclerc securing a runner-up spot at the Austrian Grand Prix but flaws in the team showed up quickly. In the Styrian Grand Prix, running at the same Red Bull Ring as the Austrian Grand Prix one week later, the Ferraris qualified in a timid 10th and 11th place due in part of it being a wet time trial session. On the opening lap of the grand prix, Leclerc and Vettel collided leading to the eventual retirement of both competitors. The second and so-far final podium scored by Ferrari was at what was a bizarre British Grand Prix where Charles Leclerc took third aided by tire degradation issues of Mercedes that caused Valtteri Bottas to give up his second place late in the Silverstone event. 

Before the 2020 Formula 1 season was launched after it extended break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferrari announced that Sebastian Vettel would not be returning to the team after this year. It’s debatable to judge how much of an impact that the planned parting is having in regards to the on-track performance this year. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari’s plan for a single pit stop strategy was accompanied by a radio communication from a frustrated Vettel who was not provided with adequate clarity on their race plans.



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

During season where the historic race team was ready to commemorate their 1000th grand prix start, Ferrari has little to celebrate as of September. After nine races, many Formula 1 fans and analysts would come to the conclusion that the 2020 season might go down as the worst for the Ferrari team. Scuderia Ferrari has admitted they’re not foreseeing a return to front-running competitiveness until the 2022 season.  

Proving itself still capable of competing for top-10 finishes in 2020, the Italian motorsport icon may fall into a position to gain another podium result. With Sebastian Vettel set to leave the team for Aston Martin next year, Ferrari is likely to put most greater focus around Charles Leclerc.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli



 Team Grade: A-


Driver’s Grade: 

Pierre Gasly: A

Daniil Kvyat: C+ 



Summary of First Nine Races:

Dropping the Toro Rosso branding for the 2020 Formula 1 season and assuming a new team name associated with a fashion/clothing line linked to energy drink company Red Bull, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s fresh image has been well-profiled during its initial outing. In fact, thanks to one well-played and fortunate Italian Grand Prix, the new name in the series stood high within the entire motorsport world.

The new black and white coloured AT01 race cars remains tightly associated by Red Rull Racing (who now sees Scuderia AlphaTauri as a sister team rather than a feeder), the Italian-based group uses suspension and transmission technology from its partner team as well as Honda engines. The 2020 season’s driver lineup featured two former Red Bull Racing pilots. Russia’s Daniil Kvyat and France’s Pierre Gasly both entered the year with a lot to prove. 

Out of the nine events, AlphaTauri left with at least one manufacturers’ point in eight. The Italian Grand Prix was the first and only race for the team so far where both cars finished in the top-10. Performing fairly as a mid-marker in Formula 1 throughout much of the tour, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s season highlight for 2020 is Pierre Gasly’s incredible victory in Italy. Aided by several factors including a well-placed pit stop, a strong standing restart after a red flag and a penalty issued to Lewis Hamilton, Gasly nonetheless drove the race of his career with the AT01 vehicle. Prior to the win on the Monza circuit, the Frenchman’s best finishes were a pair of seventh place results. 

Overshadowed by his teammate’s emotional Italian Grand Prix victory, Daniil Kvyat crossed the line in the top-10 four times during the first nine races of 2020. The Tuscan Grand Prix was the Russian best result of the season crossing the line at Mugello in seventh place.  

Becoming a race winning vehicle, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s AT01 chassis has spent most of the season as a stable, reliable car. In addition to point-scoring finishes in 2020, the AlphaTauri has made several appearance in the Q3 qualifying session. The best starting position for the team was seventh place obtained by Pierre Gasly at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


Scuderia AlphaTauri has already exceeded expectations for the 2020 season. Excluding the Italian Grand Prix, the team has shown itself to be a consistent top-10 cracking organization. Currently seventh in the constructors’ championship, AlphaTauri is 13 points behind the struggling Ferrari factory team after the Tuscan Grand Prix. 

With the drivers’ rating, the score for Gasly wasn’t only reflective of his surprise victory at Monza but rather a fairly decent season as a whole for the Frenchman. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Alfa Romeo Racing

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli


Team Grade: C-


Driver’s Grade:

Kimi Raikkonen: C

Antonio Giovinazzi: C


Summary of First Nine Races:

The second year of competition for the organization formerly known as the Sauber F1 Team has been a less than fruitful venture. Alfa Romeo Racing debuted in 2019 as a consistent mid-field Formula 1 team equating to a reasonable level of success. 

In the first nine races last year, Alfa Romeo Racing’s two drivers scored a total of seven point finishes. Returning with Kimi Raikkonen (competing in his 20th full season in Formula 1) and 2016 GP2 championship runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi, the race team’s 2020 season was not initially viewed as a regression. The combined performance of the seasoned Finnish driver and younger Italian pilot has netted just four points so far in 2020 with the Alfa Romeo team. Both Alfa Romeo Racing drivers have posted a season-best finish of ninth place.

A large part of the speculation of Alfa Romeo Racing’s weaker performance in 2020 ties to the struggling Ferrari Formula 1 team. Alfa Romeo Racing receives engines, gearboxes and several other components from the major Italian sports car builder that serves to propel this year’s C39 race car. The Alfa Romeo C39 has not been a particularly fast machine reflected by season-long struggles in qualifying. During the first nine grand prix events, the team was only able to escape the initial Q1 qualifying session three times. 

Although both Alfa Romeo Racing drivers have posted an equal of points for the 2020 season, Kimi Raikkonen has been a stronger performer through most events. The Finnish competitor was responsible for all three Q2 appearances in qualifying and has finished ahead of his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in seven of the nine Formula 1 rounds. Two of the past three grand prix events have ended in crash-related retirements for Giovinazzi including a dramatic accident in the Belgian Grand Prix.  



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


The Alfa Romeo Racing team has spent most of the 2020 Formula 1 season battling amongst the bottom three organizations. With a massive point gap between Alfa Romeo and Scuderia AlphaTauri, it’s unlikely that the team will climb any higher than eighth place in the constructors’ championship. However, recent races at Monza and Mugello have shown better performance signifying the potential for more top-10 finishes during the remaining eight races of 2020.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi are on the hot seat with the team for the remainder of the 2020 races. Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and current F2 driver Mick Schumacher have been rumoured as possible pilots for the 2021 Alfa Romeo Racing team. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Haas F1 Team

 

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli


Team Grade: D+


Driver’s Grade:


Romain Grosjean: C

Kevin Magnussen: C


Summary of First Nine Races:


Scoring championship points in their first-ever Formula 1 race in 2016, Haas F1 Team’s ability to find a fast-track into one of the valuable top-10 finishing positions of a grand prix was seen as a massive triumph. The American-based, Ferrari-affiliated Formula 1 team experienced a strong 2017 and 2018 season cementing the group as a solid mid-field competitor knocking on the door of podium contenders. Last year was somewhat of a regression for the Haas F1 Team as points-paying positions were harder to come by. The team’s tumultuous relationship with title sponsor Rich Energy compounded a 2019 season Haas F1 Team would have wanted to move forward from. 

Unfortunately for the squad and its returning driver lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the start of the 2020 season could be experiencing one of its worst in the team’s young history. After nine races, the team has only collected a single championship point when Magnussen crossed the finish line of the Hungarian Grand Prix in 10th place. Although scoring the Haas F1 Team’s only top-10 for 2020, the Danish driver has more often been found in the garage at the end of grand prix events. Kevin Magnussen has failed to complete five races with mechanical problems being the culprit in all-but two occasions. The 2020 Formula 1 season for Romain Grosjean has so far not resulted in a point-scoring position at the end of a grand prix with best efforts being a pair of 12th place finishes. Grosjean has been luckier when it comes to completing races compared to his teammate in the Haas VF-20 race car. The Frenchman’s only retirement this year occurred at the Austrian Grand Prix caused as a result of brake problems.

Perhaps Haas F1 Team’s best showing this season, the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix involved a risky yet effective strategy to place Grosjean and Magnussen on slick tires at the beginning of the race while other entrants started on intermediate tires. Starting the race from pit road, the Haas F1 Team cars were at the rear of the field for the first lap but climbed the running order as other competitors pitted. After 6 laps at the Hungaroring, Kevin Magnussen was in third place with Romain Grosjean behind him in fourth. Losing this position over the course of the race, the strategy allowed the team to overcome the deficits of this year’s car. 

Using power units and other components from Ferrari, the VF-20 appears to be struggling for performance along with the entry from competitor Alfa Romeo Racing. Besides the pace on the track, Haas F1 Team’s VF-20 race car is experiencing higher than average reliability problems than other entrants on the 2020 Formula 1 grid.

  

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


Since its inception, the Haas F1 Team has proven itself to be able to achieve a lot with a lower budget. The American team’s ability to over-achieve in grand prix events have generally been supported by acquiring components from a stronger Ferrari team. Using Hungary as an example, the Haas F1 Team will need to utilize more gambles to position their cars up into the top-10 for the remaining races. It’s reasonable to predict a least one or two more showings in point-paying spots for the Haas drivers.

Into the final eight races for the 2020 Formula 1 season, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are also under pressure to earn a place in the series for next season. Haas F1 Team is rumoured to be considering options to breaking up the four-year driver pairing selecting to replace one or both drivers. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Williams Racing

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli



Team Grade: C


Driver’s Grade 

George Russell: B-

Nicholas Latifi: C



Summary of First Nine Races:


An organization who has won nine Formula 1 Constructors Championship titles and crossed the line first in 114 grand prix races since 1977, Williams Racing Formula 1 team’s performance in recent years has been far detached from its glorious history. The once-dominant team has been regularly spotted at the rear of the running order for grand prix events in 2019 due to many factors including a lower operating budget compared to teams at the front of the grid as well as bumbled development of the FW42 race car. As the on-track product suffered, the delay of the 2020 season caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic magnified off-track woes for Williams Racing. In addition to splitting from team title sponsor ROKiT, the organization posted a large financial loss in May of this year. To was at that point mention of partnership or even total sale of the Williams Racing team was first floated.

Despite operational challenges, Williams Racing arrived for the season opening Formula 1 race in Austria with British pilot George Russell and rookie Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi. Although Williams Racing had scored a point in the constructors’ championship by this time last year, the 2020 on-track performance for the team has been mildly better. Russell’s pace in qualifying for several early events in the season showed the Mercedes-Benz powered FW43 was able to potentially enter the Q2 session. The Styrian Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix were season-best qualifying outings for George Russell after nine races starting 12th on both occasions. 

Nicholas Latifi’s first season in Formula 1 has involved a great deal of time in the back of the field. The Canadian has been outpaced by his more experienced teammate in all nine qualifying events this season. Finishing 11th on two occasions (largely due to running in events with high attrition), Latifi had been recorded as finishing all races this season until his first retirement being caught up in the multi-car wreck at the Tuscan Grand Prix.



Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:


Taking to the grid for the 2020 Formula 1 season was a challenge itself for the Williams Racing team. A sale to US-based Dorilton Capital announced in late August allowed the organization to obtain its most important goal; the team’s survival. 

While the new owners are committed to retaining the team’s name and other heritage features including the ‘FW’ designation in their chassis, the race group is moving on without team founder Sir Frank Williams or its Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams. With the Tuscan Grand Prix being the start of establishing a new era for a new Williams Racing, it’s difficult to imagine any major improvements will be made throughout the remainder of 2020 to left the team up the grid. Running powerful Mercedes-Benz power is not a guarantee for success for the team as it is for the factory Mercedes AMG or even Racing Point. Williams Racing’s best chance at a championship point for the 2020 season may come in events where a high level of race retirements will occur.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Lewis Hamilton Wins Inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes AMG 


With the initial 2020 Formula 1 schedule, there was going to be two new race courses added to the tour. A visit to the Hanoi Street Circuit for the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix as well as the series’ return to the Circuit Zandvoort for a new Dutch Grand Prix were ultimately scrubbed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Introducing a modified 2020 calender, Formula 1 has still able to infuse some fresh flavour to race audiences and teams through the addition of several new venues. A visit back to Portugal racing for the first time at the Portimão Circuit and a return to Intercity Istanbul Park for the Turkish Grand Prix are among tracks newly included on this year’s revised schedule. Serving as the first special track appearing for the 2020 Formula 1 season is the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.  

Hosting the first-ever Tuscan Grand Prix in a famed Italian region, the Ferrari-owned race course functioned as the second Formula 1 event commemorating a milestone for the motorsport series’ 70th year. While the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (the second race at Silverstone in July) celebrated seven decades of Formula 1, the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello marked the 1,000th grand prix entry for the storied Ferrari marque. In addition to Ferrari running special commemorative colours on their race cars for the Tuscan Grand Prix, the brand’s celebration in Formula 1 at Mugello was marked as the first race in the 2020 Formula 1 season to be run with fans in attendance. 

Though the second Italian race for the 2020 Formula 1 season was billed as a celebration for Ferrari’s milestone event, the continuing dominance of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team spoiled the party for the Prancing Horse. The 20-car field for the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix started with Lewis Hamilton on pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas locking up the front row. While the Mercedes at the front of the grid at a new Formula 1 track brought concerns of a potential dull outing, Sunday’s 59-lap race on the 5.245-kilometer course was anything but a timid event.

In less than a minute after the start of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, a multi-car incident occurred heading into turn two. Jockeying for positions in the first lap, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen headed three-wide towards the Luco corner until the wheels of Gasly’s AlphaTauri and Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo touched. As the field slowed down for turn two, the AlphaTauri race car collided with the rear of the Red Bull Racing entry of Max Verstappen. The Honda-powered Red Bull was pushed off track and came to rest in sand trap where the Dutch driver was unable gain traction to rejoin the race. The Tuscan Grand Prix was the second consecutive DNF result for Verstappen who had been second in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship a few races prior to the tour’s trip to Italy. A race after an upset win at Monza, Pierre Gasly and his AlphaTauri car were relegated to early retirement. Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo and Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 car were able to continue running. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sebastian Vettel were also involved in a separate turn two mishap. Though the cars of Sainz and Vettel suffered damage, both competitors were able to be quickly repaired.  


Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG



The opening lap incident immediately drew the safety car that lasted until the end of lap six. An action that escaped attention due to the first lap accident was that Valtteri Bottas successfully beat Lewis Hamilton off the starting grid. Bottas led the field as the safety car returned to pit road taking the field across the start/finish line in a strategically slow manner. The #77 Mercedes AMG driver’s restart caused a bottleneck deeper through the race field resulting in another multi-car collision. The Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Ferrari-powered Haas VF-20 of Kevin Magnussen collided within the accordion effect.  McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. as well as Nicholas Latifi’s Williams were also casualties of the front stretch accident having to ultimately retire their vehicles. This time, the major incident required a full race stoppage. For the second consecutive Formula 1 grand prix, a red flag put a stop to race action and brought cars to pit road. 

After a roughly 30-minute delay, the Tuscan Grand Prix was sent back to green with a standing start for lap nine. This second standing start for the event fell into the favour of the #44 Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton rushing past his teammate at the entry of the first corner. Following two multi-vehicle incidents, the race at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello was finally able to proceed beyond a single lap without interruption. 

Though the Mercedes AMG team cars gained a healthy advantage over the rest of the competitors, there would be a heated battle for third place. Charles Leclerc held the spot until lap 18 as the Racing Point of Lance Stroll was able to pass his Ferrari. Running with new aerodynamic upgrades, Stroll fought from a sixth place starting spot to third place in the early stage of the race at Mugello. Returning to the race track in fourth place following a lap 31 pit stop, the Canadian driver and his #18 Racing Point car began to chase down the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. Leaving the pits nearly three seconds behind Ricciardo, Stroll closed to within 1.1 seconds by lap 43 just before the day turned bad for the Racing Point driver. Believed to be caused by a sudden tire puncture, the pink Racing Point lost control and flew through the sand trap in Mugello’s turn nine colliding hard with a section of the track’s retaining barrier. The Stroll was able to leave his wrecked Racing Point machine without injury but the incident forced a safety car that evolved into a second red flag for the Tuscan Grand Prix. 

Following the third standing start of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, the race concluded with the Mercedes AMG team showing the way in Italy. Crossing the line first was Lewis Hamilton who won his 90th career grand prix by 4.88 seconds over his teammate Valtteri Bottas. In addition to the winning the inaugural Formula 1 event on the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, Hamilton also locked up the fastest lap of Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix registered at 1-minute, 18.833 seconds. Finishing in second place, Bottas attempted to find an edge over his teammate by requesting an alternative pit stop strategy from the Mercedes AMG crew. However, since the Finnish driver pitted prior to the leading #44 machine, Lewis Hamilton was able to simply counter by opting for the same tires one lap after what was the one and only competitive tire change during the race.   


Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG


Joining the two Mercedes AMG drivers on the podium was Thailand’s Alexander Albon. The result for Albon is his first career Formula 1 podium a little more than a full year after being called to drive for the Red Bull Racing team. 

Once again this season, Daniel Ricciardo showed some promising pace with the Renault F1 Team climbing from an eighth place qualifying position in a quest for the pairing’s first podium. Ricciardo finished just short of the hotly-contested third place spot at the Tuscan Grand Prix taking fourth. Finishing fifth, Sergio Perez salvaged Racing Point’s race after his teammate dropped out in spectacular fashion. Perez was also racing in Mugello with the public knowledge that the Mexican will not be returning to the ride he raced with since 2014. Overshadowed by their teammates’ performance in Monza, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat posted solid point-paying positions at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello finishing sixth place and seventh place respectively. 


Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.



Although this season continues to be a struggle for Scuderia Ferrari, the combination of their 1,000th race and running on their home turf may have presented a moment of minor fortune for the team. For only the third place in 2020, both Ferrari race drivers finished in the top-10 of a grand prix’s running order. Starting strong in fifth place, Charles Leclerc rose to third place in the early stage of the Tuscan Grand Prix. However, tire degradation on the #16 Ferrari ultimately led to Leclerc settling for an eighth place result after 59 laps. Sebastian Vettel recovered from minor damage suffered early in the grand prix to take tenth. Between the two Ferrari cars, former long-time driver for the Italian team Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth place. The event on the Ferrari-owned race track was the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion’s first points during what has been a difficult 2020 season with Alfa Romeo Racing.


Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.


George Russell came just short of a scoring a championship point with Williams Racing operating through its first event under new team management. The #63 Mercedes-Benz powered Williams finished in 11th place roughly 2.4 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel. 

Two multi-car accidents and several additional retirements in the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix concluded with just 12 cars crossing the finish line. Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 Team car being the last to take the chequered flag. Ferrari and Mercedes AMG were the only teams to have both cars survive 59 laps at Mugello on Sunday.

The next race for the 2020 Formula 1 tour is the Russian Grand Prix set for September 27th. 



2020 Formula 1
Tuscan Grand Prix
Race Results