Formula One’s unprecedented 2020 season is over.
But how did the grid’s drivers fare? We’ve given each a grade based on their season.
Top of the class
Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes (A+)
Yet again, Hamilton has been the star Formula One this year. His list of achievements in 2020 include 11 race wins, 10 pole positions and a record-equaling seventh world championship. Hamilton also led the sport’s charge in shining a light on racism and injustice around the world. His ability to stay focused and driven to succeed after so many years at the top is admirable and he may now be the greatest driver of all time.
Max Verstappen – Red Bull (A)
Without any question, Verstappen was the second best driver of the season and it’s becoming pretty clear he could challenge Hamilton for a title in stronger machinery. Verstappen claimed impressive wins at Silverstone and Abu Dhabi as well as nine other podiums, easily the best return for a non-Mercedes driver.
His performance relative to teammate Alex Albon was sensational, besting him in almost every competitive session throughout the season. Verstappen seems to be improving from year to year, a scary thought as he’s still just 23. He only misses out on a perfect score after his lack of patience in Turkey cost him an almost certain third victory of the season.
Sergio Perez – Racing Point (A)
It’s a real shame Perez might be leaving Formula One after undoubtedly producing his best ever season, which featured his maiden win. His performance in Sakhir, in which he went from last to first, was something which was much deserved and one of the best wins anyone has had in recent years.
Considering Perez also missed a couple of races with COVID-19 earlier in the season, to finish fourth in the drivers’ championship is a remarkable effort. Team bosses up and down the paddock should be taking note.
Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri (A)
2019 was not an easy year for Gasly, but 2020 has been the complete opposite. The Frenchman impressed with an extraordinary win at Monza as well as other strong showings in Germany, Portugal and Bahrain. Gasly also upped his game on Saturday, comfortably winning the AlfaTauri qualifying battle against teammate Daniil Kvyat, 13-4. If he keeps up this standard, it’s hard to see him not making a return to Red Bull in the future.
George Russell – Williams/Mercedes (A-)
Still yet to be outqualified in the Williams, Russell has well and truly shown he belongs in Formula One, and that was before his call up to Mercedes at the penultimate race. At the Bahrain Grand Prix Russell showed he has the skill, class and mental strength to not only fight for wins but possibly a world championship down the track. In that one weekend, he offered more than Valtteri Bottas did in the entire second half of the season.
Daniel Ricciardo – Renault (B+)
Ricciardo exceeded everyone’s expectations this year with some brilliant performances, most notably at the Eifel and Emilia Romagna Grands Prix where he claimed podium finishes. Ricciardo was also able to find consistency, which was lacking a touch in his first season at Renault, the Australian regularly out-qualifying Esteban Ocon and managing to score points in the final 11 races of the season. For Formula One and McLaren’s sake, let’s hope he brings it again in 2021.
Charles Leclerc – Ferrari (B+)
Once again, Leclerc demonstrated his skill in 2020, thoroughly outperforming his more experienced teammate over the course of the year. To finish the season with a points haul almost triple of Sebastian Vettel, as well as six top five finishes to Vettel’s one, is an incredible effort in a Ferrari which is miles off the pace. The only slight knock on his year were the mistakes he made in Italy and Bahrain, but if Ferrari can get its act together, we know he has the quality to deliver and fight for wins on a regular basis.
Carlos Sainz – McLaren (B)
He took a little while to get going this year but once Sainz found his rhythm he showed yet again that he is one of the strongest drivers on the grid. Like Leclerc, Sainz failed to fully capitalise on opportunities in Monza (albeit managing a career best second place finish) and Bahrain, which also sees him miss out on a higher grade this year. He’ll also want to find some improvement in qualifying trim.
Overall, 2020 only enhanced Sainz’s positive reputation. Now, about that Ferrari in 2021…
Lance Stroll – Racing Point (B-)
There have been many critics of Stroll since he arrived in Formula One but the young Canadian deserves enormous praise. He has managed to block out the noise and improve drastically. He is now fully confident in his ability and it is showing on track. Stroll was one of just two non-Mercedes drivers to take a pole position this year and also stood on the podium twice.
Stroll very well could have scored an A for 2020 had he not endured a disappointing run of races after his first podium and been out-qualified by Racing Point teammate 11-3. But, overall, he can be pleased with his season.
Lando Norris – McLaren (B-)
Norris bookended the season with strong performances. He opened in spectacular fashion, taking third place and setting the fastest lap in the season-opener in Austria and finished with a comfortable fifth place in Abu Dhabi. There were other strong performances throughout the season, but a little more consistency is what he needs to find, particularly in relation to his teammate, going into his third season. If he can do that, he’s another driver who could easily be bumped up to an A.
Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo (C-)
It was a reasonably uninspiring year from Raikkonen, scoring just four championship points, though the pace of the Alfa Romeo at times hindered his ability to showcase his class. He would be disappointed with the fact teammate Antonio Giovinazzi scored more points finishes than him in 2020. Let’s hope Kimi can return to his best form next season.
Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo (C-)
There were moments throughout the year where Govinazzi really impressed, notably Austria and Germany, however, like Raikkonen, he often wasn’t able to fight for points. The most impressive aspect of his season was the fact he out-qualified Raikkonen, although his more experienced teammate often had the better of him during the races. Giovinazzi has another shot to show what he can do in 202,1 and with a touch more pace, could show he belongs.
Need serious improvements
Esteban Ocon – Renault (D+)
There was plenty of excitement around Ocon’s return to Formula One, but for much of the year he failed to live up to the hype. His efforts in both qualifying and races were frequently overshadowed by his teammate Ricciardo. Ocon was out-qualified (15-2) and out-raced (9-3) and simply must improve next year when he is pitted against Fernando Alonso. His surprise second place finish at Sakhir in the penultimate race was just about the only thing holding him back from a fail in 2020.
Daniil Kvyat – AlphaTauri (D)
The AlphaTauri proved to be a race-winning car in 2020, albeit once, but Kvyat never looked as comfortable and capable as Gasly, at least until the latter stages of the year. He finished the season with less than half of Gasly’s points tally, was comprehensively out-qualified and failed to show he has the skills necessary to one day make a return to Red Bull. It’s been very disappointing to see Daniil continue to track backwards over the past few seasons, ever since his demotion.
Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari (D)
Vettel is no longer performing at the high level we’ve become accustomed to over the past decade and a half. Whether it’s extracting the maximum out of the car in qualifying, having a clean start on race day or simply making an overtake, the German has let himself down time and time again.
To highlight the gulf between Vettel and Leclerc at Ferrari, the four-time world champion was on average 0.757s slower in qualifying sessions. His best streak of points finishes was two, while Leclerc’s was seven. The only thing which saves him from a failure this year is his unexpected podium finish in Turkey, the single highlight of an otherwise disappointing year.
Romain Grosjean – Haas (D)
It’s great to see Grosjean healthy and feeling much better following his horrific crash in Bahrain. Unfortunately, that was the last we saw of him on track in 2020, and prior to the accident, his form had been quite underwhelming. Throughout the season, Grosjean made far too many errors which resulted in spins or contact with other drivers. It’s not a huge surprise he won’t be continuing in Formula One beyond 2020.
Kevin Magnussen – Haas (D)
Like Grosjean, Magnussen hasn’t had much to smile about at Haas in 2020. One point for the entire season and just three top 14 finishes was extremely disappointing for someone who has shown to be a far more talented driver, albeit the lack of performance in the Haas did hold him back. Magnussen finished the season with more DNFs than anyone else and will leave Formula One having not scored a podium since his first race for McLaren in 2014. It’s fair to say he never fulfilled his potential.
Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes (D-)
It was another disappointing year for Bottas who doesn’t seem to be in the same stratosphere as his teammate. Just two wins in one of the most dominant cars Formula One has ever seen, and finishing over 120 points behind Hamilton, even with the world champion missing a race in Bahrain, highlights the gap between the two.
Bottas’ effort in Turkey was particularly awful, spinning on multiple occasions and eventually finishing 14th. It was an outing which really summed up his season. He must find rapid improvement for 2021 if he wants a serious crack at a title or even just to stay on the payroll at Mercedes.
Alex Albon – Red Bull (F)
It may be possible that Albon was promoted too soon. His impressive rookie season earned him the call up to the senior team but he has been struggling to match his teammate at the front of the grid ever since. He has been humiliated in qualifying (0-17) and actually finished behind Verstappen in every race the pair both took the chequered flag. Albon often finds himself in scraps with midfield teams and hasn’t taken the Red Bull opportunity as well as he should have. It’s unclear at this stage if he will hold his seat for next season, but if he does, he should consider himself extremely fortunate.
Nicholas Latifi – Williams (F)
There were few highlights this year for Latifi. He was the only driver to fail to score a single point for the season and was comprehensively outperformed by his teammate in both qualifying and on race day, so much so it looked as if Russell was driving a much quicker car. Latifi has a contract for next season but without some drastic improvement, it’s hard to see him retaining a place in Formula One. It’s as simple as that.