By Kunal Shah and Mithila Mehta | The 2020 Formula 1 season will go down in memory for several unique reasons: firstly, the COVID-19 disruption; secondly, the ever-evolving calendar due to the aforementioned COVID-19 disruption; thirdly, Mercedes’ continued dominance and rewriting of the record books, which is a whole other matter to discuss. Also, let’s not forget the “pink Mercedes” and the controversies surrounding Racing Point’s copying methods. Moreover, and we can’t believe we’re saying this, what about Ferrari’s demotion to being a mid-field team, and not the most successful one there?
Not to sound insensitive, but sincere Formula 1 racing fans are actually kind of delighted with the current calendar. It would be tough to argue that this ongoing circus seems far more challenging and fun than the traditional calendar. For starters, no one actually knows just how many races make the championship – this increases the importance of a consistent result at each race significantly. A no-end-date schedule would have made Formula 1 so much more fun if Mercedes and their drivers were in a title battle with another team and/or driver rather than just between themselves. And the off-beat, interesting, unconventional venues like Algarve, Mugello, Imola, and others only add to a true fan’s joy for the season. Ironically, it was the commercial impact of the pandemic that forced Formula 1 to add venues to the calendar that otherwise couldn’t have afforded to host a Grand Prix!
Mercedes has been the team to beat in every season of the hybrid-turbo era. But can they be beaten in any of the races in 2020? Apparently they can, but given their pace advantage and luck factor (remember Lewis Hamilton’s 3-wheeled win?), it seems highly unlikely that a worthy and consistent challenger will rise this season, Max included. Not to mention Mercedes raising the bar every passing year. Interestingly, they have managed to score just a single 1-2 finish despite the apparent dominance.
As a fan of the sport, single-team dominance can trigger boredom if your favourite team isn’t winning. But if you’re a decent follower of Formula 1, embracing Mercedes’ domination and watching them create history will be a far more interesting “I saw it happen” story. After all, single-team domination has been Formula 1’s reality for many of the 70 years that it has been around.
Single-team domination has been Formula 1’s reality for many of the 70 years that it has been around.
The other aspect that has been standard in Formula 1 is copying. Up until now, copying rival teams’ cars via photographs was the norm. But 2020 will be remembered for how Racing Point copied Mercedes’ W10 (2019 car) rather than how good their imitation was. On the eve of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the FIA deemed that Racing Point’s design process was in breach of the Sporting regulations even though the car itself was legal under the Technical regulations. At the time of writing this post, five teams appealed against FIA’s ruling and my feeling is that this protest will keep us “entertained” throughout the season and maybe even 2021.
Lastly, 2020 will be remembered for Ferrari’s enormous slump in performance – parts of it attributed to the secret settlement between the team and the FIA that cost them vital horsepower from their power unit. After being title contenders from last years, the Italian giants are now a part of Formula 1’s midfield. Who would’ve thought, right? And they’re challengers, not leaders there – the latter spot being fought for by Racing Point and McLaren. The only silver lining for Ferrari has been Charles Leclerc’s spirited drives that yielded two podiums so far. The Monegasque’s Alonso-esque ability to finish in positions higher than what his Ferrari would be capable of has been heartening to see. It might be an unpopular opinion, but Leclerc has been far more impressive in 2020 than he was in 2019.