Top-10 talking points from a remarkable 2020 season
For a whole host of reasons the 2020 Formula 1 season has been one of the most remarkable in memory.
We had circuits used twice, triple-headers, new tracks and old favourites and within all of the havoc and difficulty in travelling around the world during a pandemic, the racing was as good as there has been with this generation of machinery.
Without further ado, let's delve into the top-10 talking points from a stunning championship year.
Hamilton better than ever
This was the year Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's record of seven world championships whilst surpassing the great German's tally of victories.
In all honesty, the title was a breeze for the Briton as 11 race wins pushed him comfortably ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
The title-clinching Turkish Grand Prix may well be his greatest victory ever as he put on a masterclass in an underperforming Mercedes to dominate the field.
Even missing a race in Bahrain through Covid could not stop him from returning just 10 days later. It is hard to see anything other than a record-breaking eighth Hamilton title in 2021.
Ferrari-FIA engine settlement bigger than first thought
When Ferrari and the FIA came to what is now an infamous, behind-closed-doors agreement following an investigation into the Scuderia's power units at the end of 2019, it prompted outrage from within the paddock.
It seems, though, that whatever was agreed upon caused the Italians to suffer, notably the departing Sebastian Vettel as he finished the season in a miserable 13th in the drivers' standings, the worst placing of his F1 career.
Customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo were also greatly affected as they fought to overcome straight-line deficiencies.
With the factory team finishing a lowly sixth in the constructors' standings with five no-scores across the season, the pain of 2020 may take a while to overcome.
Verstappen amongst the elite
The only man close to spoiling Mercedes' party this year was Max Verstappen. His consistency in sitting in third place and pushing the world champions to the edge was sublime, getting paid a just reward with a victory at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
But his win at the season finale was a fine example of what the Dutchman can do, with a dominant victory for a car that has been largely off the pace of the Mercedes all season.
Even with the performance deficit, Verstappen would have finished second in the standings had it not been for some awful luck.
Russell marks his territory - and declares himself a future title challenger
George Russell has made a name for himself as a bit of a qualifying hero. Blistering pace allowed him to qualify Williams into Q2 on nine occasions this season, although he never earned the points he deserved - the Imola safety car heartbreak perhaps the spurned opportunity.
But we were shown a tease of exactly what the former F2 champion is all about in Bahrain when he stepped in for Hamilton at Mercedes.
Following a blistering qualifying, there followed control in the race, a fine overtake on team-mate Valtteri Bottas, but ultimately more agony as a botched pit-stop and late puncture robbed him of the win.
The performance, however, has given Mercedes plenty to think about for the future.
To have McLaren, Ferrari and Williams struggling doesn't feel right. Good job, then, that Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl have se the former on an upward trajectory.
Third in the standings for the first time in eight years made the team best of the rest and whilst the ultimate goal is a return to the top, the performance has skyrocketed since the Honda split.
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz put in stellar seasons, conjuring a podium apiece, and with Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes power incoming, there is no reason to believe McLaren cannot continue pushing for the top.
Team Silverstone has always been a small fish in a big pond and somehow held its own. It does not have to any more though given the backing from Lawrence Stroll and his consortium, and it shows.
Finishing third in the constructors' championship slipped from the team's grasp at the final race in Abu Dhabi, although in their hearts they will see the 15-point deduction for design infringements as ultimately costing them dear, and unjust.
Nevertheless, a maiden victory was well deserved in Sergio Perez's penultimate race with the team he saved from potential extinction.
With more developmental assistance from Mercedes expected as the team becomes Aston Martin, and with Vettel joining, the future looks bright.
Midfield soon-to-be eight teams
The big talking point of the season was the intensely fought midfield battle consisting of McLaren, Racing Point, Renault, Ferrari and AlphaTauri. A tenth of a second up-or-down could mean fifth or 13th in qualifying, such was the tightness of the battle.
But behind, Alfa Romeo and Williams were pushing hard and lurking to feed off any scraps afforded.
With Haas underperforming and Alfa Romeo and Williams making strides to catch up, it is not out of the question that F1 may not have a backmarker next year and instead, an eight-team midfield battle behind Mercedes and Red Bull.
Gasly's road to redemption
No-one, absolutely no-one, would have predicted Pierre Gasly winning the Italian GP, roughly a year on from his demotion from Red Bull but that is exactly what the AlphaTauri driver did.
But notwithstanding his maiden win, Gasly's consistent showing of raw pace puts him in serious contention for driver of the season and may provide him with opportunities in the future. One of the feel-good stories of the year.
Increased safety highlighted in dramatic form
Whilst the racing may have been incredible this year, nothing was more astonishing than the graphic demonstration of just how amazing safety is in the sport.
Romain Grosjean's terrifying accident in Bahrain will be etched into the memories of all watching that day for a long time - mainly because it was a miracle he walked away.
Even just four years ago, Grosjean may not have survived his crash, whilst other nasty incidents at Spa and Mugello further proved how critical the safety research conducted by the FIA and the F1 teams really is. And the halo? No more moaning, please.
Covid-19 - The effort to get the show on the road
It was hard to imagine 17 races being run back when the revised calendar was announced. But incredibly, thanks to everybody involved, the sport achieved its goal.
The FIA, FOM, the teams, the personnel, the drivers, the loved ones at home who went weeks on end without seeing their family as they travelled within the secure biosphere, all should be commended because if one piece of the jigsaw was missing, the season would not have been possible.
Hopefully, 2021 is more straightforward, Thanks to some hard work, we were given a season to remember during a year to forget.
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