Albon and Vettel top list of head-to-head qualifying defeats in 2020
When this year’s head-to-head qualifying battles are lined up from the most one-sided to those on a more equal footing, it makes for some interesting and surprising reading.
It was clear to see Alex Ablon struggled to deliver this season, but if you’re a fan, perhaps you should skip the first entry in this list, and it’s not pleasant reading for Sebastian Vettel when it comes to relative points performance.
It is often said the first person you have to beat in F1 is your team-mate, and here are how things stacked up from the widest gap to the tightest battle in 2020...
Max Verstappen was the winner of the most one-sided team-mate battle on the grid this season, wiping the floor with his Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon over a single lap and dominating him on race day too.
The Dutch driver made the third-placed post-qualifying interview chair his own, but while his average grid spot was just above three [he qualified third in 10 of the 17 races] Albon averaged over seven, and never started higher than fourth.
In races, it was a similar story, as Verstappen took 11 podiums and was only once out of the top three in all of the races he finished. Albon did get two third places but ended up with half the points of Verstappen [105 to 214].
George Russell would almost certainly have achieved a full clean sweep too after bettering team-mate Nicolas Latifi 15-0 before being whisked off to Mercedes for the penultimate race, and then out-qualifying him again in the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi.
Russell performed incredibly as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement but failed to beat Valtteri Bottas in qualifying by the narrowest of margins, the first time he had lost to a team-mate in his entire F1 career.
The highly-rated Brit qualified as high as 12th for Williams, in the second and third races of the year, and although Latifi had three 11th places to his one in races, Russell enjoyed a higher average finishing position.
The once highly rated Esteban Ocon arrived at Renault with the potential to wipe the ever-present smile off Daniel Ricciardo’s face but things did not quite turn out that way, and the out-going Australian could rarely be bettered this season.
It was 1-1 in qualifying head-to-heads after two events, but Ricciardo then beat Ocon every time until the final race in Abu Dhabi, and even then the French driver was only one spot better off.
Ocon has not lost his shine, he just struggled to connect with his car and that affected his Sundays as Ricciardo almost doubled his points [62 to 119], although he did get the best result with second compared to Ricciardo’s two thirds.
It was pretty one-sided in favour of Pierre Gasly at the Red Bull sister team this year, as a pair of senior team rejects battled it out for glory.
Gasly was on top both in qualifying and in the races, taking 10 points finishes – including a miraculous win in the Italian GP – to Kvyat’s seven. The Russian only scored 43 per cent of his team-mate’s total points haul [75 to 32]
This was a season when Sebastian Vettel’s star faded as his younger team-mate Charles Leclerc made him look a little amateur behind the wheel of the hard-to-handle Ferrari.
In one of the Scuderia’s worst years on record, Leclerc hauled the SF1000 into the top-10 on the grid 11 times whereas Vettel struggled to get to grips with the car and only made three knock-out appearances.
Starting low on the grid led to Vettel scoring just 34 per cent of Leclerc’s points tally, the worst of all the year’s team-mate race comparisons. Only time will tell whether the four-time champion can recover at Aston Martin.
6. Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton 11-5 Valtteri Bottas; Bottas 1-0 Russell
Lewis Hamilton regularly bettered Valterri Bottas over a single lap, but it was often just by the finest of margins. The world champion started all but two races from the front row – failing to do so in the chaos of Turkey and in his Covid-19 comeback.
In races, the telling difference was Hamilton’s conversion rate, turning pole to victory on eight occasions compared to Bottas’ one. Bottas only finished ahead four times when both reached the finish and ended up with 64% fewer points.
Sergio Perez comfortably beat not one but two team-mates as well as Covid-19 this year. He missed two races but was the fourth-best qualifier on average behind the Mercedes duo and his soon-to-be new team-mate Verstappen.
Perez averaged seventh on the grid and only missed out on the top-10 shoot-out three times, while Lance Stroll, who also missed one race with Covid-19, averaged closer to ninth and was eliminated in Q2 or lower on five occasions.
Perez scored 125 points and took a well-earned win in Bahrain to add to his second in Turkey, while Stroll managed just 75 points, although he retired from five races compared to Perez’s one, and in another, he was classified but was last.
In a season of 17 races, there was never going to be a level head-to-head but three team combinations came close, with little to split between driver pairings statistically in qualifying.
Lando Norris bettered Carlos Sainz at McLaren but it was the Spaniard with the best grid spot [3 to 4] and both made exactly the same Q3 visits [14-14 ]. Both also had one podium while Sainz out-scored Norris by just eight points [105-97].
Kimi Raikkonen became F1’s longest-serving driver, but he was pipped on performance at Alfa Romeo by Antonio Giovinazzi, although his eighth place was the team’s top grid spot and he had two ninth places compared to his team-mate’s one.
Finally, in a tough year for Haas, Romain Grosjean was one behind team-mate Kevin Magnussen in qualifying when the crash in Bahrain ended his season, but he finished with a higher points score after taking a ninth place to Magnussen’s best of 10th.
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