With the 2020 F1 season done and dusted, FormulaRapida.net decided to draw out a ranking system in a new ‘Tier’ system, moving away from traditional individual ranked order.
The shortened 2020 F1 season had its share of strong performances from everyone on the grid, whether at the front of the field or at the back. For this reason, we decided to do away with the traditional system of an individual, ranked system of categorisation.
We – Darshan Chokhani (DC) and Duncan Leahy (DL) – decided on the Tier system where we have 14 F1 drivers divided in four tiers, with the remaining nine’s celebrated performances noted separately. Here’s how the line-up stacked up:
Lewis Hamilton (DC) –
Not only did Hamilton create a new record for F1 race wins with 95 – beating the previous best of 91 – the Brit also managed to equal the seven drivers’ championship titles of Michael Schumacher, in yet another solid season. Even though Bottas pushed him early on, the consistent effort from the champion was enough to help him secure the title with three races to spare. Despite him missing one round due to COVID-19, Hamilton ended up with 347 points to Bottas’ 223, with 11 wins, 14 podiums and 11 poles in 16 races. It ended up being another dominant show, aided by some luck, as seen in Turkish GP, and him being in Tier 1 can be considered a mere formality.
Max Verstappen (DC) –
Much like Hamilton, it was a formality for Verstappen to feature in the Tier 1 category for 2020 F1 season. The Dutchman was on-song from the start of the year and if not for some of the retirements, he had second place in his grasp and a much larger gap to teammate Alexander Albon. The stats speak for themselves, as in the 17 races, he saw the chequered flag in 12 grand prix, where he ended up on the podium in 11 with two wins and a pole. While one can understand Bottas’ misfortunes, for the Red Bull driver to finish only seven points aloof of the Finn, even with his own retirements, shows his consistentcy. There was no doubting his pace but the growing consistency only benefits for him to be an all-rounder. His pole and win in Abu Dhabi just showed his dominance if given the car.
Sergio Perez (DL) –
A one-time race winner in 2020, Perez was a dominant force in this year’s mid-field, coming P4 in the championship despite failing to finish two of the season’s last three races. An unlikely win in the Sakhir GP made up for lost ground after a mechanical DNF in Bahrain, and although a second mechanical DNF in Abu Dhabi meant he was under some threat of losing out to competitors in the championship, he maintained fourth, besting Ricciardo with six points to spare and doing so despite having missed two races due to COVID-19. His performance relative to teammate Lance Stroll, despite failing to finish four races, was also convincing of his form.
Daniel Ricciardo (DL) –
In 2020, Ricciardo had his best season since 2017 – and by far and away his best at Renault. The Australian did well to finish P5 in the drivers’ championship, matching his 2017 result, albeit finding himself 81 points adrift of his tally from that season, when he raced for Red Bull. Among those in the mid-field, Ricciardo was outperformed only by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez with two podiums, three fourth place finishes and 119 points to his name, an uptick in performance after the Belgian GP proving a boon to his season. Against his teammate, he was only out-qualified twice, and he outscored him by a margin of 57 points.
Carlos Sainz (DC) –
After a solid first year with McLaren in 2019, it was expected that Sainz would only get better in 2020, and he delivered indeed. Despite having had a slower start than teammate Lando Norris, the Spaniard picked up well around mid-point of the season, and turned around his year to jump from the far end of the Top 10 to be sixth – tied on 105 points with Albon. The first 10 races saw one DNS and two out of points finishes and despite having had his best F1 result of second at Monza, his streak of points in the last seven races outdid the former by 41 to 64. Even though he missed on his first win in that superb Italian GP, he showed his ‘Mr. Dependable’ capabilities, leapfrogging Norris in the second half, even though the two were rather close in their qualifying battle.
Charles Leclerc (DL) –
Leclerc managed an impressive eighth place in the championship this year, placing himself five spots ahead of his teammate Vettel, who amassed only 33 points to Leclerc’s 98. Overcoming the shortfalls of an uncompetitive Ferrari, the Monegasque twice finished in third place, also coming near to a podium in the Turkish GP before a mistake in the final corners of the race saw him drop to fourth. Impressively, Leclerc managed to remain in contention for fourth place in the drivers’ championship until the final rounds, as he also eclipsed the luckless McLaren driver of Lando Norris. Lauded for his efforts, Leclerc also avoided mistakes that plagued his 2019 bid, only one major mistake in the Styrian GP seeing him eliminate Vettel – a blight on an otherwise consistent campaign worthy of a Tier 2 spot.
Pierre Gasly (DC) –
Having been dropped by Red Bull mid-season in 2019, few expected Gasly to overcome setbacks in such a manner in 2020, when he has been regarded as the better driver than his replacement Albon. Even though the Frenchman struggled more in the latter half of the season, his first half was enough to land him a Top 10 finish overall. The highlight was naturally his first-ever F1 race win in Monza, where he did luck into the position but held it from Sainz to see-through the challenge. The praise for him was also because the AlphaTauri car wasn’t in the same league as Renault, McLaren and Racing Point but he still managed to put it inside the Top 10 regularly, both in qualifying and races. He became a de-facto leader, beating Daniil Kvyat by 43 points. Putting him in Tier 2 was a point of discussion but considering that the car wasn’t a direct Top 10 performer, him driving it in a consistent manner helped his case.
Lando Norris (DL) –
Albeit beaten by Leclerc, Norris finished on the podium in the season opener, earning himself the nickname of ‘Last lap Lando’ after a dramatic final push saw him snatch third place from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in that race. Another podium was a near-certainty for Norris at the Eifel GP later in the season, before an issue spelled the end of his race. Ultimately coming P9 in the championship, behind Leclerc by a mere point, Norris’ efforts were helped by a strong season start, but derailed by misfortune, and he eventually wound up 8 points behind his teammate Carlos Sainz.
George Russell (DL) –
Russell was a stand-out performer of the season, and though he was unable to secure points in his races contested for Williams, the Brit stunned in a debut race for Mercedes when he was called on to replace Lewis Hamilton – who had contracted COVID-19 – at the team. On course for a win in that instance, troubles in the pit lane derailed his race, before a puncture dropped Russell further down the order. At Williams, a highlight race was the Emilia Romagna GP, and though this race ended with a crash under the safety car, the Brit made Q3 once, and Q2 nine times in the 2020 season – enough to earn him a spot in Tier 3.
Lance Stroll (DC) –
For Stroll to be in Tier 3, when his dropped teammate Perez made it in Tier 1 doesn’t actually show the entire picture. The Canadian’s 2020 F1 season was certainly a year of halves for him as in the first eight rounds, he was consistently in points and even had a podium against his name. But the next nine rounds – which included a bout with COVID-19 – he scored only in three, even though that included his second podium. The second half certainly brought his confidence to a low, but the first half showed good potential which he can show if he has the right car underneath him. Two third places and couple of fourth places also showed the sneaky drives that his teammate is known for.
Valtteri Bottas (DL) –
Bottas won twice in 2020, doing enough to earn P2 in the drivers’ championship with 223 points. With 5 poles also to his name, the Finn additionally secured 11 podiums, and though he has been criticised for not bringing the fight to Hamilton, he has been a consistent performer in the year, only missing six podiums. Furthermore, the Mercedes driver was taken out of contention for a win in the Eifel GP by a mechanical issue, before a pit stop farce in the Sakhir GP cost him a certain top three finish, if not a win. A combination of factors meant the Finn’s confidence was rattled, and his decisive title loss at the hands of Lewis Hamilton means he is placed in tier three, not tier 1 or 2.
Alexander Albon (DL) –
Criticized for his underperformance relative to Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, Albon was routinely unable to match the Dutchman, seemingly never getting to grips with a difficult RB16. The Thai driver finished a lowly seventh in the drivers’ championship, albeit with some successful efforts sprinkled throughout his campaign, like in Bahrain and Tuscany. In both of the aforementioned instances, he scored podiums, but in other races he was successful as well, as was the case in Austria, and in Abu Dhabi. These two races were the exception in that the 24-year-old was highly competitive, but at other points in the year, costly mistakes meant he lost out on opportunities.
Esteban Ocon (DC) –
It can be sensed right away that many would raise their eyebrows seeing Ocon in Tier 4, despite getting beaten by Ricciardo convincingly as their difference stood at 57 points. But it didn’t show the full picture, with the Frenchman suffering some mechanical issues in instances in which he could have scored well. There is no denying that the Australian had the upper hand on the Frenchman, but him returning to F1 after a year’s break with no driving, finishing 12th and with his first-ever podium showed good temperament and potential. His fifth place result in the Belgium GP was not to be undervalued as well and crucially, he helped Renault to keep itself in the fight for third position until the last Grand Prix.
Daniil Kvyat (DC) –
Most certainly Kvyat was overshadowed by AlphaTauri teammate Gasly in 2020, but the Russian’s form in the middle few races helped him to find a spot in Tier 4. One standout moment of confidence was at definitely Imola when on the re-start, he picked up three places to end up fourth, chasing Ricciardo for third.
Exemplary performances of note – mix of DC and DL:
It was tough to leave out Sebastian Vettel from all of the four tiers, especially considering he is four-time F1 champion, but having just had one podium performance which largely helped him to score 33 points, to Leclerc’s 98, it was hard to justify a place in the above tiers. Much like him, Kimi Raikkonen was another tough call. Though not his best result, the Finn’s Italian GP performance was nonetheless arguably among his best of the season.
Raikkonen ran in second at one time, before insufficient pace in his Alfa Romeo meant he would drop back to 13th, engaging in enthralling battles in the midst of his fall down the order. Antonio Giovinazzi, meanwhile, did well to score four points in 2020, matching his teammate Raikkonen’s tally. Perhaps the Italian’s greatest performance was in the Eifel GP, when he came tenth.
It was one position off his best finish of the year, but in a race far less chaotic than the Austrian GP, when he managed ninth, but with many drivers towards the front facing mechanical issues. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, delivered a notably strong performance in the Hungarian GP, scoring his only points of the season despite a penalty for communicating with his team during the formation lap, and under these conditions deciding to pit for slick tyres.
In this race, he outperformed teammate Romain Grosjean despite the two having been on similar strategies. For the Frenchman, his best result came in the Eifel GP, when he managed a ninth place, albeit after some ahead suffered mechanical failures. The result bagged him two points, and he finished the season having amassed this total, his efforts curtailed by a horror crash in the Bahrain GP.
Teammate to the demonstrably rapid Russell, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi performed well in his rookie year, not scoring points but nonetheless proving himself a capable driver, most particularly in the Emilia Romagna GP – one of three races in which he placed eleventh. In this round, he benefitted from crashes by the likes of Russell and Max Verstappen, but performed well to come near to points in a dreadful Williams.
To end the 2020 F1 season, we had drivers like Nico Hulkenberg, Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken, who did not experience a full campaign, but demonstrated their talents in the few races they may have done. A former F1 driver, Hulkenberg needs no introduction but the way he jumped in the Racing Point car and ended up third in 70th Anniversary GP Qualifying, it seemed as though he never left.
While he had some experience to fall back on, for the likes of Fittipaldi and Aitken, it was all new in Sakhir GP and both did a fine job, even though the latter had a spin in the grand prix. The Brazilian got another chance where he did even better with some confidence.
Here’s the drivers’ Top 10 of F1 2020
Here’s F1 stats difference from 2019 to 2020
Here’s the Top 10 F1 drivers as chosen by team bosses