When the gates to Albert Park, Melbourne, were slammed shut all those months ago in March due to the rising threat of COVID-19, many Formula 1 pundits were left wondering if a 2020 season could even get on track, let alone be viable.
Following the debacle of the first ‘racing weekend’, F1 virtually went dark as the grid emptied out – simply hoping to return in 2021.
Despite everything, a glimmer of hope became a 17-race season. F1 was back.
Since the lights went out at Austria’s Redbull Ring on 5 July, there’s been some intense and emotional moments on the grid.
As we head to the middle east, The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the top five most memorable moments from Formula 1’s season 2020 – so far.
5. Carnage at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix
“This is the worst thing I’ve seen ever.”
Heading into the race at Mungello, there was plenty of commentary around how the race would be won. It appeared as though the track would limit drivers and their overtaking ability – this was a race that could be decided with pace in the qualifying sessions.
But that went out the window as the event was marred by multiple crashes – including one of the most horrifying pile ups we’ve seen in recent F1 memory.
On the first lap, Redbull’s Max Verstappen, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen, and Haas driver Romain Grosjean collided on turn 2, resulting in Gasly and Verstappen retiring from the race. A separate incident at the same corner involving McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll led to front wing damage for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as he ran into Sainz. These incidents together brought out the safety car.
Under new regulations, cars cannot overtake until they have crossed the finish lane after a safety car has gone in. Effectively restarting the race in a single file line. This is where it got really dicey.
Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas was leading the race as the safety car was pulled in on lap 6. He sped up, before slowing down to gain an advantage on his opponents directly behind him, but this led to a shocking accordion effect. The midfield drivers accelerated up to racing speed before the leaders did and were forced to brake, triggering a collision involving Sainz, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi. The stunning crash was intense and sent shockwaves through the F1 community.
Grosjean commented over the radio “This is the worst thing I’ve seen ever.”
All four drivers retired from the race and the red flag was brought out. During the red flag period, Renault’s Esteban Ocon was forced to retire due to a brake failure.
The second red flag came on lap 45, after Stroll appeared to suffer a tyre failure at lap 43 turn 9, and went into the barrier. The overheated Racing Point RP20 made it almost difficult for the marshalls to clear the track.
Twelve drivers were warned by the FIA for their part in the accident at the restart on lap 6.
What a day!
4. Pierre Gasly wins his first ever F1 race, one week after remembering Anthoine Hubert
The F1 world held their breath as they watched Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly cross the finish line to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza while McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr was doing everything he possibly could to overtake Gasly and win the race.
Gasly held on for one of the most stunning wins during this historic weekend for F1.
The race win sent a clear message about Gasly’s intentions – he wants to be a world champion. His remarkable win gave him some happiness in what has been a tough 18 months for the young Frenchman.
From his Red Bull demotion to losing a closing friend in Anthoine Hubert, Gasly’s momentous win was enough to almost overshadow Frank and Claire Williams’ departure from the sport. He dedicated the victory to his mate Hubert, one week after his death was remembered at Spa.
The moment was just as emotional as it was historic. The win was Gasly’s first, his second podium and the second win for the team in history – Sebastian Vettel won the race for Torro Roso in 2008.
Remarkably, it was the first race since 2012 where Redbull, Mercedes or Ferrari were not on the podium. After Lewis Hamilton was given a stop/go penalty for entering a closed pit lane, the door was opened wide for a new winner to be crowned.
3. “It’s lights out and away we go”
It is a simple phrase but when Crofty screamed out his usual “It is lights out and away we go” in the return race following the forced COVID-19 break, the F1 fraternity breathed a collective sigh of relief.
With so much uncertainty in the world, seeing the cars head for the sharp right on turn 1 was a miraculous sight. For those of us in Victoria, Australia, seeing the cars take off was a welcomed distraction from the lockdown.
With so many moving parts, so many people and officials, the F1 and FIA need to be commended for getting the 17-race calendar up.
2. Sergio Perez contracts COVID-19
As quickly as it all began, it could have come crumbling down for F1 as Racing Point announced Sergio Perez had contracted the COVID-19 virus on the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
With the extremely contagious virus officially near the paddock, the Pink Panthers were sent scrambling. Social media was set alight when it was announced Nico Hulkenberg would drive the car in place of the Mexican.
The dramas didn’t stop there as Hulkenberg was left in the pits before the formation lap as he was scratched from the race. Luckily he got a go the following weekend at the same track, while Perez made a full recovery.
`1. Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking season
Lewis Hamilton clinched a record-equaling seventh Formula One title after winning a wet and gloomy Turkish Grand Prix for a record-extending 94th victory last weekend.
Mercedes’ Hamilton now stands alongside Formula One great Michael Schumacher on seven titles, having replaced the German driver at Mercedes in 2013.
Love him or hate him, the way he broke down during the finish to the Turkish Grand Prix just shows how much the sport means to him.
Not only has Lewis dominated on track in 2020, wrapping the title up with three races to spare, he has used his platform to stand up for people globally.
Lewis spurred on the End Racism campaign from F1 and has made statements every single race about inequality across the globe. As we head to the Middle East races, this campaign will hopefully be heard loud and clear.