When I wrote an article titled F1’s most memorable moments in 2020 – so far for The Inner Sanctum ahead of the final three races, there is no way I could have predicted that the entire list would need to be overturned.
From the first lap – in the literal sense – of the three-race stretch in the Middle East, the whole list was thrown out of the window.
From horror crashes to positive COVID-19 tests to seven-time world champions, F1’s final three rounds had it all.
And 2021 hasn’t started much better with the Australian GP likely to be postponed in the coming weeks and McLaren Driver Lando Norris’ positive COVID-19 test.
So, here’s F1’s most memorable moments in 2020.
5. ‘It is lights out and away we go’
It is a simple phrase but when Sky Sport’s David Croft screamed out his usual “It is lights out and away we go” in the Austrian return race following the forced COVID-19 break, the F1 fraternity breathed a collective sigh of relief.
If it was not for Red Bull owning the Red Bull Ring, we may have not been able to see the COVID-19 structure road tested for the season. The first two races proved it could be done – and it would be.
With so much uncertainty in the world, seeing the cars head for the sharp right on turn 1 was a miraculous sight.
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 and completed.
4. F1’s newest race winners – Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez
The two latest race winners in F1 were as spectacular as each other for very different reasons.
Pierre Gasly’s win was a remarkable highlight for the young driver who has had to deal with a lot over the past 18 months.
From his Red Bull demotion to losing a closing friend in Anthoine Hubert, this win was dedicated to his great mate who was gone too soon, one week after his death was remembered at ‘Spa.
And then came Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez’s win at the Sakhir GP. As always with racing, the dominoes were lined up perfectly for the Mexican driver to knock down.
He was caught up in a first lap incident with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
So, Checo was last after requiring a pitstop.
But, with Drive To Survive there or not, Mercedes’ weekend – headlined by George Russell driving for his probable future team with Lewis Hamilton on the sidelines – came crumbling down.
It was almost like Bottas and Russell were able to hold the door open for Perez as he claimed his first ever race win.
For Perez, the result was particularly stunning as he broke Australian Mark Webber’s record for most races before his first win in his 190th race.
Webber took 130 races for his first win.
So, what will Checo do when he moves to Red Bull this year?
3. Soon-to-be-Sir Lewis Hamilton’s dominant season
Lewis Hamilton clinched a record-equalling seventh Formula One title after winning a wet and gloomy Turkish Grand Prix for a record-extending 94th victory.
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.
Oh – and the Queen noticed, too. He will be Knighted in 2021.
2. Three drivers test positive to COVID-19
What an up and down year.
How is this even number two on the list?
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.
Then, Racing Point were back in the headlines in Germany. On the Saturday of the Eiffel Grand Prix, once again Hulkenberg was called to stand in for Lance Stroll.
While at the time it was unclear what had happened, it has since been reported that everyone’s favourite Canadian had contracted COVID-19.
Then, Sir Lewis Hamilton got it.
Ahead of the second of two races in Bahrain, Mercedes announced that Hamilton would not be competing until further notice with COVID-19.
F1 was sent into a frenzy as it was announced that Williams driver George Russell would be elevated to the seat to deputise.
The young Mercedes academy driver was replaced by Jack Aitken – a raft of changes for the weekend.
Russell led most of the race after a brilliant first lap start but it all came crumbling down for Russell when he had to stop late for a puncture – opening the door for Sergio Perez.
Hamilton returned to finish the season at the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
1. Romain Grosjean survives horror crash in Bahrain
No one will forget this for a long time.
And anyone who saw this can understand the horror as the Haas rocketed into a barrier at high speed.
Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his record-extending 95th career win on a night that was overshadowed by a horrific crash that left Haas driver Romain Grosjean in hospital.
The 34-year-old French driver appeared to swerve right across the path of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat who shunted the Haas sending it hurtling toward the barrier out of turn 3.
Stunning images caught by the F1 world feed saw the car explode upon impact.
Miraculously, Grosjean was seen emerging from the wreckage through the flames 18 seconds after impact.
It appears as though the controversial halo part – which took the brunt of a wheel heading for Carlos Sainz Jr’s helmet in an incident earlier this season – saved the life of the Haas driver.
In a post from hospital, Grosjean credited the halo for saving his life.
“Just wanted to say I am OK — well, sort of OK,” Grosjean said. “Thank you very much for all the messages.
“I wasn’t for the halo years ago, but I think it is the greatest thing that we’ve had in Formula One and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.
“So, thanks to all the medical staff … hopefully I can write to you quite soon some messages and tell you how it’s going”
It was announced in 2017 that the halo part would be rushed in for the start of the 2018 Formula 1 series in a bid to improve driver safety.
What a year…..