The F1 2020 season has finally had its calendar settled for 17 races - with Istanbul park making a remarked comeback. Having then six rounds completed means the third of the season is now done and dusted, and a trend can be made regarding the internal battle between teammates.
Valtteri Bottas is keeping Lewis Hamilton honest. At least, in qualifying. The average gap between the two Mercedes drivers is 0.081 seconds. Considering who Bottas is up against, that is definitely a tiny margin, although tiny margins are what separates the goods from the greats in F1. Bottas has started his 2020 campaign in the best possible way. A pole and a win in Austria. But this was the last time he got ahead of his teammate. The following races saw Hamilton turn the 13 points deficit to Bottas into a 43 points advantage, as the Briton won four of the six races to be held so far. The W11 seems to be the most competitive car this season, so it is expected that Bottas is the most serious challenger to Hamilton’s bid to the title. The most realistic chance for the Finn to be that challenger is if he manages to convert his qualifying form into consistent race pace.
Those results seem relentless, as Max Verstappen is having a clean sweep against his anglo-thai team mate, in both qualifying and race. The gap is even more significant in qualifying, with Albon over half-a-second on average slower than Verstappen. The latter even achieved the feat to outqualify one of the two Mercedes during the Styrian GP on a wet track, bring home the only non-Mercedes win of the season, and split the two Mercedes drivers in the standings. George Russell though, the Williams' lead driver, came to the rescue of Albon, stating the Redbull team "are making him look like an idiot". It is a bit difficult to disagree with Russell, when Albon has been pitted for the hardest compound in Spain, to see how it played out for him before adjusting Verstappen tyres' strategy. Whether that statement from Russell is true or not, it is now up to Alex to give his team less and less chances to treat him as a test driver for his team mate.
In one or thousand words, it is such a close battle. Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll are tied in both qualifying and race. Plus, the 0.033 seconds qualifying advantage on the dry that Perez holds on Stroll is balanced by how he's been outperformed on the wet in Styria. The disruption in Perez' season also contributes to make the result of their head-to-head inconclusive. We will definitely need more races to see a winner emerge.
Lando has been a new driver in 2020. He was outshone by Sainz in 2019, but this year, we have witnessed “Lando, scenario 7”, with the young Briton leading the way in both qualifying and race. As it is, Lando is 7th in the standings with 39 points, with his Spaniard teammate in 9th position with 23 points.
What a difference a year makes! Ferrari went from fighting for poles and wins, to being a midfield team. However, the team’s form doesn't prevent its two drivers from fighting for the internal lead. And it’s Charles Leclerc who is outperforming his most decorated team mate Sebastian Vettel. The monegasque has scored almost thrice the amount of points of Vettel, and has secured an unexpected podium in the maiden race in Austria. On the other hand, it would be fair to point out that the four times world champion has encountered reliability and set up issues, and also some questionable strategic calls, which led him to be not as confident in his machinery as he could expect for. One can hope the Scuderia and its german champion, despite parting ways at the end of the season, will find a common ground, so we can get a spicier head-to-head.
Esteban Ocon loves the wet. It’s the only instance when he has outqualified his teammate in the six sessions to have taken places so far. It reminded me of another wet qualifying in Spa, in 2018, where he came 3rd, just behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo is leading the French man in races, as he stands 10th in the standings with 20 points scored. But Ocon isn’t far, with 16 points. Considering he has been out of F1 for more than a year, it is an impressive performance, especially against a teammate this highly rated.
Long gone are the days when Gasly was lapped by his team mate in the Redbull stable! Today, it’s simple, the French man is on a mission, and he is dominating Kvyat in qualifying by a resounding 6 - 0. Besides, even if they are tied regarding their finishing positions in races, Gasly has scored 14 points, with only 2 points scored by the Russian. In a midfield this close in performances, it is an accomplishment in itself.
Alfa Romeo Racing
This battle can be summed up by “the speed of the youth versus the strength of experience”. Giovinazzi has the upper hand when it comes to qualifying. But on Sunday, the flying Finn has the final word, even if, interestingly, Giovinazzi has scored the only two points of the team in Austria. All in all, the Alfa Romeo car is so uncompetitive that it is tricky to see a clear winner, depending on the team strategy and what occurs in the races. More races will certainly give a clearer picture.
Whenever I see Kevin Magnussen, the first thing that pops up in my mind is his strategic gamble to put the slicks tyres early in hungarian race. Overall, he is leading Grosjean in both qualifying and races, and has scored the sole point of his team.
George Russell made the cut to Q2 on four occasions this season! It is not a joke, nor a wishful thinking, Russell has put his Williams in Q2 four times in 2020. Who would have thought? Regarding his scintillating form on Saturdays, Russell has always led his teammate in qualifying, and bar a DNF in Austria, has also done so in races. We must however, concede to Latifi that he is in his rookie year, so he is certainly learning, and hopefully we will get to see closer battles between them in a short notice. Unfortunately, despite Williams significant progress, both drivers are yet to score points.