With stand-in tracks, shock results and complete chaos, the 2020 season truly spoiled us in terms of entertaining races.
As always, there were a few duds, but they were outnumbered by the thrillers. Starting with the former and with many arguments over which race should be number one, we’ve ranked them all…
17. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
There really isn’t much at all to say about the season finale, which is precisely why it’s bottom.
Max Verstappen started at the front, and ended at the front, with no threat whatsoever being posed. The three behind him crossed the line close together, but at a track where overtaking is near-impossible, produced no exciting racing. In fact, the vast majority of moves we got throughout the race were bland DRS-assisted ones further back.
Why is this the last race of the season, again? Well, we know why, but we sure wish it wasn’t.
16. The Spanish Grand Prix
This was one of many races in the sport’s hybrid era to be made painfully dull by the dominance of Lewis Hamilton.
The Brit started on pole and stayed in the lead for the entirety of the race. He crossed the line 24 seconds ahead of Verstappen, while Valtteri Bottas was a further 20 behind. To make matters worse, the battle for the remaining spots in the top five that can usually be relied on for some excitement didn’t deliver, with Racing Point comfortably taking them.
There was at least some decent racing further back, with Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc’s scrap a highlight. Even so, it was a race in which there was precious little to get excited about throughout.
15. The Russian Grand Prix
Next up is another track that has become all too used to being considered one of the worst races of the season. As per usual, things were far from scintillating in Sochi.
It was a race that was largely doomed before it even started as Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty for illegal practice starts. With Mercedes so dominant, that handed Bottas an easy victory and Verstappen an easy P2.
Some good old carnage on lap 1 and plenty of battles in the midfield did at least ensure it wasn’t the worst race of 2020, but it wasn’t far off.
14. The Belgian Grand Prix
It’s not too often we say this, but the race in Spa was a real let down this year, largely due to how strong Mercedes were. And the lack of rain.
Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen started in P1, P2 and P3, and finished in that order, with very little happening in the 44 laps between. Verstappen didn’t have the car to challenge the front two and Bottas didn’t have the pace to challenge Hamilton.
Behind the front three, the first half of the race, in particular, was fairly entertaining as a Safety Car mixed up the grid, leading to plenty of overtaking, but with DRS making it all too easy, even that was difficult to get excited about.
13. The Bahrain Grand Prix
In a Grand Prix where the racing itself became something of an afterthought following Romain Grosjean’s terrifying crash, the on-track action wasn’t particularly good anyway.
Following the Frenchman’s incident, there was a somewhat flat atmosphere to the rest of the race, not helped by the lack of action. Life was easy for Hamiton in P1 as, while Verstappen stayed close, he never posed a real threat. The same could be said behind as Sergio Perez comfortably held Alex Albon off until the Mexican was forced to retire with three laps to go.
Things weren’t too much more thrilling anywhere else on the grid, either, and by the time the race was other, everybody was happy about it. The highlight, and ultimately the only thing that mattered, was Grosjean miraculous escape, and the fact that he was still alive when all was said and done.
12. The Hungarian Grand Prix
With rain falling shortly before the start and the track still damp, anticipation was high ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, but it proved to be a bit of an anti-climax.
Verstappen’s crash on the way to the grid only increased such anticipation, but once the race got underway, it became clear that that was simply a mistake on his part rather than down to the conditions which proved to be somewhat tame. Because of this, everybody was on soft tyres by lap 5.
The opening stages did provide some excitement as the changing conditions and alternate strategies saw the Haas boys end up in P3 and P4, but order was quickly restored and things settled down throughout the field.
Hamilton cruised at the front – he lapped every car up to P5 – while behind him, it looked like we’d get to see a battle for P2 between Verstappen and Bottas, but that was taken away from us when Mercedes decided to pit the Finn. It was the same story elsewhere, with more being decided in the pits than on the track.
11. The Styrian Grand Prix
Of all the races that Hamilton won with ease in 2020, this – his first victory of the season – was one of the more entertaining ones.
Why? Well, we had a spectacular implosion from Ferrari at the start as Charles Leclerc ended both his and Sebastian Vettel’s race. Everyone loves a bit of drama.
The final few laps meanwhile were nothing short of thrilling as Bottas took P3 from Verstappen and Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll chased down the wounded Perez, with the McLaren passing all three.
Asides from all of the above though, there weren’t too many more memorable incidents, and it’s a race that will be best remembered for being the start of Hamilton’s charge to break numerous records.
10. The British Grand Prix
If every lap was as good as the last few in Silverstone, this race would have been much higher up, but sadly things were far from thrilling before the completely mental finale.
The Mercedes drivers quickly asserted their dominance, cruising away in P1 and P2, while Verstappen was in No Man’s Land behind them. Not even two Safety Cars could shake things up, and we looked destined to have a poor race. Thankfully, Pirelli’s tyres had other ideas.
With two laps to go, Bottas picked up a puncture and tumbled down the order, and Red Bull decided to play it safe by pitting Verstappen. That proved to be a costly decision as, remarkably, Hamilton too suffered a puncture on the final lap, but somehow made it to the finish line on three wheels.
The punctures for the Silver Arrows and Carlos Sainz set up one of the most exciting finales of the season and saved the race from being one of the most boring.
9. The Portuguese Grand Prix
The first-ever F1 race to take place at Portimao was generally a good one, even if there was little in the way of excitement at the front end of the grid in the business end of it.
With rain drizzling down at the start, plenty of drivers struggled to stay on track, and Sainz took full advantage to take the lead of the race. As if that wasn’t mad enough, Kimi Raikkonen made a stunning start to gain 10 places. As far as opening stages go, there have been few better though.
Unfortunately, though, the weather soon cleared up and things settled down, with Hamilton in the lead ahead of Bottas and Verstappen by Lap 20. Things would stay that way until the end.
In fact, there was little significant and memorable action anywhere at all after those opening laps, but they alone were mad enough for this to make it into the top 10 of the year.
8. The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
There were concerns that Imola was not suited for F1 and that the 2020 race there wouldn’t be particularly good, but they proved to be largely unfounded.
After dropping down to P3 at the start, Hamilton decided to do a long first stint and it paid off when a VSC allowed him to pit and stay in the lead. Behind him, Verstappen passed Bottas to take P2, but didn’t stay there for long as he retired with 12 laps to go, bringing out a Safety Car.
This caused the majority of the race’s entertainment as, with the field bunched up, we were treated to a titanic battle for the final podium place. Ricciardo ultimately won it, despite the best efforts of a rapid Daniil Kvyat. Behind, Albon went spinning and dropped down to the back of the grid.
The battle for the win was somewhat ruined by the Virtual Safety Car, but it was still a race that featured plenty of action nonetheless and proved that Imola is indeed suitable for modern F1.
7. The Eifel Grand Prix
The mouths of many a Formula 1 fan watered at the prospect of the sport heading to the Nurburgring in winter conditions, and it proved as chaotic as expected.
The race started off well as Bottas and Hamilton battled hard for the lead. The Finn initially came out on top before locking up, allowing the Brit to take P1. Soon after, Bottas was forced to retire. However, while the fight for the win was over, there was still action elsewhere.
The Safety Car was called out after Norris’s retirement, bunching the field up with just 10 laps to go. At the restart, there were no issues for Hamilton, but Verstappen was forced to defend from Ricciardo who in turn had Perez all over him.
Hamilton ended up winning comfortably to match Michael Schumacher’s record-tally of wins, while Ricciardo held on to make his long-awaited return to the podium.
6. The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
The second race of the season at Silvertone gave us our first non-Mercedes winner in 2020, and Verstappen did it in some style too.
Starting in P4 on the hard tyres, he moved up to P3 and kept up with the Mercedes drivers early on. By lap 15, both Hamilton and Bottas had pitted and he led. He pitted 12 laps later and, rejoining in P2, moved back up to top spot with a stunning move on Bottas at Luffield. He then matched his rivals’ strategies and secured victory, with Hamilton taking P2 from Bottas late on.
Away from the top three, the biggest talking point was Nico Hulkenberg who dazzled the sport by qualifying in P3 and was strong in the race too, impressively coming home in P7 in a tight midfield scrap.
It was certainly an upgrade on the first race at Silverstone, thanks largely to the fact that it gave us our first genuine multi-team battle for victory of the season.
5. The Tuscan Grand Prix
Perhaps the first truly great race of the season came at Mugello in a breathless Tuscan Grand Prix that had just about everything.
The start was eventful as Verstappen and Gasly were both taken out, leading to a Safety Car period. However, that was nothing compared to what happened at the restart. A number of drivers further back accelerated early, causing a huge pile-up and a Red Flag.
In the standing start that followed, Hamilton took the lead from Bottas and, while there was still plenty of overtaking, things looked to have settled down. Then, on lap 43, the Red Flag was waved again, this time for Stroll’s crash. That meant that, when things got underway again, we effectively had a sprint race between the final 12 men standing on our hands.
The Mercedes boys prevailed in it, while Albon fought his way to his first-ever podium. With two Mercedes cars and a Red Bull in the top three, the result wasn’t particularly interesting, but with two Red Flags, multiple restarts and 12 retirements, everything else was.
4. The Austrian Grand Prix
After the longest gap between seasons we have had for a long, long time, the 2020 campaign finally got underway in Austria, and oh boy was it worth the wait.
When Verstappen retired on lap 11, it looked like Mercedes would cruise to a 1-2, but a number of Safety Cars in response to multiple retirements ensured that wouldn’t be the case. The most important of them came towards the end, as it allowed Albon, on fresh tyres, to get right behind Bottas and Hamilton.
After the restart, the Red Bull driver quickly put the Brit under pressure and the two came together, causing Albon to retire and Hamilton to be handed a five-second time penalty. Due to this, the chance of a maiden podium presented itself to Norris, and he took it in stunning fashion, closing the gap with a rapid, purple final lap amidst plenty of other action.
It was the best season opener the sport had seen in a long time, and its wild and eventful nature proved to be a sign of things to come.
3. The Italian Grand Prix
The fact that a race in which Pierre Gasly won is only P3 in this list speaks volumes about just how many incredible races we’ve witnessed this season.
With Bottas struggling, for a good while it looked like Hamilton would cruise to victory, but that all changed when Kevin Magnussen retired. Given where the Dane pulled over, the pit-lane was closed as the Safety Car came out, but Hamilton hadn’t been told and he dived in for a new set of tyres, condemning himself to a time penalty.
Such a penalty proved to be hugely costly as, soon afterwards, a crash for Leclerc brought out out a Red Flag. With the field bunched up at the restart, Hamilton dropped down the order once he served it, leading to Gasly leading the race ahead of Sainz. With the Mercedes drivers out of the picture and Verstappen retired, one of them would win the race.
It proved to be the Frenchman as he drove perfectly to just about hold off the slightly faster Spaniard behind, with Stroll completing a crazy podium. It was one of the most emotional wins the sport has ever seen, and of the most chaotic races.
2. The Sakhir Grand Prix
Having one midfield driver win a Grand Prix in a season is rare, but having two do so is almost unheard of. That became the case in Bahrain though as Perez won a rollercoaster of a race.
One of the round’s two major talking points was George Russell, who was standing in for Lewis Hamilton. Seeing him get the better of Bottas in an intriguing battle and generally drive excellently, it felt like F1 was witnessing another superstar being born. When a bad pit-stop and a puncture took the win from him, hearts sunk around the world.
On the bright side, his heartbreak led to perhaps the greatest moment of the season as Perez, who had been last at the end of the first lap, capitalised to take his first-ever win with one of his best ever drives. It was a feel-good story for a driver who everybody felt deserved one.
We had an exciting young talent make his breakthrough with a perfect performance, the best team in the sport collapse spectacularly, and an older head defy the odds and prevail to claim victory for the first time. Oh, and he was joined on the podium by two other midfield drivers. What more can you want?
1. The Turkish Grand Prix
It wasn’t easy picking a winner, but the Turkish Grand Prix clinches top spot as, 1: while the two races above were both made great by Safety Cars, this one was a thriller from the off as, in Hamilton’s words, “the surface was sh*t with a capital S”, and 2: it played host to one of the biggest moments in the sport’s history.
On a wet track so dodgy that road cars had to be driven on it throughout the previous night to try and rubber it in, Lance Stroll, starting on pole, nailed his start and led a Racing Point 1-2 during the opening stages as Bottas and Verstappen spun while Hamilton went off various times.
As conditions changed, everyone continued to struggle, with countless more mistakes being made. One exception though was Hamilton, who got to grips with the surface and produced a masterclass to pull off a one-stop and ultimately win the race with ease, while those behind him put on a show in the fight for P2 and P3 which went down to the final corner.
Not only was it in an incredible race, but it was almost one of the most important in the history of the sport as Hamilton clinched title number seven, bringing him equal with Schumacher’s record total. We can’t think of a better way for him to have done it.