Who made the grade? Rating F1’s class of 2020

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Who made the grade? Ranking F1's class of 2020

The unprecedented 2020 season of Formula 1 is over.

But how did the drivers on the grid fare? We've given each one a grade based on their time of year.

Best in class

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes (A +)

Also this year, Hamilton was the star of Formula 1. His list of successes in 2020 includes 11 race wins, 10 pole positions and a record-breaking seventh world championship. Hamilton also led the sport's task to shed light on racism and injustice around the world. His ability to stay focused and motivated to succeed after so many years at the top is admirable and he is possibly the greatest rider of all time.

Lewis Hamilton won a record-breaking seventh world title this year. Joe Portlock – Formula 1 / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Powerful

Max Verstappen – Red Bull (A)

Unquestionably, Verstappen was the second best rider of the season and it's becoming pretty clear that he could challenge Hamilton for a title with more machinery. Verstappen took impressive victories at Silverstone and Abu Dhabi as well as nine other podiums, which is definitely the best return for a non-Mercedes driver.

His performance compared to his teammate Alex Albon was sensational, surpassing him in almost every competitive session throughout the season. Verstappen seems to be getting better every year, a scary thought since he's only 23 years old. He just misses a perfect result after his lack of patience in Turkey cost him an almost certain third win of the season.

Tolga Bozoglu – Pool / Getty Images

Sergio Perez – Race Point (A)

It's a real shame that Perez could leave Formula 1 after having undoubtedly produced his best season yet with his maiden win. His performance in Sakhir, going from last to first, was something that was well deserved and one of the best wins anyone has ever had in years.

Given that Perez also missed a few races with COVID-19 earlier in the season, finishing fourth in the drivers' standings is a remarkable effort. Team bosses up and down in the paddock should take note of this.

Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri (A)

2019 wasn't an easy year for Gasly, but 2020 was the exact opposite. The Frenchman impressed with an exceptional win in Monza and further strong appearances in Germany, Portugal and Bahrain. Gasly also improved his game on Saturday, beating teammate Daniil Kvyat 13-4 in the AlfaTauri qualifier. If he lives up to that standard, it's hard to see he won't return to Red Bull in the future.

Jenifer Lorenzini – Pool / Getty Images

George Russell – Williams / Mercedes (A-)

Russell, who has not yet been overtaken in the Williams, really showed that he belongs in Formula 1, and that was before he started at Mercedes in the penultimate race. At the Bahrain Grand Prix, Russell showed that he has the skills, class and mental strength to not only fight for wins, but possibly a world championship. On this one weekend he offered more than Valtteri Bottas in the entire second half of the season.

Daniel Ricciardo – Renault (B +)

Ricciardo exceeded all expectations this year with some brilliant performances, especially at the Grand Prix of Eifel and Emilia Romagna, where he finished on the podium. Ricciardo was also able to find consistency that didn't matter in his first season with Renault, the Australian who regularly qualifies against Esteban Ocon and scored points in the last eleven races of the season. Let's hope he brings it back for Formula 1 and McLaren in 2021.

Charles Leclerc – Ferrari (B +)

In 2020, Leclerc put his skills to the test again, significantly outperforming his more experienced teammates over the course of the year. Ending the season with Sebastian Vettel almost triple the points and six top five finishes from Vettels is an incredible effort in a Ferrari that is miles away from the pace. The only slight blow of his year was the mistakes he made in Italy and Bahrain. However, if Ferrari can work together we know they have the quality to deliver regularly and fight for victories.

Average performer

Carlos Sainz – McLaren (B)

It took him a while to get going this year, but once Sainz found his rhythm, he showed again that he is one of the strongest drivers on the grid. Like Leclerc, Sainz failed to take full advantage of his chances in Monza (although he finished the best second place of his career) and Bahrain, giving him a higher grade this year too. He will also want to find an improvement in qualifications.

Overall, 2020 only strengthened Sainz's positive reputation. Now for this Ferrari in 2021 …

Lance Stroll – Race Point (B-)

Stroll has had many critics since arriving in Formula 1, but the young Canadian deserves tremendous praise. He managed to block out the noise and improve dramatically. He is now fully confident in his abilities and it is showing that it is on the right track. Stroll was one of only two non-Mercedes drivers to take pole position this year, and was also on the podium twice.

A walk could very well have achieved an A for 2020 if it hadn't survived a disappointing run of races after his first podium and was overqualified 11-3 by Racing Point teammates. Overall, however, he can be satisfied with his season.

Lance Stroll led the first half of the Turkish Grand Prix where he took his first F1 pole position. Mario Renzi – Formula 1 / Formula 1 via Getty Images

Lando Norris – McLaren (B-)

Norris finished the season with strong performances. He opened in a spectacular way, finished third and set the fastest lap at the season opener in Austria. In Abu Dhabi, he took a comfortable fifth place. There have been other strong performances throughout the season but he needs to find a little more consistency, especially with his teammate going into his third season. If he can do that, then he's another driver who could easily be run into an A.

Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo (C-)

It was a rather uninspiring year for Raikkonen, with only four championship points being scored, although the Alfa Romeo's pace at times hampered its ability to showcase its class. He would be disappointed that his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi scored more points than him in 2020. Let's hope Kimi can get back to his best form next season.

Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo (C-)

There were moments all year round when Govinazzi really impressed, especially Austria and Germany. However, like Raikkonen, he was often unable to fight for points. The most impressive aspect of his season was the fact that he outperformed Raikkonen, despite the fact that his seasoned teammate often beat him during the races. Giovinazzi has another mindset to show what he can do in 202.1 and with a touch more pace he could show that he belongs.

Do you need serious improvement

Esteban Ocon – Renault (D +)

There was a lot of excitement about Ocon's return to Formula 1, but for much of the year he couldn't live up to the hype. His efforts in both qualifying and the race were often overshadowed by teammate Ricciardo. Ocon was overqualified (15-2) and overtaken (9-3) and just needs to improve next year when he takes on Fernando Alonso. His surprising second place in Sakhir in the penultimate race was almost the only thing that kept him from failing in 2020.

Daniil Kvyat – AlphaTauri (D)

The AlphaTauri proved itself to be a race car, if only once, in 2020, but Kvyat never looked as comfortable and capable as Gasly, at least until the end of the year. He ended the season on less than half of Gasly's points, was grossly overqualified and unable to demonstrate that he had the skills necessary to return to Red Bull one day. It was very disappointing to see Daniil keep going backwards over the past few seasons since his demotion.

Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari (D)

Vettel no longer shows the high level to which we have become used in the last decade and a half. Whether it's about getting the most out of the car in qualifying, getting a clean start on race day or just overtaking, the German has repeatedly failed himself.

To highlight the gap between Vettel and Leclerc at Ferrari, the four-time world champion was 0.757 seconds slower on average in qualifying. His best point streak was two while Leclercs was seven. The only thing that will save him from failure this year is his unexpected podium finish in Turkey, the only highlight of an otherwise disappointing year.

Sebastian Vettel's strange habit of spinning on his own continued in 2020. Clive Mason – Formula 1 / Formula 1 via Getty Images

Romain Grosjean – Haas (D)

It's great to see Grosjean healthy and feeling much better after his terrible fall in Bahrain. Unfortunately, this was the last time we saw him out on track in 2020 and his form had been pretty overwhelming before the accident. Grosjean made way too many mistakes throughout the season, resulting in spins or contact with other riders. It's no big surprise that he won't be racing in Formula 1 after 2020.

Kevin Magnussen – Haas (D)

Like Grosjean, Magnussen didn't have much to smile about at Haas in 2020. One point for the entire season and only three top 14 finishes was utterly disappointing for someone who has turned out to be a far more talented driver despite the lack of performance that held him back. Magnussen ended the season with more DNFs than anyone and will be leaving Formula 1 after failing to get a podium since his first race for McLaren in 2014. It's fair to say that he never reached his potential.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes (D-)

It's been another disappointing year for Bottas who doesn't seem to be in the same stratosphere as his teammate. Just two wins in one of the most dominant cars Formula 1 has ever seen, and more than 120 points behind Hamilton, even if the world champion missed a race in Bahrain, underscore the gap between the two.

Bottas' efforts in Turkey have been particularly dire. He spun several times and eventually turned 14th. It was an outing that really summed up his season. He has to improve quickly for 2021 if he wants to take a serious title win or just stay on Mercedes' payroll.

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Alex Albon – Red Bull (F)

Albon may have been promoted too early. His impressive rookie season earned him a senior team reputation, but he's been struggling to get his team-mate at the top of the grid ever since. He was humiliated in qualifying (0-17) and ended up behind Verstappen in every race. Both had the checkered flag. Albon is often in trouble with midfield teams and hasn't used the Red Bull opportunity as well as he should have. It is currently unclear if he will keep his seat for the next season but if he does he should consider himself extremely lucky.

Nicholas Latifi – Williams (F)

There were few highlights for Latifi this year. He was the only driver not to score a single point in the season and was extensively outdone by his teammate in both qualifying and race day, making it seem like Russell was driving a much faster car. Latifi has a contract for the next season but without drastic improvements it's hard to see him keep a place in Formula 1. As simple as that.