RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen may have come out on top in F1’s official Power Rankings for 2020, after a fine season for the Dutchman – but we wanted to hear what you thought too. So, after nearly 40,000 of your votes had been cast on F1 Fan Voice, here are the fan-selected top 10 drivers of 2020...

    POWER RANKINGS: Who topped the season-long leaderboard in 2020?

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    With some justification, after winning his seventh world championship and becoming Formula 1’s most successful ever driver in terms of race wins, Lewis Hamilton squeaked the fan vote by 0.1 points, after a season which, for the sixth time in seven years, saw Hamilton get into double digits for victories (taking 11 in 16 starts) and claim 10 pole positions. Another glittering year, then, from the F1 performance benchmark.

    REVEALED: F1’s team bosses choose their Top 10 drivers of 2020

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    While Hamilton was impressive in how he romped to title #7, Max Verstappen was impressive in the way he simply held onto the Mercedes’ coattails. The Red Bull RB16 inherited the previous car’s tendency to be hard to handle at the limit. But Verstappen’s genius behind the wheel was enough to see him take a pole position and two victories in it, with the Dutchman frequently the only driver who could live with the pace of the Mercedes across a weekend, as he made P3 his own in 2020, outscoring team mate Alex Albon by over 100 points.

    READ MORE: Verstappen calls on Red Bull to be ‘stronger at the beginning of the season’ in 2021 after Abu Dhabi win

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    There’s a slight irony that Racing Point have axed the driver who finished third in the F1 Fan Voice Power Rankings for a line-up where neither driver – Lance Stroll or Sebastian Vettel – made your top 10. But that’s Formula 1 for you. This wasn’t a perfect season from Perez, in a car that was arguably a step ahead of its midfield rivals. But that he took his maiden victory and a podium, as well as claiming fourth in the drivers’ standings despite missing two races due to Covid, outlines just how ruthlessly consistent a points accumulator the Mexican has been. A seat at Red Bull for 2021, and third in the fan-voted rankings, was his reward.

    READ MORE: ‘We’ve got a fight on our hands next year’ says Hamilton as he eyes 2021 battle with Red Bull

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    George Russell’s star quality has always required a little bit of reading between the lines from F1 fans, so uncompetitive has been the machinery he’s driven so far in his career. But his performance in the Sakhir Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in at Mercedes told them everything they needed to know about why Mercedes continue to back Russell, as he came within a pit stop disaster and puncture of his maiden victory. Back in Williams-land, meanwhile, his record of nine Q2 appearances (Nicholas Latifi made one) in a car incapable of claiming a point in 2020 was remarkable.

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    2019 was an underwhelming year from both Renault and Daniel Ricciardo. But the two fused beautifully in 2020, Ricciardo re-finding the mojo that made had him a world championship contender (briefly) as recently as 2018, while two of his strongest drives of the year – in Germany and Imola – were rewarded with Renault’s first podiums since their return to the sport in 2016. It was good to see the shoey back in action.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo ‘proud’ of final year with Renault as team claim fifth in constructors’ in season finale

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    Pierre Gasly leads a group of three drivers tied on 7.8, after what the Frenchman, reasonably, described as his beat season in the sport. The AlphaTauri driver was a revelation throughout the year, the obvious highlight being his stunning, if somewhat fortunate, win at Monza – although his searing qualifying lap to take P4 on the grid at Imola was all him. Given all that, Gasly was understandably somewhat bemused not be considered for a move back to the senior Red Bull team for 2021.

    READ MORE: Gasly admits he was 'surprised' not to be considered for Red Bull

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    Carlos Sainz was the midfield golden boy in 2019. And while 2020 was in many ways a more challenging year for the Spaniard, Sainz has shown pure class at times this year. He was impressive in his pursuit of Gasly at Monza as he claimed his second podium of his career, while surging from 15th on the grid to P5 not once but twice in succession (at Turkey and Bahrain) underlined Sainz’s quality as a Grand Prix driver. He leaves McLaren for Ferrari with his head held high.

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    While Sainz was impressing in 2020, so too was team mate Lando Norris, who kicked on brilliantly in his second season of F1. Norris’ year started with a bang with a white-knuckle ride to his first F1 podium at the Austrian Grand Prix, while that was followed up a week later by a swashbuckling run to fifth in the final laps. Norris built on that punchy start, carving out a season where he once again demonstrated the speed, consistency and dependability that makes him such a valuable asset to McLaren.

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    Times were hard for all Ferrari-powered drivers in 2020. But despite the Ferrari SF1000 being one of the least wieldy machines ever to leave the factory gates at Maranello, Leclerc defied its performance to take two podiums, make 11 Q3 appearances to team mate Vettel’s three, and score more than double the points of all the other Ferrari-powered runners combined. A few first lap blots on his copybook, however, were a reminder that Leclerc’s F1 career is still just three seasons old…

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    After the excitement of his Austrian GP win, this was another Valtteri Bottas season that never seemed to really find its rhythm – especially on a Sunday. Bottas was mighty impressive in qualifying at times in 2020, equalling his career-best take home of five pole positions for the season, while falling short of pole by less than a tenth on a number of occasions. But to ultimately end up just nine points clear of third-placed Verstappen in the drivers’ standings, and 124 points adrift of a team mate who missed a race, was pretty galling for the Finn.

    READ MORE: Bottas says there are many positives to take from 2020 – but admits battling Hamilton ‘takes it out of me’

    MISSING OUT

    Esteban Ocon sits just outside the top 10, after an at times challenging return to the sport that saw the Frenchman largely play second fiddle to Ricciardo at Renault – although he was rewarded with his maiden podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix. He sits just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, after a more challenging year for the Finn than 2019 at Alfa Romeo.