The 2020 Formula 1 title race has been decided with three races to go following Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the Turkish Grand Prix. 

A wet-weather masterclass enabled Hamilton to claim his 10th victory from 14 races so far this season and wrap up a record-equalling seventh world title to draw level with the great Michael Schumacher

In reality, it looked like Hamilton was destined to win the championship for a long time and the question seemed to be more a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. 

We’ve taken a look back over some of the key moments from an unprecedented 2020 campaign that set Hamilton up to taking title glory for the fourth year in succession…

1. Hamilton’s Styrian GP recovery 

Hamilton’s season did not get off to the perfect start in Austria as Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, as he did in 2019, opened the season with victory, while Hamilton trailed home in fourth after a penalty for clashing with Red Bull’s Alex Albon on an uncharacteristically scrappy weekend. 

Hamilton entered round two in Austria - the first-ever Styrian Grand Prix - 13 points behind Bottas in the championship, but he was handed a chance to hit back when wet weather greeted the Red Bull Ring for qualifying. In treacherous conditions, Hamilton obliterated the field to claim a stunning pole position that was over 1.2 seconds faster than what Max Verstappen managed, with Bottas only fourth. 

Hamilton bounced back immediately in fine style by converting his first pole of 2020 into the win to ensure that his slow start to the campaign was a short-lived one.

STANDINGS AFTER STYRIAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Valtteri Bottas43
2Lewis Hamilton37
3Lando Norris26
4Charles Leclerc18
5Sergio Perez16


2. Bottas botches Budapest start

Bottas’ spell at the top of the championship would last just two races before he handed Hamilton an early gift in the title race. A botched start on intermediates from P2 on the grid saw Bottas get lucky to escape a jump-start penalty, but the Finn was quickly swallowed up by the chasing pack on the long run to Turn 1 as he fell to sixth. 

Bottas made slow progress on his fight back to claim a podium, which allowed Hamilton to canter to a comfortable victory ahead of Verstappen, who took a remarkable second place finish following a herculean effort from his Red Bull team to fix his damaged car after a prang with the barriers on his way to the grid in slippery conditions. 

Hamilton moved into the championship lead for the first time having enjoyed an 11-point swing in his favour. 

STANDINGS AFTER HUNGARIAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton63
2Valtteri Bottas58
3Max Verstappen33
4Lando Norris26
5Alex Albon22


3. Winning on three wheels

Hamilton looked set to secure a dominant and comfortable eighth British Grand Prix victory having taken his seventh Silverstone pole and leading every lap with a controlled drive, but late drama resulted in a remarkable conclusion to the race. As he rounded Brooklands on the final lap Hamilton’s front-left tyre blew but he was somehow able to limp home on just three fully-inflated wheels on his W11 with Verstappen bearing down on him to claim an extraordinary victory. 

Bottas was not so fortunate. Set for an easy second place, Bottas also suffered a front-left delamination but unlike Hamilton, the Finn’s came two laps earlier, which meant he had to pit which subsequently dropped him to 11th and outside of the points. 

Mercedes’ tyre woes worsened at the second race at Silverstone the following weekend as Pirelli moved a compound softer with its range. This time Bottas was the faster of the two Mercedes drivers in qualifying and led early on, but a strategic mistake from Mercedes opened the door for Verstappen to take advantage. Running longer into the race proved key as Verstappen nursed his tyres to a first win of 2020, while Hamilton was able to leapfrog Bottas after extending his stint. 

In the championship picture, Hamilton was able to move into a big lead, while Verstappen snuck ahead of Bottas. 

STANDINGS AFTER 70th GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton107
2Max Verstappen77
3Valtteri Bottas73
4Charles Leclerc45
5Lando Norris38


4. Qualifying supremacy at Spa

Hamilton turned in another crushing display to lead Verstappen home in Spain before the F1 paddock headed to Spa, where Hamilton showed he had managed to improve on one of his weaknesses from the year before. 

In Belgium Hamilton stormed to a commanding pole with a lap that was 0.511s faster than Bottas. It came amid a run of five consecutive poles that would be key to setting up a run of victories that maintained his title lead. In 2019 Hamilton had managed just five poles across the season, whereas this season he has already recorded nine (as of the Turkish GP). 

Hamilton went on to claim his fifth win of 2020 at Spa having thwarted Bottas’ early attack in the race to pull 47 points clear after just seven rounds. 

STANDINGS AFTER BELGIAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton157
2Max Verstappen110
3Valtteri Bottas107
4Alex Albon48
5Charles Leclerc45


5. Bottas fails to capitalise at mad Monza 

Hamilton looked in command of the opening exchanges in Monza as he pulled a 10-second lead over the field in just 10 laps, before his race unraveled with a misjudgement from both Hamilton and his Mercedes team. Failing to notice that the pit lane was closed after Kevin Magnussen’s Haas pulled over close to the entrance, Hamilton came in for a stop and picked up a stop-go penalty. 

But Bottas blew a golden opportunity to take advantage of the situation and fell into the pack at the rolling restart, meaning he lined up only seventh when the grid formed to take the standing restart following Charles Leclerc’s red-flag inducing shunt at the Parabolica. Bottas could only progress to fifth at the flag, while Hamilton recovered from being half a minute adrift at the very back of the pack to finish a damage-limiting seventh - meaning he only dropped four points to his teammate.

Mercedes’ woes opened the door for a shock victor in the form of Pierre Gasly, who withheld late pressure from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz to hand AlphaTauri just its second win in F1 on home soil. 

STANDINGS AFTER ITALIAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton164
2Valtteri Bottas117
3Max Verstappen110
4Lance Stroll57
5Lando Norris57


6. Hamilton’s Mugello turnaround 

F1 stayed in Italy for a second race and first-ever visit to Mugello, which produced yet more drama. Bottas looked to have the upper hand around the Tuscan venue as he dominated throughout practice, before Hamilton pulled off a stunning turnaround to win the battle to take pole by half a tenth. 

An unusual scenario of three standing starts took place during a frantic, stop-start race in Mugello. Bottas got the best initial launch to surge past Hamilton on the run to Turn 1 and he looked to have done the job to maintain his early lead with a perfect restart following a Safety Car for a multi-car crash that wiped out Verstappen. 

But a huge start-line crash saw the race halted just seconds later, and it was at the second standing start where Hamilton had the edge. Hamilton nailed the start and swept around the outside of Bottas with a bold pass into Turn 1. Job seemingly done. 

A heavy crash for Lance Stroll at the second Arrabbiata resulted in another red flag and standing restart and this time Hamilton was on the defence. The Briton again aced the restart and charged away from Bottas to claim a sixth victory of the year and open up a 55-point buffer. 

STANDINGS AFTER TUSCAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton190
2Valtteri Bottas135
3Max Verstappen110
4Lando Norris65
5Alex Albon63


7. Two-horse race as Max becomes third-wheel 

Hamilton scored a fifth successive pole at Sochi but picked up two controversial time penalties for completing his pre-race practice starts in the wrong position at the exit of the pit lane. 

Bottas jumped into second place ahead of Verstappen at the start and ultimately inherited the lead from Hamilton when he served his time penalties during his pit stop. The Finn went on to take just his second win of the year at a track he usually excels at, while Hamilton recovered to third on a scrappy weekend. 

Despite splitting the Mercedes once more, Verstappen’s hopes of challenging for the title had been wrecked by back-to-back mechanically-induced retirements in Italy. Meanwhile, Bottas’ victory allowed him to gain some minor ground back on Hamilton. 

STANDINGS AFTER RUSSIAN GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton205
2Valtteri Bottas161
3Max Verstappen128
4Lando Norris65
5Alex Albon64


8. Bottas’ blow at the Nurburgring 

Bottas looked to continue to halt Hamilton’s momentum as F1 visited the Nurburgring for the first time in seven years as he took pole to end a run of five successive qualifying defeats at the hands of his teammate. 

Despite momentarily losing his lead into Turn 1, a punchy bit of driving from Bottas enabled him to dive back down the inside of Hamilton into the next corner to reclaim first place, before he established a small advantage out front. 

But Bottas threw away his lead on the 13th lap when he locked up and ran deep into Turn 1, providing Hamilton the chance to sweep past around the outside of Turn 3 and snatch the lead. Bottas’ race went from bad to worse when an MGU-H problem denied him a fightback and forced him into his first retirement of the season. 

Hamilton went on to draw level with Schumacher on 91 wins and pulled further clear in the title race, making title number seven seem a hugely likely prospect. 

STANDINGS AFTER EIFEL GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton230
2Valtteri Bottas161
3Max Verstappen147
4Daniel Ricciardo78
5Sergio Perez68


9. Hamilton eclipses Schumacher

Hamilton claimed the first-ever F1 pole at Portimao with a fantastic lap on a cold, low-grip track before he recovered from a chaotic opening lap in similar conditions with light rain falling having initially dropped to third as he struggled to get his tyres up to temperature. 

Bottas also struggled as he fell to third at the start but forced his way back to pass both Verstappen and then Hamilton to move into the lead. He was overtaken briefly by the early-charging, Mercedes-passing McLaren of Sainz before regaining control of the race by taking first place back shortly afterwards.

At this stage Bottas looked in command, but Hamilton got back up to speed and soon closed in on his teammate before launching his attack. Hamilton swept by into Turn 1 on the 20th tour and never looked back as he surged into the biggest winning margin of the season. 

Despite suffering from some late cramp, Hamilton surpassed Schumacher’s victory record and moved himself to the brink of matching the German’s world championship benchmark. 

STANDINGS AFTER PORTUGUESE GP
PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton256
2Valtteri Bottas179
3Max Verstappen162
4Daniel Ricciardo80
5Charles Leclerc75


10. Ferrari slows Bottas, Hamilton wins at Imola

Bottas edged Hamilton to pole in qualifying at Imola and left him behind at the start as a tardy getaway saw Hamilton slip behind Verstappen into third place by the time the field arrived at the Tamburello chicane for the first time. On a track where overtaking is difficult, it looked as though Bottas would strike back to reduce his points deficit to Hamilton. 

Opting to extend his first stint, Hamilton impressively eked out the pit delta he needed to successfully come out ahead of Bottas and Verstappen once he pitted before a fortunately-timed Virtual Safety Car made Hamilton’s job all the easier and played perfectly into his hands. 

Hamilton emerged into a lead he never relinquished when he bolted on fresh rubber, while Bottas, struggling for performance after a piece of Sebastian Vettel’s front wing endplate became lodged in the floor of his Mercedes, succumbed to Verstappen’s attack.

Bottas moved back into second place when Verstappen had a dramatic exit due to a tyre failure as Mercedes celebrated an unprecedented seventh constructors’ world championship in a row.

A ninth victory of 2020 set up the opportunity for Hamilton to win the title at the first attempt in Turkey, and Hamilton duly obliged with a supreme drive while Bottas falted and suffered one of his worst races in F1, spinning six times.

STANDINGS AFTER TURKISH GP
PosDriverPoints
CLewis Hamilton307
2Valtteri Bottas197
3Max Verstappen170
4Sergio Perez100
5Charles Leclerc97

 

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