I review the action from the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix with F1 TV technical analyst Sam Collins.

The 2020 season ended with an easy Max Verstappen win, the Dutchman in his Red Bull Racing car having the measure of Mercedes from qualifying and throughout the race.

It was at least a consolatory change of pace to end a year of Mercedes domination, even if the race itself offered scant action. For this we have a lap-10 virtual safety car to thank, pushing almost the entire field onto an identical one-stop strategy that killed almost all possible racing for the final 45 laps.

There were a few attempts to break that mould and freelance strategy, but only another superb drive from Daniel Ricciardo could squeeze anything from a strategic offset.

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The season ends with a twist: Max Verstappen has at long last taken a pole position off Mercedes in 2020, rewarding Red Bull Racing for its work closing the gap to the German marque over the last 17 weekends.

The margins were fine: Verstappen beat Valtteri Bottas by just 0.025 seconds, with Lewis Hamilton a further 0.061 seconds back. But a pole’s a pole, and in Abu Dhabi, where overtaking is difficult and the last five winners have started at the head of the grid, it could be very valuable indeed.

But before we herald the resurgence of Red Bull Racing ahead of a rules-stable 2021, let’s apply the necessary caveats.

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I review the action from the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix with freelance journalist Phil Horton.

At the 190th time of asking, Sergio Perez made himself a grand prix winner with a sensational run from the back of the pack on the first lap to victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Mexican was in devastating form all evening, his pace only accentuated by his recovery from being punted off the road by Charles Leclerc on the first lap. He made up seven places in five tours early in his recovery and eventually rose to third twice — before and after his sole racing pit stop (excluding his first-lap tyre change while last) — to highlight just how scintillating a drive he was executing.

But such is the state of Formula One that even in such sparkling form he relied on a truly classic Mercedes catastrophe to put him in a winning position.

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I review the action from the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix with freelance journalist Abhishek Takle.

Formula One returns to the familiar ground of Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but with softer tyres on offer than in previous years, the race will offer the opportunity for greater strategic play to teams and drivers.

Last year’s race was a nailed-on two-stop, but the predominance of wear from the abrasive asphalt over thermal degradation meant the hard C1 was largely eschewed for the more performative medium C2 and soft C3.

This year, however, Pirelli has gone a step softer by bringing the C4 as the soft. This to an extent has changed the complexion of the weekend.

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I review the action from the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix with freelance journalist Matt Clayton.

Lewis Hamilton won his seventh world title with a champion drive, recovering from sixth and almost 25 seconds off the lead in the first third of the race to dominate the field by half a minute come the chequered flag.

There were conditions made for Hamilton, but not necessarily his Mercedes car, which had struggled on the slippery surface all weekend. Rather than machinery, this was a win founded on patience and experience, allowing Hamilton’s pure ability to shine on a day he equalled Michael Schumacher’s championship record.

And it wasn’t only the Briton who shone in the difficult weather — those who trusted their gut tended to win big in a race that rewarded nous and instinct, making F1’s Turkey return the season’s most memorably race.

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F1 back in Turkey for first time in almost a decade, but the 2020 grand prix is unlikely to bear much resemblance to 2011 — and not just because polesitter Lance Stroll would’ve been 12 years old last time out.

For one, the cars have changed substantially. Much faster, with more power and more downforce, the expected lap times ahead of the weekend were for somewhere in the vicinity of five seconds quicker, taking into account Pirelli conservatively brought its hardest compounds to Istanbul.

But the most significant change is the track itself. The circuit has been completely resurfaced in anticipation of F1’s return, but the decision was made so late — the race was only confirmed in August, after all — that works finished just 10 days before the on-track action commenced.

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Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two to earn his team a seventh consecutive drivers championship and put himself on the cusp of his own septuple of titles, but he needed a considerable slice of luck to get the job done.

Championship leader Hamilton was arguably the less impressive Mercedes driver this weekend. Bottas had not only got pole, but the Finn’s perfect getaway ensured he was best place to lead what was a largely processional race to the flag at his own pace. Hamilton, on the other hand, dropped to third off the line behind Verstappen and struggled early in the race to make an impression on the Dutchman.

But from lap two the Bottas’s race began unravelling. Running over some debris on track that damaged his floor and became lodged among his bargeboards, the race momentum shifted dramatically in Hamilton’s favour, who needed no second asking to assemble the broken pieces of Bottas’s race into a ninth victory of his own.

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Formula One’s first two-day weekend takes place at one motor racing’s great venues: Imola, the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, where an interesting race awaits.

The format change to expunge Friday practice from the schedule fulfils two aims. The first is to reduce the logistical burden of road travel between Portugal and Italy for back-to-back weekends, particularly with the background of COVID-19 restrictions.

The second reason has potentially far-reach consequences — the evaluation of the viability of a shortened format to ease the burden of individual races in exchange for cramming more events into a season.

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I review the action from the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix with Chris Medland from Racer.

This was Lewis Hamilton’s biggest victory margin of the season, but you wouldn’t have predicted it at the end of the first lap, when he’d dropped to third from pole and was struggling to get his tyres fired up in the blustery, drizzly conditions.

F1 first competitive visit to Portimão for the Portuguese Grand Prix provided yet another interesting challenge for drivers and teams. Not only was Algarve in full swing of an autumnal transition, but recent resurfacing work left the circuit extremely slippery.

Though that combination lost Hamilton places off the line, those tricky conditions also put an emphasis on the driver to carefully and precisely manage the race from the cockpit. The Briton rose spectacularly to that challenge to not simply resume the lead from teammate Valtteri Bottas but turn in his biggest win of the year.

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For the second grand prix in a row Formula One teams will embark on a race distance without the volume of race simulation data that normally dictates strategy.

Whereas at the Nürburgring bad weather cancelled Friday running, in Portimão it was a series of red flags that robbed teams of most of the valuable second practice session after they’d already surrendered 30 minutes to Pirelli for 2021 tyre testing.

On a freshly resurfaced circuit still sufficiently oily that track evolution is seemingly random and unpredictable, the dearth of practice data means teams and drivers will tackle the race on gut instinct.

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