The three undecided qualifying battles and two drivers aiming for perfect scores

2020 F1 season

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There are few purer measures of outright pace in Formula 1 than the contest between team mates in qualifying.

More often that not this is the best opportunity to compare the skills of two drivers in equal equipment, on the same tyre compounds, at the same time. Therefore it carries serious bragging rights.

With the final races of the 2020 F1 season coming up over the next three weekends, the state of play across the 10 teams could hardly be more different.

While the qualifying battles have already been decided at the majority of teams, the contest remains open at three. At the other end of the scale, two teams have seen entirely one-sided contests between their cars.

Two drivers could end the season with perfect scores in qualifying, while their team mates go into the final rounds hoping to avoid a rout.

The undecided battles

Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2020
Raikkonen has come from 4-1 down to lead at Alfa Romeo
At McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Haas, either driver could still win the qualifying fight.

This is little surprise as far as the orange team goes, as Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris ended last season tied 10-10 in qualifying (factoring out unreliability and crashes). They’re at 7-7 for the season so far: Sainz hiy a purple patch at mid-season, but Norris has qualified ahead in three of the last four races.

Antonio Giovinazzi began the year strongly at Alfa Romeo, out-qualifying his experienced team mate Kimi Raikkonen in four of the first five races. Raikkonen has turned the tables, however, and with an 8-6 lead only needs to qualify ahead in one of the remaining rounds to ensure he finishes ahead. He edged the fight 10-9 last year, and the pair will go up against each other again at the same team in 2021.

At Haas, however, the stakes couldn’t be lower. Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will leave the team at the end of the year. It’s been nip-and-tuck between the pair of them all season, and Grosjean leads 7-6, ignoring the technical problem he suffered in qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix.

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The dominators

George Russell, Williams, Istanbul Park, 2020
In 35 races, Russell has never been out-qualified by a team mate
Two drivers have been the stars of Saturdays so far in 2020, though they tend to line up at opposite ends of the grid.

Max Verstappen hasn’t been out-qualified by Alexander Albon all year. Indeed, Albon didn’t beat him on pace once during their nine races together at the end of last year, though they did set identical times to within a thousandth of a second at Suzuka.

Since the beginning of 2019 Verstappen has only been out-qualified by his team mate once. Pierre Gasly lined up ahead of him at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix, though Verstappen could blame that on a gamble on harder tyres in Q2 which backfired, meaning he didn’t reach the final 10.

George Russell can claim an even better record than Verstappen. He hasn’t been out-qualified by either of his team mates since he made his F1 debut at the beginning of last year. Nicholas Latifi hasn’t had any more success beating him than Robert Kubica did.

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Qualifying scores with three races to go

Along with these two Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez have already won the qualifying battles within their respective teams.

George Russell14-0Nicholas Latifi
Max Verstappen14-0Alexander Albon
Daniel Ricciardo13-1Esteban Ocon
Pierre Gasly12-2Daniil Kvyat
Charles Leclerc11-3Sebastian Vettel
Lewis Hamilton10-4Valtteri Bottas
Sergio Perez8-3Lance Stroll
Kimi Raikkonen8-6Antonio Giovinazzi
Lando Norris7-7Carlos Sainz Jnr
Romain Grosjean7-6Kevin Magnussen
Sergio Perez1-0Nico Hulkenberg
Lance Stroll1-1Nico Hulkenberg

The data above is based on qualifying lap times alone, ignoring penalties and excluding sessions where either driver failed to set a time for whatever reason.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “The three undecided qualifying battles and two drivers aiming for perfect scores”

  1. George Russel yes. Expecting him to take over Bottas’ seat soon.

    1. Not sure how that would benefit Mercedes.

      1. Agreed, Bottas is ideal for the team, generally very close to Hamilton but consistently slightly off. That’s the best scenario a top team can hope for, even though it does make the sport more boring for fans. I have a feeling Hamilton will leave Mercedes before Bottas does, then Bottas will probably win 1 championship when he’s paired with a less experienced young talent like Russell.

        1. I think that Mercedes would want to bring in Russell before Hamilton leaves, even if its just a year similar to Schumacher with Massa in 2006. Though I do have a suspicion that Merc will sign Hamilton until the end of 2023 or 24 and then try and lure Verstappen or even Leclerc or Norris to replace him. I think Bottas is good don’t get me wrong but I don’t think he’s quite good enough to be top dog at Mercedes up against a full strength Verstappen, Leclerc, Ricciardo, etc.

      2. You’re right, it doesn’t, but it really does depend on what their long term plan is.

        Bottas isn’t the future of Mercedes, never has been and never will be. As Gary Anderson says, he’s in the same league as Irvine and Barrichello, never going to amount to any serious threats.

        Lewis will leave at some point, and if Mercedes choose not continue beyond that point, then yes, status quo is best. However, if their long term plan is to stay in F1, then they should look to move Russell in toward the end of Lewis’ new deal.

    2. Bottas is the ideal wingman. Mercedes has routinely given him poor strategy to disrupt the Ferraris or Red Bull, told him to hold station against Hamilton, or simply stripped him of a win and handed it to Hamilton — all with little to no complaint.

  2. Surprised it’s not more equal in most teams, but again a close one between Sainz and Norris

  3. I expect few people would have expected the Renault battle to be quite so one sided. Daniel is great but I would have thought Ocon might have edged it 3 or 4 times by now.

    Or the Ferrari comparison either, from where we stood at the start of the season.

    1. Ferrari was clearly going to happen imho not unexpected

  4. Lance vs Hulk also undecided yet

    1. And perez vs. hulk…

  5. The Norris and Sainz battle has been great to watch since last season. There qualifying battles are intense and so are their race performances. I thought Norris was a little unlucky with reliability last year, which is why the points total was skewed in Carlos’ favour.. but this season it’s pretty much even Steven.

    Personally, I rate Norris higher than Sainz. To match an experienced and consistent performer like Sainz in your rookie season is quite an incredible feat. The kid is still young.. and within a couple of seasons, I can see him develop in to a driver worthy of a seat in a front running team.

    1. I don’t rate Sainz. I don’t think he’s any better than someone like Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Perez. I think Leclerc smashes him next year.

      1. Indeed, I fully agree with you. I like Sainz but think he’s going to find himself in a very difficult position next year.

  6. Since it is so popular to clownesque F1 these days, I will give it a go too: Maybe these Saturday scores should have consequences. In co-operation with F2 one could degrade drivers with a score less than 5 in quali battles vs their team mate. So, no seat for you next year. Then swap them with the top performers from F2 (if the team has any, otherwise they have to recruit). Would mean not seeing back Latifi, Albon, Kvyat, Ocon & Vettel. Seems fair based on their overall score and performance this season. Although Vettel may get an exception as former WDC (to not p off too many people)

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