Who Deserves the Chop? 2020 Edition
There are more heads rolling here than in an episode of Game of Thrones.
2020 has proven to be challenging in a variety of different and unpleasant ways. But despite all this, in the world of F1, you're still only as good as your last Grand Prix and for this list of drivers from the 2020 grid, I think it's time they stepped aside for some new and exciting driver lineups to emerge in 2021 and beyond. So who's on the list? Let's start off with a big and possibly controversial choice.
1. Valtteri Bottas
Photo Credit: Mercedes Media Database
I'd like to start this part off by saying that professionally speaking, Bottas is an exceptional driver. Not including the British Grand Prix, he's finished in the top five for every Grand Prix so far this year. Since joining Mercedes back in 2017 though, he's only won eight races. Whilst this is good for both Hamilton and Mercedes in terms of the Driver's and Constructor's Championships, Bottas is not doing anywhere near enough to challenge Hamilton from race to race and take the fight to him for the World Championship. Some may find it harsh that I've stuck Bottas on this list but after four years with the team - and a fifth contracted to commence in 2021 - Bottas hasn't really set the world of F1 alive quite as much as fans would hope. And it's from a fan perspective that I'm coming from. The only driver recently to consistently take on and beat Hamilton is Verstappen, not Bottas and there's a big problem with that. If Mercedes wanted to ensure their dominance for longer and stop the likes of Verstappen, replacing Bottas with someone like George Russell wouldn't be a bad idea. Many drivers in Formula 1 never get the chance to race for a top team and after four years with them, Bottas is under-performing for many. Maybe it's time he went somewhere else and fought for race wins and Championships from there. I don't think he should leave F1 just yet but I do think Mercedes should have replaced him.
2. Sebastian Vettel
Doesn't he look tired these days?
Another big name here but I doubt it's one that surprises you by being on this list. As I myself, and others, have said previously, Vettel hasn't really seemed himself since way back at the German Grand Prix in 2018 where he took himself out of the lead of his home Grand Prix. Sure, he later went on to win in Singapore in 2019 (his last race win to date) but you could put that down to Ferrari messing up Leclerc's strategy that day rather than Vettel's overall performance. And not to mention that race was over a year after his previous win. Ferrari haven't been on the ball this year either which is a big contributor but Vettel's performance throughout a race weekend just hasn't been anywhere near where we would expect it to be for a four time World Champion.
Ferrari also fired him earlier this year before the season even began, replacing him with Carlos Sainz Jr for 2021. According to Vettel, there weren't even any talks about negotiating a fresh contract which shows that the once loved up relationship between him and team is now in the middle of a messy divorce. Furthermore, Ferrari's strategy calls this season and last have been questionable at best with Vettel voicing his opinions on them over team radio during races. All of this has led to the Ferrari driver really losing his way and after fourteen years in the sport, maybe it's time for Vettel to bow out from F1 altogether.
But then came the announcement that he would be replacing Sergio Perez at Aston Martin (currently Racing Point) for 2021. Given that the cars next year will be pretty much the same as this year with some minor tweaks, this gives Vettel a competitive car and a shot at redemption. He's signed with the team for "multiple years" but if he can't get himself at least onto the bottom step of the podium next year, then I might just be proven right that he should have quit whilst he was still behind.
3. Daniil Kvyat
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool.
Kvyat came back to Formula 1 in 2019 after being let go by Red Bull/Toro Rosso ahead of the 2018 season. Since his return, he's shown to be a more level headed driver than he was before and was able to capitalise beautifully on the chaos of the German Grand Prix last year where he finished third. But despite this, his highest finishing position in a Grand Prix since then is a seventh place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2019. Moreover, when Gasly was demoted back to Toro Rosso, it was his rookie teammate Alex Albon who got the call up to Red Bull, not him. Now with Gasly back in the team and more determined to prove himself than ever, Kvyat has been left for dust and currently sits down in fourteenth place in the driver's standings whilst Gasly is up in tenth.
To add insult to injury, Nico Hulkenberg - who has only competed in one Grand Prix this year as he sat in for Sergio Perez - was able to obtain more Championship points than Kvyat has over the entire season so far until last time out at Mugello when Kvyat was one of the few drivers to finish. That's got to hurt a bit. What's more, Gasly has proven that the car is capable of winning races - as he proved when he stormed to victory in Monza a couple of weeks ago which made quite the spectacle. That day, Kvyat finished twenty-two seconds behind him in ninth.
Finally, with up and coming Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda proving himself rather well in Formula 2, it seems more than likely that he'll be gunning for a seat at Alpha Tauri next year. With Gasly performing as well as he is, Tsunoda would be going for Kvyat's seat. And this season, Kvyat simply hasn't done enough to earn a seat with the team for next year. Whether he leaves F1 or joins another team is up to the racing gods but I don't think he should get to stay at Alpha Tauri next year, especially with how Red Bull/Alpha Tauri value their young driver's program and their relationship with Honda. F1 is about having the best of the best compete against each other. And if you can't cut the mustard then you'll be replaced.
4. Kevin Magnussen
Photo Credit: Haas F1 Team
K-Mag is a solid driver - the trouble is, he's with a team that doesn't let him show his potential. We all know that given the chance, he likes to get his elbows out when fighting during a race and that he's a fierce racer. 2020 hasn't gone too well for him - but his possible saving grace is that he has scored Haas' one and only Championship point so far this season at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He's had five retirements this year though and regardless of their reasons, that never helps your case for convincing people to keep you in their team. Haas have committed to a future in Formula 1 but if they hope to succeed in the near future, they have to make some changes. They've tried being consistent across the board for the last couple of years but it just hasn't worked out for them. Perhaps a driver change is in order. K-Mag could try and find a seat somewhere else but Haas could benefit from either a different experienced driver replacing him *cough* Nico Hulkenberg *cough* or a fresh young driver straight out of Formula 2 (current rumours point at Mick Schumacher or another Ferrari Academy Driver) who's dedicated to taking on the difficult challenge of lifting Haas up in Formula 1. Either way, K-Mag should probably make way for someone else. It's nothing personal, just how F1 works.
5. Romain Grosjean
Photo Credit: Haas F1 Team
How Grosjean managed to get his contract renewed with Haas for the 2020 season is simply beyond me. Since 2018, he's finished considerably further down the Championship than K-Mag, has kept making rookie mistakes (including taking his own teammate out at the beginning of a race) and so far has only got as high up in a race as twelfth - and that was at the insane Italian Grand Prix where everything was out of the ordinary. Haas must realise that keeping him for another year would be a colossal mistake - many of you reading this now may have voted in my poll last year where 5.4% of people said Grosjean should stay instead of K-Mag. The same poll showed that 57.3% of people would have K-Mag stay not Grosjean. I then conducted the same poll this year the other week and this time, only 41.8% of people favour K-Mag over Grosjean but 3.7% of people favour Grosejan over K-Mag. Moreover, a whopping 51.7% of people said that Haas should just get a brand new driver lineup. Listen to the fans Haas, it'll probably do you some favours.
And yet, Grosjean's still here. Why? How? What for? Haas should take on the same approach with replacing him as they would if they replaced K-Mag; either get in another experienced driver or a fresh faced Formula 2 Graduate. Haas also have a great opportunity which they should capitalise on soon. Formula 3 currently has a rising star in American driver Logan Sargeant. With Haas being an American team, it could be really beneficial for them to have an American driver in their team in the near future. So replace Grosjean with a young talent now, develop them for a couple of years and then bring Sargeant into the team. It couldn't hurt to go down this road. It's a lot better than going against Einstein's saying: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." As amusing as it is to watch Steiner shout at him on Drive to Survive, get rid of Grosjean.
6. Kimi Räikkönen
Now I know this is blasphemy but logically speaking, the Kimi Era should come to an end after this season. He's been in Formula 1 for about two thousand years now and as much as we all love him, the Alfa Romeo team hasn't been able to provide him with much competitiveness for the last couple of years. We know he's still an excellent driver, his win with Ferrari back in Austin in 2018 is proof of this but since then, he's just been trundling down around at the back. I know I loved seeing him up in second place at the Italian Grand Prix briefly but he wasn't able to stay there for long. It would be more of a mercy killing this one because we all love Kimi but we want to see him doing well. But replacing him with someone like Mick Schumacher or Robert Shwarztman would be the logical thing to do for 2021. That way, it frees Kimi up to come back to Formula 1 as a commentator - and we all know we secretly want that.
1. Lance Stroll - whilst he has been doing better this year, I'm still not convinced he deserves a spot in Formula 1 over other drivers. If it wasn't for papa Stroll buying Force India and he'd gotten to where he is now purely on merit, I might have a different opinion. But he didn't and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Perez should be at Aston Martin next year, not him. Fight me about it in the comments.
2. Esteban Ocon - Another possibly controversial name for this list but the Frenchman's comeback hasn't been quite as good as we were all hoping for so far. Another victim of Lawrence Stroll buying Force India, he had to sit out the 2019 season unfortunately and upon his return, teammate Ricciardo has out shined him. But, he's contracted to race with Alpine next year (rebranded Renault) so he'll get another chance to prove himself then and hopefully he'll be back up to form by then. If not, maybe he'll be on next year's edition of this article. Zhou from Formula 2 would be a suitable replacement in case anyone was curious.
3. Antonio Giovinazzi - in his second F1 season, Giovinazzi had a best finish of ninth place in the opening race of the season in Austria and has been beating Kimi so far overall. But again, with strong young drivers rising up through Formula 2, his seat has to be in a bit of danger for next year. And unless he can find a way to improve soon, he may find himself unceremoniously removed from the team. Robert Shwartzman could fill his seat if he wins the Formula 2 Championship.
4. Nicholas Latifi - another paid driver who came in to help Williams with their financial troubles - that clearly worked - Latifi has been beaten 9-0 so far in qualifying by Russell and has only finished ahead of him in a single race so far this year. It might be a little cruel to fire a rookie but when Jamie Chadwick is waiting in the wings to prove herself and make history in Formula 1, it might be best to cut your losses now. Latifi could move to Haas or Alfa Romeo if possible but if he doesn't improve next year (he's contracted for another year with Williams) then he just might get a proper billing on this list next year.
5. Ferrari Strategists - I'm not entirely convinced they have any aside from Vettel so maybe hire some. Seems like a good thing to do.
What do you think about my list? Too harsh in places or not harsh enough? Let me know in the comments below.