But the most spectacular sight of the year came in Bahrain, where Romain Grosjean’s Haas exploded into flames on the first lap of the night race. Mercifully, he escaped with his life from a crash which appeared to belong to another age.
The year began with the usual pre-season launches and tests, but as the teams began to pack up for the opening race in Australia concerns over the potential impact of Covid-19 were growing.
The race that never happened. Formula 1 crossed the world to reach Melbourne for the season-opening round, but after a positive case of Covid-19 was detected, the shock decision was taken to call off the grand prix. In an astonishing turn of events, the following nine races were all cancelled or postponed, and an almost entirely new calendar arranged.
Through March, April and May when the season should have been getting underway, the engines fell silent. A factory shutdown was enforced, though many teams deployed their resources to producing equipment to fight the pandemic. They finally returned to the track in June, ahead of the belated start of the season the following month.
Our first sight of F1 racing in a pandemic came at the Red Bull Ring. Valtteri Bottas claimed first blood in the title fight with an assured win from pole position – form he struggled to replicate over the remainder of the season.
Styrian Grand Prix
Formula 1’s first ever ‘double header’ saw the teams race again on the same track the following week. Lewis Hamilton dominated a soaked qualifying session and delivered his first of 11 wins.
Hungarian Grand Prix
There was pre-race drama in Hungary as Max Verstappen crashed on his reconnaissance lap. Speedy Red Bull repair work allowed him to take the start and collect second place behind Hamilton.
British Grand Prix
At Silverstone the drama came at the end of the race – Hamilton, Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jnr all suffered late tyre failures. Hamilton limped to victory with a punctured tyre.
70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Another ‘double header’, but this time Pirelli brought softer tyres. Mercedes suffered heavy blistering and Verstappen easily passed them to win for Red Bull.
Spanish Grand Prix
Normal service resumed in Spain, where Hamilton won again, though Verstappen split the Mercedes drivers on the podium.
Belgian Grand Prix
While Mercedes collected a one-two, Renault demonstrated their improving form by completing the top five behind Verstappen.
Italian Grand Prix
Monza brought a shock result: Hamilton fell foul of the stewards, Bottas slipped back into the pack and Verstappen’s power unit failed. That opened the door for Pierre Gasly to hold off Sainz for a stunning win.
Tuscan Grand Prix
The first Formula 1 race to be held at Mugello in Tuscany saw carnage from start to finish. Verstappen was eliminated in a first-lap collision, a chaotic Safety Car restart wiped out several other drivers and a tyre failure pitched Lance Stroll hard into the barriers.
Russian Grand Prix
Bottas took a useful win in Russia as another penalty for Hamilton added intrigue to an otherwise typically processional race at Sochi.
Eifel Grand Prix
Late autumn races in Europe meant uncertain weather, which wrecked Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott’s hopes of appearing in practice at the Nurburgring. Hamilton won again after passing Bottas, who then retired with a power unit glitch.
Portuguese Grand Prix
The rolling Algarve circuit produced a lively race, thanks also partly to rain on the opening lap. Hamilton’s latest win was his 92nd, setting a new Formula 1 record.
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
For the first time in 14 years F1 returned to Imola, where memories of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger are never far away. Hamilton won at the track where his hero died in 1994.
Turkish Grand Prix
Hamilton’s seventh championship had long seemed a formality, but he won it in style at Istanbul, where the recently re-laid track surface was made treacherous by rain. Stroll took a surprise pole position on Saturday.
Bahrain Grand Prix
Grosjean’s fireball crash stunned Formula 1 and pictures of his incredible escape made headlines around the world. Astonishingly, he survived, but was left with burns which prevented him from completing his final season with Haas. Hamilton won again, while a late MGU-K fault cost Sergio Perez a podium finish.
Sakhir Grand Prix
F1 raced again at the same venue a week later but things were very different. Hamilton was absent following a positive test for Covid-19, and George Russell took his place at Mercedes. Jack Aitken was handed his F1 debut at Williams and Pietro Fittipaldi likewise for Haas in place of Grosjean. Russell could have won his first race as a Mercedes driver, but was hit by multiple tyre dramas. With Bottas also compromised and Verstappen eliminated in a first-lap crash, Perez became the second first-time winner of the year.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The season finale had none of the drama of the 16 races which preceded it, though it did produce an unexpected result. With Mercedes off form and Hamilton unwell. Verstappen took a pole-to-flag win.
2020 F1 season review
Read more of RaceFans’ 2020 Formula 1 season review: