until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

F1 is no fun for top teams’ unofficial number twos

by Matt Beer
3 min read

W Series drivers will be writing a series of columns for The Race this year, giving their verdicts on what’s going on in Formula 1.

Alice Powell is back again this week with her take on the power dynamics between team-mates at the top teams – and her hopes for Sebastian Vettel’s post-Ferrari destination.

The 2020 Spanish Grand Prix is unlikely to be remembered as an all-time-great race, but undoubtedly it was won by an all-time-great driver.

Lewis Hamilton has now stood on more Formula 1 podiums than anyone in motorsport history – 156 – but, if he is telling the truth when he says he expects to stay in F1 “for at least three more years”, and he may well be because he is only 35 and is clearly as fit as a butcher’s dog, he could clock up the double tonne by the time he is done.

In all of the top three teams, there are interesting dynamics at play. Valtteri Bottas is a quick man, particularly in qualifying, but, despite springing the occasional surprise, you just know that, across an entire season, Hamilton will always have the measure of him. We saw that yesterday. The (occasionally) flying Finn made a poor start and he never saw the (almost always) flying Brit again all afternoon.

As so often, Max Verstappen was best of the rest, driving a fine race to second, splitting the two Mercs.

Max Verstappen Alex Albon Red Bull F1 2020

I rate highly his team-mate, Alex Albon, but Red Bull Racing is a team that culturally tends to put all their eggs in one basket, and as a result, there has rarely been a number-two RBR driver who has enjoyed himself, even if he has won races.

Cynic that I am, yesterday I even caught myself wondering whether Red Bull were using Albon as Verstappen’s guinea pig, trying out hard tyres on him so as to determine whether or not to give hard tyres to Verstappen. Anyway, Max is doing a brilliant job. In fact, he is driving magnificently this season – outperforming his car if anything.

And Ferrari? Deary me. Its most senior driver, Sebastian Vettel, was once Red Bull’s blue-eyed boy, winning 39 grands prix and four consecutive world championships for them (2010-2013), and it was the relentlessness of that track record that persuaded the Scuderia to pay him a king’s ransom to join them five years ago.

I very much hope that Vettel remains in F1 next season. Specifically, I would like to see him spearheading the renaissance of the team formerly known as Jordan

He has won 13 grands prix in rosso corsa and has finished runner-up in the world championship for them twice (2017 and 2018), but he won just once last year and – unless a miracle occurs – he will not win for them again.

Like Red Bull, Ferrari is a team that likes to run an ace number-one driver backed by a loyal number-two – a modus operandi that it adopted with astonishing success in the Schumi era and which has become an indelible habit since – and Vettel does not look at all comfy playing lapdog to young Charles Leclerc. Carlos Sainz may or may not enjoy having to adopt the same ‘supporting actor’ role next year. We shall see.

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari F1 2020

Personally, I very much hope that Vettel remains in F1 next season. Specifically, I would like to see him spearheading the renaissance of the team formerly known as Jordan – which, via reincarnations as Midland, Spyker, Force India, and Racing Point, will soon become Aston Martin.

Its chassis is clearly a good one, and, as long as regulatory political wrangling does not prevent it, I expect it to be a decent one in 2021, too.

Intelligent, experienced, technical, and still very quick, Vettel would be the ideal driver around whom they could and should build their new organisation, neat and compact as it already is, already shrink-wrapped for 2022-model-year F1.

Could Vettel win grands prix for Aston Martin in 2022? Yes, he could. Plural. I hope it happens.

Alice Powell finished third in the inaugural W Series championship in 2019, winning the final race at Brands Hatch last August. The 27-year-old Briton was the first woman to win a Formula Renault championship and score points in GP3.

Alice Powell W Series 2020

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks