After reigning champion Scott McLaughlin announced a move to IndyCar, 2021 will see a new winner crowned in the championship for the first time since 2018.
Thanks to both Formula One and Supercars overcoming significant logistical challenges in 2020, the two championships delivered some great racing in this challenging year.
Here’s the season-ending highlights reel – 20 moments in no particular order.
1. 13 drivers on the Formula One podium, all with their own stories
The top dogs were the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas once again, but Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez also rose to the top step. Also tasting champagne were – take a deep breath – Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, and Esteban Ocon.
2. 14 drivers on the Supercars podium
As the championship adopted a sprint race format due to COVID, Nick Percat, Jack Le Brocq, and Anton de Pasquale were surprise victors, while the usual suspects at Red Bull Holden and DJR Team Penske regularly took home the win. Cameron Waters got his first solo win in Supercars and – another deep breath – Lee Holdsworth, Scott Pye, James Courtney, Andre Heimgartner, Todd Hazelwood, and Bryce Fullwood also made appearances.
3. The first Townsville SuperSprint
With 12 races to go before the Bathurst 1000, Scott McLaughlin was seeking to build up a 300-point margin over his championship rival, Jamie Whincup, so that the championship was wrapped up before the Great Race. It looked like a tough ask, but McLaughlin pulled it off, securing a three-peat of titles in the penultimate race of the season at the Bend Motorsport Park in September.
4. Blogging Formula One testing for the first time in February
And seeing Mercedes pull dual-axis steering – or DAS – out of the bag.
5. Pierre Gasly’s Italian Grand Prix victory
It may have been dictated by serendipity through a penalty for Lewis Hamilton, but it was well-deserved nonetheless, keeping Carlos Sainz at bay in the latter stages of the race. The timing was also perfect, coming just over a year after Gasly’s demotion from Red Bull.
6. Sergio Perez’s victory
Last at the end of the first lap of the Sakhir Grand Prix, the Mexican fought back to take the chequered flag. His 190th race yielded his first victory, providing yet more evidence of why he deserves a place on the grid next season.
7. Lewis Hamilton’s seventh world title
Perhaps his most dominant, the Briton is now statistically the greatest Formula One driver of all time. Subjectively, some will think he’s the GOAT, others won’t. Either way, what we saw this season was true greatness and a win at the Turkish Grand Prix showed he could do so even when Mercedes were on the back foot.
8. The number 8 Toyota LMP1 car in the World Endurance Championship
Completed a hat-trick of victories at Le Mans this year, with former Formula One drivers Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel.
9. Scott McLaughlin’s IndyCar debut
It was no secret McLaughlin didn’t want to stay in Supercars forever, with a move Stateside pending for most of this year. He finally made his IndyCar debut in October, on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida. Despite crashing on one of many restarts, nothing could dampen McLaughlin’s excitement and he will be looking forward to a full-time campaign in 2021.
10. Nico Hulkenberg’s call-up
Despite stringent bio-secure measures, COVID still penetrated the F1 bubble, with Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, and Lewis Hamilton testing positive. Nico Hulkenberg went from having a coffee in Cologne to driving for Racing Point in a matter of hours, and impressed in both his super-sub stints at Silverstone and the Nürburgring.
11. George Russell’s first points
Hamilton’s isolation meant George Russell was given the opportunity to drive for a top team at the Sakhir Grand Prix. It was a rollercoaster evening, getting the jump on his teammate for the weekend, Valtteri Bottas, and settling into a comfortable lead, before a muddled radio call and a late puncture put paid to Russell’s chances of winning, which had been looking favourable. Russell did get his first points in Formula One though and proved just what a talent he is.
12. Max Verstappen’s long-awaited pole
A pole for Max Verstappen and Red Bull at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ended their season on a high, having come so close to grabbing it at the Eifel, Turkish, and Sakhir Grands Prix.
13. Shane Van Gisbergen is (finally) king of the mountain
Shane Van Gisbergen couldn’t catch a break in the first half of the season. It all ended in glory though at the Bathurst 1000, a race which Van Gisbergen had narrowly missed out on victory in twice before. This time though, a charge in damp conditions got him into a lead that he and co-driver Garth Tander held for the remainder of the race.
14. Bathurst dogfight
The late two hours or so of the Bathurst 1000 saw a brilliant dogfight between Van Gisbergen and Cameron Waters. Waters’ cool suit was failing and Van Gisbergen kept pumping out fastest laps to the finish. You couldn’t have asked for a better fight for the greatest race in Australian motorsport.
15. Waters’ well-deserved second place
Cameron Waters knew his Tickford Racing car had to pace to finish on the podium, but he didn’t have the results to show for it. Then, he gave Scott McLaughlin a run for his money in Townsville, before finishing the season with a string of four podiums from the last four races, including a win in race 30 at the Bend, helping him to take second place in the championship.
16. Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix on three wheels
It was remarkable stuff.
17. The shoey returned to the podium
Daniel Ricciardo got two third-place finishes at the Nürburgring and Imola.
18. A Stroll pole!
Lance Stroll may not get a lot of praise from me but the young Canadian conquering the tricky conditions faced at Istanbul Park on a cold, wet November afternoon means he deserves all the plaudits he received for that performance.
19. New tracks
They say variety is the spice of life and racing on tracks that Formula One had either never been to or hadn’t visited in a while certainly brought some added interest. The TBA slot for the weekend of April 25 next year could be filled by one of those new and returning tracks.
20. The sacrifices of the Victorian-based Supercars teams must not be forgotten
They were on the road for more than 100 days, after fleeing the state when restrictions were tightened in July, and kept the show going. Some teams were beginning to run out of parts at one stage, but hard graft was rewarded by good results out on track, which helped ease the pain of months spent away from home. Similar sacrifices were made in Formula One, and we can only hope that the situation is a little brighter for everyone in 2021.
And it’s lights out and away I go (apologies for the pun).
A quick note to finish. This is my last motorsport article for The Roar for the foreseeable future as I focus on other projects in 2021. However, one of those projects is over in the cricket section of this very website, so I won’t be going too far away.
Thanks to the editors and everyone behind the scenes at The Roar for all their support, and thanks to the Roarers for reading and engaging with these articles over the past two years.
Have a restful Christmas break and hopefully a much better year in 2021 than the one we had in 2020.