It wasn’t that long ago we were really spoiled in Formula 1. In 2012, the grid had no fewer than six world champions boasting a combined 14 titles.
But the strength of the grid is not dependent on what has gone before, it is as much about the potential of what those racing right now can achieve in the future.
To that end, it’s an incredibly exciting line-up for 2020.
Alongside the world champions of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, and established victors Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, there are now multiple race-winners in Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Their battles on track during the past season were often breathtaking, with Austria and Silverstone just two examples of brilliant racing between the pair.
And they have been joined by a group of rookies who all look capable of mixing it with them given the right machinery.
Alex Albon excelled to gain himself a Red Bull seat and was right in the fight in Brazil, while Lando Norris aided the McLaren resurgence, and George Russell’s stock continues to rise despite the difficult year Williams had.
For Norris and Russell it’s up to their teams to give them better opportunities to fight at the front, but all the signs are for plenty more battles between Verstappen and Leclerc, and Albon has his sights set on joining the party.
Only the two Mercedes drivers finished ahead of Max Verstappen in 2019 standings. So can the Red Bull man overhaul the Silver Arrows next season? Verstappen says the foundations are there – and a good start to their campaign will be crucial.
Red Bull have something of a reputation for starting seasons slowly and then coming on (very) strong in the latter stages – and 2019 was little different.
Verstappen took three wins, but the first didn’t come until round nine in Austria – by which time Mercedes had eight victories in the bag.
Verstappen’s 2020 expectations
“It’s been very promising and I think also we had some good results,” said Verstappen of Red Bull’s first season with Honda power – one which saw him take his maiden F1 pole position and amass a career-best season tally of 278 championship points.
“For me, what was more important was reliability. That has been very strong throughout the whole year and also the progression we made with the engine itself. That has all been going really well.”
“I think it is a good, let’s say, basis for next year as well. We learned a lot throughout the whole year and I feel confident that we can have a positive start to next season.
Verstappen’s 2019 stats ended up including those three wins, a second pole position, a total of nine podiums, plus three fastest laps. The Dutchman also scooped the fan-voted Driver of the Day Award 2019 on seven occasions.
Asked at the Abu Dhabi finale about his expectations for 2020, Verstappen was blunt and to the point: “Well, I hope we can fight for the title. That’s it.” He also agreed that Red Bull have what is closer to a championship-winning car than ever before during his time with the team.
“Yeah, I think we do, also looking at the plans for next year. But, of course, you still have to wait and see what the others come up with. But we are of course… we want to fight for the title, so we’re going to give it everything we have to be competitive from the start next year,” he added.
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