As far as F1 is concerned, even the most ardent fans are uncomfortable with the monopoly that Mercedes-Benz has had on the World Championship since 2014 and with each year that passes, the Silver Arrow only seems to strengthen its position at the very top. With Lewis Hamilton once again being paired with Valtteri Bottas, they will be many punters favourites to win the constructors crown, while hardly anyone is looking past the defending Driver’s champion adding a fourth successive title. If Hamilton is to achieve this feat, it would also mean a total of seven championships and this would subsequently equal the efforts of Michael Schumacher for Benetton and Ferrari between 1994 and 2004.
However, could this be the year in which the status quo is finally disrupted and if this is to be the long-overdue case, could there be Dutch delight as far as the precocious talent of Max Verstappen is concerned. Red Bull superstar Max Verstappen has been installed as the +350 second-favourite and after impressing last season, you can understand why he has taken up such a position in this year’s outright market. Many have suggested that the 22-year-old is not short on talent, but perhaps he is not short on bad temperament either and if a cooler head can prevail more often, he could offer more of a serious threat to the Mercedes team.
Of course, it is not just talent that wins you races, you also require a car to go with it and although Red Bull has had to make do with either the second or third step on the constructors’ podium in recent times, there is an ever-growing sense this 2020 could be their year. While even if it does not turn out to be, there will at least be relieved that the green flag will be waved and with the coronavirus pandemic threatening to shut down the whole of this year’s schedule, thankfully the show will eventually go on.
While although Verstappen and his Red Bull team may have far fewer races to deal with this year, they do make two stops to their home ground and with the Dutchman winning the Austrian Grand Prix in a rather impressive fashion last year, he will be confident of repeating that feat twice over
With that said, the show will look much more different than planned and with Verstappen already having to deal with the disappointment of not being able to race at the Dutch Grand Prix this year, a further trio of races has subsequently been cancelled. The Asian leg of the 2020 calendar was always going to be at risk and any cross-continent travel was arguably the biggest challenge that the owners of F1 (Liberty Global) would have to contend with over the next few months. Therefore, although losing more potential race weekends is a big blow, the news that both the Japanese and Singapore Grand Prix’s have also fallen by the wayside, will not be of that big a surprise to the motorsport community.
In addition to this, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has also had to be scrapped and although the issue of travel was not as prevalent, with the Baku racetrack being a street circuit, it would have been impossible to configure in time for any rescheduled 2020 date. While although Verstappen and his Red Bull team may have far fewer races to deal with this year, they do make two stops to their home ground and with the Dutchman winning the Austrian Grand Prix in a rather impressive fashion last year, he will be confident of repeating that feat twice over. That’s not to say the win was not without its controversy either and with Charles Leclerc getting squeezed out during the key overtaking manoeuvre of the race, it needed clearance from the stewards before victory was rubber-stamped.
While it was not just this controversial racing incident, which caught the attention of race going fans both at home and in attendance, it was the way in which Verstappen charged up through the field in the early portion of the race. After getting bogged down at the start from second on the grid, the son of Jos Verstappen left himself with an almighty amount of work to do and on the opening laps, it looked as if this particular race was one that was already run. Which may have been the case for someone with lesser talent and after working his way back up from eighth place on the opening lap, he would land what he considers one of the sweetest wins of his professional career.
That afternoon was Verstappen’s talents in a microcosm and if more of that is on display within a curtailed 2020 schedule, there is no reason why Lewis Hamilton can not be given his most arduous test in years and if this is the case, we could be in for a highly entertaining championship duel.