Max Verstappen must be licking his lips at the opportunity to really take the fight to Lewis Hamilton this season, especially as Mercedes do not have both eyes on the prize. The Silver Arrows have dominated the World Championship for the last seven years but their stronghold on F1 may be about the change.
Hamilton has run away with the last two Drivers’ Championships with Valtteri Bottas his closest contender.
Outside of the Silver Arrows, Red Bull’s Verstappen has been leading the assault.
But the 23-year-old has never finished within 100 points of Hamilton and his title hopes have always faded in the first half of the campaign.
However, this year could be very different as Mercedes are not fully focussed on trying to defend their crown.
F1 are set to implement huge regulation changes from 2022 so the Brackley-based team and putting lots of their resources into trying to stay ahead for years to come.
Mercedes technical director James Allison admitted that his side have one eye on next season.
“The season hasn’t even begun yet, no car is even launched, no-one has turned a wheel and yet we’re already starting to think very seriously about 2022,” Allison told the Mercedes website.
“Next year brings a complete revolution in the technical regulations of the car.
“The sort of things we have seen racing for the last few seasons will be dead and gone at the end of this year, replaced instead by a new generation of car which has a completely different technical objective – to try and make the racing closer, by making the lead car damage the performance of the trailing car less.
“This change is so large and the cars so different that we will have to spend a large part of our technical resource during 2021 in order to make sure we are ready, with a good car that can then see us in decent shape for the years that follow in 2022 and beyond.
“So we are busy doing that, in a world where we are cost-capped, where we haven’t yet started racing in 2021 and where we have to manage our total resource so we can have an effective campaign in 2021, while also building for the future and this exciting new set of 2022 regulations.”
If Red Bull continue to close the gap like they have over the last few seasons then it could hand Verstappen his biggest chance yet to dethrone Hamilton.
Verstappen has never really had a team-mate capable of helping him split up the Mercedes pair.
But he has been joined by Sergio Perez and now they can really dream of causing an upset – especially while the leaders are looking elsewhere.