Pretenders to the F1 throne are eyeing the 2020 crown

Formula 1’s future seems brighter than ever with the recent announcement that Max Verstappen will remain signed with Red Bull until 2023.

The news of Verstappen’s contract renewal comes no less than two weeks after Ferrari also revealed that their own superstar youngster Charles Leclerc has renewed his own contract deal until after 2024.

Both Verstappen and Leclerc dominated headlines across last year’s title campaign, the two young guns fearlessly demonstrated their pure speed and determination to supersede even at the expense of one another.

Reminisce back to Austria and Silverstone where both drivers, appropriately dubbed ‘future world champions’, put themselves ahead of their team to produce dazzling displays of racing, fuelled by will and grit and not necessarily team nor machinery.

It is a breed of racing unseen perhaps since the emergence of a young Fernando Alonso and his dual against the legendary Michael Schumacher.

The old guard, are now under siege by the rise of the next generation.

At Williams, 2018 F2 champion George Russell frequently abolished teammate Robert Kubica, a driver who by no means a mere ‘par’ at his peak.

At Ferrari, even Sebastian Vettel publicly acknowledged how serious of a threat Leclerc is too his own idiosyncratic ambitions. Before last year’s season opener in Melbourne Sebastian labelled his new teammate as a “full rival, expecting he will put a lot of pressure on me this season. He is very talented.”

The German predicted it right as Leclerc beat him in the championship standings.

Both Verstappen and Leclerc have the additional advantage to being young by also finding themselves racing in top tier teams. While Ferrari can never be fully written off, Honda have risen significantly to the challenge of developing a reliable, yet effective, power unit package for Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Towards the later stages of 2019 many were even citing Honda to be on par with both their Mercedes and Ferrari rivals. The signing of Max to post 2023 is a sure signal that the Japanese auto-giant is on board too.

Next year, F1 is undergoing substantial regulations revamp of aerodynamic regulations ahead, with the implementation of a cost cap, along with numerous bodywork tweaks designed to narrow the deficit between the top teams and the backmarkers.

The predicted result for fans is obviously closer racing, while for drivers it means that the balance between machinery and talent becomes fairer. F1 rule-makers aim to make it so no longer will one driver run away with a title purely because they have the best car.

Rather, individual talent and determination to win will have a far more significant impact they claim. Thus, uprise the young guns. Fearless in their pursuit of glory as they proved on several occasions last year, it is clear experience matters little when it comes to wheel-to-wheel combat.

Lando Norris’ move around the outside of Pierre Gasly in Bahrain last year is testament to that. It is only a year prior at the same venue when Bottas failed to pass Vettel on the final lap with a dive at turn one, demonstrative perhaps of a lack of courage and audacity of youth.

By the time both Max’s and Charles’ latest contract deals near expiration, Lewis and Sebastian will be on the verge of 40, while the experienced Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas will both be in their late 30s.

Last season the next-generation made their presence felt in F1, this year the pretenders to the throne are seriously eyeing the crown and, with the right package, it would be foolish to bet against either of them claiming it.

To quote Martin Brundle, this new wave has “golden era” written all over it.


Camilleri: There will be significant extra budget next year

Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri speaking to media lunch at Maranello last week confirmed that the evolution to the 2021 Formula 1 regulation comes at a high price and thus his team will be afforded extra resources for the new era.

Seated alongside team principal Mattia Binotto, Camilleri said that a bumper financial year for the sportscar manufacturer, including the launch of the SF90 Stradale hybrid, had led to “a lot of smiling faces” at Maranello.

Integral to that is the F1 team, he explained, “We are one company and the car business funds Mattia’s business. We’re also prepared to invest and luckily the car business can support those investments, not only in terms of people but also in terms of infrastructure.”

Binotto added “Yes, it will be significantly more expensive. The budget we’ve got available is the one that’s needed. Certainly, the number of projects in parallel are significantly more compared to the past.

“We all started very early on the 2021 car. So yes, there will be significant extra budget next year, not only about money but resources – extra people would be required to run the programs. I think it’s got to be a situation to be managed right now.”

This is exactly what midfield teams did not want to hear, as the extra funding available to Ferrari and of course Mercedes, as well as the Red Bull-Honda partnership, will dwarf what The Rest can bring to the table.

The ‘damage’ is being done right now as 2021 cars are already well into the early stages of production, rendering the $175-million budget cap for the new era almost irrelevant as big money is already being spent.

With regards to Biniotto’s first year in charge of the sport’s most famous team, Camilleri said, “We need patience, we need stability and serenity.

“If you look back in the history of F1, where teams have done very well, be it McLaren, Ferrari in the good old days, Red Bull or today Mercedes, there is one common thread, which was that there was a lot of stability within the team.

“They learned to work very closely together. That is something we are very focused on. Mattia has been spending a lot of time to ensure that we have a cohesive, united team,” added Camilleri.