Formula One

Can Max Verstappen Beat Mercedes in 2020?

Max Verstappen. Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen (22) is considered to be one of the few drivers this season who could put an end of Mercedes’ six-year-long reign. After all, one has to go back to 2013 if they wanted to name the last non-Merc driver who has won the championship – Sebastian Vettel with Red Bull. Yet, the more 2020 season progresses, the slimmer anyone’s chances appear to get. Nevertheless, Max has shown determination and perseverance so far in the season. However, will this be enough for the young Dutch driver to pick up the crown in December? It is rather complicated.

When we look at the current championship standings, we can spot Max in 3rd at the moment, right behind Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Here are the top 6, as of July 28, 2020:

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 63
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 58
  3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 33
  4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 26
  5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) – 22
  6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 22

Currently, there are 10 races remaining in this season, with hopes that at least two or three more will be added later on. Mathematically, any of the drivers on the grid could become a champion in 2020 if they were to win every single remaining Grand Prix. So, for that measure, yes, Max Verstappen could win the championship (and so could any of the drivers who are yet to score a single point). On a more realistic note, things are not that simple. Mercedes will not simply just stop dominating for the sake of giving other teams more ground. Let’s look at some stats:

Verstappen retired in the first race of 2020, while Valtteri Bottas won and Lewis Hamilton finished 4th. Not a great start for Red Bull, as Alex Albon also had to retire after the collision with Lewis. Moving on, Max got on the podium with the third place in Styria, following another podium – a second place in Hungary. Yet, every time he was on the podium, everyone else there was Mercedes. Granted, Max defeated Bottas in Hungary with a better pitstop strategy, and managed to hold on to P2 for the finish. However, has he been able to challenge the lead so far? No, not even close. He finished some 33.6 seconds behind Lewis in Styria and 8.7 seconds behind him in Hungary. The gap on the Hungaroring could have been significantly more, if Hamilton decided to skip the late pitstop for going after the fastest lap. Ultimately, Mercedes seem to be racing in a whole different category. A category, which others might not get into anytime soon.

Max, too, must be in his own category. He consistently manages to finish ahead of his teammate Albon. The largest gap between them came in Hungary, where Alex finished in P5… 70 seconds behind Verstappen. The car seems to better fit his driving style, which allows him to stay ahead of the rest of the grid. He somehow manages to squeeze out 100+% of his Red Bull’s potential, and we can be certain that Max is on his way to winning Grands Prix this season. Combining that with consistent podium finishes, the Dutch driver might be the sport’s “only hope” for spicing up the 2020 season championship battle. However, the Red Bull team would definitely have to develop and introduce some major upgrades before too many races go by with the current car.

In this case, Max Verstappen’s talent simply would not be enough. Mercedes’ technological advantage is once again more than evident, and as the 2020 season progresses, we can only expect further improvement in Lewis’ and Valtteri’s performance. Fortunately for Max and Red Bull, mid-season car upgrades are completely within the rule book. Drivers and engineers combined contribute to their team’s success. The driver can only do so much. And Max is doing it.

Remember to tune for the upcoming British Grand Prix weekend (July 31 – August 2).

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