The 2020 Formula One campaign will begin in Austria in the first week of July where Max Verstappen will aim to continue his recent dominance at the Red Bull Ring.
Verstappen has won back-to-back races in Austria, edging out Charles Leclerc last season with a fine performance. In the previous campaign, the Dutchman defeated Kimi Raikkonen to notch his first victory on the track. The 22-year-old will be hopeful of recording his third win on the bounce in the 2020 opener where he is backed in the F1 betting odds at 9/4 to triumph.
Verstappen has been touted as the next leading driver in the sport, but has seen his attempts to make a surge towards the Drivers' Championship impeded by the excellence of Lewis Hamilton. He has shared an attribute with the Brit during the early stages of his career - both drivers are slow-starters in terms of recording wins in the opening races of the campaign.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) June 2, 2020
Hamilton has only won the first race of a season twice in his illustrious career – the last of which came in 2015 in Australia. However, his greatness in the back end of campaigns has allowed him not only to win the Drivers' Championship five out of the last six seasons – but to lift the titles in a comfortable fashion.
Verstappen has like Hamilton improved over the course of seasons. He has not recorded any of his seven victories before week nine of the term – both of which came in Austria. It suggests that he has required time behind the wheel of his Red Bull to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his vehicle compared to his rivals. The fault could also be with Red Bull for failing to match the performance of the other teams out of the gate. Whoever is at fault, it has to end in 2020.
There is a unique opportunity for Verstappen and Red Bull to break Mercedes and Hamilton's stranglehold on the Constructors and Drivers' Championships. The opening two races of the term will be held at the Red Bull Ring in the Austrian and Steiermark Grands Prix, handing the Dutchman a huge chance to put the pressure on Hamilton in the early stages of the campaign. The only time the Brit has failed to win the crown since 2014 was four years ago when his team-mate Nico Rosberg stole an early march on him and had enough of a lead to fend off his team-mate down the stretch.
Verstappen has the quality to achieve the feat, but a lot will rest on his ability to deliver in the opening two weeks. The Dutchman ended 2019 with three podium places in a row, although he recorded similar success in 2018 and was unable to sustain that momentum into the new term. Verstappen cannot allow that to happen in 2020. The Red Bull driver has to seize the initiative to end Hamilton's dominance and perhaps forge his own dynastic era with regulations set to be altered in the 2021 campaign. The opening two races of the term could well be career-defining for the 22-year-old.