Max Verstappen has dismissed talk of him gunning for a hat-trick of wins at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix and defiantly claimed he is more focused on a potential assault on the world championship.
The Red Bull Ring plays host to the opening round of the FIA Formula 1 2020 World Championship this weekend to bring an end to the protected delay to the start of the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Having won at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s home circuit on the previous two occasions F1 has visited, Verstappen is going for a third successive win but the Dutchman has been quick to quash any speculation on the matter and insists he remains fixated on clinching his maiden title.
“I would prefer to win a championship!” exclaimed the Dutchman. “I don’t really think about a hat-trick, the most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and perform at my best“
Verstappen won in Austria a year ago in spectacular fashion, recovering from a horrific start to claw his way past three cars in the closing laps to cap off a memorable first win of the season.
Despite the form book siding their way, Verstappen expects a stern test from his rivals.
“I never consider myself the favourite because actually when you look at the track it’s not even our best track, but last year, of course, it was very warm. We were really good with keeping the engine cooling down.
“So I don’t expect an easy win, I think Mercedes again will be very strong.
“Who knows where Ferrari will be as well, so no, it will be a very hard and tough battle again to win that race, but we’re going to try”, the 22-year-old added.
“Mercedes are still the ones to beat”
Last season marked Verstappen’s strongest in the sport to date as he notched three victories and eight podiums on his way to a career-high third-place finish in the Drivers’ standings.
However, Mercedes once again ran away with both championships for the sixth consecutive season and the Red Bull driver is under no illusion that they remain the team to beat.
“One thing I know for sure is that we will do everything we can to fight for it”, Verstappen said when quizzed on whether 2020 marks the first real chance he will have to battle for a title.
“Mercedes are still the ones to beat, because they have been the dominant team for so long now.
“They are still very strong and will be hard to beat but as a team, we learnt a lot over the last year and I really think we are stronger“, he stated.
“We’ve got some good races coming up this season so I will, of course, try to close that gap and hopefully we can make it difficult for them, it will be a good challenge to try and beat them.”
“Honda are very motivated”
After a hugely successful first year powered by Honda, the partnership is anticipating another step forward in 2020 and the Japanese manufacturer has reportedly been putting in the hours to bridge the deficit.
“Honda for sure worked very hard over the winter again and it all looked very solid at testing in Barcelona.
“Our top speed looked decent, so I’m very happy with the work that has been done”, Verstappen exclaimed.
“Honda are very motivated and want to fight for the title like we do.”