Mercedes technical director James Allison expects strong competition from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in 2020.
The Dutchman will go into this season off the back of his strongest campaign to date last year when he finished P3 in the Drivers’ Championship.
But the revised 2020 calendar is already looking promising for the young challenger.
The season will start with two rounds in Austria at the Red Bull Ring where Verstappen has won the last two races.
F1 will then move on to Hungary which has also been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, even though Verstappen missed out on victory here in 2019 after a fantastic duel with six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
And Allison believes it will be Verstappen who provides the most consistent threat to their star man Hamilton who this year is chasing a record-equaling seventh World Championship.
“There’s no doubt that Max is going to be a formidable opponent for us this year,” Allison said on the F1 Nation podcast.
“Ferrari too showed glimpses of some form in pre-season testing, [but] we would imagine that Max will again be strong in Austria because Red Bull are always super-pumped up there – and they’ve got a bit of a track record.”
Mercedes didn’t trouble the leaders in Austria last year mainly due to cooling issues with the W10.
But Allison says the team are looking forward to returning to the Red Bull Ring to make a statement and show what they truly can do.
“Our campaign in Austria last year was hampered by our own mistakes on the cooling side, which meant that we were chugging around way off the actual natural pace of the car,” he said.
“And the year before, [we were] hampered by some unreliability and rather clumsy moves around the Safety Car.
“So, I think we’re all looking forward to getting to Austria, and maybe showing a bit more of what we’re capable of than the slight underperformance that we put in in the previous two seasons.”
Check out the latest episode of our Torquing Point podcast as we finally close in on the start of the new 2020 season: