F1 Raceweek: Who can challenge Hamilton's dominance in 2020?

By Sports Desk October 28, 2019

Lewis Hamilton has had a sixth Formula One title all but wrapped up for some time. In Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix, he edged ever closer.

Hamilton needed to outscore his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points or more at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but was made to wait as the Finn came in third.

It seems a matter of when, not if, for Hamilton however, as he nears capping another extraordinarily consistent campaign with another deserved title.

But while Hamilton – and Mercedes – have continued their dominance of F1 in style, 2019 has at least offered hope to others that title tilts of their own may be on the horizon.

With Hamilton showing no signs of letting up, who can be the main challengers to his crown next term?

CHARLES LECLERC

With successive wins in Belgium and Italy this season it has been a breakthrough campaign for Leclerc, who does not seem far off replacing Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari's number one driver.

Vettel's resurgence in the latter stage of the campaign has helped the four-time champions' cause, though Leclerc is undoubtedly the future for the team with nine podium finishes in 2019.

The 22-year-old has more than proved his quality this year and, with three races remaining, sits six points ahead of his team-mate in the drivers' standings. If he gets the better of Vettel, then Hamilton should be his next target.

MAX VERSTAPPEN

F1's youngest ever competitor looked set for a title challenge when he claimed two victories as part of three podium spots in four races between June and August.

Unfortunately for Red Bull the 22-year-old's form has since dipped, with Verstappen making the top three in only one of the following six grands prix.

The Dutchman's luck seemed to have changed when he clinched the second pole position of his career in Mexico City, only to be handed a three-place grid penalty.

However, despite his struggles of late, Verstappen – who is 10 points shy of Vettel in fifth in the championship standings – is one of the most talented drivers on the grid and should see himself as a contender for 2020.

VALTTERI BOTTAS

Hamilton has rightly taken the limelight, but the hard work and consistency shown by Bottas should not go unnoticed.

Bottas has improved no end since moving to Mercedes and is on course to complete his best season, having come third and fifth in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

By accumulating three victories this term, he is just 16 points shy of the 305 he earned in 2017.

There was some uncertainty Bottas would be remaining at Mercedes, with reserve driver Esteban Ocon – who has now joined Renault for 2020 – chomping at the bit to be given his chance, but Toto Wolff has stuck by the Finn, who will surely be aiming to switch a supporting role for a lead part next season.

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  • Bottas rues Silverstone misfortune after costly late puncture Bottas rues Silverstone misfortune after costly late puncture

    Valtteri Bottas was left to rue his misfortune after a puncture in a dramatic finish left him without a solitary point from the British Grand Prix.

    Bottas looked to be cruising to second place behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton before his front-left tyre blew with two laps to go at Silverstone.

    Hamilton suffered the same issue on the final lap, but somehow limped to a seventh victory on home soil ahead of Max Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc taking third spot.

    Bottas could only cross the line in 11th place after making his way back to the pits on three tyres and trails championship leader Hamilton by 30 points.

    The Finnish driver felt he might have a problem so late in the race but could not have envisaged how damaging it could be.

    He told Sky Sports F1: "It was really disappointing and very unlucky. Also, where I got the puncture, I had to go round the whole lap, so not ideal.

    "We knew it was going to be a long stint on the hard tyres and of course I was trying to put pressure on Lewis.

    "I started to get more and more vibration, I reported that and then at the end I had it in my mind there could be an issue, so I started to manage it a bit. But it happened so suddenly, and I didn't really predict it happening."

    With soft compounds to be fitted and warmer weather forecast at the same circuit next weekend, Bottas says teams will have to adopt different strategies.

    He added: "It's going to be an issue for everyone. One stop is not going to happen with the compounds we have next week, so I'm sure there is going to be lots of things learned from this weekend, but we need to move on I guess."

  • Verstappen feels 'lucky and unlucky' after Hamilton holds on for dramatic Silverstone win Verstappen feels 'lucky and unlucky' after Hamilton holds on for dramatic Silverstone win

    Max Verstappen was left feeling "lucky and unlucky" after a late tactical move from Red Bull saw him miss out on victory at Silverstone to Lewis Hamilton.

    Mercedes driver Hamilton had controlled much of the British Grand Prix after qualifying in pole position as he claimed a sixth win at the circuit in seven years.

    However, a final-lap puncture put his chances of victory under serious threat, the Brit's front-left tyre giving out shortly after team-mate Valtteri Bottas had dropped out of the points due to the same problem.

    Verstappen was suddenly presented with a chance of hauling in Hamilton but Red Bull called him in for a late tyre change to give him a shot at the fastest lap, and the Dutch driver was just unable to catch Hamilton as he limped over the line.

    "It's lucky and unlucky," Verstappen told Sky Sports after the race.

    "The tyres didn't look great with 10 laps to go and I was already on the radio. Then Valtteri got a puncture so I came on the radio and said, 'I'm going to back it out'. Then, of course, they boxed me to go for the fastest lap.

    "Then, unfortunately, Lewis got a puncture himself. But I'm very happy with second, it's a very good result for us."

    The tyre drama allowed Charles Leclerc to snatch third place, the Ferrari driver delighted to have capitalised on a slice of good fortune.

    "It was a very, very tricky race," he said. "As soon as I heard that Valtteri had a tyre problem, I slowed down quite a lot, but then I think Carlos [Sainz] had it a lap later and then Lewis a lap later.

    "On that, we've been lucky, but apart from that, I think we've done the best we could have done today. I'm very happy with the way I managed the tyres from the beginning to the end, very happy with the balance of the car, so the potential, the performance of the car is not where we want it to be but today we took every opportunity and I'm very happy."

  • My heart nearly stopped: Lewis Hamilton relieved after limping to British Grand Prix triumph My heart nearly stopped: Lewis Hamilton relieved after limping to British Grand Prix triumph

    Lewis Hamilton admitted he had never experienced anything to compare with the dramatic finish to the British Grand Prix that saw him take the chequered flag with a flat tyre.

    The six-time Formula One champion looked comfortable at Silverstone as he closed in on a seventh win in his home race.

    However, a dramatic finale saw Hamilton almost caught by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who was just 5.856 seconds adrift at the end.

    Hamilton suspected he was having trouble with his front left on the final lap, before it blew out completely, leaving him to complete the race on three tyres.

    He claimed to feel in control all the way but joked that his "heart nearly stopped" amid the excitement of the closing moments.

    "Up until that last lap everything was relatively smooth sailing," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

    "The tyres looked great. Valtteri [Bottas, his Mercedes team-mate] was really pushing incredibly hard. I was doing some management of that tyre, he looked like he wasn't doing any, so when I heard that his tyre went I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine.

    "The car was still turning no problem, so I was thinking maybe it was okay. The last few laps I started to back off and then just down the straight it just deflated. I noticed the shape just shift a little bit.

    "That was definitely heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling! Just driving and trying to keep the speed up - sometimes it'll take off and break the wing.

    "Oh my god, I was just praying to get around and not be too slow. I nearly didn't get around the last few corners. I really owe it to the team."

    Christian Horner, boss of the Red Bull team, told Channel 4 that "Lewis' luck rolls with him at the moment".

    Toto Wolff, Hamilton's team chief at Mercedes, called it a "bittersweet result" after Bottas fell out of the points after looking set for second place.

    Hamilton was the coolest man on the track.

    "I was really chill for some reason at the end," Hamilton said.

    "In my mind I was thinking, 'How far is it to the end of the lap?'.

    "I could hear the gap coming down from 19 [seconds] to 10 so I was giving it the full gas out of [corner] 15 down to 16 and then the thing wasn't stopping.

    "Oh my god, I have definitely never experienced anything like that on a last lap and my heart definitely probably nearly stopped.

    "That's probably how cool I was because my heart nearly stopped."

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