RACE DEBRIEF

    With 12 championships – six drivers’ and six constructors’ – since the turbo-hybrid era dawned in 2014, you'd have forgiven Mercedes for seeing themselves as shoo-ins for more title success in 2020. But Team Principal Toto Wolff doesn’t see it that way, as he predicted a stronger challenge from Red Bull and Ferrari this season – with McLaren a re-emerging threat to consider as well.

    Because the regulations are stable going into 2020, the teams hoping to oust Mercedes from the throne can continue their development from 2019, and therefore stand a potentially higher chance of beating Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas this year.

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    Wolff explained: “We have always defended the standpoint that by [leaving] the regulations alone, performance convergence would happen – at least there’s a high probability that convergence happens rather than throwing the dice and introducing something new, and I think we have seen that.

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    “It’s fair to say that there are three teams capable of winning races today and probably winning championships if things are being put together.”

    McLaren, meanwhile, just had their most successful season since 2012, finishing fourth in the championship with 145 points – and Wolff has them in his peripherals too.

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    “McLaren have massively caught up, probably the steepest performance slope of all teams and will be there or thereabouts, in my opinion,” he continued.

    “So, yeah, I see this very much as being a much tougher season.”

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    That said, Mercedes faced what seemed like a renewed threat from Ferrari at the start of 2019 and then went on to score 15 wins, 10 poles, 17 additional podiums and 739 points – their highest haul ever bar 2016. So, could we see more of the same this season?

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    Wolff said: “I don’t think we are going to see the kind of 10 race wins or 12 race wins per team for next year any more – but obviously we will be trying everything to optimise our weaknesses and continue to perform well.”

    A three-way battle therefore beckons, with Ferrari and Red Bull hot on Mercedes’ heels. March can’t come soon enough