WHO WILL BE FORMULA 1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION?

In the 70 year history of Formula 1, only 33 men have managed to achieve the top crown in the sport and win a driver’s championship. And only 3 of the current 20 drivers on the grid have won the prize they all dream of.

We are currently experiencing an era of Lewis Hamilton dominance with a period of Sebastian Vettel dominance prior to that. The achievements of these two drivers has meant that we have only seen 1 new world champion in the last decade. This got me thinking- who will be the sports next new champion, and when might this be? Instead of going through all the drivers, I’ve picked out 5 who could potentially be F1’s next new world champion.

MAX VERSTAPPEN

I’m going to start with the obvious contender. A driver who I’m sure many, including myself, believe will be a Formula 1 world champion one day.

When Max Verstappen first joined the sport back in 2015 at the age of 17, it was clear he had immense talent. He impressed in his rookie season at Toro Rosso before being given the Red Bull seat mid-way through 2016.

However, despite his speed and talent, Verstappen was far from the complete driver. He lacked consistently solid race craft, and often seemed like he was going to cause a collision.

This was the case right up until his 3rd season with Red Bull in 2018, where he really started to demonstrate maturity and proved he was the complete package.

Rightly so, this has led many to believe that it is a matter of time before the Dutchman clinches a drivers championship.

Even though I am a firm believer of this view, I do not think he will be F1’s next new world champion. Not because of his driving ability, but because of his car.

Red Bull have not made any significant improvements since 2014, and are still significantly behind Mercedes in terms of delivering a championship winning car.

We say at the start of every season that this could be the year Red Bull mount a credible title challenge, but unfortunately, this never actually comes to fruition.

No matter how good your driver is, if he hasn’t got the machinery, he won’t win a title.

CHARLES LECLERC

Leclerc’s two victories last season are a sign of things to come. Image: CNN

Another driver who many class as one of F1’s most talented young stars, and an inevitable champion in the future is Charles Leclerc.

Like Verstappen, Leclerc has proven he is the real deal. He demonstrated his strong potential at Sauber, and then beat 4 time world champion Sebastian Vettel convincingly in his first season at Ferrari in 2019.

Also similarly to Verstappen, the Monegasque driver is tied in with a team for the next few years that you wouldn’t bet to really challenge Mercedes for an entire season. On top of that, Leclerc has also got the issue of being part of a team that fundamentally lacks the ability to consistently make good strategy decisions.

So even if the Scuderia were able to deliver a championship-worthy car in 2021 lets say, I wouldn’t back them to then translate their car performance to race wins on a regular basis due to shambolic operations.

For this reason, I cannot see Leclerc winning a championship anytime in the near future.

DANIEL RICCIARDO

Ricciardo enjoyed much success at Red Bull but can he win again at McLaren? Image: DW

Unlike the two drivers above with their careers ahead of them, a driver who is running out of seasons to become a world champion is Daniel Ricciardo, who has recently turned 31.

Even though he has won races and proven he is a more than capable driver, Ricciardo has not yet been given the car to mount a season-long title challenge.

I’m hoping that McLaren, the team Ricciardo is joining next season, will be in a position to score podiums and even race wins with their incoming Mercedes engine. However, I’m more hopeful than realistically expecting this to be the case.

It’s a shame to have to say it as he’s one of the most likeable drivers on the grid, but I don’t think Ricciardo will ever win a championship, nevermind become the next new driver to do so.

VALTTERI BOTTAS

Bottas finished runner-up in last year’s championship. Image: Getty Images

With the Mercedes car in 2020 so far ahead of the competition, you’d surely say that if anyone is going to stop Lewis Hamilton from winning his record-matching 7th drivers championship this season, its Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas has rightfully earnt his status as one of the most consistent drivers on the grid. In fact, he proved this even prior to joining the Silver Arrows at Williams where he delivered strong results on a regular basis.

Whether Bottas will become a world champion boils down to the question, is he good enough to beat Hamilton consistently in races over the course of a season? I don’t think so.

The Finn has proven he can out-perform and out-score his teammate at particlar tracks but he has not been able to do this regularly enough and I don’t seen this changing. I believe Bottas will retire without a drivers crown to his name.

GEORGE RUSSELL

Russell’s Merceedes connections could be pivotal in his future in F1. Image: Sutton

Despite the fact that George Russell is not a race winner like the four other drivers discussed, and the fact that the young Brit has still not scored a point in F1, I believe the sports next new F1 world champion will be George Russell.

Russell, who joined the sport in 2019 after winning the F2 championship the previous season has shown how talented of a driver he is. He’s done this in a Williams car that was immensely inferior to any other car last season, and is still the worst car on the grid this season.

Aside from Russell’s incredible talent, the reason I believe he will be the next new champion is because of his ties with Mercedes. It’s looking as if Bottas will stay with Merc until the end of 2021, however I believe that a seat will open up for him in 2022.

I know there has been a lot of discussion about how the new regulations, now coming into effect in 2022, will shake up the grid. However, I feel you have to back Mercedes to come out on top of the new regs and once again deliver the best car.

If this happens, Russell will have a great shot of winning his first world championship, and becoming F1’s first new world champion since Nico Rosberg in 2016.

Of course, this depends on when Hamilton decides to call it a day. Whether that’s in 2022, 2023 or even later, I believe this will open the door for Russell to win a championship. It will then come down to whether he is good enough to make the most of the best car to claim the title. I for sure, believe he can.

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