Formula 1’s future seems brighter than ever with the recent announcement that Max Verstappen will remain signed with Red Bull until 2023.
The news of Verstappen’s contract renewal comes no less than two weeks after Ferrari also revealed that their own superstar youngster Charles Leclerc has renewed his own contract deal until after 2024.
Both Verstappen and Leclerc dominated headlines across last year’s title campaign, the two young guns fearlessly demonstrated their pure speed and determination to supersede even at the expense of one another.
Reminisce back to Austria and Silverstone where both drivers, appropriately dubbed ‘future world champions’, put themselves ahead of their team to produce dazzling displays of racing, fuelled by will and grit and not necessarily team nor machinery.
It is a breed of racing unseen perhaps since the emergence of a young Fernando Alonso and his duel against the legendary Michael Schumacher.
The old guard, are now under siege by the rise of the next generation.
At Williams, 2018 F2 champion George Russell frequently abolished teammate Robert Kubica, a driver who by no means a mere ‘par’ at his peak.
At Ferrari, even Sebastian Vettel publicly acknowledged how serious of a threat Leclerc is too his own idiosyncratic ambitions. Before last year’s season opener in Melbourne Sebastian labelled his new teammate as a “full rival, expecting he will put a lot of pressure on me this season. He is very talented.”
The German predicted it right as Leclerc beat him in the championship standings.
Both Verstappen and Leclerc have the additional advantage to being young by also finding themselves racing in top tier teams. While Ferrari can never be fully written off, Honda have risen significantly to the challenge of developing a reliable, yet effective, power unit package for Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
Towards the later stages of 2019 many were even citing Honda to be on par with both their Mercedes and Ferrari rivals. The signing of Max to post 2023 is a sure signal that the Japanese auto-giant is on board too.
Next year, F1 is undergoing substantial regulations revamp of aerodynamic regulations ahead, with the implementation of a cost cap, along with numerous bodywork tweaks designed to narrow the deficit between the top teams and the backmarkers.
The predicted result for fans is obviously closer racing, while for drivers it means that the balance between machinery and talent becomes fairer. F1 rule-makers aim to make it so no longer will one driver run away with a title purely because they have the best car.
Rather, individual talent and determination to win will have a far more significant impact they claim. Thus, uprise the young guns. Fearless in their pursuit of glory as they proved on several occasions last year, it is clear experience matters little when it comes to wheel-to-wheel combat.
Lando Norris’ move around the outside of Pierre Gasly in Bahrain last year is testament to that. It is only a year prior at the same venue when Bottas failed to pass Vettel on the final lap with a dive at turn one, demonstrative perhaps of a lack of courage and audacity of youth.
By the time both Max’s and Charles’ latest contract deals near expiration, Lewis and Sebastian will be on the verge of 40, while the experienced Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas will both be in their late 30s.
Last season the next-generation made their presence felt in F1, this year the pretenders to the throne are seriously eyeing the crown and, with the right package, it would be foolish to bet against either of them claiming it.
To quote Martin Brundle, this new wave has “golden era” written all over it.