Formula One: Can anyone end Max Verstappen’s reign?

Motorsport Thursday February 1, 2024 By: Harry Howes

It’s almost time for the green flag to wave to signal the start of the 2024 Formula One season and Max Verstappen will have a fourth consecutive title firmly in his sights.

The Red Bull maestro raced to glory last year, winning all but three races in a dominating season. However, he’ll face stiff competition in the form of Lewis Hamilton, who is looking to edge ahead of Michael Schumacher in the all-time rankings.

When does the Formula One season start?

It feels like just yesterday that the curtain closed on last season but the new campaign is just over a month away. The Bahrain Grand Prix will get proceedings underway on 2nd March and it’s a course that Hamilton knows well having won there a record five times.

Verstappen claimed his maiden win there a year ago and he’ll be targeting another fast start this time around. The 2024 season marks the 75th edition of the F1 Drivers’ Championship and it will host a record-high 24 races.

All of the 22 Grands Prix from last year are included, while the Chinese Grand Prix returns for the first time since 2019 following complications related to the pandemic. Elsewhere, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is also back on the schedule after being called off last time out due to flooding.

The British Grand Prix marks the midway point of the season. The iconic race takes place on 7th July and is another course where Hamilton holds the record with eight wins. Much like in Bahrain, Verstappen won at Silverstone for the first time in 2023.

Once again, the season will finish with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which takes place on 8th December.

Formula 1 racing at the 2023 British Grand Prix in Silverstone

2024 British Grand Prix Hospitality

Verstappen looks to make it four in a row

It’s fair to say that Verstappen has dominated the sport in recent years and he stepped things up in 2023 as he finished almost 300 points clear at the top of the standings. He was unstoppable as he won all but three races, as well as twice finishing as runner-up.

The 26-year-old is looking to become just the fifth driver in history to win four titles in a row and it’s a feat that would put him in esteemed company alongside Hamilton, Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Juan Manuel Fangio.

It could be argued that Verstappen is yet to reach his peak and the only way is up. If he can carry on driving for as long as Hamilton, there’s no knowing how many titles he could finish his career with.

However, this season is inevitably going to be more difficult. Verstappen is unlikely to win 19 races again so he’ll need to find a different gear in order to see off the challenges of his rivals.

Can McLaren and Ferrari spoil the party?

The F1 championship has been won by a driver from Red Bull or Mercedes every single year since 2009, when Jenson Button claimed it for Brawn. McLaren last won it in 2008 thanks to Hamilton while Ferrari, despite their early noughties dominance with Schumacher, haven’t won it since Kimi Raikkonen’s success the year before.

While Red Bull will be banking on another title this season, McLaren and Ferrari both have contenders in their ranks. The main man for McLaren is Lando Norris, who managed to finish sixth in 2023 despite a disappointing start to the season.

The Brit bounced back strongly and finished on the podium in six of the final nine races, including on home soil at Silverstone. He’ll be confident of taking his end of season form into the campaign and challenge Verstappen for the title.

Meanchile, Ferrari star Charles Leclerc finished fifth last year, finishing in the top five on eight occasions, including three podiums. The 26-year-old finished second overall in 2022, winning three races, and he’s shown he’s capable of getting the better of Verstappen in the past.

Both Norris and Leclerc have recently signed new deals with their respective teams, ending speculation that they could be tempted to jump ship and join Verstappen at Red Bull with Serio Perez’s contract set to expire at the end of the year.

Hamilton looks to become GOAT

While Verstappen’s dominance in recent years has shown he’s clearly the best at the moment, he’s got a long way to go to match the legacy of Hamilton.

The Mercedes star has won seven titles in his glittering career, although he’s on a drought by his high standards having not finished on top since 2020. Hamilton is level with Schumacher in the all-time rankings and he’s determined to clinch a record-breaking eighth before calling it a day.

The 39-year-old came third last year and despite finishing almost 350 points behind Verstappen and failing to win a race, he still performed admirably, finishing on the podium on five occasions.

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