Lewis Hamilton expects Mercedes' F1 rivals to 'step up' in 2020
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 06/12/19 7:30pm
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas believe Mercedes' rivals will only re-emerge as stronger contenders next year in attempts to stop F1's world champions extending their record run in the sport.
Mercedes' domination of the hybrid engine era has continued this year, winning a sixth consecutive championship double, but they qualified on pole in fewer than half the races with Ferrari and Red Bull providing intermittently strong challenges.
And while enjoying the post-season celebrations of his and the team's latest title successes in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with colleagues from partner PETRONAS, Hamilton predicted that Mercedes will be hunted more than ever in 2020.
"Next year I think will be similar to this year. However, I think the competition is probably going to step up," said Hamilton.
"You have seen this year McLaren have picked up, Red Bull have picked up their pace, you have seen some more teams are coming into the spot.
"So really fighting for position is going to be key. I think it's a little bit easier to chase than it is to lead."
2020 is the final year of the current technical regulations, before big changes to car design for 2021 in a bid to improve the spectacle and increase competition in the sport.
Bottas believes that stability will further serve to close up the grid - with the Finn also setting his own personal target of challenging Hamilton for the title.
"For 2020, there are no major regulation changes in Formula 1 so that means I think it will be even closer competition with many teams," said Bottas at the PETRONAS event.
"Other teams, drivers, will play a part in the fight as well but obviously Lewis always is a difficult driver to beat. But I've been able to do it at times so I know I can do it."
Hamilton not taking future success for granted
The 34-year-old's sixth title success has placed him just one behind F1's all-time record of seven set by Michael Schumacher 15 years ago.
Hamilton has one more year left on his Mercedes contract, and has already indicated he will extend his career into F1's new rules era, which points towards multiple more opportunities to match and overhaul Schumacher's benchmark.
"It's really, really important always to just be grateful for what I have at the moment," insisted Hamilton. "Of course, we'll be in search for another championship but in this sport you never know when that could be.
"It could be next year, it could be years. Some people don't even have one so it's really important to be grateful for what we have."