Max Verstappen has downplayed his and Red Bull’s recent form at its home circuit, ahead of the opening rounds of the 2020 Formula 1 season.
Spielberg, owned by Red Bull, will play host to the first two events – named the Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix respectively – of the delayed 2020 campaign.
Red Bull has never had the quickest one-lap package at its home event but for the past two years Verstappen has emerged triumphant in race conditions.
A strong start, well-timed strategy call, and excellent tyre preservation netted Verstappen victory in 2018 while last year he charged back from a dire first lap to emerge in contention, passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for the win in the closing stages.
“I don’t really think about a hat-trick, the most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and perform at my best,” said Verstappen.
“I never consider myself the favourite because actually when you look at the track it’s not even our best track, but last year, of course, it was very warm.
“We were really good with keeping the engine cooling down. So I don’t expect it to be an easy win, I think Mercedes again will be very strong.
“Who knows where Ferrari will be as well, so no, it will be a very hard and tough battle again to win that race, but we’re going to try.”
Verstappen finished third in last year’s Drivers’ Championship, behind only the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, making it his strongest year in Formula 1.
When asked whether he felt a title tilt was within reach, he replied: “I hope so, it’s so hard to say. One thing I know for sure is that we will do everything we can to fight for it.
“Mercedes are still the ones to beat, because they have been the dominant team for so long now. They are still very strong and will be hard to beat but as a team we learnt a lot over the last year and I really think that we are stronger.
“We’ve got some good races coming up this season so I will of course try to close that gap and hopefully we can make it difficult for them, it will be a good challenge to try and beat them.”