Verstappen doesn't expect 'easy' Austrian GP win despite recent success

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Max Verstappen has played down his recent success at the Austrian Grand Prix, claiming a third win this weekend won't be "easy".

The Dutchman may well be considered by many as the favourite to leave Spielberg as the championship leader when the pair of races take place of the next two weekends.

This is not only because of his two victories in 2018 and 2019 but also because of Mercedes' poor recent record at the Red Bull Ring.

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However, looking ahead to the Formula 1 season opener, Verstappen believes in a normal race weekend, he may be playing catch up.

“I don’t really think about a hattrick, the most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and perform at my best,” he said in Red Bull's race preview.

“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 at 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.”

One motivation that won't be seen around the Austrian circuit is the huge number of Verstappen fans that have swamped the race in recent years.

"Of course, it is going to be very different without the orange army and it’s going to feel a little strange," Max conceded.

"There are usually so many great Dutch fans in Austria. I have lots of good memories from that track, I remember looking up at the fans at the end of the race last year and they were all standing up and cheering, it was crazy. It gave me an even bigger smile after the win.

"It’s a shame we don’t have that this year but we will try and put on a good show for everyone watching at home on TV."

More broadly, 2020 is the final year in which Verstappen can beat Sebastian Vettel to become F1's youngest world champion, and the expectation is that this could be the first realistic opportunity the 22-year-old has to do just that.

 “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," he commented.

“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.”