The next two seasons will be crucial for the McLaren Formula 1 team. One of the most celebrated teams in the sport's history, McLaren has seen an uptake in its fortunes on track.
In 2019, they recorded their best finish in a very long time and ended the year in fourth place overall behind Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull.
Though the results were positive, it is fair to assume that 2020 will be much of the same. At best, McLaren can bargain on a podium finish here and there, but race wins are still out of grasp. If just ever so slightly.
But is there a glimmer of hope for the McLaren team? Not just for 2020, but beyond? Of course there is, but the team will have to get all their ducks in a row if they want to stave off a challenge from Renault and the rest of the midfield teams.
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2020 McLaren F1 car. Image: Getty Images
With Carlos Sainz Jr. pledged his allegiance to Ferrari come 2021, the Spaniard will have it all to play for if he wants to leave McLaren on a high. In 2019, he registered a sixth-place finish - his best in F1 to date - and helped McLaren to a fourth-place finish in the constructors' championship.
With his friend and team mate, Lando Norris, beside him, the two drivers will go about the season en route to either matching the 2019 result or bettering it. Though the latter seems far less likely, one gets the impression that McLaren's current driver line-up should not be underestimated.
Norris impressed heavily in his debut season last year, while Sainz took the youngster under his wing. As the senior and lead driver at McLaren, Sainz already made his intentions clear of focusing on maximum results for McLaren in 2020.
Next year could be a defining one for McLaren, as two significant developments will take place. After a split of almost 10 years, Mercedes will again come onboard as an engine supplier. The partnership is eagerly anticipated, given that the Mercedes engine is probably the strongest and most reliable of all the units.
Following this is news that Daniel Ricciardo will join them next when his Renault contract expires at the end of 2020. Sainz joining Ferrari opened the McLaren door for Ricciardo, and there is a subtle sense that the team could force themselves into the fight for podiums and race wins. Here's why.
McLaren has made huge strides with their car's packaging, design, and aerodynamic traits. While the current Renault engine was a much better fit than the Honda unit, the Mercedes engine will be even better. And when you mix an aerodynamically apt car with a strong engine, and add a race-winning driver like Ricciardo into the mix, then you have indeed have a recipe for success.
Ricciardo is the winner of seven F1 races, and he is burning to add to that tally. If the sum adds up, the Australian might be in contention for the championship either in 2021, or 2022. It's a bold prediction, but not an impossible one.
We're still some way off 2021, but I'm going on record to say that McLaren will turn next year's championship fight into a four-way battle.