Lewis Hamilton says he is “super excited” about the prospect of a title challenge against Max Verstappen after the wheel-to-wheel start to the 2021 season in Bahrain.
A direct championship battle between F1’s record-breaking 36-year-old seven-time champion and the rising 23-year-old 10-time race-winning Dutch star has been considered a mouth-watering prospect for several seasons and the early evidence of the new campaign suggests the sport is poised to get its blockbuster head-to-head.
“I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited,” acknowledged Hamilton, after he edged out Verstappen in the season-opening Bahrain GP, despite his Red Bull rival taking pole position.
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“I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time.
“Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of… with the pace they have, they could be ahead a lot more, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle and I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri [Bottas, third in Bahrain].”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is similarly enthused by the prospect of a titanic tussle.
“I hope so for all the fans and all of us,” he said.
“We have seen a tremendous battle [in Bahrain] between two very good teams and two very good drivers.”
Despite Hamilton’s victory at the first race, Mercedes insist they remain on the back foot against a rapid Red Bull at the start of the season – with Wolff suggesting that the W12 is trailing their rivals’ RB16B “quite a bit” over a single qualifying lap.
“Bahrain was always not the strongest race for Red Bull and, also, they haven’t been particularly good out of the blocks. [The opening weekend] showed all that is not the case anymore in 2021 and so I have no doubt that they are extremely difficult to beat,” added Wolff.
“They are the ones that are leading the pack and I think the racing gods were on our side [in Bahrain].
“It’s not that we have found suddenly some awesome performance.”
The next five dates for F1 2021
After an early break, the season resumes with the Emilia-Romagna GP at Imola next week, live only on Sky Sports F1.
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