Hamilton and Mercedes’ hope for Verstappen challenge

“I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time,” says Lewis Hamilton after Bahrain GP set the scene for a first Mercedes vs Red Bull, Hamilton vs Max Verstappen championship duel in the new season

Last Updated: 07/04/21 8:36am

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.

“I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time.

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Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok analyses the dramatic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix

Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok analyses the dramatic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix

“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.

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“We have seen a tremendous battle [in Bahrain] between two very good teams and two very good drivers.”

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Team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have their say on the thrilling duel between Hamilton and Verstappen in Bahrain

Team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner have their say on the thrilling duel between Hamilton and Verstappen in Bahrain

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

Grand Prix Venue Dates
Emilia-Romagna GP Imola April 16-18
Portuguese GP Portimao April 30-May 2
Spanish GP Barcelona May 7-9
Monaco GP Monte Carlo May 20-23
Azerbaijan GP Baku June 4-6

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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