Hamilton: F1 fans have wanted Verstappen rivalry for a long time

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Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 fans have wanted the potential rivalry between himself and Max Verstappen in 2021 "for a long time".

The two drivers went head-to-head for victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix a week ago, as the promise Red Bull showed in testing was validated when the sandbagging stopped.

While it was Verstappen who took a convincing pole in qualifying, Hamilton and Mercedes hit back on race day, using a bold strategy to gain track position and then hold off the Dutchman in the closing laps to claim victory.

“I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time,” the seven-time world champion said of the prospect of him and Verstappen fighting for the championship this season.

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“Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of [how the season will unfold].  

“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.

“I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri [Bottas], there’s a long way to go. 22 [races] – holy crap! I’ll be grey by the end of this!”

Ham Ver BahGP

Verstappen too was cautious on building the hype until Red Bull shows the same performance on other circuits.

“It was great, but like Lewis said, it’s a still bit difficult to say where we are exactly in pace,” he explained.

“But, again, it’s also a very long season so I guess we will just find out in time how it’s going to go.”