Hamilton, Mercedes bringing experience and A-game to Verstappen fight

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Lewis Hamilton sees experience and bringing his "A-game" as crucial to beating Max Verstappen in this year's championship.

While there's been very little between Mercedes and Red Bull on pace in 2021 so far, the reigning champions have been making it count on race day, with better strategies to gain the upper hand.

And going forward, Hamilton sees the years of fighting for titles as crucial to maintaining their advantage over their rivals. 

"You're seeing the closest battle we've seen for some time," he said in Spain.

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"You've seen Max really performing exceptionally well and he has a championship-winning car without a doubt, and a championship-winning team who can really pull off the job this year if, you know, we don't do our job.

"So I definitely think experience, our experience, will help us in terms of how we approach weekends and how we battle back from difficult weekends.

"I think, from my side, I would like to think that experience will help but at the end of the day, you just have to do the job and minimal mistakes.

"Reliability is going to be a key factor also this year," he added. "And then you'll see and even these fastest lap extra points are going to be significant by the end of the year, too."

With three wins, a second and two fastest laps, Hamilton has actually enjoyed his best start to a season in his F1 career.

“Every year I come back and I’m always trying to improve,” he continued. “More often it tends to be, or it seems impossible, but it’s a necessity.

“The Red Bulls have started off incredibly strong. It’s going to take everything from us, not only me bringing my A-game but the team bringing their A-game, weekend-in, weekend-out. Otherwise, these guys will be winning.”

And it was Hamilton's strive for perfection which Mercedes chief engineer Andrew Shovlin admits is different about him this year.

"It does [surprise] a bit… he’s doing a good job isn’t he?" he said of the Briton's best-ever start.

“To be honest, in Bahrain winter testing, what you could see with Lewis was that he realised, that he and the team were going to have to be absolutely perfect to be able to go out there and win races, and you also realised that one bad test wasn’t an indication to him that this would be a championship that he’s not in the running for.

“It surprises me that stat because you think this is the least competitive margin that we’ve had for a number of years but what I would say is he has arrived in a frame of mind that is just about maximising every little opportunity - be it on track, be it in the setup, be it in how we approach the weekend and he brought that to Bahrain and we’ve not seen it wain at all since.”