F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Two-time Formula One world champion Mika Hakkinen has been relishing after what could be the start of an exciting new rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this season.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen seven-time world champion Hamilton, alongside his Mercedes team, dominate the championship for the best part of a decade.
But change seems to be on the horizon, despite another Hamilton win, as Red Bull dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend on speed alone, topping all the timing screens coming into the weekend.
“Seeing Lewis and Max battling for victory reminded me of my fights with Michael Schumacher, and everyone in F1 remembers the great battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost,” Hakkinen said in his column for Unibet.
“When you get drivers and teams so closely matched, the racing is really exciting and memorable.”
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Mercedes now have a job to do, if they’re to beat Red Bull, specifically Max Verstappen, for pace alone heading into the second race of the season in Imola, Italy.
And Haikkinen believes they now need to work out how to deal with being the second-fastest in the paddock, something they’ve not had to deal with much in the past seven seasons.
“Mercedes are having to learn how to respond to the Red Bull challenge,” continued Hakkinen.
“When you don’t have the quickest car it’s important to focus on strategy to try and force your competitors into a corner. This is what Mercedes managed to do on Sunday by getting Lewis to undercut Max during the first pit stops.
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“Track position is so important. When you put a guy like Lewis in front, he is then able to use all his experience to manage the tyres and defend the position.
“We knew from the short, three days of pre-season testing that Red Bull and Honda had developed a fantastic car this year. But we all suspected that Mercedes might again be the top team in Bahrain, mainly because it has been this way since 2014!”
It’s Honda’s last season in Formula One in 2021, before Red Bull take over their engines despite them not being involved in the sport from next year.
But the Finn had nothing but praise for the Japanese manufacturers for the work they’ve done over the winter to bring the fight to Mercedes.
“Honda’s decision to build a new engine for this, their final season in Formula 1, took a lot of courage,” Hakkinen explained.
“A new engine can sometimes have reliability issues that take a while to resolve, but not this time. From what we saw in both qualifying and the race, Honda have given Red Bull and its sister team at AlphaTauri a really strong unit. It seems to be the best engine in F1.”
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