Verstappen won pole for the 2021 F1 season opener by 0.388 seconds and showed a winning pace after leading the opening stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
He ultimately lost after Mercedes’ aggressive strategy put Hamilton ahead, and the tire management skills of the world champion in a long final stint meant the Dutchman only had one late chance to pass, which went wrong.
MORE: The calls that decided the battle of Hamilton and Verstappen in Bahrain
Mercedes warned after the Bahrain race that its 2021 package had “really no advantage compared to [Red Bull]By Andrew Shovlin, Director of Track Engineering, following Hamilton’s victory, the team also predicting they will struggle in the next two F1 races at Imola and Portimao.
When asked about his reaction to fans’ excitement over a possible 2021 title battle – a scenario the Championship hasn’t had since Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso took the 2012 season over – Hamilton said, “I’m super excited and super happy for the fans to be excited. I think it’s something every fan has wanted for a long time.
“Of course it’s only a 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 a lot further ahead, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try to stay close in this battle.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, on the podium with his trophy
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
“I hope for many more races of this kind with Max and Valtteri [Bottas, who finished third in Bahrain last weekend]. There is a long way to go. 22 [races] – Fuck! I’ll be gray at the end of this! “
Verstappen was also asked if he appreciates the prospect of battling Hamilton for race wins for an entire season – with consistency, something Red Bull has lacked since the 23-year-old was promoted to the squad. of his sister team Toro Rosso in 2016.
“It was great today, but like Lewis said, it’s still a little hard to say where exactly we are in the rhythm,” said Verstappen.
“But, again, it’s also a very long season, so I guess we’ll know just in time how it’s going to go.”