Lewis Hamilton finished first in the Bahrain Grand Prix to win his 96th career race and start off the season with a remarkable victory. It was a hard-fought battle between the British champion and rising youngster Max Verstappen, who came mighty close to winning the race and taking the challenge to Hamilton in the very first race but missed out by the finest of margins.
The 36-year-old was very vocal about the concern from his engineers after the race, saying:
‘Bono [Peter Bonnington, Hamilton’s race engineer] just kept telling me how many laps were left!’ Hamilton said after taking his first opening race win since 2015.
‘He was like ‘three laps, two laps’ and I’m like ‘Bono, I can count! I’ve got it!’
Hamilton stayed out on track, his final run of tyres 11 laps longer than Verstappen’s equivalent.
The time separation continued to close, Hamilton anxious on team radio he was badly losing grip on his rear tyres. It made for sensational viewing. And then Verstappen, illegally in the eyes of race control at Turn 4, and so the Dutchman immediately handed the position back.
From there Hamilton held his nerve. Here was a champion squeezing every last ounce out of a car that had so little left in the tank.
Verstappen was surprisingly, disappointed after the race despite achieving second position, saying:
‘Last year we would have been super-happy with this result but now we are super-disappointed so we definitely really made a good step forward!’ the Dutchman added.
‘Now we just have to get on with it and try and be better.’
If this is a sign of things to come this season, then we could be looking at another classic rivalry between a seasoned veteran and a talented youngster.