Two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Häkkinen says watching Hamilon and Verstappen battle it out at the Bahrain Grand Prix, reminded him of his own battles with Michael Schumacher.
“Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix showed us just how massively competitive this season is going to be,” wrote the Finn.
“It’s what F1 fans have been dreaming about for years. The World Champion didn’t have the quickest car, and the race looked like it was going to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull until the very end, but Lewis and his team at Mercedes-Benz fought back brilliantly.
“This sets Formula 1 up for a duel between Mercedes and Red Bull in 2021. Mercedes now knows that it is going to have to fight very hard to defend its titles.
“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.
“When you get drivers and teams so closely matched, the racing is really exciting and memorable.”
Häkkinen also praised Mercedes for their great strategy in the race.
“Mercedes are having to learn how to respond to the Red Bull challenge. 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.
“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.”
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The Finn says Max Verstappen was right to give back his position to Lewis Hamilton, as his illegal overtake would have been punished after the race.
“We saw Max, on fresher tyres, overtake Lewis towards the end of the race, of course, but going outside the track limits was always going to be punished.
“Max did the right thing in handing the position back, but at least he knows that he can go for the win at every race from now on.”
Häkkinen then turns to Hamilton and Verstappen’s team-mates Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez.
“Lewis and Max’s team mates are going to play a really important part in this year’s championship, because both Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez know they have competitive cars which means they can win races and play a critical part in the fight for the Constructors’ Championship.
“That’s why it was so important for Valtteri to take the podium and set fastest lap, while Sergio did a really good job to finish 5th after starting from the pit lane.
“It’s such a pity that Valtteri had slow pit stop during the race. No team can afford to lose time, particularly when every tenth of a second counts.
“The battle between Lewis and Valtteri at Mercedes, and Max and Sergio at Red Bull, is going to be really fascinating.
“Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is a very determined guy, and you could see how happy he was with the win in Bahrain – it looked like he had just won his first race,” concluded the Finn.