Sir Lewis Hamilton is excited at the prospect of a season-long battle with Red Bull, but is still wary that they could pull away.
After a pre-season testing filled with struggles for Mercedes and positives for Red Bull, there was quiet optimism that the seven-time double-champs Mercedes could have a fight on their hands this season.
And that is exactly the scenario which played out at the opening race in Bahrain. Max Verstappen took pole for Red Bull, almost four tenths clear of Hamilton, but come race day Mercedes were able to get Hamilton into the lead on pit strategy, with the Briton just about holding his rival off to claim victory at the end of a thrilling battle.
Just like the fans, Hamilton wants more of this throughout the season, but worries Red Bull could actually move much further ahead.
“I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time,” he told reporters after the Bahrain GP.
“Of course, this is only one 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 ahead a lot more, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle.
“I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri [Bottas], there’s a long way to go. 22 [races] – holy crap! I’ll be grey by the end of this!”
Verstappen too said it was not yet fully clear where Red Bull stand in terms of pace despite their impressive Bahrain showing.
“It was great, but like Lewis said, it’s a still bit difficult to say where we are exactly in pace,” he explained.
“But, again, it’s also a very long season so I guess we will just find out in time how it’s going to go.”
Next up is the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola. The iconic venue returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2020, with Hamilton taking victory ahead of Bottas in what was a one-two finish for Mercedes.