Lewis Hamilton can win his eighth World title this year, but Stefano Domenicali reckons it will be a tougher fight than he has had in recent seasons.
Hamilton is on a run of four successive World titles with the British racer bringing his tally up to seven last season.
That equalled Michael Schumacher’s record for the most World titles, with the Mercedes man the bookies’ favourite to make it number eight this year.
However, already the Bahrain Grand Prix has shown us it will not be handed to him on a plate.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the fight to Hamilton at the Sakhir circuit, claiming pole position and fighting Hamilton all the way to the chequered flag.
A pass off the track, a mistake from the Red Bull driver, put paid to his efforts of taking the win off Hamilton.
But with Mercedes convinced Red Bull have a better car, one that has not been hampered by the new floor rules to the degree Mercedes’ has, Domenicali is predicting a close fight this season.
In the end though, he is “sure” Hamilton will bag number eight.
“I’m sure he can take the eighth title,” the F1 chief told Auto Bild.
“Even if it won’t be easy, because the air is getting thinner and thinner at the summit. He has to be fully concentrated and drive perfectly.
“The competition won’t make life easy for him.
“Max Verstappen certainly wants his first World title at last. The ingredients for an exciting season are there.”
Formula 1 is facing the possibility of losing Hamilton at the end of this season, various pundits believing if he wins number eight he will walk away from the sport.
Hamilton has himself spoken of his outside interests, admitting it is hard finding the balance between that and Formula 1.
Domenicali is hoping Hamilton sticks around, saying he is “important” to F1.
“Lewis is important,” he said. “First of all, he has an incredible challenge ahead of him: namely to become the first and only driver with eight World Championship titles. So his focus will be on that.
“Of course, he is also actively campaigning against racism and for diversity.
“It’s crucial he feels comfortable in Formula 1 because that’s where he belongs and that’s where we and the fans want to see him.”