Lewis Hamilton opens up on 'horrifying' battle with Max Verstappen in dramatic Bahrain win

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Lewis Hamilton opens up on 'horrifying' battle with Max Verstappen in dramatic Bahrain win
Lewis Hamilton has lifted the lid on his thrilling duel with Max Verstappen during the closing stages of Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, claiming that he found it increasingly difficult to cope with the worn rear tyres of his Mercedes as the chequered flag drew nearer. The 36-year-old was pushed all the way by his Red Bull counterpart, but eventually crossed the line to secure his 96th race victory and kick off his search for an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship title in the best possible manner.
Verstappen qualified on pole position and appeared to be the favourite to claim the spoils on race day, but a tense tactical affair helped Mercedes to gain the upper hand when Hamilton pitted before the Dutchman in a successful attempt to undercut his rival.

The Stevenage-born racer kept his lead until the latter stages of the race, with Verstappen making the most of his fresher tyres to squeeze past with four laps remaining.

However, the 23-year-old was swiftly ordered to let Hamilton back in front after exceeding track limits in order to make his move stick.

Sunday’s race was one of the most thrilling contests for some time, with Verstappen losing out on first place by less than a second as a result of Hamilton’s ability to keep him at bay under significant pressure.

The Mercedes driver claimed that it was a tricky affair, conceding that he was saved by the Red Bull talisman’s departure from the track.

JUST IN: Bahrain Grand Prix 2021 RECAP: Lewis Hamilton wins after thriller

When asked to give his post-race thoughts, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1: “Ah, it was horrifying! It wasn’t great. I was struggling obviously at the end with the rear end of my car, the rear tyres had gone off.

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“They were maybe eight laps older or something like that to Max’s tyres, so I knew that he was going to catch me with 10 laps to go and I knew that it was going to be pretty much impossible to hold him behind, which it was, up until the Turn 4 incident. Then after that I couldn’t believe that I was just keeping him behind.

“I managed to keep him in my wake, well, he was right behind me so then stuck in my wake and that meant it was difficult for him to get close and he ended up wide in some places which gave me a little bit of an edge. It’s a difficult track [on which] to follow.”

Hamilton and Mercedes will be hoping to stay at the front of the grid for the entirety of the season as the seven-time world champion seeks to go one better than Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher with another triumph this time around.

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He continued, revealing that he suffered a last-lap scare resulting from a couple of nervous moments, but admitted that he knew the race was done once he realised Verstappen was also struggling behind him.

“Probably with two laps to go or maybe the last lap, maybe,” he added. “I think it was the last lap. Probably on the second to last lap when Bonno just kept going on, telling me how many laps were left.

“He was like ‘three laps, two laps’, and I was like ‘Bonno, I can count! I got it’. He’s just nervous. I’m grateful for Bonno, he’s patient with me.

“I think it was really the last lap. I think once I got out of Turn 4 I knew I was in a good position. But then oversteer out of Turn 10, nervousness out of 11, snap oversteer in 13, which is a really bad one.

“I was thinking, ‘that’s it, he’s really got me now’. But I think he had the same thing.”

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Elsewhere on the grid, Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas managed to hold onto third place after an unfavourable strategy call from Mercedes seemed to end his hopes of claiming an unlikely victory.

The Finn was initially told that he would race a long second stint in order to aid his chances of catching up to Verstappen, but was quickly brought into the pits before his second stop was delayed significantly by a problem with the right front wheel nut.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s Lando Norris took fourth ahead of Red Bull new boy Sergio Perez, who danced through the field after starting from the pit lane as the result of an electrical issue during the formation lap.


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