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Wolff - Hamilton v Verstappen Bahrain battle start of a great rivalry

Wolff - Hamilton v Verstappen Bahrain battle start of a great rivalry

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Wolff - Hamilton v Verstappen Bahrain battle start of a great rivalry

Wolff - Hamilton v Verstappen Bahrain battle start of a great rivalry

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is hopeful Formula 1's latest 'duel in the desert' is a forerunner to the start of a great rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

In Bahrain, F1 finally saw a battle between two outstanding drivers from rival teams it has long craved as Hamilton and Verstappen fought for a victory that in the end narrowly went to the seven-time champion.

Over the past seven years of Mercedes' domination, Hamilton has rarely been tested by another driver from another team, but Red Bull and Verstappen appear poised to push all the way to the wire.

Asked whether this could be the beginnings of thrilling rivalry, Wolff replied: “I hope so for all the fans and all of us.

"We have seen a tremendous battle between two very good teams and two very good drivers. I can’t say more.”

For Hamilton, who has not been tested for a full season since losing out on the title to team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016, the Briton is now relishing the prospect of the fight ahead.

"Yeah, I’m super excited and super happy for the fans, that they are excited," said Hamiton.

"I think it’s something that all the fans have wanted for a long time. Of course, this is only one race, so we don’t know what the future holds in terms of 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 and I hope for many more of these sorts of races with Max and Valtteri [Bottas]."

As for Verstappen, the Dutch driver was typically reticent. He said: "It [the Bahrain race] was great but as Lewis said, it’s a still bit difficult to say where we are exactly on pace.

"Again, it’s also a very long season so I guess we will just find out in time how it’s going to go."

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