Hamilton is facing arguably the sternest test of his current four-year domination of F1 from Red Bull's Max Verstappen who finally has a car beneath him to match his talent.
In all four races so far this season the duo have gone wheel-to-wheel, with Hamilton winning three races to the one for Verstappen despite a troubled start to the season for Mercedes after an initial struggle in adapting to the new regulations changes.
Reflecting on the duel so far, McLaren driver Ricciardo has been fascinated by what has unfolded, in particular paying Hamilton respect for his performances in a car that should not have been a match for Verstappen in his Red Bull.
"[But] A lot of people are probably tipping their hat to Lewis. He’s getting it dished back at him and he’s holding his ground and showing people who maybe doubted him why he is as good as he is.
“I think it’s going to keep going. Who will get the best of it? At this stage, you would always take experience.
“If it was down to the wire, then Lewis has already shown some strong signs, but then again, if there is a gap, Max goes for it – that’s why I respect Max a lot. So flip a coin.”
Despite the respect shown between Hamilton and Verstappen on track so far this season, McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes that will come to an end, providing his team with a chance to take advantage.
“Rivalries are great for the sport," said Brown. "Hopefully, at some stage, that will create some opportunity for us because it is only a matter of time until they are both determined not to let up into turn one and neither of them comes out of the other side.
“Lewis has had a pretty easy ride outside of 2016 with Nico Rosberg so I think it is a great rivalry. Max has gotten Lewis to step up – not that he needed it – but he is definitely on his A-game.
“It is clear Lewis is a very smart driver and you can see him sitting there and waiting to strike. He is not over-eager and that is his experience coming through.”
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