Max Verstappen in a very different situation to Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton opens up on plans to remain in F1 ahead of new season

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Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will differ in their preparations for this weekend’s curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix after drawing separate conclusions from their respective pre-season testing programmes. The pair will both be looking to add to their collection of titles by claiming the end-of-season honours at the next time of asking, with Verstappen hoping to secure his third Drivers’ Championship triumph in as many years.

Hamilton, meanwhile, will be hoping that Mercedes can make a rapid return to the front of the pecking order in order to boost his chances of winning a record-breaking eighth individual title. The 38-year-old already seems to be on the back foot, though, after a turbulent period of testing for the Silver Arrows at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Mercedes were not a million miles away from the quickest runners on the final day of testing but remained some way off the pace of Red Bull, who dominated in terms of outright speed for the vast majority of the three-day event. The German outfit were also left red-faced due to a hydraulic failure on day two and were seen holding an emergency meeting after the session to spark fears that all may not be well behind the scenes.

It seems clear that Mercedes will be hard at work over the next few days in order to maximise their preparations for the first Grand Prix of the new season after Hamilton admitted on Saturday that he does not know how they will fare in terms of being able to fight for victory.

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“There has been a lot of discovery and the whole team has approached it with the same mentality, working hard, not being complacent and staying focused,” said the Brit after the end of testing. “We’re not quite where we want to be but it’s a good platform to start from. We don’t know where we will be next week, but we will stay positive and continue to push to the maximum.”

In contrast, it should be a relatively straightforward week of preparations for Verstappen after Red Bull picked up exactly where they left off over the course of pre-season testing in Bahrain. They were a cut above the rest and looked supremely confident as they managed to get a large number of laps under their belt while setting the standard with their best times for the majority of the three days.

It seems likely that Verstappen will go into the Bahrain Grand Prix as the overwhelming favourite to take the chequered flag, although it remains to be seen how things will play out when the competitive action finally resumes after a three-month break. The Dutchman reflected positively on his testing programme on Saturday by making the bold claim that Red Bull are even faster now than they were throughout the previous campaign.

“The car worked very well,” said Verstappen. “We managed to do everything we wanted and we’ve learned a lot. These were very positive days for me. I’ve enjoyed driving this car. Last year I found it a lot harder to string laps together, but of course that was also because that car was just way too heavy.

“Then you don’t really get a good feeling at the front, because that’s where most of the weight was. But now it actually ran a lot smoother. I’m really happy about that. With this generation of cars it is the smoothest winter test I have ever had. It’s hard to compare with previous generations, though. But compared to last year, it’s definitely better.”

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