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Lewis Hamilton says he is excited to see what he and George Russell can build together under Mercedes.

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Lewis Hamilton says he is excited to see what he and George Russell can build together under Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton says he is excited to see what he and George Russell can build together under Mercedes.

The 2022 F1 season is nearly here. We’ve had the launches, heard from the drivers and team bosses and now seen the latest generation of cars out on track. The first impressions are really positive to be honest.

Despite the scepticism of the technical minds in the sport who thought that the new rules would be too prescriptive and curb their creativity, all the cars look distinctive and innovative which is great.

Heading into the year though, as much as the cars are exciting and interesting to see, it’s the drivers that most people tune in for. There are some fascinating dynamics in play for this year and really the most interesting rivalry following on from 2021 is between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Hamilton vs Verstappen rivalry has hallmarks of Prost vs Senna

With the new season fast approaching, relive some of the most intense tussles on track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year.

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With the new season fast approaching, relive some of the most intense tussles on track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year.

With the new season fast approaching, relive some of the most intense tussles on track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year.

For years we had been waiting to see if Red Bull Racing were going to have a car that allowed Max to use his extraordinary talent to take on Lewis and we finally got that.

I wrote in a column last year that the 2021 season reminded me of the year we should have had in 1994 where the undisputed current king of the sport (then Senna, last year Hamilton) was being challenged by a young, aggressive and highly motivated talent (then Schumacher, last year Verstappen).

Now that the dust has somewhat settled on last year, I’ve been thinking about their dynamic as we head into the new season and I actually think there are clear similarities between them and the Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna rivalry from 1989.

 Karun says Hamilton vs Verstappen reminds him of Prost vs Senna

Karun says Hamilton vs Verstappen reminds him of Prost vs Senna

What often gets overlooked when talking about that rivalry is that Prost was five years older than Senna and in terms of his F1 driving career, was at a different stage when they were paired up at McLaren. Heading into 1989, Prost was starting his 10th season in the sport and more importantly, he had finished first or second in five of the previous nine. In so many ways, like Lewis, he had been there, done it and established himself as the best driver of his generation.

Senna meanwhile had burst on the scene in 1984 showing off his prodigious talent in lesser cars before winning his first world championship. Much like the young Dutchman, he was very keen to take over the mantle as the sport’s undisputed top dog.

When I think about the way Lewis has gone about his racing since 2018, it’s ironic that even though he has repeatedly talked about Ayrton being his hero, I actually see more parallels between him and Alain.

In a clip from Season Four of Drive to Survive on Netflix, Lewis Hamilton says he feels he has always had a

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In a clip from Season Four of Drive to Survive on Netflix, Lewis Hamilton says he feels he has always had a

In a clip from Season Four of Drive to Survive on Netflix, Lewis Hamilton says he feels he has always had a

In recent times, Lewis seems to have changed the way he goes about a race weekend in comparison to his early years. Like Prost used to, there’s a huge amount of focus on getting the car set up and dialled in for the race. He no longer looks dejected if he doesn’t get pole position because he knows the points come in the races. His engineers talk highly at just how much he has improved his ability to look after the tyres and create flexibility in the race strategies that has allowed him to win races such as Barcelona last year or Mexico in 2019 where he had tyres that were 14 laps older than Sebastian Vettel and still held him off to win.

When you watch on board with Lewis, there’s a smoothness to his driving that isn’t necessarily as extreme as Prost or Jackie Stewart or Jenson Button but certainly it’s much less edgy than the style we used to see in his early McLaren days or what we expected for Senna, Schumacher and now Verstappen.

In a parallel to Senna, Max has redefined the rules of engagement against his competitors on track. There’s an edgy, ruthless streak to the way he goes racing. There’s the incredible self-belief and confidence of a young driver who knows that he has a god-given talent that only a few people in the history of the sport have ever possessed.

Naomi Schiff sits down with Lewis Hamilton to discuss his relationship with Max Verstappen. Watch the full interview during our coverage of the Bahrain GP.

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Naomi Schiff sits down with Lewis Hamilton to discuss his relationship with Max Verstappen. Watch the full interview during our coverage of the Bahrain GP.

Naomi Schiff sits down with Lewis Hamilton to discuss his relationship with Max Verstappen. Watch the full interview during our coverage of the Bahrain GP.

‘Gloves off’ for Hamilton vs Russell… but will Merc allow battles?

The added dynamic to this whole battle for 2022 is going to be George Russell. The young Brit has earned his place alongside Lewis at Mercedes and this battle is getting me excited more than anything else. Unlike Max, who is clearly established as the number one driver at Red Bull, Lewis is going to have to battle his own team-mate as well as Max and the rest of the grid.

This intra-team battle has all the makings of a Fernando Alonso versus Hamilton from 2007. A young, highly rated, yet largely unproven talent lining up against the best driver of his generation. We all know how that played out and while at the moment George is saying everything out of the Mercedes PR machine’s handbook, I have no doubt that when we get to the first braking zone in Bahrain on the opening lap, the gloves will be off.

Check out the best action from George Russell's first three season's in F1 before his big move from Williams to Mercedes.

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Check out the best action from George Russell’s first three season’s in F1 before his big move from Williams to Mercedes.

Check out the best action from George Russell’s first three season’s in F1 before his big move from Williams to Mercedes.

A key difference between Lewis and George in 2022 and Lewis and Fernando in 2007 was actually pointed out to me by Toto Wolff a couple of weeks ago. He made it very clear that while Ron Dennis had suggested to Lewis that he ought to spend six months being half a second behind Fernando as an understudy, Toto expects George to be right up there fighting for pole position and wins from the opening race in Bahrain.

Toto was also very clear that after the experience he had with Lewis and Nico in 2015 and 2016, he will not tolerate a team that gets divided, where the atmosphere internally turns toxic so his personal management of this dynamic will be fascinating to watch.

George proved last season that he is one of the best qualifiers in Formula 1. The laps in Silverstone, Spa and Russia last year were among the best of the season. It’s hard to judge his race pace and tyre management because the Williams wasn’t the most competitive car and therefore we tend to look at that one off weekend in Bahrain with Mercedes where he was exemplary.

Anthony Davidson says George Russell looks as if he lacks confidence as he battles with porpoising on the final day of the Bahrain testing.

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Anthony Davidson says George Russell looks as if he lacks confidence as he battles with porpoising on the final day of the Bahrain testing.

Anthony Davidson says George Russell looks as if he lacks confidence as he battles with porpoising on the final day of the Bahrain testing.

However, the stunning form Lewis showed in the final part of last season should be a warning shot for George. In the past two seasons, Lewis and Max have raised the bar in terms of consistent brilliance in a way that Michael did 20 years ago. Other drivers can get close to them ‘on their day’ but across the 22 races it’s a tall order. The controversial season finale would have done one of two things – (a) made Lewis feel disillusioned and fed up with the sport; or (b) lit a massive fire under his fuse, which as we saw in Brazil last year, makes him unstoppable.

I spent a couple of days with the Mercedes team and drivers around the factory in Brackley and up at Silverstone when they were running their new car for the first time. Lewis seems to have come back from his winter break re-charged and refreshed and had a real air of calm about him. The words “keen as mustard” were used by a lot of people to describe George and it was evident to see within five minutes of speaking with him. It sounds like he has been spending a lot of time at the factory working in the simulator and with the engineers. He realises that being an equal or ahead of Lewis this season will cement his reputation in the sport and set him up for life and he doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned in his quest to unlock performance.

The Bahrain Grand Prix and the 2022 season can’t come soon enough!

Follow the Bahrain GP live on Sky Sports F1

Sky Sports F1 is your home for every race this season, and it all starts with the Bahrain GP this weekend.

We will have build-up right through the week before covering all the action live from the Bahrain International Circuit, from Friday’s first practice session through to Sunday’s season-opening Grand Prix.

Sky Sports F1 experts Martin Brundle, David Croft, Damon Hill, Ted Kravitz, Simon Lazenby, Natalie Pinkham and Naomi Schiff will all be out in Bahrain bringing you unrivalled analysis and punditry.

In a 2022 twist, the drivers’ press conference will take place on Friday morning before both practice sessions and our live F1 Show, recapping the action.

Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race – both live at 3pm – will be followed by Ted’s Notebook, while there is also the added boost of the Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships kicking off in Bahrain.

As always, you can also follow the action online and on the Sky Sports app.

A new era starts here. F1, at long last, is back.

The Formula 1 season begins on Friday on Sky Sports F1 with the Bahrain GP. Sunday’s race starts at 3pm. Find out more & subscribe.



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