LEWIS HAMILTON reignites his rivalry with Max Verstappen for real today as the F1 season kicks off in Bahrain.
And the Brit has promised to be “more aggressive” this year after being roughed up by the Dutchman, who won the title in controversial circumstances.
Lewis Hamilton has promised to be more aggressive this seasonCredit: Splash
Max Verstappen pipped the Brit to the F1 title last seasonCredit: Reuters
The two came to blows spectacularly at Silverstone and Monza while they also had a near miss in Sao Paulo and clashed in Jeddah.
But it was the final race that caused the biggest uproar when Michael Masi, the former FIA race director, failed to follow safety car rules to allow Verstappen to pass Hamilton on the final lap to win the race and the title.
Hamilton spent the off season licking his wounds and has promised to come out swinging as he looks to win a record eighth world title.
He said: “I will be a more aggressive driver this year, you’ll see.”
Masi has since been axed from his role following an FIA investigation – which blamed the controversial season finale on “human error” – which but Hamilton says he will not be distracted by the disappointing end to the last campaign.
He added: “I don’t hold any grudges. I don’t have any baggage going into the season. It is important to let go.
“All I can do is try and shape what’s ahead. I can’t change the past. I’m just approaching the season trying to be the best that I can be.
“I want to see if there’s a way I can somehow raise my game — drive at least how I was at the end of last season.
“And just that collaboration with the team, there’s going to be lots and lots of hurdles along the way. But I love that.
“I don’t have that [revenge] viewpoint. I think I’ll just try and be the best driver I can be this year.”
However, Hamilton, who has a new teammate in fellow Brit George Russell, faces a massive headache if he is to beat Verstappen in Bahrain – in more ways than one.
Mercedes have warned that their new car for this season was not quick enough while they also struggle to get to grips with the new rules changes.
Amd that was evident in qualifying yesterday, with Britain’s knight of the round track only making fifth place on the grid today.
Their new design is causing their car to bounce up and down at top speed, making it difficult to control and extremely uncomfortable to drive.
To add to Hamilton’s concerns both Verstappen’s Red Bull and the two Ferraris look incredibly quick.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole with Dutch champ Verstappne just 0.1 seconds behind in second place.
Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz in in third, while the second Red Bull, driven by Sergio Perez, is in fourth.
And things were even worse for Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell, who will start in NINTH.