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Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ‘fired up’ for Max Verstappen fight | F1 | Sport

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For the first time since 2013, a non-Mercedes car will start on pole position for the opening race of the season, as the 2021 season gets underway on Sunday in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen beat both the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the desert to set up one of the most exciting season openers for nearly a decade.

And it’s something that fans have been looking forward to, according to Sky Sports F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham.

Speaking exclusively to Express Sport, she said: “It definitely hasn’t all gone Mercedes’ way, and we’re always keen to talk the competitors up – in the hope that we have a competition on our hands, but actually it really looks that way.

“I think we genuinely, particularly for the neutral, have every reason to be really excited about this season.

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“Talking to Lewis Hamilton on Friday night, he said it was the most excited he’s ever been. They don’t want it all their own way, they want competition – to be the greatest, you have to fend off hot competition.

“I think everyone is fired up for it.”

Speaking to Hamilton ahead of the race, Pinkham said he seemed pretty relaxed about the prospect of competition, and in fact, seemed to relish it.

“He’s been incredibly friendly, it’s almost as if he’s really happy to see everyone back,” she added.

“He was talking to Ted [Kravitz] about home schooling, not that Lewis has done any of it, but Ted has.

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“He seemed very relaxed on Friday, but as I say very excited for the prospect of being pushed hard by Max Verstappen. He was also very complimentary of McLaren.

“Lewis seems genuinely excited by the prospect of having a fight on his hands, and if he is to take that historic eighth crown, it’s not all going to go his own way.

“And obviously going to 23 different circuits, so many different challenges, is going to play to different strengths for different cars and different points of the season, which is great for the fans.

“Obviously he dominated last year, and he rightly took the title, but we saw some upsets and some interesting results, so it’s cool, I think more of the same this time round.”

Pinkham led the Sky Sports F1 commentary for the first time during Friday practice, alongside 2009 champion Jenson Button and former driver Karun Chandock, an encouraging sign for women looking to move forward in motorsport commentary.

Few women have led a commentary in motorsport, however we have seen some women stepping up to the challenge in championships like the World Rally Championship and W Series, the all female championship.

She said: “It was fairly intimidating getting into the comms box for the first time, but such a buzz, I loved it.

“Luckily I had Jenson and Karun with me, who are both just magnificent, such a great support.

“I loved it, I had adrenaline surging through me for ages afterwards.

“The feedback has been lovely, I’ve had so many, particularly young women, messaging me saying ‘Oh we’ve heard a female voice’ – that’s music to their ears.

“Makes me a bit emotional. I think it’s just going out of your comfort zone, it’s so important to do.

“It’s like all these things matter to somebody, and it’s about having people that you can relate to on screen, and you can emulate when you’re older.

“It’s about showing if you’re passionate and you work hard, it’s possible.”

Watch every race of the 2021 F1 season exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 and NOW.


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