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Putting the fun back into F1

NEWS STORY
10/04/2017

Hamilton and rivals finally having fun and relishing the prospect of further battles ahead.

In recent years, the faces of the assembled drivers on the podium brought to mind the old saying about losing a pound and finding a penny, such were the dour expressions of the overall clad heroes as they went through the motions time after time, thanking the crowd, thanking the team, thanking one another and then spraying the Champagne to the strains of Bizet.

Yesterday, however, it seemed a little more genuine. While the crowd was still paid tribute, likewise the teams and rivals, once the monotonous Champagne bit was out of the way it was clear that Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen were 'pumped', that they were really enjoying the moment.

While the weather gods didn't deliver another Interlagos, there were some great moments, certainly enough to power a conversation down the pub in the days leading up to Bahrain.

Though it wasn't a classic, it was certainly an improvement on Melbourne, as we finally saw some overtaking and Vettel and Verstappen reminded us what they are capable of.

Saturday had confirmed that Ferrari is now up there with Mercedes, and while the conditions - and Max' bravura performance - got Red Bull on to the podium, it is clear that the Austrian team is catching up.

The overriding feeling however is that the drivers are finally enjoying themselves, and when the drivers are having fun - a word used several times by all three drivers during the post-race celebrations - the fans can expect to be entertained and kept on the edges of their seats.

"I think it's going to be one of the closest ones, if not the closest I've personally ever experienced," said Hamilton, "and I'm looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are still going be in amongst it.

"We were just saying that we were both pushing," he continued, referring to the post-mortem held with Vettel before heading out to the podium. "Those last 20 laps or so really exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try to match and he was closing the gap a little bit, but I managed to stay ahead."

"Today we finished second, I'm very happy with that, good points," said the German. "More than that, and much more valuable than that, it was an entertaining and fun race for me. I had some overtaking.

"It was difficult to get close to the car, like last race you felt the effect but here I think it's a better track to overtake and yeah, it's the way it should be in my opinion: you need to make it stick so it shouldn't come for free. You shouldn't just open the flap and sail past. It was good fun. I can't complain.

"I kept pushing because you never know, maybe Lewis is doing a mistake, or has an issue with the car so I wanted to keep the pressure on - but yeah, I enjoyed the fact we were racing, even though not side-by-side or right behind each other but five, six, eight seconds apart. To hear that he was pushing as well I think is good news. So in terms of pace it was probably a match. Sometimes he was a bit faster, sometimes I was a bit faster. Overall it was good fun."

Verstappen, who had started the race from 16th but was 7th by the end of the first lap, was equally enthused, particularly with that opening lap.

"I had a good start, but I got a bit blocked because the two cars in front of me went into the middle so I had to back off, but still I gained one or two positions and then, yeah, basically just trying to find a gap so trying to go round the outside in turn one, I got another car, then inside turn two, another car, outside turn three, because there was space, trying to find grip because when you're behind a car you lose a lot of downforce so just trying to find some free space and basically everything happened... also turn six, turn seven, eight, always trying to go around the outside or inside and it worked.

"Nine cars is quite a lot on one lap," he admitted, "but of course very happy that it worked."

However, his urgent calls in reference to Grosjean, even though the Frenchman appeared some distance ahead, reinforce what we witnessed in Melbourne, namely that the new rules are seeing cars suffering from dirty air whenever they are within two to three seconds of the car ahead.

Having paid tribute to his two rivals, Hamilton concluded: "I hope that Red Bull can improve through the season because I think a third element in the fight I think would be even more exciting."

And so say all of us.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Shanghai, here.

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