If the Bahrain Grand Prix is anything to go by, then Formula 1 fans are in for a treat this season. In what was a nail-biting finish to the weekend, Lewis Hamilton fended off the charging Red Bull of Max Verstappen to win the Bahrain Grand Prix and take an early lead in the championship standings.
In an action-packed race up and down the grid, the Bahrain Grand Prix witnessed some of the closest racing in Formula 1's recent history. Drivers in similarly paced cars were embroiled in fierce battles throughout the race. The season has already started delivering on its promise of being the most exciting one yet.
Here are five key talking points from the Bahrain Grand Prix:
#1 Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are the team to beat in Formula 1
Mercedes were able to pull through after being dominated throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. The Brackley-based team had a slower car and suffered a resounding defeat in qualifying. Red Bull's challenger looked faster than the Mercedes in every session of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Coupled with arguably the fastest driver on the grid in Max Verstappen, this race was Red Bull's to lose.
However, Hamilton stuffed Verstappen's advances in the dying stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix to eventually take the checkered flag and win the 95th Grand Prix of his stellar career. His masterclass today showed why Lewis Hamilton is considered one of the greatest ever to race in the series.
Mercedes operates like a well-oiled machine. The team has dominated the turbo-hybrid era, and their experience at the front of the grid showed today at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The team proved they can win races without being the fastest car on a particular weekend, which is an ominous sign for the rest of the grid.
#2 Red Bull and Max Verstappen will learn from this
Red Bull looked like a deer caught in the headlights at Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix. The team had the fastest car on the grid, but lacked the experience to fight Mercedes at the top of the grid. Red Bull hasn't seriously competed for a championship since 2013, and the rust showed today.
The team were caught with their pants down when Mercedes decided to undercut Max Verstappen. Red Bull pitted the Dutchman three laps later but he came out almost nine seconds behind the reigning champion. Verstappen eventually caught up to Hamilton, only for the Brit to pit again. Red Bull covered off the pit-stop by bringing Verstappen in again. However, the Dutchman was unable to catch Lewis Hamilton and took P2 on a weekend that the former dominated uptil Saturday's Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session.
Red Bull has the pedigree to compete for championships. The team won four consecutive titles between 2010 and 2013. However, they did not face an opponent of Mercedes' caliber. Red Bull has the car required to mount a fierce championship challenge, but the team needs to improve on the operational side. Hopefully Red Bull and Max Verstappen will take the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend as a learning experience and come back stronger at the next race.
#3 Midfield battles will steal the show every race
Formula 1 is in a great place right now. There is a close competitive battle at the front for the championship. However, an even more intriguing battle lurks in the midfield.
AlphaTauri, McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Alpine are matched on pace. In all likelihood, the teams are going to fight it out amongst themselves for the honors of 'best of the rest' in every race.
With drivers of the caliber of Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly battling out in the midfield, there couldn't be a better time to watch Formula 1 than right now.
#4 Sebastian Vettel had a Bahrain Grand Prix to forget
Sebastian Vettel's journey with Aston Martin has gotten off to a miserable start. After a yellow flag infringement in qualifying left the German at the back of the field, Vettel was left playing catch-up the entire race. Surprisingly, the German lacked pace compared to his teammate Lance Stroll.
It was a listless performance for the four-time world champion as the German did not look to challenge for points at any point of the Bahrain Grand Prix. To make things worse, his clash with Ocon was completely the German's fault and he accrued two more penalty points on his Super License, bringing his total for the weekend to five.
The German's stature in the sport will suggest that this is a one-off performance, and hopefully, he can put together a competitive weekend at Imola in three weeks.
#5 The 2021 Formula 1 season is delivering on its promises
In all likelihood, the 2021 season will feature two of the best drivers on the grid locked in a championship battle. To add to this, Formula 1 is seeing its closest midfield in the sport's history, with five teams vying for the smaller points on any given weekend.
FIA's regulation changes have worked to perfection as they have finally achieved their goal of close and competitive racing across the grid.
The inaugural race of the 2021 season delivered on every promise it made, and if this is how close teams in the midfield are, then Formula 1 fans could be in store for the best season in the sport's history.
The Bahrain Grand Prix launched the Formula 1 season in the best way possible. Fans will hope that the remaining 22 races can bring similar levels of excitement.