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Max is impressive, Hamilton-Vettel battle to be season-long – Lauda

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Niki Lauda thinks F1 is heading for a season-long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

For the first time in the ‘power unit’ era, Mercedes has a genuine championship challenger this year in the form of a resurgent Ferrari.

Hamilton and Vettel have each won a race and finished second so far, and Mercedes team chairman Lauda said: “I am afraid that this duel will last the whole season.

“Sure, that’s great for the fans,” the F1 legend told Bild newspaper, “but I would not have had a problem if it had continued like it had for the last few years.”

Indeed, Ferrari’s Vettel won the opening salvo in Melbourne, but triple world champion Hamilton bounced back with victory in China.

“I was relieved,” Lauda admitted. “I’m glad we now have our first race win under the new rules.”

Now, attention is turning to struggling Red Bull, after Max Verstappen pulled off a spectacular podium finish in Shanghai last weekend.

“Max’s performance was impressive,” Lauda admitted, “but I do not think Red Bull really got any closer.”

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