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Lewis Hamilton: Will Mercedes driver be at his 'best' in F1 2022 as Max Verstappen rivalry renews?

Watch final three-day pre-season test live on Sky Sports F1 from this Thursday; Our coverage will feature all eight hours of track action from Bahrain from all three days, as the 2022 pecking order begins to take shape before the season start on March 20

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With the new season fast approaching, relive some of the most intense tussles on track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year

Lewis Hamilton will be more motivated than ever to bounce back from his 2021 title heartbreak and make history this season, say the Sky Sports F1 pundits ahead of the return of that intense Max Verstappen rivalry.

Two and a half months on from the hugely controversial finish to Hamilton and Verstappen's championship battle that saw the Dutchman emerge victorious with a last-lap overtake, Formula 1 2022 is preparing for lift-off with the final pre-season test this week before the first race on March 20.

Hamilton, while still furious about how an epic season finished, has vowed that Abu Dhabi will not define his career while also sending an ominous warning to his rivals with the message: "If you think what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year."

And it is that statement of intent the Sky F1 pundits believe says a lot about the seven-time world champion's mentality heading into 2022.

"When Lewis Hamilton comes out with a sentence like that, you have to take notice," says Anthony Davidson.

"He sure is fired up to win this thing once and for all and I think he'll be hard to beat. He's certainly coming into this season with a very bullish mentality."

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Lewis Hamilton speaks about his World Championship defeat in Abu Dhabi, how it affected him and his ongoing relationship with the sport

With all-new cars for 2022, it is not yet clear what the pecking order will be or indeed whether Mercedes and Red Bull will be as closely-matched at the front as last year.

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But Davidson adds: "There will be nothing more than Lewis wants from this season than to destroy Max Verstappen.

"Let's not beat around a bush, he feels absolutely robbed as to what happened last year in Abu Dhabi, he wants to come out with a dominant car and he doesn't even want to see Max on track, I'm sure.

"He just wants to show him a clean pair of heels, disappear off into the distance and win his eighth world championship."

Karun Chandhok continued on Hamilton: "One of two things was going to happen [after Abu Dhabi], either Lewis was going to get disillusioned with the sport, or you'll pull the tail on the tiger. I suspect we've got the latter."

Verstappen and Russell hot on Hamilton's heels

The final three-day pre-season test - starting this Thursday live on Sky Sports F1 - should provide a clearer picture of which team has stolen a march to begin the new 2022 era. But once the lights go out for the first time in Bahrain on March 20, there can be no doubt that the Hamilton vs Verstappen rivalry will renew.

1996 world champion Damon Hill has tipped Hamilton to come out on top this season, stating: "I think Lewis knows what he's dealing with with Max.

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There was certainly no love lost between Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Red Bull boss Christian Horner during last season's incredible title tussle

"I think Max has shown he's a hardcore, uncompromising driver and competitor, and Lewis showed last year he's willing to show the hard side to him, too."

Verstappen won't be the only young determined star Hamilton has to contend with this year, for he has a new team-mate in George Russell at Mercedes, the Briton having shone over three years at Williams.

"George is absolutely superb in qualifying, there's no doubt he'll pull laps out and surprise Lewis," says Paul Di Resta.

"But I think people underestimate Lewis and how relentless he is in the race. He's an absolute animal when it comes to what he can get out of the car.

"It also depends what Lewis' mindset is. He seems in good spirits and I think he's still definitely at his prime and I think he will want to prove a point, more than anything, that he can win this eighth world title."

Watch all eight hours from all three days of the final pre-season test live on Sky Sports F1 from Thursday in Bahrain. The new season starts with the Bahrain GP on March 20, with every session live on Sky Sports F1.

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