Lewis Hamilton didn’t look much like a driver with retirement on his mind after that enthralling Bahrain Grand Prix, did he?

In a pre-season interview for our website, Damon Hill told us he absolutely “gets” why Hamilton should have signed just a single-year extension to his Mercedes-AMG contract as he keeps his options open for the future.

Sure, Hamilton might still walk away after this season, an eighth world championship secured or otherwise. But under the floodlights at the desert circuit, he showed the world what he’s still made of at 36.

“Still got it, Bono,” he said over the radio to trusted race engineer Pete Bonnington after winning a race that he should have lost to Red BullHonda’s Max Verstappen. “Not bad for an old man,” came the delighted reply.

He said it himself in his post-race interview: Sir Lewis Hamilton is still a man deeply in love with his sport.

A rivalry to savour

Hamilton loves a scrap, because he’s a purist racer. Sure, he wouldn’t trade a single one of his seven titles just because some of them looked a little, well, comfortable; but an eighth could mean the most if he’s forced to fight as hard as seems likely this year.

Red Bull and Verstappen were clearly the fastest combination in Bahrain, and only a heady mix of canny strategy, yet another inspired performance from the racing knight and the Dutchman fluffing his lines with his overly eager attempted overtake four laps from the flag overturned the likely result. Hamilton might well be in for the fight of his life in 2021.

A rivalry with a younger man who he respects might actually extend Hamilton’s career, rather than curtail it. Last year, his conviction to stand up against racism gave him a fresh injection of motivation. Could a similarly powerful shot of adrenaline course through him this season, boosted by the true threat that Verstappen and Red Bull now represent?

Hamilton is a proud man, and he’s not one to back down – especially when he finally has someone to race. Great rivalries are the lifeblood of all sport, and the champion will relish what’s to come.