Since 1950, Formula 1 has grown to become one of motor sport's most formidable challenges. The series now spans 23 circuits on five continents, from Monaco to Melbourne, testing the skill of sport's top drivers.

Mercedes has been dominant for seven years, but Red Bull is gaining every ground fast. The two teams have finished first or second in all four races this season. Formula 1 has the fight it long craved.

Since 2014, Mercedes has been crushingly dominant, setting a record last season in winning its seventh consecutive constructors title. Its driver, Lewis Hamilton is chasing a record eighth championship after winning six of the last seven with the team.

But Mercedes and Hamilton are being challenged this year by Red Bull and Max Verstappen. The team won four titles in a row from 2012-13, with Sebastian Vettel also winning the drivers' titles, before Mercedes's supremacy.

''I hope it goes all the way to the wire,'' Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull, said in an interview. A record 23-race season ends in December in Abu Dhabi. ''That's what the fans would love to see, it is what they have been crying out for, although I don't know if my nerves could take it.

''There's nothing more exciting than racing Lewis Hamilton, and that's what we want to do.''

After three days of preseason testing, at the Bahrain International Circuit, in March, Red Bull emerged  with the fastest car. Mercedes struggled after alterations were made over the winter to its cars because of changes to aerodynamic regulations that would reduce drag and increase stability.

This year's cars are largely a carryover from the last season, except the floor, whose aerodynamics play an important role. Red Bull seems to have adapted better.

''We had a strong winter,'' Horner said. ''The regulation changes were positive for us. We managed to address some of the weaknesses of our car, which were mainly aerodynamic, which is what dictate these cars.''

To improve power and reliability, Honda, the team's power-unit supplier, made changes to the engine, turbine and energy recovery system.

''They've done a great job,'' Horner said, referring to Honda,'' so it's been a combination of everything coming together.''

Still, in the first race in Bahrain in March, Hamilton won, and Verstappen was second after a battle in the final laps. Three weeks later, in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix imola, Italy, the finishing positions were reversed.

Then Hamilton won the last two races, in Portugal and Spain, and Verstappen was runner-up. Before the fifth race in Monaco on Sunday, Hamilton has a 14-point lead over Verstappen. Mercedes is 29 points ahead of Red Bull.

''Mercedes had one bad test, so there was an awful lot of excitement circulating in the media,'' Horner said of the March tests, ''but you know with the juggernaut that is Mercedes, it was only a matter of time before they got going.

''You could see by Race 1 they were already competitive. We are pushing very hard to keep the pressure on them, and we will continue to do so. To date, it's been very tight.''

Can the Mercedes juggernaut be stopped this season?

''There are tracks that are coming up that will suit us, and there are some that will suit Mercedes,'' Horner said. ''I'm sure this championship will ebb and flow.''

In the last seven years, Hamilton's main challenge has been from a teammate. Nico Rosberg of Mercedes won the title in 2016, beating Hamilton by five points.

This year, Hamilton is relishing the fight with Verstappen. ''You are seeing the closest battle for some time, and Max is performing exceptionally well,'' he said.

''Without a doubt, he has a championship winning car and a championship-winning team, who can really pull off the job this year if we don't do ours.''

Hamilton and Verstappen have made their best start to a season, with 94 and 80 points from four races. ''This is my preferred scenario when we are fighting against another team at their best or potentially even ahead in certain instances,'' Hamilton said.

''Max is more experienced now than he has ever been and clearly incredibly hungry to win more races and win championships. This is what we are all here for, to race and fight for wins. Game on.''

The World Students Society thanks author Ian Parkes.


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