Lewis Hamilton has described his titanic battle with Max Verstappen for the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula 1 victory as “one of the hardest”.

An aggressive strategy from Mercedes allowed Hamilton to get ahead of Verstappen on track.

The Dutchman chased down the seven-time champion and overtook him around the outside of Turn 4 with just four laps remaining, but was forced to give the place back after he completed the move outside of the circuit.

WHAT A RACE! - Lewis Hamilton wins a dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix - Race Review #BahrainGP #F1

Verstappen was unable to get close again as he overheated his rear tyres, handing Hamilton his first season-opening win since 2015.

Reflecting on the battle with Verstappen, Hamilton said: “Yeah that short lock-up when I was just behind another car, he was just outside DRS, and so sliding around quite a lot behind this car. but the pressure was immense.

“He’s a fantastic driver, they have the quicker car, and to keep him behind on fresh tyres also that was one of the hardest that I’ve had for a while. But I’ve got a really bad memory so I’m sure there were others too.

“In the race, it was so hard to keep the car in mindset, consistent, not make mistakes, hold the ground. Ultimately if he hadn’t made the mistake he probably would have won the race. that’s what makes and loses you wins.”

After two dominant seasons with no other team challenging Mercedes, Hamilton is relishing the challenge from Red Bull.

“Yeah I mean we came into this race knowing that we were on the back foot, knowing that it was going to be a tough start but everyone worked incredibly hard to try and at least maximise everything we had, and there was no, everybody just kept their heads down and I’m incredibly grateful to everybody,” Hamilton added.

“We’ve got such a great fight here. This is not the end for them; they’re going to come back with a vengeance in the next race so we’ve got to work hard. I hope the fans enjoyed it because I enjoyed it. Onwards and upwards from here.”