Lewis Hamilton has praised Max Verstappen for his great start to 2021, and is relishing the challenge being put to him from Red Bull.
Hamilton leads the World Championship by eight points over Verstappen, with the Dutch driver and himself the only two winners of a race so far this season.
With Verstappen looking to be Hamilton's main title rival this year, the reigning World Champion said that it's up to Mercedes to make sure the Red Bull driver doesn't walk away with the title.
"You're seeing the closest battle we've seen for some time," Hamilton told media, including RacingNews365.
"You've seen Max really performing exceptionally well. And he has a championship winning car without a doubt, and a championship winning team who can really pull off the job this year if, you know, we don't do our job.
"So I definitely think experience, our experience will help us in terms of how we approach weekends and how we battled back from difficult weekends.
"I think, from my side, I would like to think that experience will help. But at the end of the day, you just have to do the job and minimal mistakes.
"Reliability is going to be a key player also this year. And then you'll see and even these fastest lap extra points are going to be significant by the end of the year, too."
With Hamilton fighting a driver from another team for the title, as opposed to the intra-team battles such as he had with Nico Rosberg, he claimed to prefer fighting a driver from outside of Mercedes' influence but that he views everybody as a rival.
"It's no different to me, if I'm really honest, I mean, I've been racing a long time since I was eight," Hamilton went on.
"So I've fought so many different people naturally. But you can remember when I was obviously fighting against Ferrari. That is my preferred scenario when we're fighting against another team and another team who are at their best. And even ahead, potentially, in certain instances.
"Max is is more experienced now than he ever has been. And clearly incredibly hungry to win more races and to win this championship. And you know...game on!
"This is what we're all here to do is to race and to be fighting for wins. And in the battles that we've had just in these first few races have been amazing. And I'm excited to, to enjoy more of them!"