Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton said both he and his Mercedes team would be in better shape for the second half of the season but the battle with Red Bull and Max Verstappen would be closer and tougher than ever.
The Briton has an eight-point lead over his Dutch rival ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, a race that starts the second phase and will have plenty of vocal Verstappen fans in attendance.
“It’s going to be close, it’s going to be tough this second half of the season,” said Hamilton, who could take a record-extending 100th win on Sunday.
“The first half was definitely one of the toughest and I expect it’s going to be pretty much the same in the second half, if not more difficult.”
The 36-year-old said he was excited to get back and did not feel more wary of Verstappen’s challenge.
Verstappen has won five races to Hamilton’s four so far this year and would be comfortably ahead but for collisions and misfortune.