Lewis Hamilton out to make it a friendly F1 title battle with Sebastian Vettel

Giles Richards
The Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, left, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel embrace after the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. Photograph: Toru Takahashi/AP

Lewis Hamilton expects his battle with Sebastian Vettel will remain friendly. He beat Vettel and Ferrari into second place at the Chinese Grand Prix, with the German having done the same to the Mercedes driver at the first race of the season in Melbourne. The pair thus far have only been complimentary about one another – a mutual respect the three-times world champion expects to continue.

“I honestly think it will stay the way it is,” Hamilton said. “Who knows, maybe we will have times when we are racing hard and there could be a scenario where one of us thinks something is unfair – being too aggressive or whatever – but we are grown men, we have come a long, long way. We have experienced a lot, I think the respect for one another is the highest I have felt from another driver, especially of his calibre.”

The pair have not gone head to head during their careers, despite sharing seven world championships, and they embraced immediately after the race in Shanghai – in contrast to the fractious and increasingly cold relationship Hamilton shared with his former team-mate Nico Rosberg while the pair were competing for the title in the dominant Mercedes of the past three years.

I enjoyed the fact we were racing,” Vettel said. “Even though not side by side or right behind each other but five, six, eight seconds apart. To hear that he was pushing as well I think is good news. So in terms of pace it was probably a match. Sometimes he was a bit faster, sometimes I was a bit faster. Overall it was good fun.”

Early form suggests there is little to choose between Mercedes and Ferrari. They have yet to go wheel-to-wheel on track but Hamilton said there was a level of respect that would keep the relationship friendly. “It’s amazing sportsmanship – when you win he enjoys it and acknowledges it, and when you lose the same thing,” he said. “We are both doing that and I think that is a great place to be.

“Naturally he wants to beat me and vice versa but outside the car there is admiration for the others’ achievements and the way they drive. He is performing at his best – he is rapid out there – so when I am able to get ahead it is a compliment and vice versa.”

They will battle again in Bahrain on Sunday, where Hamilton is eager to put his nose in front as early as possible. “You take any advantage you can get at any point and definitely early on, hopefully it will pay dividends at the end,” he said. “I have to try to make sure I finish ahead in the next race.”

In Shanghai Hamilton scored the third grand chelem of his career – taking pole, the win, the fastest lap and having led every lap – but has his eye on moving closer to another record at the Bahrain Grand Prix. “I want another pole – I have six in a row and Senna had eight in a row and I want to catch Senna, that’s even more of a challenge,” he said.

Ayrton Senna achieved eight consecutive poles between the Spanish Grand Prix in 1988 and the US Grand Prix in 1989, while Hamilton’s previous best is seven, the year he won his third title – between the Monaco and Italian grands prix of 2015.

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