• Hamilton sees ‘closest’ title fight of career

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    The 2016 Formula One season saw British Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG figuring in a fight for the driver’s title with team-mate Nico Rosberg of Germany, the eventual champion.

    Although Hamilton won’t admit it, his battle with Rosberg proved to be one of the hardest in his F1 career. This season, however, he relishes the prospect of a season-long battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel also of Germany, saying it has the potential to turn into the closest title fight of his career.

    Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton (second from left) celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, as second-placed Ferrari’s German driver Sebastian Vettel (left) and Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen (third from left) look on, in Shanghai on April 9, 2017. AFP PHOTO

    Having lost out to Vettel at the season opener in Australia, the Mercedes driver tied the German at the top of the standings after claiming a “Grand Slam” victory on last Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix – the first time two drivers have been tied at the top of the championship since 2012.

    Despite coming out on top in Shanghai for a fifth time, Hamilton fully expects the pendulum to continue to swing back and forth between Mercedes and Ferrari for the rest of the year.

    “It’s going to be one of the closest, if not the closest, fights I’ve experienced,” Hamilton said. “I’m looking forward to the battle.”

    “For me what’s so exciting is knowing that I’m fighting against such a great driver. Ferrari are at their best, I think we are at our best, Sebastian’s at his best and I feel I’m at my best. So there will be days where we’re up and down – like in Melbourne where he did the better job and I acknowledged that. And then we came here and he said I did the better job and he acknowledged that. That’s a great respect to have with another champion,” he added.

    Asked if he had an idea which tracks Mercedes might hold the edge, and which tracks might suit Ferrari, Hamilton said: “It’s a little bit difficult. So far the only info I have is that Melbourne was warm, and being on a hotter track Ferrari was stronger.”

    Hamilton and Vettel will be in the spotlight once more this Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    Hamilton and Vettel’s records in Bahrain are very similar, with each having taken two poles and two wins – though Hamilton has five podiums overall to Vettel’s three.

    Like Hamilton, Vettel said he would relish the battle continuing for the rest of the season. “It would be great news for us – they [Mercedes] are the ones to beat.”

    “They have a very, very strong team and have done really well in the last couple of years, smashing a lot of records and being flawless without any mistakes really. So for us I think it’s great news that we had another race where we were really close and were able to put some pressure on,” he adde.

    THE TIMES

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