With 2016 Formula One champion Nico Rosberg retired, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton said they would “love” to battle each other in a fight for the 2017 F1 drivers’ crown.
Though both of them have been in F1 racing for around a decade, their real championship duel came in 2010, when they figured in four-cornered fight entering the final round of that season.
But after narrowly beating Hamilton to victory in Sunday’s 2017 opener in Australia, Vettel admitted he was very excited at the prospect of a renewed season-long showdown with a man he regards as “one of the quickest drivers on the grid.”
“For sure, I would love to have a close battle,” Vettel told reporters in the wake of his triumph at Albert Park. “Right now it looks like we have equal machinery. I hope it stays that way and then we will see how it turns out.”
He added that racing against the best, referring of course to Hamilton,” was also fun.
“I have great respect for Lewis – he’s proven to be one of the quickest drivers on the grid, very talented but also working hard,” Vettel said.
Hamilton said such respect was mutual, and that it was an honor to potentially square off against the four-time champion for silverware this year.
“It’s been a privilege to be racing in an era with [Vettel] and we’re now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race,” he said. “I think the fact that we are similar pace-wise… it’s going to be a very, very hard slog this season I think.”
Sunday in Australia was only the 13th time that Hamilton and Vettel finished one-two in a grand prix – and the first time Vettel has led the championship after the opening race since his dominant 2011 campaign with Red Bull.