Hamilton expects 2017 F1 title fight with Vettel to be closest yet

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Lewis Hamilton expects the fight for the 2017 Formula 1 drivers’ championship with Sebastian Vettel to be one of the closest of his career after drawing level in the points standings with his first win of the season in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton lost out to Vettel at the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago, but bounced back in China by leading every lap of the race en route to his fifth win in Shanghai.

The result sees Hamilton tie with Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship after the Ferrari driver finished second on Sunday, setting the tone for a season-long battle – something the Mercedes man relishes.

“I think it’s going to be one of the closest [title fights], if not the closest that I’ve ever experienced,” Hamilton said.

“I’m looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are going to be in amongst it. Ferrari have done a fantastic job and I think its’ great that we’re both pushing.

“Those last 20 laps, really exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try and match it. He was closing the gap a little bit, but managed to stay ahead.”

As well as the threat from Vettel, Hamilton also had to battle against the weather in Shanghai as rain in the lead-up to lights out left the track wet, warranting intermediate tires for the sport and making grip hard to find.

“Today was very, very tough for us all. I went out on the inters initially on the laps to the grid, and then I tried the slick which was impossible,” Hamilton explained.

“We all started on inters and it was very, very hard because there were dry patches everywhere, mostly dry. There were a couple of corners which were wet, so trying to keep the car on the track and look after the tyres at the same time was very, very tough.

“I just want to say a big thank you to this team, I’m just so tremendously proud of everyone, my own personal team and staff and that, and my team who work so hard back at the factory to make it possible.

“This race [against Ferrar] is so real, it’s so exciting for me personally. I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I hope they’re enjoying it.”

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”