Hamilton, Vettel hail first ’17 wheel-to-wheel battle at Spain (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel exchanged mutual respect and admiration for each other following their gripping scrap in today’s Spanish Grand Prix, as Hamilton took his second win of the season for Mercedes to match Vettel’s total at Ferrari.

Vettel led away from the start while Hamilton was in behind him. But the two opted for different strategies for when they’d run their one mandatory set of Pirelli’s harder compound, the mediums, during the race.

Hamilton ran them in a middle stint while Vettel ran his for his final stint, opting to run longer to the finish in hopes Hamilton’s softs would fall off and bring him back. Vettel pitted first and Hamilton pitted later in the first stint, which shifted the race a bit.

Vettel lost time on two occasions this race. He was stuck behind Valtteri Bottas, who ran longer on the first stint by more than 10 laps compared to when Vettel first pitted, and while he made it past the Finn it allowed Hamilton to close.

Then when he opted to pit for the mediums, as it came just at the conclusion of the race’s lone Virtual Safety Car, he emerged right alongside Hamilton – which set up their scrap over the next several laps before Hamilton eventually made the pass for the win.

Hamilton and Vettel’s one side-by-side moment into Turns 1 and 2 saw Hamilton go sideways onto the rumble strips, but while the incident was noted by the race stewards, it was not investigated. Hamilton made it past Vettel for the lead on Lap 44 of 66 and that was all she wrote for the race.

Controversy did not reign between these two on the podium, as they hailed their first proper wheel-to-wheel fight this year.

“The team did an incredible job today. That’s how racing should be. That’s as close as it should be, as Sebastian was incredibly close,” Hamilton said. “It was so much fun. The start, I don’t know exactly what’s gone wrong. It wasn’t good enough.

“(On the contact) I think in heat of moment it’s hard to view. I felt I ran out of road, but that’s how racing should be.”

Vettel added, “I was pushing so much. I had a really good start at the beginning. I put the clutch in. We managed to stay ahead in a nice rhythm, but Lewis stayed out longer on the strategy. I knew in the end it’d be crucial.

“I was a bit surprised it was so close. I tried to brake as late as possible. Not sure if we touched but I managed to stay ahead! A car gave me a tow. But when I was alone, he blew past. We tried to stay in the race. Well done to him.”

Vettel explained why Ferrari opted not to go for what was termed “Plan C” – a potential third stop to switch onto another set of softs.

“We had a huge gap to Daniel (Ricciardo), so we could have done anything really,” he said. “Obviously there was a big conversation trying to do something.

“We wondered about Lewis’ tires. But we didn’t have any problems as the track had a lot of rubber at the end, so we didn’t do it.”

Vettel now leads Hamilton by six points, 104-98, after this result.

Video highlights from Sunday’s Dakar Rally Stage 8: Bikes, Cars, Quads, Trucks

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Sunday’s Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally brought the race into the final country it will compete in, Argentina.

Monday’s Stage 9 was cancelled after bad weather made course conditions impassible for racing. Stage 10 picks up Tuesday morning. The overall Rally ends Saturday.

Here’s some of Sunday’s key video highlights:

BIKES

Antoine Meo wins Stage 8.

QUADS 

Simon Vitse wins Stage 8.

CARS

Stephane Peterhansel wins Stage 8.

TRUCKS

Dmitry Sotnikov wins Stage 8.