Lewis Hamilton has described Sebastian Vettel as the driver he most enjoys racing against – and urged his great rival to “stick around” in Formula 1.
Hamilton and Vettel, far and away the grid’s two most successful drivers, were at the centre of another major controversy in Sunday’s Canadian GP when the Ferrari was handed a time penalty for forcing the Mercedes off the track as they battled for the lead.
The sanction dropped a livid Vettel behind Hamilton in the final classification and triggered some extraordinary post-race scenes from the Ferrari driver. But while Vettel expressed his anger with the decision, there was no animosity among the drivers: with Hamilton shepherding the German on to the top step of the podium with him, before Vettel stepped in to say the crowd should not boo the world champion.
Speaking in several rounds of interviews in the hours after the race, Hamilton stood by his initial verdict that Vettel had forced him to take evasive action to avoid a collision – but also had warm words for his long-time rival.
“We’ve had a lot of years racing together and there’s probably no one that I enjoy racing with on the track more than him,” said Hamilton, whose F1 career began in 2007 like Vettel’s.
“I always relish opportunities to battle like we’ve had today and the previous years and they’re really memories that I will always cherish and I hope there are many more, so stick around.”
Hamilton’s comments came in direct response to Vettel’s passionate and lengthy explanation in the post-race press conference about why he does not like certain aspects of modern Formula 1.
Vettel had begun the Canadian GP weekend by dismissing speculation that he was considering retiring at the end of the season.
Having had the chance to re-watch the season’s most contentious incident so far by the time of Mercedes’ usual post-race media sessions, Hamilton said his view was unchanged.
But the world champion did concede he probably would not have acted any differently had he been in Vettel’s shoes.
“What I can say is if that I was in the lead and made a mistake and went wide I would probably have done the same thing,” said Hamilton.
“It happens so quick and you’re just trying to hold your position.
“But, when I say I’d do the same, I’d have tried to squeeze him too. That’s ultimately what happened and so my opinion on that has not shifted.
“Say you didn’t have that rule, I would have kept it lit and we would have crashed. So one way or another it was going to go badly.”
Hamilton added: “When I watched the replay and had a look at my data I had to brake on the exit of Turn Four.
“There was a hazard there and if I had not done that, we would have crashed so I don’t feel different about that.”
This article was originally published on Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.