Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are both relishing the chance to fight for a fifth Formula 1 world championship against each other in 2018.
For the first time in F1 history, two four-time world champions will be competing at the same time, with Hamilton and Vettel also joined by fellow world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on the grid. Asked if the championship battle is made even more important going up against another driver with a similar record, Hamilton says competing against Vettel and Ferrari while driving for an iconic team in Mercedes is a special scenario.
“I think it is a privilege to be in Formula 1 and a privilege to be racing for the teams we race for,” Hamilton said. “For me and Mercedes with the heritage they have, to be a part of the sport which is progressing and changing with the times and to be at the forefront of it, competing against the best drivers you can compete against, I think that is… when you come to the end of your career you want to know you have competed against the best.
“There are those who bow out before and early and there are those who have won championships that have not been as competitive, and the ultimate goal is to be the best so you have to go up against the best.
“It is great and a great experience for me to race against Sebastian with his four world titles, the most of any driver at the time. I think this is an exciting year for F1, for the fans, as we have two four-time world champions battling it out.
“But Daniel [Ricciardo] has been smiling quite a lot today, so I think you are going to be surprised this weekend with just how competitive Red Bull are. There is a lot of hype around our team, which I think is very difficult to take much notice of as the last test was a little distorted with the track the way it was and people on different fuel loads. I am excited to see how we all fare up when we get to practice.”
Asked for his thoughts following Hamilton’s comments, Vettel added: “I agree with Lewis – I think it is a privilege to prove yourself and then be able to race in F1.
“Then when you get in all you want to do is win, you don’t look at anything else. Maybe afterwards when you look back you get a bit more perspective and open your horizons. I think then it becomes something special to win against the best.
“In my case if I looked at the people I raced against it has always been the same people from karting – I didn’t race Lewis in karting but I was aware, we met a little bit later in Formula 3 when he was a lot better than I was and ultimately then in F1. I think then you care more about who you race against and what is means as it gives you more satisfaction.
“Now, obviously, I am searching for the ultimate satisfaction which is to win with Ferrari who are the greatest team in history and the greatest team in the paddock. That is my ultimate target now, to win with Ferrari, and win against the best, which arguably I’m sure there are plenty of numbers you are all aware of and Lewis is one of them.”