Hamilton vs Vettel: Does a legendary rivalry beckon?

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel appear to be embarking upon an enthralling season-long contest for the world championship. Formula One fans the world over finally have the matchup they have been waiting for and it has the ingredients required to become an almost mythical rivalry.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel share seven world championships between them and have largely dominated the sport over the last decade. For the vast majority of this period, however, the two have rarely had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe on track in cars with similar levels of performance. Both are undoubtedly legends of the sport, however, until now we have been left with little more than a sense of longing for the day that the pair can race each other for real. So far in 2017 the pair have one win apiece after two races and the championship could aleady be turning into a two horse race.

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Sebastian Vettel took his Prancing Horse to victory at the season opener in Melbourne. Source: Scuderia Ferrari

 

There have been fierce rivalries in the last few years with Hamilton-Rosberg and Vettel-Webber grabbing our interest but let’s face it, they are not of the same magnitude of Hamilton vs Vettel. It is time for A-listers to do battle.

The wait could finally be over

It is deeply frustrating that we have had to wait until the 2017 season for these two juggernauts to be given machinery with similar levels of performance at the sharp end of the grid. For years now the question of who is the faster, more complete racing driver has been left unanswered and at the mercy of opinion and supposition. Many have presented their case but make no mistake: this is the first time we can go about gathering actual proof. Yes, they are in different cars and there would be no greater assessment than Hamilton and Vettel being in the same one but we can’t have everything. Let’s just be grateful that those in Brackley and Maranello have given us this gift.

A cut above

Formula One drivers are world-class racers and athletes. Regardless of whether they are on the grid due to perceived talent or money, they are not there by accident. Every so often, however, the junior formulae deliver us those who have that little extra in their pocket and are a level above the rest. Again this is subject to opinion but performances are picked apart and scrutinised so much that more often than not those who have that edge rise above the rest.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are two of those drivers.

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Lewis Hamilton responded well to the disappointment of Melbourne by claiming victory in Shanghai. Source: Mercedes AMG Petronas

Licking our lips with excitement

Admittedly it is early days in the 2017 season but all evidence points towards Mercedes and Ferrari being in a class of their own should they both follow up their strong starts with decent development. There is the very real threat that Red Bull could enter the fray later on in the year however the gap between the top two and the Milton Keynes based squad is sizeable.

The prospect of Hamilton and Vettel leaving nothing on the table in their pursuit of glory is immensely exciting. The fact they are in different cars does leave us wondering who would be quicker in identical machinery but the situation gives us something the Hamilton-Rosberg bouts did not: there are no team orders to prevent them from giving everything as they chase the championship trophy.

You can sense that this is something that Vettel and Hamilton have also wanted for a long time. The respect for each other is clear to see as they exchange pleasantries from time to time during interviews and in the paddock. In comparison to the Briton’s relationship with Rosberg, the Lewis and Sebastian equivalent could even be described as affectionate.

As we are well aware, though, the pair are obsessed with winning and have shown on many occasion that they are ruthless competitors. They are all smiles now but as the season progresses expect the relationship to cool as the intensity magnifies. Our great sport is notorious for respect descending into acrimony and I wouldn’t bet against it happening again.

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The relationship between Sebastian Vettel is built on respect but how long will the smiles continue? Source: Sky Sports

Some of the great rivalries within F1 have been characterised by a mixture of friction and bitterness. The addition of psychological warfare to the melting pot culminates in an enthralling and engrossing story to rival any within sport as a whole.

Fingers crossed…

For the budding rivalry to bloom into a full-blown championship struggle we just have to hope that Mercedes and Ferrari are up to the task and that mechanical failures take a back seat for both this year. The world of F1 is unpredictable so keep your fingers crossed. We also can’t discount Finns Valtteri Bottas or Kimi Raikkonen from putting their average form behind them and giving themselves a chance either. They are probably expected to play supporting roles but they will be giving their all to drag their cars over the line first too.

Who will come out on top?

Both Hamilton and Vettel on their day are nigh-on untouchable. The pair have earned their places in the history books with some truly remarkable drives over the years but now they are finally on the same piece of track, who will reign supreme?

If the battle is what we hope it will be, they will be forced to raise their game and extract every last ounce of performance from their cars. In terms of racecraft they are fairly well matched and the due to the challenge posed by following another car, qualifying will have a big role to play. On one lap raw pace Hamilton has no equal and because of this I believe he will just shade the German.

This prediction does not account for mechanical failure and other circumstances out of driver control – these can crop up at any moment and chances are they will.

 

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Hamilton and Vettel are neck and neck in the championship after the Chinese Grand Prix. Source: F1

At this moment in time, Formula One is laying out the red carpet for a box office championship showdown and the excitement is building. The sport is not perfect but if it serves up the mouthwatering treat it seems to be promising, we are in for one hell of a ride this year.

 

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