A drained but happy Lewis Hamilton hailed an “awesome” Sebastian Vettel after winning a Spanish Grand Prix that the Briton described as the “rawest” of fights.
The two rivals, with seven world championships between them, were in a race of their own at the Circuit de Catalunya as they lapped all but Red Bull’s third placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Banging wheels, the one almost forcing the other off the road and getting hot under the collar as they fought for the lead, the Mercedes and Ferrari rivals produced a memorable thriller.
“That’s how racing should be and I loved it and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” gushed triple champion Hamilton after chalking up the 55th win of his career to cut Vettel’s championship lead to six points.
“I probably lost two kilos in that race,” added the Mercedes driver, who revealed he had no water bottle in his car in order to save weight.
“It’s draining, the car is fast, to keep up with him… he drove fantastically well and it’s a real privilege to race against such an awesome driver.”
Hamilton had secured pole position on Saturday but wheel spin left him playing catch up as Vettel seized the lead from the start.
What followed was a strategic tussle, with different tyre strategies that resulted in Hamilton entering his final stint on the quicker soft tyres and Vettel, still leading, on the harder mediums.
The two went side by side as Vettel came out of the pits for the last time, the German holding off the Briton with a bit of strong-arm tactics.
“I was more than half way alongside and he pushed me wide,” complained Hamilton over the radio at the time, before taking the lead seven laps later with Vettel muttering that he had “no chance” of holding him off.
“I think it was the rawest fight I can remember having for some real time, which I loved,” said Hamilton.
“This is what the sport needs to be every single race for sure. This is why I race and this is what got me into racing in the beginning. To have that close battle with him, with a four-time champ, is awesome.”
Spain followed on from a difficult Russian weekend for Hamilton, the Briton finishing fourth in an overheating car.
He might have been hot on Sunday, but the Mercedes was not the problem.
“From turn one to the end it was flat chat (full speed),” he said. “You’re just using everything you’ve got… to stay on (keep up with) Sebastian was a killer.”