Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel knew that Lewis Hamilton would be special from the time the pair first raced against one another in karting and again when they crossed swords in Formula 3.
Now the pair are squaring up for the 2017 world title showdown. Between them they have won seven of the last ten Formula 1 titles and this year are separated at the top of the standings a by a mere 14 points, with the momentum swinging between the two on a race-by-race basis.
Speaking to Mark Webber during an interview for Channel 4, Vettel recalled the first time he heard about Hamilton, “I remember him in 1999, he finished third in the European Championship in karting. And the team I was racing with was saying: this guy, he will go all the way.”
Then in 2005 the pair were racing in the Formula 3 Championship, “One-on-one [against him] was in Formula 3. I was in my first year, he was in the second year and blowing everyone away. I didn’t get much chance, I joined him on the podium a couple of times.”
“That was when you saw no matter what – yes, great year, second year so more experience, great car, whatever – but whatever the conditions, he was always there and delivering. In the end when someone is always there, always delivering – you might get lucky for a day, or whatever, but not for a year.”
Vettel leads the Mercedes driver by 14 points at the summer break, with nine races to follow in the second half of the season, and is convinced he can still be ahead when the chequered flags drops in Abu Dhabi in late November.
“He’s extremely quick, extremely gifted at what he does. I don’t think it’s a huge challenge for him to drive quickly or to adapt with different conditions and so on. He’s always there. But he’s not unbeatable,” insisted Vettel who is targeting his fifth Formula 1 World Championship title.
With 11 of the 20 races run so far this season, Vettel leads the championship by 14 points over Hamilton – each having won four races thus far.
Big Question: Who will be 2017 F1 World Champion – Lewis or Sebastian?