Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Imola, 2021

“Great man, incredible driver” Vettel was Hamilton’s favourite F1 rival

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says his past rivalry with fellow multiple times Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel brought him closer to a driver he considers “a great man”.

The 2017 and 2018 championship rivals were paired with each other to face the media in the FIA’s new press conference format ahead of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Both enjoyed spells as the dominant driver in F1. Vettel won four titles with Red Bull when they mastered the V8 era, and Hamilton has been the man to beat since the introduction of the current turbocharged hybrid V6 engines in 2014.

Asked about their favourite rivalry from F1 history, Hamilton – the title-winner in 2017 and ’18 – said “mine and Seb’s battles were my favourite” so far.

Hamilton explained what made his rivalry with Vettel, now in a midfield car with Aston Martin, stand out.

“I think it’s just knowing how hard it is to be where we are today, knowing that I was racing against an incredible driver, and not only that, but a great man in Seb.

“He’s a four-time world champion. That is, ultimately, when you’re racing against, and as we were racing against another team at the same time – he was at Ferrari, who were very strong at the time.

“So it took a lot out of both of us, I think, in that period of time to remain focused, to deliver weekend-in, weekend-out. Whilst it was a difficult period for us, I think it probably brought us closer as well because the respect that we have between us I think is huge.”

Hamilton started his season by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix in a fight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Vettel, who has moved from Ferrari to Aston Martin, started last on the grid and finished a lapped 15th in a difficult weekend which included penalties in qualifying and the race.

“It’s different now, of course,” added Hamilton. “If I’m racing with Max, he doesn’t have the background that Seb has, but he’s obviously got the chance of being a future champion and whether that’s now or later depends on the job ultimately that the team and I do.”

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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22 comments on ““Great man, incredible driver” Vettel was Hamilton’s favourite F1 rival”

  1. He should’ve said, Nico.

    1. LOL!!

      Since Vettel’s debut 2007 season, void as a comparison, because he joined halfway through the season, they’ve won 11 out of the last 13 titles

      1. Fact is Hamilton was an irrelevancy for most of Vettel’s WDC bar 2010 and even then he was not as big a threat as Webber or Alonso.

        Another fact is Massa and Rosberg were far bigger challenges to Hamilton’s WDCs than Vettel has been and Raikkonen and Alonso were even bigger obstacles in 2007. Hamilton and Vettel’s head to head battle for the WDC in recent years has barely been a rivalry as Hamilton has outclassed Vettel by such a degree.

        1. Yes, I think hamilton is so supportive of vettel just cause he knows how bad vettel is.

        2. Massa was a rival for one season, two at the most

          Rosberg was schooled by Hamilton – until the daft twerp got bored at the end of the 2015 season, took his eye of the ball and then actually had some bad luck in a 2016 season where he still only narrowly lost the title

          In 2017, 2018 and the first half of 2019 the F1 media stated that the Ferrari was the better car and everyone was drooling about the Vettel/Hamilton rivalry

          Yet (again) some are airbrushing what really happened in these seasons to make a point. It’s as though they have selective amnesia.

          I suggest you look back at the starts of all those seasons and how Vettel breezes past Hamilton at Spa 2018.

          To dismiss the close competition those seasons started out at – simply because Vettel buckled / or Hamilton’s superiority shone through, is bonkers

          Any way you cut it they’ve been the ones to beat for most of the last 13 seasons, with at least four of them (2010,17,18&19) been relatively close at some time during that season. So it’s just misreading history to suggest that Alonso and Rosberg were bigger rivals.

          Next someone will suggest Jenson Button!!

    2. Indeed. I missed when Vettel was ever in competition with Lewis. Not surprisingly since Vettel is not a true WDC, just happened to have the strongest car and Webber as team mate. He is the LOAT; luckiest of all-time. It is hardly an achievement winning from Vettel.

      1. Since you missed it go ahead and watch the first half of the 2017 and 2018 seasons – which then led to Vettel earning the right to be seen as Hamilton’s close rival in his disappointing 2019 season

        I’ve still no idea how Vettel blew the 2017 season

        I love the amnesia on here. At the time several Racefans posted on here, that such was the Ferrari superiority that Hamilton would have won if he’d been driving it

        Two poor Vettel seasons later and that’s all forgotten

        There’s an argument to say that really Vettel has never been in Hamilton’s league, which is something Alonso hinted at as long ago as 2010, but that’s only with the benefit of what we’ve seen

      2. Giuliano Sadar
        16th April 2021, 21:39

        Ferrari best than Mercedes in 2017 and 2018 is the most ridicolous legend I read so far. The only truth is: Hamilton wouldn’t have talked in this way if Seb stealed him just one championship. But it was no possible, Ferrari did not develop the car during these seasons, only a blind fan could’t see this. Anyway please let two leal sportsmen appreciate each other. Why do you care?

  2. It’s all marketing and personal branding.

    Say your opponent is great.
    If you lose, it is not such a shame.
    If you win, you’re even greater.

    All of this has been prepared in Mercedes marketing & Communication meetings.

    1. Yes, after hours of marketing and communication meetings, focus groups and computer simulations on possible outcomes and reactions, the decision was made that Hamilton should big up someone at the back of the grid who has spent the last few years being ridiculed for his poor driving as that would make Ham look better.
      Putting forward Max or Alonso as his favourite rival was ruled out at an early stage as the public would not look at either of them as being credible opponents

      1. Which makes perfect sense. What’s your point? That marketing sucks? I’m sure we all agree!!

        Fact is that 11 of the last 13 titles have been won by these two, five of which they were close enough to have a rivalry

        Hamilton and Alonso stopped been rivals, the minute the latter went to Mercedes

        How can Max be seen as a ‘favourite’ rival when they’ve never had a close season?

        Of course it’s great rubbish from Lewis. He really is F1’s answer to Federer, Nadal and Pep when it comes to ‘I’m not worthy’ discussions of their rivals

    2. Spot on. All smoke and mirrors. There’s actually very few drivers who manage to speak their truth without either being instructed or feeling, or ego driving nonsense talk. I gave up listening to Hamilton years ago, Vettel the same, Max is a new one who just talks crap. The drivers with by far more integrity are Ricciardo, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Kimi (!), Perez,

  3. PR 101, only hype up those from the past and/or those you have already beaten, never actual current rivals.

    Reply moderated
  4. Hamilton is 100% manufacturing a ‘rivalry’ out of thin air here. What a load of nonsense

    1. How is it “a load of nonsense” when they’ve won 11 out of the 13 previous titles and competed with each other for most of a season on at least five of those years (four if we take away 2019)

      Who’s been his biggest rival for longer than this, based on the stats then?

      1. @banbrorace Absolute nonsense stats in this regard. You’re as good as you’re last race and in that respect, MEF is spot-on.

          1. Pitstop Madness
            17th April 2021, 13:13

            @Psynrg

            You were right the first time with “you’re”. As in “You are”…

        1. Whilst I think Hamilton like all the legends in sports, often talks a load of all nonsense. He was referring to what was his greatest rival

          What’s the last race got to do with that?

  5. It’s just a bit of gamesmanship, quite obviously Max is his biggest threat at present, wouldn’t want to confirm that, would he?

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      16th April 2021, 17:08

      @frasier Max hasn’t been tested yet – the moment the team places favoritism on another driver will be the day Max will be tested as a driver. So far, he’s had carte blanche in everything. He’s a phenom no doubt but he’s barricaded in a mental Reb Bull fortress right now. Once the fortress comes under attack, we’ll see how he handles it especially if the attack comes from the inside. Confidence rules supreme!

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    16th April 2021, 17:01

    Nice words from Lewis towards Seb. At least Seb was fighting for championships. Let’s see what Ferrari can do with their new team and drivers.

    Unfortunately, as Horner said in Drive To Survive “there’s a difference between thinking you can do it and knowing you can do it”.

    Seb has done it 4 times and nearly 7 times. So what if he needs a little confidence boost from his own team to perform?

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