F1: Title battle with Vettel will be fuelled by respect, says Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton's so-called 'bromance' with Sebastian Vettel has become a defining storyline of the new season, but the Briton is not anticipating a messy break-up even if their title battle goes the distance this year.
The championship now appears a straight shoot-out between Hamilton, in Mercedes silver, and Vettel, of Ferrari red, after the former joined his rival at the top of the standings with victory in China.
Vettel soared to the chequered flag in Melbourne a fortnight ago, but Hamilton responded in emphatic fashion by leading every lap on Sunday to level the series at one round each as the circus heads west to Bahrain.
Hamilton, 32, endured a bitter, and at times, heated rivalry with his former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during the three years in which they went toe-to-toe for the title.
But the triple World champion is revelling in the new dynamic of his fight with Vettel.
Between them they have won every championship - bar Rosberg's triumph last year - since 2010, but this is the first season in which they have slugged it out on track in similar machinery.
"I think it will stay the way it is," said Hamilton when asked if his rivalry with Vettel would remain a friendly one. "Maybe there will be times when we are racing hard together, and of course there could be a scenario where one of us thinks something is unfair. But we are grown men, we have come a long way and we have experienced a lot.
"The respect for one another is the highest I have felt from another driver, especially of his calibre. There is amazing sportsmanship, too. If he wins, he enjoys it but also acknowledges the person next door, and when you lose it is the same thing."
Next up is the soaring temperatures of Bahrain. The desert heat could play into the hands of Vettel with his Ferrari expected to fair better in the climate.
"Outside the car there is an admiration for the other's achievements and how they drive," Hamilton added. "We are joint on points and I have got to finish ahead of him at the next race."