Post Chinese GP win, Hamilton predicts 'closest' fight with Vettel

Hamilton produced a magnificent display to take first place in China, while Australian Grand Prix victor Sebastian Vettel was forced to settle for second, with Max Verstappen in third.

First, the Aussie had to worry about Raikkonen, but the Finn himself was overtaken by Vettel after a few fruitless laps of following the Red Bull - and Vettel then needed little time to pull off a superb outside move on Ricciardo.

"Get in there Lewis!"

Sunday's result appears to confirm early predictions that these two former world champions will be locked in an intense duel for the championship this season after Vettel took the season's opening weekend ahead of Hamilton in Melbourne two weeks ago.

"Sitting there with Sebastian we were like, "this is going to go right down to the end of the season", said Hamilton.

The 32-year-old is certainly anticipating a thrilling season ahead.

"We have experienced a lot, I think the respect for one another is the highest I have felt from another driver, especially of his calibre". The damp start brought Red Bull into contention but it seemed likely they would drop behind Ferrari as the track tried out.

"Ferrari have done a fantastic job".

Vettel qualified on the front row alongside pole-sitter Hamilton and got away clean when the lights went out.

Hamilton conceded afterwards that the pace between himself and Vettel was close and that the fight for victory may have been closer without the safety auto.

Hamilton's victory, in a race enlivened by a wet start and some terrific wheel-to-wheel battles, ties him with first-race victor Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton, meanwhile, never looked seriously threatened despite a sequence of fastest laps from his German title rival.

"We were a good match". "I had a very exciting race.it was good fun", he added.

Verstappen, who won the Driver of the Day award - voted for by the fans - said he wasn't expecting a top-three finish, given his starting position. On lap one, I passed nine cars so that was not too bad.

"At that time I was quite chilled - but later, when Sebastian got behind, we had a real race on our hands, although I had a good gap". "It was very slippery out there and he lost it and the race was gone".

That let Hamilton switch to dry weather tires without losing position and also allowed both Red Bulls and Vettel's Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen to jump the German.

Also earning points were Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso in seventh, Kevin Magnussen of Haas in eighth, and the two Force India cars, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, in ninth and 10th. The Canadian beached his Williams in the gravel, bringing out the virtual safety auto. He fought off the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas headed into turn one, who started third on the grid, and followed Hamilton closely until pitting for slicks early on Lap 3.

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