Lewis Hamilton says the rivalry he enjoyed with Sebastian Vettel has been his favourite across the course of his lengthy career in Formula 1.
Hamilton and Vettel initially contended for titles in 2010 and 2012, when the pair raced for McLaren and Red Bull respectively, with Vettel claiming those two en his route to four straight crowns.
Their rivalry took on another chapter under revised regulations in 2017, by then competing for Mercedes and Ferrari respectively, with Hamilton prevailing across initially tight fights in 2017 and 2018.
The rivalry has since ebbed away amid Vettel and Ferrari losing competitiveness, with the pair last claiming first and second in a grand prix in October 2019.
“I’ve got a really bad memory, but I’m going to say mine and Seb’s battles were my favourite up until now,” said Hamilton, sat alongside Vettel in the pre-Imola press conference.
“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, but not only that but also a great man in Seb, a four-time world champion, and we were racing against another team at the time, he was at Ferrari, which were very strong at the time.
“It took a lot out of both of us in that time to remain focused and to deliver weekend-in, weekend-out. And while it was a difficult period for us, it probably brought us closer as well because the respect that we have between us is huge.
“It’s different now and if I’m racing with Max [Verstappen], he doesn’t have the background that Seb has, but he has obviously got the chance of being a future champion.
“Whether that’s now or later, depends, ultimately, on the job that the team and I do.”
Hamilton currently holds an early seven-point advantage over Verstappen after their battle in Bahrain.
“Look, we are only going in to the second race, so I really can’t assume or guess what’s up ahead of us,” he said.
“I’m excited for the fans and I hope it is all that it’s cracked up to be, particularly at a time when we need the best entertainment possible for the fans.”