Baku (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton’s respect for Sebastian Vettel has grown “a considerable amount” since they clashed in a ‘road rage’ incident at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he said on Thursday.
The defending four-time world champion said the four-time champion German was a disgrace after he banged his Ferrari against Hamilton’s Mercedes in last year’s race.
Vettel was angry and reacted to a feeling that he had been ‘brake tested’ by Hamilton as he followed him during a Safety Car spell.
After the race, the Englishman said Vettel was “a disgrace” but on Thursday he told reporters that he took a much more mellow view one year on.
“It’s good to see fire within the people that you’re competing with,” said Hamilton.
“It’s also good to see that they’re not perfect because I guess nobody’s perfect — we all make mistakes but it’s more how people handle it and how they progress that you can really learn from.”
He added: “The respect has grown, actually, a considerable amount since then.
“I’m sure it will continue. He’s continued to progress as the champion that he is -– how he presents himself, how he speaks — he continues to grow.”
He added that he expected another very tough and closely-contested battle with Vettel and Ferrari this weekend.
“The others have definitely stepped up,” said Hamilton. “We’ve made a step forward, but they have made a bigger leap.
“It is small, small percentages that are going to make the difference. We are still the same team that has won in previous years and I think we really can battle out these guys.
“And if we can pull through and deliver, as we have in previous years, it would be the biggest achievement this team will have accomplished.”