Lewis Hamilton retains respect for Sebastian Vettel after Spain battle

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel
Hamilton and Vettel are now separated by just six points in the standings with two wins each

Lewis Hamilton said he retained respect for title rival Sebastian Vettel despite the Ferrari driver's "tough" driving in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton said he had no problem with the Ferrari driver despite being forced off track as they battled for the lead.

"It could have been close, there could have been contact but fortunately I avoided it," Hamilton said.

"I didn't say anything bad [to him]. I just said: 'Be careful, that was very, very close.' But I enjoyed it."

Hamilton added: "I am glad I was able afterward to have a battle and I didn't damage anything and there was nothing lost between us.

"The respect stays the same. He was tough and hard just to the edge and no more. If he had hit me I think that would have been a bit different

The two drivers talked about the incident in the post-race news conference, which happened as Vettel emerged from the pits after his final stop alongside Hamilton's Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton
Vettel forced Hamilton off the track as the two battled for the lead into Turn One

Hamilton said: "I gave you space, otherwise we would have touched…"

When Vettel replied: "I thought I gave you space too…" Hamilton said: "Not really. Definitely didn't give me much space. It was close; it was cool."

Vettel said: "We're still here so…" Hamilton replied: "Yeah, just!"

Hamilton started from pole but had to fight back to win the race, thanks to a Mercedes strategy that closed the gap on Vettel and put Hamilton on a different tyre for the final stint of the race.

Hamilton then had to pass the Ferrari driver on track to win his second race of the season.

He said: "It was the rawest fight I can remember having for some time, which I loved. This is what the sport needs to be every single race. This is why I race, to have that close battle with him, a four-time champ, is awesome."

Hamilton and Vettel have two race wins each from the first five races
Who has won what in the 2017 season so far. Next stop: Monaco

Vettel said he had been surprised to see Hamilton alongside him when he came out of the pits following his stop a lap after Hamilton's because the German had had an eight-second lead before the stops.

"I was a bit surprised when he came out and it was already so close," said Vettel, whose championship lead has been cut to six points.

"I tried to brake as late as possible into Turn One, locked up.

"I don't know if we touched but I managed to stay ahead so it was really close. The laps after I was doing everything I can to stay in front and I was a bit lucky because there was always a car in front giving me a tow, but as soon as I was alone, he just flew past down the straight, which was a shame.

"We tried to stay in the race but well done to him, he drove a good race and we did everything we could."

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