Hamilton: Respect between Vettel and I has grown

They clashed infamously at last year's Azerbaijan Grand Prix but Lewis Hamilton says the respect between he and Sebastian Vettel has grown.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel   -  Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton believes the feeling of mutual respect between himself and Sebastian Vettel has improved as the pair return to the scene of an infamous clash this weekend.

At last year's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Vettel crashed into Hamilton under the safety car, receiving an in-race penalty and a telling off from the FIA for his troubles.

The German went on to finish fourth, one place ahead of his title rival, who branded the Ferrari driver "a disgrace" following the incident.

It was Hamilton who ultimately had the last laugh as he claimed a fourth drivers' championship, equalling Vettel's tally, and on Thursday the Mercedes man spoke more positively of the duo's relationship as they return to Baku.

"It's good to see fire within the people that you're competing with, it's also good to see that they're not perfect because I guess nobody's perfect," Hamilton said.

"We all make mistakes but it's more so how people handle it and how they progress [that] is what you can really learn from.

"He's continued to progress as the champion that he is. How he presents himself, how he speaks, he continues to grow and the words that he uses today.

"The respect has grown, actually, a considerable amount since then. I'm sure it will continue."

Vettel claimed the opening two races of the 2018 season but could only finish eighth last time out in China, allowing Hamilton to cut the gap in the standings to nine points by coming fourth in Shanghai.

And the defending champion is unfazed by his relatively slow start in the early weeks of the campaign.

"It's only been three races. We would like to have won races but it has been a learning process," he said. "We know it's a three-way battle. It is not going to be easy and it requires a lot of work to perform at our best.

"The Ferraris and Red Bulls were quick here last year and I anticipate it will be the same and we have no idea where we will be this weekend. We are still the same team and I believe we can battle it out with these guys.

"Now we have Red Bull close to their best and Ferrari at their best, if we are able to pull through and deliver as we have in previous years it would be the biggest achievement this team would have accomplished."

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