Lewis Hamilton: Battle with Sebastian Vettel one of 'rawest' of career, but I love it
Lewis Hamilton says he loved having a "raw" fight for victory in Formula 1's Spanish Grand Prix with Vettel.
The Mercedes driver came out on top after a race-long battle with Vettel, which included a flashpoint when they made slight contact at Turn 1 after Vettel emerged from the pits on the inside of Hamilton.
Hamilton made use of an alternative strategy to Vettel - aided by making a pitstop just before a virtual safety car period came to an end - to get back on terms with the Ferrari, which had surged into the lead at the start.
"Seb was so fast ahead, it was such a push to try to keep close to him and not let him pull away," said Hamilton after the race.
"It was just the rawest fight I can remember having for some time, which I loved. This is what the sport needs to be every single race and this is why I race and what got me into racing. To have those close battles with him, a four-time champion, is awesome."
"In the end we came out so close together, which was very, very close into Turn 1.
"I gave you [Vettel] space otherwise we would have touched. It was close, it was cool.
"In the heat of the moment it's difficult to know from the outside, I felt like I ran out of road but was alongside.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the podium during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 14, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.Eurosport
"But it was how racing should be - I love it, I wouldn't change it for the world."
The final stint of the race hinged on if Hamilton could make his soft tyres last long enough to prevent Vettel - on the harder medium compound - from fighting back late in the race.
"The team did a great job with the strategy," said Hamilton, who repeatedly questioned the decisions from the pitwall when he was left out for a later first stop than Vettel, while being reassured that things would come back to him later on if he could keep his pace up.
"This is one of the hardest races, to keep up with him, he drove fantastically well so it's such a privilege to race against him.
"The last stint, 25 laps, when they told me they [the tyres] had to do that I didn't think..I thought at the end of the stint he would come back but we managed it."
"These guys [Ferrari] have done a phenomenal job, the pace they have, it is close between us."