Lewis Hamilton believes the 2017 Formula 1 season could be “the most exciting” of his career.
The Mercedes driver is tied on points with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after his victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton predicted the initiative would swing back and forth between the two teams throughout the season.
“It is close,” he said. “I am down for it. I am looking forward to the fight with Sebastian and the other guys are going to be in amongst it.”
Hamilton’s win in Shanghai means he and Vettel have a victory and a second place apiece after the first two races.
Hamilton gained the advantage in China through early strategy calls in a chaotic opening few laps but the race eventually distilled to a battle between him and Vettel in the closing laps, the two cars separated by about eight seconds.
Hamilton said: “We are both pushing. It’s great, last 20 laps, exchanging times, he was closing the gap a little bit, but I managed to stay ahead.”
The 32-year-old won two of his three titles in last-race showdowns, beating Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in 2008 only when he passed a car on the last corner of the final lap of the last race.
Hamilton also tied on points with then-McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso in 2007, the pair finishing one point behind champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
But Hamilton said he believed this year’s battle could be the toughest he has yet had.
“It is going to be one of the closest ones – if not the closest – I have ever experienced,” he said.
Vettel told his team over the radio on the slowing-down lap the he believed they again had the fastest car, two weeks after winning in Australia by pressuring Mercedes into an early pit stop.
The four-time champion said: “It felt like we were the quickest, man. We couldn’t prove that, but next time we will.”
But the German, whose team failed to win a race in 2016, played down talk of a season-long fight between Ferrari and Mercedes.
“It would be great news for us,” Vettel said. “They are the ones to beat, they have a very strong team, doing very well the last three years being flawless and smashing a lot of records.
“So for us it is really good news we had another race where we were really close and were able to put some pressure on.
“It is just race two. I really enjoyed it and at this point I don’t care about the rest of the year.”