On the same weekend as he ran his rival agonisingly close for pole position, Lewis Hamilton has taken a barely-concealed verbal swipe at Sebastian Vettel, musing about the prospect of going up against the defending world champion as his team-mate in F1 and pondering that the only reason such a scenario might pose difficulties is because 'certain individuals don't like being beaten'.
The speculation linking Hamilton to a future switch from McLaren-Mercedes – with whom he began his top flight career four years ago – to current pace-setters Red Bull Racing was sparked by the poor performance during winter testing of the former's MP4-26, a car that has taken a dramatic leap forward in the opening two grands prix of the new campaign.
Both parties were quick to play such rumours down, with RBR team principal Christian Horner even going so far as to contend that 'it's difficult to see how you could have two drivers of Lewis' and Sebastian's calibre under one roof' as there 'tends to be fireworks' – with the frosty situation that developed between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren back in 2007 just such a case in point, and the legendary Alain Prost/Ayrton Senna duel well-documented.
The British star, however, insists that being outpaced by current team-mate Jenson Button only serves to spur him on, asserting that he would consequently have no problem at all in going up against Vettel at Red Bull – although he hints that based upon the occasional tantrums seen last season when Mark Webber got the better of him, the German may not feel quite the same.
“The only reason I'd imagine that he (Horner) would suggest that is because certain individuals don't like being beaten,” the 26-year-old told British media in Malaysia. “Some individuals can take it – some people are better losers or better winners.
“In this team, when Jenson beats me, I take it on the chin and think, 'next time I'm going to beat him'. When I beat him, he doesn't whinge and say, 'Oh, Lewis has a better car than me' or 'Lewis did this and I did that'. There is none of that here – it's very equal. In some places, you can imagine it could be different. I never have complaints. If a guy beats me, it's because he has done a better job.
“A partnership can work, as long as the team exists to win a constructors' championship and drivers' championship. Fernando and I were very competitive, and you see me and Jenson – so world champions can definitely race together, as long as there is equality in the team. There is definitely not that at a couple of the teams around us. At my team, you will probably see the most equality out of all the teams, [but] I think it (working with Vettel) is possible.
“The better the guy you're with, and you finish ahead of them, then you look even better. It's always good to be against the best guy you can be against, because you are obviously compared to that guy in exactly the same equipment. I feel privileged that I was put up against Fernando Alonso when I first got here, because I beat him. That raised the awareness of me being here, and also my targets plus everyone's expectation of me.”
Whilst refusing to rule out a move to Red Bull in the years to come, Hamilton affirmed that he will see out the remaining two seasons of his £75 million, five-year McLaren agreement, and conceded that he could even emulate Ryan Giggs at Manchester United by remaining at the Woking-based outfit until the end of his career.
“United have been very successful over the years, and that is the deciding factor,” the 14-time grand prix-winner explained. “If they weren't, then Ryan would have moved elsewhere. It's not frustrating that I'm being linked to Red Bull. The positive is that potentially other teams are interested in me as well as my own team – so that hopefully makes my team more hungry.
“I'm contracted for the next two years, and I'm committed to that. I am focussed on my job now, and I want to win world championships here. I hope that continues, but you never know what happens in the future. I can't promise anything. Red Bull is a fantastic team, but they don't have me rattled. I don't remember a time when I've been rattled.”