Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff believes that the rivalry and underlying sportsmanship between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is comparable to that of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Hamilton and Vettel have shared the first three victories of the 2017 F1 season and are separated by just seven points at the top of the drivers' championship, signalling the start of a year-long battle for the title.

Despite having seven world titles between them, Hamilton and Vettel have never fought directly against each other for a championship, but both share a deep respect for their rival.

Hamilton is also enjoying a friendly relationship with new team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, deviating from the tense feeling that existed with previous partner Nico Rosberg in recent years.

"I think as a driver you never want to lose and you never want to lose against your team-mate but I can see there is a lot of respect for each other," Wolff said of Hamilton and Bottas.

"I see that not only in the car, but when they engage with each other.

"It reminds me with Sebastian in the mix... it is very sportsmanlike, like a Federer-Nadal situation. They don't want to be beaten by the other guy but somehow there is a respect for the other person."

Federer and Nadal jointly ruled the tennis world in the late 2000s, locking out the top two places in the world rankings between July 2005 and August 2009 without their rivalry spilling over into a war of words or unsporting behaviour.

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