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Hamilton keen for Vettel battle and competitive Alonso

The prospect of fighting it out with Sebastian Vettel at the top of the Formula One drivers' championship excites Lewis Hamilton.

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Fernando Alonso with Lewis Hamilton at a news conference

Lewis Hamilton is relishing a battle with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in 2017 and says Formula One needs Fernando Alonso challenging at the front of the grid again.

With a host of regulation changes coming into F1 this season, the battle for supremacy promises to be closely fought.

Mercedes have been the dominant force for the past three years, but three-time world champion Hamilton suggested Ferrari are favourites this time around and the Scuderia performed well in pre-season testing to add weight to those claims.

Hamilton and Vettel are the two most successful drivers of their generation but the outright dominance of Vettel's former team Red Bull, followed by that of Mercedes, means the pair have rarely gone head-to-head for track position.

And the Briton is keen for that to change, telling a news conference ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix: "I've not had a lot of battles with Sebastian on track so, of course, I would love to have that. 

"I think the fans want to see that, but even between all of us."

Alonso, meanwhile, appears set for another season of turmoil at beleaguered McLaren, who endured a frustrating pre-season.

The Spaniard is considered by many as the most gifted driver on the grid, but the last of his two world title wins came in 2006 when he was at Renault.

And Hamilton believes the sport needs more of its top drivers fighting it out at the top.

"We need this guy [Fernando] to have a good car so he can get up there and fight with us as well – before his time's up," he added. 

"We got a hint that it's another couple of years at least, so that's good. I feel we're yet to see the best of Fernando. The sport needs that and he deserves to be able to show that. 

"So, yeah, you want to be racing against the best. I think that's what the fans want to see. That close racing and sheer competitiveness, and to see the ups and downs of the best doing their best. 

"I'm definitely looking forward to racing with all these guys and I hope there's lots of close racing."

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