x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

F1: Vettel 'excited by challenge' with potential teammate Raikkonen

World champion has plenty of respect for Finn who pushed him all the way at German Grand Prix on Sunday, and could join him at Red Bull next season.

Kimi Raikkonen, left, is a potential teammate of Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season. Paul Gilham / Getty Images
Kimi Raikkonen, left, is a potential teammate of Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season. Paul Gilham / Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel finally lived up to expectations by winning his home race after being given a run for his money by potential new teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel took the chequered flag at the German Grand Prix for the first time in six attempts, finishing just a second ahead of fast-charging Raikkonen in his Lotus.

Vettel is 34 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in his quest to win a fourth successive Formula One world title as the Spaniard was only fourth, with Raikkonen a further seven points adrift.

With Red Bull teammate Mark Webber due to quit F1 at the end of the year, speculation is rife Vettel and Raikkonen will join forces from next season.

Welcoming the opportunity of partnering Raikkonen, Vettel said: "I wouldn't mind. I'd definitely be excited by the challenge.

"I get along fairly well with Kimi. We've never had a problem on the track, and I respect him a lot on and off it.

"There's no doubt when it comes to qualifying, to racing, he does his job very well and gets the maximum out of the car."

Vettel appreciates, though, having survived one attack from Lotus' Romain Grosjean earlier in the race – the Frenchman finishing third – he was fortunate to hang on at the death as Raikkonen bore down.

"I'm very happy the race ended after 60 laps, and not 61 or 62," added the 26 year old.

"Lotus were incredibly quick and definitely gave us a big run for our money, so I'm happy it worked out.

"When you have a good car and for a couple of years you've had a good run, when you are on home soil people expect you to win.

"So it just feels very, very sweet to have succeeded after a couple of tries.

"Both tracks, Hockenheim and Nurburgring mean a lot to me. To race in Germany, to have a home grand prix, is a privilege.

"So a great relief, I'm very happy, a special day which will take some time to sink in. I'm just incredibly proud."

Behind Alonso, Lewis Hamilton was the best of the Britons, only just as he passed former McLaren teammate Jenson Button on the final lap to claim fifth after starting on pole.

Mercedes struggled with their old nemesis of degradation in the heat, to which he said: "We've clearly a good car, but for some reason it doesn't work in these hot conditions.

"We'll keep working on it. Hopefully we'll have a better chance at the next race, but for now there's a lot of hard work ahead of us."

Paul di Resta finished just outside the points in 11th in his Force India, whilst Marussia's Max Chilton was 19th and last of those who were classified.

Mark Webber was a stunning seventh after being a lap down early on due to a bungled pit stop which saw him lose his right-rear wheel as he spun out of the pit box.

The wheel bounced through the pitlane, striking cameraman Paul Allen, who was detained overnight in Koblenz hospital after sustaining a fractured collarbone and two broken ribs.

The unsafe release earned Red Bull a fine of €30,000 (Dh141,229).

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