Vettel finished second after winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix last month, so the pair are locked on 43 points.
"Get in there, Lewis!"
Yes, the triple world champion led all 56 laps of the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday as he won for the 54th time in his F1 career, but without the arrival of a safety vehicle period early in the race, he would not have had such a straightforward afternoon.
"That's a great race, mate".
"Our vehicle is longer, so when we get to Monaco I don't know how I'm going to get my auto around some of those very, very tight corners".
The 32-year-old is certainly anticipating a thrilling season ahead.
With pit stops taking around 22 seconds, from arriving in the pit lane to returning to racing speed, Vettel and Ferrari would have been at the front very quickly when Hamilton needed to pit urgently to change his worn intermediates.
Four-time champion, Vettel then got himself in a fix after losing out on strategy in a chaotic opening, which kept the shape of the race in doubt following a crash by Williams rookie Lance Stroll, punted off by Force India's Sergio Perez.
"And I hope for both of us there is nothing mechanical that will come in between our sheer battle through ability". "Couldn't prove that but next time we will".
"Strength-wise we are stronger, but pace-wise, if anything Ferrari got a bit quicker this weekend and the gap's even closer".
Second-place finisher Sebastian Vettel, for his part, had high praise for the performance of his Mercedes competitor.
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First, the German blew past Raikkonen before going wheel-to-wheel with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo at turn seven, producing puffs of blue smoke as the cars touched tyres.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen stole the show with an incredible drive, going from P16 all the way to seventh right in the first lap.
Hamilton, meanwhile, never looked seriously threatened despite a sequence of fastest laps from his German title rival.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen set the two quickest lap times in practice at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday, as the rain and fog finally cleared to allow the drivers on the track during a busy pre-qualifying session.
"Maybe there will be times when we are racing, and we are racing hard together, and of course there could be a scenario where one of us thinks something is unfair - he has been too aggressive - or whatever it may be. It could have been a different race, but it was a good recovery". He was still able to salvage the day by finishing in sixth place.
He said: "It was very challenging".
"I think if we can challenge Mercedes again, that's very good news".
"I didn't expect that at all, especially after starting 16th". He apologised to Mercedes for an embarrassing spin while weaving to warm his tyres behind the safety auto, which dropped him down to 12th.
The German, who was unlucky to have pitted just before a safety auto and emerged stuck in traffic, later told reporters: "I think if we can challenge Mercedes again, that's very good news". "I'll make up for it in the next race". His Ferrari team pulled him into the pits to change to slick tyres on just the second lap following the deployment of the virtual safety vehicle as Lance Stroll was punted out of the race by Sergio Perez.
"On a track and in conditions which were very different from those we had in Melbourne, we proved that we have a strong auto", Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said.