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Lewis Hamilton relishing future Max Verstappen F1 battles

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Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his scrap for victory with Max Verstappen at the Japanese Grand Prix and says he is relishing the prospect of future battles with the Dutchman in Formula One.

Hamilton held off Verstappen in a tense end to the race in Japan to claim his eighth win of the season, propelling the Briton into a 59-point lead over title rival Sebastian Vettel with just four rounds remaining, leaving him within touching distance of clinching his fourth F1 world championship. Their duel in Japan came just a week after Verstappen passed Hamilton for victory in Malaysia.

"I'm enjoying being in an era with such great young talent coming through," Hamilton said. "He'll be here far beyond when I stop and until then I'm not giving him too many poles, too many wins."

During a light-hearted exchange in the post-race drivers' press conference, Hamilton joked he had extra incentive to hold onto victory, as he was determined to keep F1's youngest-ever winner behind him to show that he is still "young at heart".

"I was driving down the back straight at one point and I'm thinking 'Jeez, the guy behind me is so much younger than me," he said. "I've got to make sure I kind of man up and show my age and make sure that I stay ahead. Show that I'm actually still very young at heart.'"

Sitting next to Hamilton, Verstappen interrupted and said: "I was thinking 'this guy's so old in front of me.'"

Hamilton quickly responded: "Yeah, 'I'm not letting this little... through."

Speculation continues about Verstappen's F1 future, with Mercedes and Ferrari believed to be considering a move for the recently-turned 20-year-old once his current "watertight" deal with Red Bull runs out at the end of 2019.

When asked about the rumours after the race, Verstappen told Sky Sports F1: "I just want to be in the fastest car. I don't dislike [the idea of driving for Ferrari] at all. I just want to be in the fastest car in Formula One because that means you can win races and that's what I want to do."