Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine has his say on the Hamilton-Vettel debate

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Lewis Hamilton's fifth Drivers' Championship victory last year was as much a story of the Mercedes racer's success as it was one of his intense rivalry with Ferrari counterpart Sebastian Vettel.

With both drivers equal on four titles heading into the curtain-raiser in Melbourne, the season became devoted to seeing who would come out on top between the pair that had won 7 of the last 8 championships.

It was a tightly-fought contest until a catastrophic end to the German Grand Prix led to Ferrari surrendering their advantage at the top of the table to Hamilton, who after amassing a 17-point lead, never looked back.

Alike Ferrari and Mercedes, who have now comfortably emerged as the two most competitive teams, Hamilton and Vettel have now comfortably established themselves as the giants of the big six, in a Messi and Ronaldo-like fashion.

The debate on who is the most talented racer has naturally shifted in Hamilton's direction, whose chance to have won every title since 2014 only prevented by his fellow teammate, and not a rival team, with Nico Rosberg's 2016 victory.

However, Vettel can claim legendary status of his own, having dominated the F1 scene between 2010 and 2013.

With under three months until the 2019 calendar kicks off, there is eager speculation as to who could prevail in another season of expected Hamilton-Vettel rivalry.

According to 1999 runner-up Eddie Irvine, that man looks to be Lewis Hamilton, with no team bias towards Vettel from the ex-Ferrari driver.

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''I think Lewis is in a different league from all of them,'' he told BBC Sport.

''He's got the best car, there are more races and the competition is debatable.''

The 53-year old went on to critique Vettel's diversity, and compare the pair's driving styles.

''I think he is massively overrated. I think he's a one-trick pony. Lewis has a much broader talent.

''When you watch Lewis race, Lewis is focused on racing and getting ahead.

''You watch Vettel, and when Vettel is racing someone, he is focused as much on the other guy as he is on where he is going and inevitably crashes into the other guy.

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''That happens nearly all the time. I think Vettel is a good driver, but a four-time world champion, I just don't see it.''

Hamilton is currently a 10/11 favourite to secure his sixth F1 title in 2019, closing in on the record of seven that Michael Schumacher won between 1994 and 2004.

However, Irvine does not think Hamilton has quite reached the level that the German did. 

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''Michael was on it every day, like Senna, but Lewis has his off days.

''He's not in Michael's league and I don't even think he is close, although he's racking up lots of wins.''

Still, considering his performances in the last five years, it is far from unimaginable that the 33-year old could secure another two titles before he retires.

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