Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes at the front of the Formula 1 field over the winter, and anticipates a “good fight” with the Italian marque this year.
Hamilton clinched his third F1 world championship in 2015 as Mercedes enjoyed a second year of dominance, claiming 16 race wins and a record total of points.
The debut of its 2016 car at testing in Barcelona sent out an ominous warning shot to the rest of the field, and although Hamilton heaped praise upon the new W07, he remains very wary of the threat posed by Ferrari.
“The winter tests went fantastically well, and our new car is absolutely incredible. I never thought that we would be driving quite so many kilometres in preparation,” Hamilton said.
“We were with the team yesterday and congratulated everyone involved on this great Silver Arrow. This is a real team effort from all our colleagues in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart.
“Nevertheless, I’m expecting this season to be an uphill battle. Ferrari have caught up and Nico [Rosberg] is always a strong opponent.
“I believe that we have a good car, but Ferrari were posting some impressive times during the tests – both on the fast laps and on longer runs.
“We are certainly in for a good fight, but after all that’s exactly what everyone wants. In any case, I’m looking forward to it very much.”
Hamilton will begin his title defence at the Australian Grand Prix next weekend, with the race taking place on March 20.
The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.
“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.
“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”
Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.
He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.
The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.
“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.
“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”
Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.
A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.