Lewis Hamilton: Ferrari has caught up with Mercedes over winter

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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.