Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari has been downplaying its pace ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Hamilton and his Mercedes team has enjoyed a significant advantage over the rest of the field for the past two years, allowing the German manufacturer to rack up 32 wins from a possible 38 since the end of 2013.
Ferrari enjoyed a resurgence in 2015 following the arrival of Vettel and an overhaul of its power unit as the four-time champion scored three victories in his first season at Maranello.
Heading to Australia, a closer fight between Mercedes and Ferrari is being anticipated after the latter impressed throughout pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference, Hamilton said that he believes Ferrari has been downplaying its true pace thus far and will be closer to Mercedes than expected.
“I think this year that the whole pack looks like it’s a little bit closer but personally I think that they’ve got something up their sleeve this weekend,” Hamilton said of Ferrari.
“I think Ferrari are going to be a lot closer than they talk about, than just arriving on a low but going to deliver high.”
When asked if he welcomed this additional challenge, Hamilton said: “Absolutely.”
Vettel remained adamant that Mercedes remained the pre-season favorites, saying that although Ferrari has made a big step with its new car, he is unsure it will be enough to fight for the title.
“We are on a good track, we are making progress, we did so last year, I think we did a step over the winter, but as I said, whether it’s big enough or not I think we need to wait for the first couple of races and see,” Vettel said.
“But for sure our target is to turn things around, but going into this season I don’t think it’s a surprise when I say that Mercedes is still the favorite.
“But, as I said, we try to become the favorites in the future.”