Five talking points ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

Five talking points ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

But Ferrari appeared to boast the pace advantage in pre-season testing in Barcelona, with Hamilton himself admitting that the Scuderia may even have a half-a-second edge per lap.

Ferrari won the Australian GP in 2018 and they could be a bit quicker once again.

"They have a very stable platform, and we definitely have work to do on that".

Asked if Ferrari are in a better situation now than they were 12 months ago, the 31-year-old told a press conference: "Yeah quite frankly because last year's winter testing didn't go well for us".

Max Verstappen, who at 17 was the youngest driver ever to start a race, is now a 21-year-old "veteran" in his fifth season and the main man at Red Bull, who also have 23-year-old Frenchman Pierre Gasly racing for them.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel made too many errors to surrender the impetus.

Mercedes AMG F1 2019 Barcelona Pre Season Test 2 Day 4 – Steve Etherington
Mercedes AMG F1 2019 Barcelona Pre Season Test 2 Day 4 – Steve Etherington

"This is going to be the toughest battle yet", said the Briton, although Mercedes, who have won five drivers' and constructors' titles in a row, may not have shown their full hand yet. "I think it was quite clear, however it's hard to know what everyone's doing, so naturally we won't fully know until we get out in the auto tomorrow and, come qualifying you get a better picture, and usually, over the first few races is when you really start to get an idea of where everyone stands. but we said that we have work to do and we weren't talking BS". We have experience, it's no coincidence that we are world champions so we have to be diligent and stay balanced.' He added: 'But as a driver for sure I have to figure out how can I pull more out, which I don't have the current answer for'.

After a series of unlucky races at the start of the 2018 season, Bottas finished the year with no wins to Hamilton's 11.

One aspect he clearly takes strength from is the continuity in terms of retaining Valtteri Bottas as his teammate for a third season.

Vettel is keen on having some fun.

Mercedes have done that in the past, but there is a growing feeling in the paddock that Ferrari could have the edge this season, with a new team principal in place, after Mattia Binotto replaced Maurizio Arrivabene, and a faster auto.

"I feel Melbourne is the flawless place to start the championship", said the 31-year-old German, now in his fifth season with the glamour team. "It is the second debut for me after being away from the sport for many years".

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