Mercedes look to burst Ferrari's bubble in Melbourne

Mercedes look to burst Ferrari's bubble in Melbourne

Williams has endured an extremely tough pre-season after an equally hard 2018 campaign that saw previous drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin score only seven points between them, but the Grove-based outfit are fielding an all-new line-up in Kubica and 2018 FIA Formula 2 champion George Russell.

His Ferrari arch-rival Sebastian Vettel swept home in an Australian thriller previous year, getting a jump on Hamilton after Mercedes miscalculated a pit stop under virtual safety vehicle conditions.

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are expecting their toughest season yet and are braced to be pushed to the limit by Ferrari.

Mercedes will go in with Hamilton and the regular Valtteri Bottas.

Since he last raced in 2010, a lot has changed in Formula One, so it will be a massive learning curve for the Polish driver. "We think they're going to be strong because Honda looks strong now as well and they've always had a good auto".

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

"I believe that Mercedes will be very strong in Australia and I think that we would be completely wrong to believe that we are faster than them", he said.

But Hamilton later told Sky Sports: "It might be closer than we think, it might be a bigger gap than we think". We've been trying to plan with the team all my sponsor events a bit more in advance so I can plan my calendar a bit more around it, all the details in terms of travel, logistics, hotels, everything to help my wellbeing and performance. "We're going to be kind of chasing. We have experience, it's no coincidence that we are world champions so we have to be diligent and stay balanced", added Hamilton, who has won twice in Melbourne, in 2008 and 2015. "We don't know what they've got up their sleeve". [And] I think it's a case of adding pure performance, but even then we know we haven't unlocked the full potential of the vehicle. Over the past two years, the way they've been able to improve the auto during the year has been pretty rapid, so for sure they're going to be a threat as well.

"The name of this year's auto, the SF90, is already a celebration of this anniversary and, on top of that (we have) chose to honour this achievement in an even more evident manner in Melbourne", Ferrari said in a statement.

Meanwhile Red Bull, powered by new Honda engines, have high hopes that Max Verstappen, who finished fourth in the drivers' standings past year, can crash the Hamilton-Vettel party.

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