Australian Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton reignite rivalry in season opener
Sebastian's Ferrari poses biggest threat to five-time world champion Lewis's Mercedes as season opens with Australian GP practice session today
Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari has been tipped as the man to beat but Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could well have an ace hidden up their sleeve, as the two Formula One champions prepare to reignite their battle at this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The German four-time champion and his new teammate Charles Leclerc consistently topped the timesheets in pre-season testing, with Vettel ending the eight days of winter running fastest of all.
Ham falls 0.003s shy
But, while Mercedes spent most of that time mired near the bottom of the times putting in long runs on heavy fuel, Hamilton fell just 0.003 seconds shy of Vettel's ultimate benchmark when he finally unleashed the performance of his W10 challenger, hinting at a closely-fought title battle.
Still, testing is extremely notorious to read, with different teams running different fuel loads, and where Mercedes and Ferrari stand relative to each other will only become clear once track action gets underway in anger at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit.
There is no denying the optimism and smiles emanating from the Ferrari camp, however, nor the spring in Vettel's step as he looks to turn the page on a season blotted with costly errors and deliver the sport's most successful team their first title since 2008.
"Our car seems to work fine: no problems at this stage," Vettel, who inherited victory in Australia, his second in a row there, from a dominant Hamilton last year, told reporters yesterday.
The spirit is good: Vettel
"Having said that, obviously we can't do better than last year's result. But yeah, I think the spirit is good, the atmosphere is good, we're happy to be here and start racing."
Ferrari went into last year's race around the 5.3-kilometer long Albert Park circuit as the team to beat, although they are firmer favourites this year.
However, Hamilton turned it up when it mattered, seizing a dominant pole and nearly picking up an easy win until a strategic misstep under a virtual safety car handed victory to Vettel.
The Briton, however, feels Ferrari really are the benchmark this year. "It's difficult to know what everyone's doing," said the reigning five-times champion. "Naturally, we will not fully know until we get out in the car tomorrow and come qualifying you get a better picture."
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