MELBOURNE, Australia — The majority of the Formula One paddock is convinced Mercedes are the favourites for victory ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton is not so sure.

After securing four titles in the past four years, Mercedes has become F1’s team to beat and once again showed impressive pace in pre-season testing earlier this month. That led rivals Red Bull and Ferrari to single out Mercedes as the clear favourites heading to Australia, but Hamilton warns against reading too much into the pre-race predictions.

« I think at this time of the year everyone is trying to hype someone else up and we are the perfect target because we are the world champions, » he said at an event in Melbourne with fuel partners Petronas. « It’s like trying to put all the pressure onto someone else because it takes the weight off of you.

« But ultimately the pressure is divided on all of us because Red Bull seems to have done a great job with their car and it has a lot more furniture on it [than last year] and should be a lot quicker this weekend with two great drivers.

« And then you’ve got Ferrari who were in a real fight with us last year and they will be no walkover that’s for sure. This year we expect them to be on it too.

« My guess is as good as yours this weekend and I’m just trying to make sure I’m in the best position I can be and I understand the car and my tools, because as soon as you get on track the steps you take in terms of moving the car forwards and improving the envelope you are working in is crucial. Every step has to be the right step. »

Hamilton is convinced Red Bull did not show its true hand in testing and believes Mercedes could start the season behind its two main rivals.

« I think everyone did different things in testing. If you look at the Red Bulls, they never used their best race mode for example. I’m not sure if that’s the case for Ferrari, but that’s certainly the case for a couple of people.

« From what I understand, I think Red Bull and Ferrari are very close. Potentially we are either level, just behind or maybe just ahead of the Red Bulls as far as I’m aware. But this weekend they might bring a new upgrade, so it’s going to be tight. «


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