Chasing pack closer to Mercedes, says Hamilton

Thu Mar 17, 2016 2:58am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The gap between Mercedes and the rest has narrowed and Ferrari "have something up their sleeve" at this week's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, according to champion Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes enjoyed a near-flawless pre-season testing but Ferrari also showed promising pace to raise their hopes of ending the Silver Arrows' reign after two dominant seasons.

"I think this year the whole pack looks a bit closer. I think they have something up their sleeve this weekend," Hamilton told reporters at the pre-race media conference at Albert Park on Thursday.

"I think they have a lot more than they are talking. They have arrived on the low, but are going to deliver high."

Ferrari's four-time world championship-winning driver Sebastian Vettel said he believed the Scuderia's new car could challenge Mercedes for the title.

Both teams notched up plenty of laps at the Barcelona testing, with Mercedes showing itself the most reliable car and Ferrari setting encouraging times.

But Mercedes' true pace remains very much a mystery with the team not focused on posting fast laps during the off-season.

Hamilton, bidding for a fourth world title, said he might have hoped to have done more performance laps at the Circuit de Catalunya and suggested the team had kept their powder dry.   Continued...

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton poses for a drivers portrait before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/Jason Reed