Lewis Hamilton is expecting Ferrari to be the strongest challengers to his Mercedes team, partly because Sebastian Vettel is now with the Italian team.
Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg dominated the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, with Vettel finishing third. He left Red Bull last year.
Hamilton tips Ferrari’s Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to be their closest rivals.
Ferrari qualified 1.4 seconds slower than Hamilton for this race.
Vettel won the world title four times before Hamilton broke that sequence last year. He was more than 30 seconds behind in Melbourne. Raikkonen retired on lap 41 with a loose wheel.
Rosberg said he expects Ferrari to mount a good fight, but Vettel questioned that praise because Mercedes were so far ahead that they look set to continue from last year when their one-two finishes became monotonous.
Rosberg still insisted that a challenge from Ferrari was “important for the sport and the fans.”
He sounded as if he was talking up Ferrari’s chances just to keep the sport interesting.
Only 15 started the Australian Grand Prix and 11 completed, the lowest number of finishers in four decades. As in previous eras when one driver and team dominated, Formula 1’s appeal is subsiding because of the lack of competition.
Vettel does not expect Ferrari to be really competitive this season.
“Mercedes have a great package at the moment, which will be difficult to beat,” he said.
“They are the favorites. They had a huge advantage last year and I think they did a good job in increasing that advantage for this year. It will be difficult but not impossible for us and the rest to catch up.”