HAMIL­TON SAVOURS VET­TEL CHAL­LENGE

Mercedes driver de­clares Fer­rari the team to beat

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MEL­BOURNE gen­er­a­tion of quicker cars.

“I’ve not had a lot of bat­tles with Se­bas­tian on the track. Of course, I’d love to have that. I think the fans want to see that,” Hamil­ton said.

“You want to be rac­ing against the best. That’s what the fans want to see.

“They want to see that close rac­ing, that sheer com­pet­i­tive­ness. See the ups and downs of the best do­ing the best. I hope there’s lots of close rac­ing.”

Hamil­ton said Fer­rari, who have not won a world con­struc­tors ti­tle since 2008, had the quick­est car head­ing into Sunday’s Mel­bourne sea­son opener.

“I see Fer­rari be­ing the quick­est at the mo­ment. And I think they’ll def­i­nitely be the favourites. But of course, we’ll find out more on the week­end,” he said.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to see, Se­bas­tian is usu­ally a lot more hype. I can tell he’s try­ing to keep a lid on it. But their pace was ob­vi­ously great in test­ing.”

Hamil­ton said the new car reg­u­la­tions would spice up this year’s world ti­tle race.

“Ev­ery year, your goal is to beat ev­ery­one. The more of a fight you have, the more sat­is­fy­ing it is when you’re vic­to­ri­ous. We’re up for a chal­lenge, and that’s what I’ve pre­pared for,” he said.

“Do­ing dras­tic changes kind of spices it up. I’ve never seen fans so ex­cited about a sea­son as they are this sea­son, be­ing that it is we don’t know where the cars and the teams are.”

Vet­tel was cagier at the of­fi­cial me­dia con­fer­ence and said Mercedes and Hamil­ton were the ob­vi­ous favourites for the sea­son opener.

“I think it must be. Ob­vi­ously Mercedes have been in a very, very strong form the last three years,” the Ger­man said.

“Even with changes to the rules and reg­u­la­tions, if the team are strong then they will build a strong car the year af­ter, no mat­ter what they do.

“It is very clear who is the favourite. For all of us, we are ob­vi­ously try­ing our best to catch up.

“How much we have suc­ceeded we will see. As the sea­son goes on ob­vi­ously, I’m sure the cars will have big pro­gres­sion.”

Vet­tel said pre-sea­son test­ing lap times meant lit­tle head­ing into the first race of the new sea­son.

“So far we don’t know any­thing. So it will be ex­cit­ing to find out where we all are on Saturday and Sunday to get a first im­pres­sion,” he said.

“Test­ing times doesn’t mat­ter much, I think it mat­ters much more what you show from here on­wards.”

Hamil­ton played down the ab­sence of his world cham­pion for­mer team-mate Ros­berg.

“It doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence to me whether the reign­ing cham­pion is here or not. Ev­ery year it’s a brand-new start, brand-new chal­lenge and a brand-new cham­pi­onship to win,” he said.

“You just want to beat who­ever it is you’re up against.” AFP

EPA PIC

Lewis Hamil­ton signs au­to­graphs at Al­bert Park in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia yes­ter­day.

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