MELBOURNE, March 17 – World champion Lewis Hamilton said Thursday he suspects Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel is holding something back heading into this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula One race in Melbourne.
Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg swept all before them last season winning 16 of the 19 races as the German constructor locked up back-to-back world titles.
Vettel’s Ferrari trailed in a distant third behind Hamilton and Rosberg in last year’s drivers championship with three victories, but has been steadily closing the gap.
Hamilton admitted that he suspected Ferrari were closer than Vettel has been indicating.
“I think this year the whole pack looks like it’s a little bit closer but personally I think they (Ferrari) have something up their sleeve for this weekend,” Hamilton told the official media conference.
“I think the Ferraris are going to be a lot closer than they talk about, than just arriving on a low but going to deliver high.”
Much of the talk leading into the new season is whether there are any teams capable of spicing up the 21-leg F1 season by taking some races off Hamilton and Rosberg.
“I think we have (enough to trouble Mercedes this year),” Vettel said.
“Obviously, the question is whether we are ready in time but I think we are on a good track, we are making progress, we did so last year and I think we made a step over winter.
“But whether that is big enough or not we need to wait for the first couple of races and see, but for sure our target is to turn things around.
“Mercedes are the favourites going in, they seem to be very reliable, but very quick. I think in Barcelona (testing) we are closer than last year especially in the race.
– ‘Searching for perfection’ –
“Mercedes is still the favourite, but we will try to become the favourite in the future. We know that the bar is high but we are pushing very hard.”
Hamilton, who lives a ‘King of Bling’ jet star lifestyle in between his commitments with Mercedes, said he was chasing perfection despite dominating the last two F1 seasons.
“You are always searching for perfection, also learning both inside and outside of the sport and I am looking forward to that journey,” he said.
“I don’t know what’s to come. You are always looking for the perfect lap, you are always looking for the perfect race, you’re looking to raise the bar every time you go out, because it can always be raised.”
Hamilton said he sees no problems with the new team radio restrictions in place for this season, leaving drivers to their own devices out on the track.
“We are all in the same boat (with radio restrictions) so some of us will handle it better than others,” he said.
“I don’t particularly see it as much of a problem, but is it good? I really don’t know but we’ll manage it the best way we can.”
Hamilton is known as an insatiable user of social media and caused a storm in New Zealand this week by posting a selfie-style video taken while riding a Harley-Davidson down a busy motorway.
Down-to-business German Vettel was asked if he was ever tempted to get on to the Twitter or Instagram platforms.
“Up to now I haven’t understood all of the modern technologies fully so I am sure he (Hamilton) can give me some classes, but I’m not that interested,” Vettel shrugged.
“I think everyone picks his style and the things they like. In the end we’re all different.
“Some people like pizza just plain, like Margherita, and some people like a lot of stuff on top of it. I think that’s a good summary.”