Lewis Hamilton predicts a tough battle in Australian GP

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The British driver is once again the man to beat after he picked up an incredible fifth world championship last season.

Mercedes struggled to find a suitable auto balance in the opening week and while the team's fortunes appeared to improve with a raft of aerodynamic updates introduced for week two, Hamilton suggested that the gap to Ferrari was "potentially half a second" after the final day of pre-season testing.

"In this regard we are more prepared".

He added it was not just about "who comes out of the blocks quickest", but who could best develop the auto throughout the long, 21-race season.

"The name of this year's auto, the SF90, is already a celebration of this anniversary and, on top of that (we have) made a decision to honour this achievement in an even more evident manner in Melbourne", Ferrari said in a statement. Our auto seems to work fine, there are no problems at this stage.

He said: "We're free to race like every single year so that was even said at the beginning of... back at the factory and it's repeated today and that's how I like it". It's a tough weekend ahead of us.

"Naturally after a test, you always improve the next day as the auto gets older and older throughout the test".

"The spirit is good, atmosphere is good, happy to be here and happy to start racing".

Since he last raced in 2010, a lot has changed in Formula One, so it will be a massive learning curve for the Polish driver.

"I'm looking forward to continuing the dialogue to make sure that it stays in Melbourne ... my view is it's certainly not going to go across the border into New South Wales".

"Everyone takes a step after testing".

The 34-year-old, who was dominant in 2018, is gunning to go one better than legendary five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio and close in on Michael Schumacher's all-time record seven Formula One crowns.

"It's actually 24-years-old and never been resurfaced so if we're going to resurface it let's work with Formula 1 with their simulators and track analysis and see if there are some things that we can evolve".

5 - Verstappen comes into this race having finished on the podium on five consecutive occasions, his best run on the podium since his F1 career began.