Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari head into the 2017 as the title favourites, buoyed by their impressive showing in pre-season testing.
After a trying campaign in 2016, Ferrari appear to be in much better shape this year. The Maranello-based outfit has shown strong pace on the soft compound, topping two of the five days of testing so far.
Ferrari’s reliability has also been impressive, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel racking up 636 laps between them.
While Mercedes’ own form in pre-season testing has been ominous, Hamilton says Ferrari has caught the attention of everyone in the paddock.
“No, I think Ferrari must be the favourites,” he said. “I think we can't take our eyes off them because they have been doing such a great job at the moment, and Red Bull look like they are quite good as well. We'll over the next days and most importantly over the next weeks, but it's going to be close in the first race, that's for sure.”
Mercedes brought a heavily-revised version of W08 for the second test in Barcelona, but Hamilton wasn’t particularly pleased with his first running with the updated machine on Tuesday.
“I wasn't feeling great today, but it's just the set-up and it was quite hot today and the tyres degraded, and we had some damage to the floor, but I didn't have any offs or anything like that, which is a good thing,” he said.
“It was just a bit of an awkward balance today and the temperatures are a bit higher today, so it's a bit harder on the tyres. We were also having damage to the floor which meant there was good corners and not-so-good corners, so they are working to make sure it's fixed for Valtteri,” he added.
Speaking of Mercedes’ own performance, Hamilton believes there is more to come before the first race in Melbourne later this month.
“In terms of our performance? That's a good question, I have no idea. We're on target in terms of the laps that we've done, on target in terms of how much mileage we wanted to get - but of course for performance we're always searching for more,” he said.
“I'd say we're probably - and I'm just throwing a number - maybe 70 percent, 80 percent, maybe. Hope that we pull out the rest to make sure that we're 100 percent for the first race.”
by Rachit Thukral