Hamilton to face fierce battle from Ferrari in 2019 F1 World Championship

Hamilton to face fierce battle from Ferrari in 2019 F1 World Championship

While Hamilton had the pace to get within 0.003s of Vettel's best time, he has previously estimated Ferrari's advantage to be as much as half a second and says Mercedes has to be careful not to make mistakes trying to close that gap. While he can expect to add to his tally of 73 race wins, 18 behind Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91, the balance of power may be shifting away from Brackley and towards Maranello. "Charles seems such a happy-go-lucky guy, very relaxed, and I think the team are really going to take to him". The only exceptions were, Ferrari and Mercedes, who opted out when filming got underway a year ago. Racing Point are starting over, their Force India days consigned to history, with Canadian Lance Stroll joining the team his father Lawrence now owns.

Vettel, hunting his fifth crown, was naturally wary of fuelling the hype when asked at the start of testing whether the pieces were in place for him to emulate the success of his seven-times world champion predecessor. Despite it not yet being fully signed off, production company Box to Box made a head start by undertaking some filming at the Barcelona test, and its cameras will also be present in Australia.

Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, insists he is not anxious.

"We need to get going because otherwise it's getting late in the day", Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told Reuters at last month's launch of his team's 2019 auto. I think in both those episodes we saw different aspects of F1. I think the performance and reliability of Honda seems a big step up.

"The human side has always been fascinating and all of us have been involved in that side".

In winter testing, most agreed that 21-year-old Leclerc, who replaces Kimi Raikkonen, looked a match for Sebastian Vettel.

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"I think in a way what you've seen tonight is an indication of the way we're going", he said.

"Clearly there was some friction in the team between Maurizio and Mattia, it wasn't smooth".

"It was not an easy environment".

"If you're going to beat Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes, you need to be on top of everything".

"I think already a year ago, we as a team were behind on performance so we had to overachieve on delivery, and now we have to reach even further, it means we have to squeeze our performance even more". "But Barcelona was all about getting to know the new vehicle, and about the close contact between the drivers and engineers".

The season ends in Abu Dhabi on Dec.1, the latest finale to a season since 1963.

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