Defending champion Lewis Hamilton reckons Ferrari have something up their sleeve for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Hamilton and his Mercedes outfit are clear favourites to win the 2016 title and Sunday’s race in Melbourne, having dominated the past two seasons.
But Sebastian Vettel and the prancing horse are hot on their heels, and Hamilton is wary.
“I think they’ve got something up their sleeve, personally, this weekend,” he said on Thursday.
“Ferrari, I think, are going to be a lot closer than they are talking.
“They’re arriving on the low but will deliver high.”
Asked if he welcomed that, the ever-competitive Brit replied: “Absolutely.”
Vettel, who finished third in the championship last year, didn’t shy away from the fact Ferrari had improved.
He believed the Italian team had done enough to trouble the 2015 title-winners – it was just a matter of when.
“I think we have,” he declared.
“The question is whether we are ready in time.
“I think we are making progress – we have made a step over the winter. Whether it’s big enough or not, I think we’ll need to wait after the first couple of races to see.
“But for sure, our target is to turn things around.”
Aside from the obvious physical differences to Ferrari’s 2016 challenge, Vettel said the team had done a “very very nice job” on the inside of his car to make it quicker and more competitive.
“I think we are closer than last year, especially in the race.”
Hamilton, a two-time winner in Melbourne and four-time polesitter, has arrived Down Under amid more controversy, this time for allegedly taking a selfie while riding a motorbike in New Zealand.
The 31-year-old posted videos of himself on Snapchat on a Harley-Davidson during a visit earlier this week to Auckland.
It’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving or riding in New Zealand.
Local police didn’t take any further action after an investigation found insufficient evidence.
Hamilton was asked twice on Thursday about the incident, but refused to comment.
Strangely, he was also questioned which phone he used – an iPhone or Blackberry – to which he replied: “Both”.