F1 Australian GP: Ferrari still quickest, downplaying hype - Hamilton

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton remains confident that Ferrari is the team to beat in this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, having called the Scuderia out for downplaying its chances. 

Hamilton enters 2017 chasing a fourth drivers' championship after losing out to former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg last year at the final round of the year.

An overhaul of the technical regulations has given teams such as Ferrari the chance to cut the gap to Mercedes at the front of the pack, with the German manufacturer dominating proceedings for the past three seasons.

Ferrari looked particularly impressive through pre-season testing as Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest overall time, with Sebastian Vettel finishing a solid second, leading some to believe that Mercedes' rule over F1 could be about to end.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's race in Melbourne, Hamilton once again stated his belief that Ferrari is the fastest team in F1, adding that he thought Vettel was working hard to underplay his chances.

“I see Ferrari being the quickest at the moment. I think they will definitely be the favourites, but we'll find out going into the weekend,” Hamilton said. “Sebastian's usually a lot more hyped, and I can tell he's trying to keep a lid on it.

“I'm keen to see what Red Bull bring because they were quite far behind in testing, at least compared to Ferrari, and I didn't see them bring any upgrades so I assume they're bringing some here.”

After fighting solely against his team-mate for the drivers' title for the past three years, Hamilton was warm to the idea of a more open championship battle against multiple challengers, and is relishing the chance to carry Mercedes' dominance through the change in regulations.

“Having more teams and more drivers up at the front fighting for wins, that's what racing is about,” Hamilton said. “I don't believe no team has won back to back titles through rule changes. That is our goal as a team. We're here to do something that no-one else has done.

“Whether or not we're in the right place at this point in the season, we'll find out, but I have every belief in my team we can do that.”