Former four-time F1 champion Alain Prost says the sport needs an open title battle in 2016 and believes Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel can take on defending champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Since the introduction of the hybrid turbocharged engines at the start of 2014 Mercedes has dominated the sport, taking 32 Grand Prix wins out of a total of 38 in that time, and Prost hopes Ferrari can peg back the German manufacturer this year after showing signs of progress last season.

Hamilton took the 2015 title at a canter in the end, winning his third F1 world championship with three races to spare, but Vettel was able to beat both Mercedes on three occasions and Prost is pining for more unpredictable results.

"Lewis should be the favourite for the championship again, but what would be good for Formula 1 is a big fight between Lewis and Nico and maybe Vettel in the middle," Prost said to Sky Sports News HQ. "The first race is going to be important to see where the competition is," Prost added. "Has [Ferrari] been able to catch up with Mercedes? I don't think they can do it completely."

Hamilton could draw level with Prost on four F1 titles if he ends 2016 on top and also join an exclusive club of four or more title winners which also includes Vettel (4), Juan-Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7).

The British 31-year-old driver currently sits in esteemed company with three F1 crowns alongside his hero Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham.

Prost is currently involved with the e.dams Renault in the Formula E championship while the French manufacturer is preparing for its highly anticipated return to F1 as a factory squad after acquiring the Lotus F1 team during the winter.