Lewis Hamilton says he expects Ferrari to be a “lot closer than they talk it” this weekend in the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Mercedes start the year as the favourites off the back of title doubles over the last two seasons.
However the Scuderia showed impressive pace over the winter during pre-season testing, and while Ferrari continues to play down expectations - with Sebastian Vettel
doing just that on Thursday, despite saying he expects them to be closer - Hamilton is wary of the 'red' threat.
“I think this year the whole pack looks like it is a little bit closer,” Hamilton said. “But I think they have got something up their sleeve, personally, this weekend.
“Ferrari is going to be a lot closer than they talk it. They are arriving kind of on a low but are going to perform.”
Asked if he welcomes that challenge, Hamilton added: “Absolutely”.
Meanwhile, Hamilton conceded that Mercedes might have made an error during pre-season testing by not doing any runs on the supersoft, especially considering how many laps they did, easily the most – and over 450 laps more than Ferrari.
“Definitely,” Hamilton continued, when asked if he would have liked to have done a few more quick laps. “Of course the performance runs are always the most fun. The long runs are always long and less exciting. But we did what we had to do. I guess we went into testing with a goal of achieving 800kms a day and we didn't actually think we would do. Perhaps in hindsight we would have shifted our running.”
“I think it will be okay [with the supersoft]. We didn't use it and once we realised how much mileage we had done we may have changed it, as I said, but who knows. But we will face it as we always do,” he added.
“I don't believe they've changed a huge amount with the tyre so I don't think it will be a big issue for us.”
As for the coming season as a whole, Hamilton noted that he will be out to “raise the bar”: “You are always searching for perfection, always learning, always growing, both inside and outside of the sport. I am just looking forward to that journey [in 2016]. I don't know what is to come, I don't know what or when I am going to be growing and I guess that is the same for every single one of us. But that is what I am excited about. You are always looking for that perfect lap, always looking for that perfect race and looking to raise the bar every time you go out because it can always be raised.”