Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton says he expects Sebastian Vettel to be “stronger” during the 2019 season as he bids to successfully defend his Formula 1 world title. 

Hamilton has triumphed to the drivers’ world championship in the last two seasons, beating Vettel on both occasions, with the Mercedes driver being crowned a five-time world champion with his latest success in 2018. 

Vettel came under fire for making a number of key errors which hampered his and Ferrari's campaign last year, but Hamilton is anticipating a renewed challenge from the Italian squad as it bids to end Mercedes’ current run of dominance in F1. 

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Speaking to Sky Sports F1 following his first run out in Mercedes’ latest F1 challenger the W10 last week, Hamilton said has “reset everything” heading into the new season amid the knowledge that “everyone wants to take the crown”. 

“We have to expect that they [Ferrari] are going to take a leap and I have to expect that Sebastian is going to be stronger this year,” Hamilton explained. 

“So that means I’ve got to be better. We’ve had a couple of really great battles and particularly last year was one of my favourite years fighting with him.

“I’m hoping that we get to have more of those this year and I hope that also the Red Bulls can perhaps be in that mix because that makes it more fun for the fans. 

“Also from a drivers’ point of view, it’s great when you have more people involved.” 

Asked if he feels Max Verstappen can join the title fight this year following Red Bull’s switch to Honda engines, Hamilton replied: “He’s got the ability - we all know he’s got the ability to do so. 

“It’s whether or not the team have provided him with a package to do that. It is a team effort and collectively they’ve got to work as hard as they have. 

“I hope the new voyage they are on with the new [engine] manufacturer [Honda] helps them takes a step forward but time will tell.”