Ferrari enjoyed a strong start during the first test and has carried on that form to set the fastest two times of pre-season so far, with Sebastian Vettel's 1m16.221s on the final morning just edging teammate Charles Leclerc by 0.01s. "Testing you have to take with a pinch of salt". It is hard to judge how much from testing, due to unknown factors such as engine modes and fuel loads, but Hamilton suspects the gap between the two top teams is big.
Late in the evening, we got our first comparable lap from Mercedes.
"It will be four races before we really know where we stand". There is no way when you are looking at the Global Positioning System to know what fuel load they are on, or what engine mode they are on.
"I belive that Mercedes will be very strong in Australia and I think that we would be completely wrong to believe that we are faster than them". Now is that because they have their flexi-wings that they've had in the past that drops drag?
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"Both of them need to run to the maximum and try to do their best, but in an ambiguous situation at the start of the season Sebastian is the one that has more experience, meaning that with us, also he has won championships, he's our champion". So we have no idea.
"Of course naturally we hope that it is definitely not bigger than what we might see now and we hope it is better".
"At the moment it's the three teams at the top", Hamilton said. "I think they will be very, very close".
"I already knew it would be like that for a while". Before it was a second gap, now it's half a second - maybe less, which is awesome.
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New regulations have presented a new challenge to teams this year, essentially restricting the ease with which they can manipulate the airflow around the front tyres.
Max Verstappen ended the day 11 fastest on the C3 tyres, showing good pace from the new Honda-powered Red Bull after dipping into the 1m17s. That has a knock-on effect on the way the rest of the auto produces downforce, and recovering that aero performance has been one of the key battlegrounds over the winter.
Hamilton also recognised Ferrari was quick when he spoke to reporters but said that was the case in testing past year and Mercedes prevailed in the end.
"Obviously the two will be free to fight", said the Italian. "Time will tell. The guys, the engineers, will be analysing both for sure, that's what they do. We've used our time here on track in Barcelona efficiently, learning a lot and improving our performance over the past two weeks", said Bottas. "I'm looking forward to Melbourne!"
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