Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 2018 battle is 'not going to be easy'
World champion expects Ferrari to be "rapid" at Bahrain GP
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 13/12/18 3:01pm
Lewis Hamilton believes the battle at the front of F1 is poised to remain "close" with a clear pecking order unlikely to emerge until after 2018's opening four flyaway rounds.
Mercedes appeared to start the season with the quickest car at the Australian GP, with Lewis Hamilton claiming an impressive pole position and then controlling the race until Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel benefited from a Virtual Safety Car to take an unexpected victory.
F1 2018: How to watch on Sky F1
On TV, Online, On Demand and on the go...all the ways you can watch every Formula 1 race weekend on Sky Sports F1 this year.
Ahead of round two in Bahrain next week - a race at which the world champion expects Ferrari, last season's victors, to perform well - Hamilton is not expecting the fight for supremacy to become any easier.
"From my experience, you don't really get a good understanding until after four races," said Hamilton. "Right now, it's just the first race - I have no idea.
"We go to Bahrain and there's going to be ups and downs. Ferrari are really quick on the straights, they are going to be rapid in the next race, and they are always good when it comes to hot circuits. Bahrain, even though it's a night race, is still tough on the tyres.
"So I really have no idea - but I can tell you it's not going to be easy and it's going to be close."
Hamilton backs Bottas
Although Hamilton led in Melbourne until the pit stops and at that stage looked unlikely to be overhauled, Ferrari's strategic options were doubled by having both Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel running in the top three.
Mercedes were without a second car competing for the podium after Valtteri Bottas uncharacteristically crashed in qualifying and started 15th.
Hamilton believes Mercedes are going to need both their cars consistently at the front, but has no doubt that Bottas will recover from his Melbourne setback.
"It was one against two and it's not easy to fight against a team that has two cars in the mix compared to one," said Hamilton.
"But I think we'll work together and Valtteri will be working very hard to make sure he's in the mix and fighting with us as well.
"He's going to be fighting for wins this year and it won't always be as it is [in Australia]. Last year it was important to have both cars up there and now it's shown that it's even more important, especially with Red Bull being there and both Ferrari drivers."
Find out more about Sky Sports F1
Watch every race, qualifying and practice session live with Sky Sports F1 in 2018