Toto Wolff says Ferrari and Red Bull have closed gap to Mercedes

Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen drives at the Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of Barcelona during the fourth day of the first week of tests for the Formula One Grand Prix season

F1 Australian GP: Ricciardo tips Ferrari to match Mercedes in Melbourne

Hill also defended Hamilton's controversial celebrity lifestyle away from the track and believes the three-time world champion is more than capable of balancing his personal life and career, if Mercedes continues to give him the freedom he wants.

The 27-year-old is yet to win in almost 80 appearances, but he will start the new season among Hamilton's chief contenders for a fourth title after it was announced in January that he would partner the Briton at a team which has won 51 of the last 59 races.

The Austrian said in a preview for Sunday's Australian season-opener in Melbourne that Mercedes, the dominant team of the past three years, faced a big challenge.

Bottas, previously with Williams, has replaced 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired days after winning his first title.

Mercedes displayed excellent pace during preseason testing, so Hamilton likely will be in contention for the championship again this year.

"It is a great challenge for everyone, but especially for me".

The cars are wider, faster and more aggressive in their design this year in a bid to spice up a show dominated by Hamilton's Mercedes team.

The former F1 driver and commentator for the U.K.'s Channel 4 told Express he thinks the Mercedes-AMG Petronas driver is becoming disinterested with the series, and could announce his retirement even before the season ends. As long as I do my job, which is to perform on the level where the auto should be, we are all good and I know I can do it. "If it's not going well for Lewis, then he does have a tendency to make his feelings known". "We know he's good but how good is he?"

"I don't suppose they really know each other". "It's possible. It's not always enjoyable being a Formula One driver and Lewis has been in the bubble since he was about six".

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