Vettel feels Ferrari "spirit is right"

F1: 2019 Australian Grand Prix Preview

Mercedes struggled to keep pace with Ferrari in winter testing, and although the pre-season action has a reputation for delivering misleading clues as to the real pecking order, Hamilton added: "It wasn't hard to read, it was clear". "This year we are more prepared, our auto seems to work fine".

"I hope that this year we get to have a lot of fun".

"Judging from the performance in Barcelona (testing), it looks like we will have a proper fight on our hands in Melbourne".

A day before arriving Down Under on Monday, the 34-year-old indulged his new sky-diving hobby, jumping out of a plane over the Qatar desert.

Hamilton has won 51 of the past 100 grands prix for Mercedes and four of the past five championships.

The race also marks the fantastic comeback of Poland's Robert Kubica, who eight years ago partially severed his right arm in an accident that many believed would never see him driving a auto again, let alone a Formula One machine.

All 20 drivers and their team bosses were met by thousands of supporters at the inaugural season launch event in Federation Square on Wednesday.

The four-times champion will bid for a third successive win at Albert Park's season-opener, having foiled pole-sitter Hamilton amid a virtual safety vehicle deployment previous year.

Over the winter break the Scuderia replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto taking the role of technical director, while promoting and swapping Charles Leclerc, after an impressive season with Sauber (now Alfa Romeo), with Kimi Raikkonen.

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New team-mate Leclerc mirrored Vettel's thoughts on Ferrari's expectations, with the Monegasque curious to see if its pace in testing will transfer to qualifying on Saturday.

Red Bull will be entering their new Honda era with Dutch hopeful Max Verstappen and Frenchman Pierre Gasly at the helm.

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are expecting their toughest season yet and are braced to be pushed to the limit by Ferrari.

The team said on Tuesday it had expedited an upgrade for the RB15 vehicle in time for Sunday's race, a month earlier than scheduled.

Daniel Ricciardo will also hope for better luck at his home race in the yellow and black of Renault, having missed a maiden podium in Melbourne with Red Bull past year when he was hit with a three-place grid penalty for a minor technical infringement.

"We're still quite unsure about how Red Bull will be", said Bottas.

"I see us behind Ferrari over the race distance but ahead of Mercedes".

It will also be an emotional weekend for Pole Robert Kubica, who reboots his F1 career with the struggling Williams team eight years after being seriously injured in a rally vehicle accident.

Kubica was preparing for the 2011 season when he suffered a horror injury in a rallying crash during pre-season, and it has taken eight long years to return to the top level of single seater motorsport, and he feels this weekend's Australian Grand Prix will be like a second debut after such a long time away.

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