Lewis Hamilton makes promising prediction ahead of 2019 F1 season | F1 | Sport

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The trio were the runaway teams in 2018 – as was expected – although Mercedes once again came atop the pile.

The Silver Arrows secured the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for a fifth straight season with Hamilton claiming his fourth world title in five years.

Ferrari and Red Bull both offered challenges to Mercedes early in the season but they dropped away due to a multitude of reasons, Red Bull suffering heavily from reliability issues.

But there is hope that Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc and Ferrari – who appeared to boast the fastest car in pre-season testing earlier this month – will pose an even greater test to Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas this year.

And though Red Bull are expected to be slightly behind the duo again, they will be powered by a new Honda engine after seeing their 2018 season marred by reliability issues with their Renault power unit and will hope to at least pose a more consistent threat.

Testing times suggested that the midfield teams have began to bridge the gap to the front of the grid somewhat for the upcoming season – which gets underway a week on Sunday.

And with Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas among those looking to get closest to Red Bull, Hamilton is hopeful there will be a tighter battle as F1 seeks increased competitiveness.

“I think it is the three teams [that will remain at the front], but also the teams at the back have closed up as far as I’m aware,” Hamilton said.

“The whole pack has closed up. I don’t know which team is fourth currently, but they are a lot closer than they were before.

“Depending on how their development is during the year and whether they have the capacity to develop as quickly as the top three teams will be the question [on if the midfield can keep up], but it will be exciting.

“Maybe we will see some races where Renault or Racing Point will be a lot higher than they were in the past.”

Hamilton claimed there was potentially as much as half-a-second between Mercedes and Ferrari. 

Yet Red Bull chief Helmut Marko thinks their team are ahead of the defending world champions with just over a week to go until Melbourne’s first practice session gets underway (Friday March 15, 1am UK time).

In an interview with Austrian publication Speed Week, Marko said: “Ferrari is ahead, then we come in front of Mercedes.

“And then there is the big midfield, where it will be very tight.

“McLaren and Williams are at the back.”

Marko also added that Red Bull will land “at least five victories” and tipped Verstappen to become world champion for the first time.

Red Bull claimed three race wins last season, joint-level with 2017 and 2014 for their most since last winning a championship with Sebastian Vettel in 2013.



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