Lewis Hamilton fears that Ferrari has "something up its sleeve" this weekend that could result in a triumph for the Maranello outfit in the Formula 1 season opener in Australia.
Although Ferrari has been downplaying its chances – and singling out Mercedes as the clear favourites – Hamilton has his suspicions that the situation is not as clear cut.
“I think this year the whole pack looks like it is going to be closer,” said Hamilton in Melbourne on Thursday.
“I think they [Ferrari] have got something up their sleeve. Personally, this week they are going to be a lot closer than they are talking. [They are] arriving on a low but could be leaving on a high.”
Despite Hamilton's stance that Ferrari may be stronger than many expect, Sebastian Vettel says he thinks it will take some time to work out how his outfit fare.
For although he is adamant that the gap has been closed to Mercedes – and the potential is there for Ferrari to overhaul its rivals – he thinks it may not be quite there yet.
When asked if Ferrari had the potential to trouble Mercedes, Vettel said: “I think we have. But obviously the question is whether we are ready in time.
“I think we are on a good track and we are making progress. We did so last year. We did a step over the winter but whether it is big enough we need to wait the first couple of races and see.
“Our target is to turn things around. I don't think it is a surprise when I say Mercedes is still the favourites, but we will try to be favourites in the future.”
Toro Rosso threat
With the focus on Mercedes and Ferrari at the front, Vettel has also singled out his former squad Toro Rosso as a potential threat for a surprise in Australia.
“Mercedes are the favourite going in, they seem to reliable and very quick,” he said. “In Barcelona we are closer than last year, especially in the race.
“But then Toro Rosso have made a massive step. They had a strong car last year but with Ferrari they will be quite a bit stronger.”