Hamilton feels ready to win again

Andover Advertiser: Jenson Button made his debut in Australia 14 years ago Jenson Button made his debut in Australia 14 years ago

Lewis Hamilton is itching to prove this is the season he can finally land his second Formula One world title.

Six years have passed since Hamilton won his only world championship to date in highly-dramatic circumstances in Brazil in 2008.

Over the five intervening campaigns Hamilton has finished fourth on three occasions and fifth on two others, with the closest he has come to doubling up being in 2010 when he was 16 points adrift.

But following a winter of change and the introduction of a raft of new regulations Hamilton heads into the latest campaign that starts in Australia on Sunday as favourite to reclaim a crown that has been the property of Sebastian Vettel for the past four years.

Mercedes appeared so strong during pre-season testing Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has suggested Hamilton or team-mate Nico Rosberg could win by two clear laps around Melbourne's Albert Park.

Hamilton certainly feels with the car at his disposal he has his best chance of becoming a two-time Formula One world champion.

"We're as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I'm more fired up than ever," said Hamilton.

"With all the changes within the sport and the hard work that's been going on within the team, I believe this can be our year to really show what we're capable of.

"That's not to take anything away from our opposition, who will be incredibly tough to beat as always, but I feel like I'm equipped with the tools I need to succeed, and I can't wait to get started."

Every team, however, heads into the unknown this weekend as even Mercedes encountered gremlins with the power units that this year incorporate a 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged engine and two energy recovery systems.

Given the problems that came to light in testing, and those likely to occur in the future, Horner has also claimed less than half the field could finish Sunday's race, including his own drivers.

After reigning champion Vettel concluded last year with nine straight victories that had viewers turning off in their millions around the world, Hamilton has implored them to tune back in.

"I'm excited about the new season, not just as a driver, but as a fan," added Hamilton.

"As a fan, you want to see overtaking throughout the field, you want to see different race winners, you want to see the championship go down to the wire.

"I hope the changes for this year will make that happen. This is the year you need to watch Formula One!"

Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff, meanwhile, knows the favourites' tag will count for nothing unless both cars see the chequered flag.

"We now face the ultimate reality check in the first race of this new era for Formula One," said Wolff.

"The feeling within the team is not one of nerves, however. It is more a sense of relief to finally be unleashing our cars in race conditions.

"Everybody now just wants to get out there and see where we stand.

"Expectations are high, both internally and externally, and although we're not quite where we want to be right now in terms of a complete package, I'm optimistic in that we've done everything possible to prepare for the challenges ahead.

"The new regulations have been a massive challenge for everybody involved, and the team has been pushing flat out to get the car to where it is now.

"While it is true the quickest car with the quickest drivers will win, reliability will be a key factor, and we want to bring both cars to the flag in the best possible position."

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