Lewis Hamilton likened himself to Roger Federer as he declared he should have “no problems” in beating Sebastian Vettel to this year’s Formula One world championship.
Despite completing fewer miles than any of his rivals during a weather-hit opening test in Barcelona, Hamilton ominously ended on top of the time sheets with the fastest lap of the week.
The 33-year-old British driver is gearing up for his assault on a fifth championship to join only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as drivers who have won the F1 title on more than four occasions.
Vettel upped the ante on Thursday by insisting that he is ready to end Mercedes’ dominance by clinching Ferrari’s first championship in more than a decade.
But a typically self-assured Hamilton, who produced some of the finest performances of his career to see off Vettel’s challenge with two rounds remaining last season, is confident of delivering the same punishment in 2018.
“I don’t focus too much on anyone else and my mindset is that if I am at my best then I should have no problems,” Hamilton said. “That is how I will approach the season.
“If I prepare the best, I am the fittest I can be, I have the most energy, feel healthy, come with the right approach and work hard, I truly believe I won’t have any problems.
“You have to be convinced that is the case. I don’t prepare by hoping the other guy has issues so I can capitalise. I want him to be at his best so it is more painful when you do out-perform them.”
Hamilton will be partnered by Valtteri Bottas once more this season after the Finn persuaded Mercedes to extend his deal by one year.
Bottas spent his debut campaign as Nico Rosberg’s replacement firmly in Hamilton’s shadow and finished the season an eye-watering 58 points adrift of the Briton.
“Do I think Valtteri will be harder to beat? No,” Hamilton added. “It is difficult coming to a new team, learning new ways and new controls.
“But he has got through the learning process so he will hit the ground running this year and there are no more excuses.
“He did a great job at the last couple of races in 2017, Do I expect him to be closer this year? I have to assume he is in the best shape possible, but so am I.”
Hamilton will return to action on Tuesday in the concluding four-day test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya before opening the defence of his title in Melbourne on March 25.