F1: Hamilton's 'incredible' Mercedes car ahead of 2016 Australian Grand Prix

PUBLISHED: 15:56 11 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:37 11 March 2016

Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport kick-off in the Hallowed Halls in Fellbach, near Stuttgart [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport kick-off in the Hallowed Halls in Fellbach, near Stuttgart [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

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Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton enters the 2016 season in an "incredible" Mercedes car after a successful winter testing programme.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport kick-off in the Hallowed Halls in Fellbach, near Stuttgart [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport kick-off in the Hallowed Halls in Fellbach, near Stuttgart [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

The 31-year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire will line up in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix next weekend – March 18-20 – when the new F1 season gets under way in Melbourne.

Mercedes clocked up the miles in winter testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.

The team completed a total of 1,294 laps during pre-season testing, equivalent to over 19 Grand Prix distances.

Three-time world champion Hamilton said: “The winter tests went fantastically well, and our new car is absolutely incredible.

“I never thought that we would be driving quite so many kilometres in preparation.

“We were with the team yesterday and congratulated everyone involved on this great Silver Arrow.

“This is a real team effort from all our colleagues in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart.”

Looking ahead to the season opener in Australia, Hamilton added: “Nevertheless, I’m expecting this season to be an uphill battle.

“Ferrari have caught up and Nico [Rosberg] is always a strong opponent.

“I believe that we have a good car, but Ferrari were posting some impressive times during the tests – both on the fast laps and on longer runs.

“We are certainly in for a good fight, but after all that’s exactly what everyone wants. In any case, I’m looking forward to it very much.”

Hamilton beat Silver Arrows colleague Rosberg to the title last year and the German driver is looking to turn the tables this term.

After pre-season testing in Spain, Rosberg said: “We had a good start to this year with the winter testing.

“So far, everything is going according to plan, and we can travel to Melbourne feeling optimistic about the first race of the campaign.

“As soon as I saw our new Silver Arrow for the first time, I had a good feeling.

“You could clearly see from the innovative features that it represents a step forward.

“In motor racing – and this is especially true of Formula One – development never stands still.

“To stay ahead, you need to continue to develop and to find new ways of doing things that no one else has thought of before.

“We don’t yet know where we stand compared to the opposition, but Ferrari looked very strong in testing, and I’m expecting a close race.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said: “We are very proud of our successes last year when we achieved excellent results in Formula One, the DTM, Formula 3 and the AMG Customer Sports Programme.

“But now the scoreboard is reset to zero and we have to work hard to repeat those successes.

“First of all, we have the Formula One season opener in Melbourne next week.

“It’s always difficult to gauge the respective performances of the teams after the tests, but we had excellent reliability and completed our entire programme.

“However, the competition are also looking good. Consequently, we’re expecting a really exciting first race of the season in Australia next week.”

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