Formula One: Nico Rosberg's sequence worries Lewis Hamilton

World champion Lewis Hamilton (left) sprays champagne on his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg after the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Briton faces a double challenge, from Rosberg and the two Ferrari drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
World champion Lewis Hamilton (left) sprays champagne on his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg after the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Briton faces a double challenge, from Rosberg and the two Ferrari drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

After four consecutive losses, Briton foresees battle to subdue team-mate and Ferrari duo

MELBOURNE • Lewis Hamilton's supporters are concerned that his only serious rival, Nico Rosberg, has topped the Formula One podium in each of the last four races. But they will not have their worries assuaged by the news that their concerns are shared by the three-time world champion himself.

When asked after his defeat by Rosberg at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix whether this season would be tougher than the previous two, both of which ended with him winning the world title, Hamilton replied: "I feel as though there will be a battle. There will be races where we are seconds ahead and finish up the road and then there will be races where we go wheel to wheel."

The Briton is used to addressing the challenge from his Mercedes team-mate, but it is the threat from a rejuvenated Ferrari that could represent the biggest danger.

Hamilton never really recovered from a poor start in Melbourne, when he slipped back from pole position to sixth place, although his fightback to claim second behind Rosberg left him upbeat.

"The Ferraris were very strong," he said. "They got a good start, so we have to find out how we can do better. The second part, where you release the clutch fully, I just had a bit of wheelspin and never recovered from it."

In truth, Ferrari blew their chance at Albert Park, where they adopted a more aggressive policy after the race was red-flagged following Fernando Alonso's crash.

They chose to fit an extra pair of supersofts, meaning they would have to stop again and give up leading the race - and leading in Melbourne is particularly important because it is difficult to overtake there.

The good news for neutrals is that Ferrari have shown enough form to make things spicy this season.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said: "Ferrari ran a lot closer to Mercedes. It was a good race for Formula One on Sunday."

Maurizio Arrivabene, the Ferrari team principal, said: "On the wall we were confident (we could win) in all honesty.

"We were looking at the race and looking at the gap we were gaining and at that time our radio was to go with our strategy and keep going.

"I don't want to make any excuses, but the last red flag was in 2009 if I'm not wrong. But it's part of the race and you have to accept it and that's it.

"At that stage of the race you have to be more aggressive. It could be right, it could be wrong. If you want to look at the glass not half empty, we were better and this is the news. You can't be happy after this, but this is racing."

Jenson Button, who had another disappointing race with McLaren, finishing 14th after an encouraging qualifying performance from the team, was also impressed by Ferrari. He said: "Ferrari are definitely closer, which is good. It's great for the sport and we need that."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Rosberg's sequence worries Hamilton'. Print Edition | Subscribe