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Formula 1: Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are favourites to defend title

Barcelona: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are favourites to win the Formula One titles again this season but Ferrari will do all they can to beat them, according to the Italian team's German driver Sebastian Vettel.

The battle of the two rivals, both four times world champion, was the talk of last season before Ferrari's challenge fell apart with late reliability problems and collisions.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel during a press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. AFP

File image of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. AFP

Vettel led the championship from March through to September, however, and won five races to Hamilton's nine.

"I think Mercedes is the favourite going into this year, so if we can be close — very close, closer than last year, then that would be great," he told Sky Sports television on the final day of the first pre-season test in Spain.

"But it's a long year. Now it's March and we keep going to the end of November."

Vettel won his four titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013 and has had to watch Mercedes dominate the past four championships.

Ferrari have not won a driver's title since Finland's Kimi Raikkonen did so in 2007 and were last constructors' world champions in 2008.

"You want to make sure you bring it (the title) back. That's our ambition and target to bring the championships back to Maranello,' said Vettel.

The hope this year is that the engine manufacturers are closer in performance and that the sport could see a tighter battle once the 21-race season starts in Australia on 25 March.

Hamilton was ominously quick on the final day of testing, however, and the Briton also set his best time on the slower, medium tyres.

But Vettel, who was fastest on Tuesday before snow and rain set in, was relaxed.

"So far, things have been looking OK, but there has been very limited running for everyone, so it's very difficult not just for yourself to judge but also to judge compared to the others," he said.

"To be honest though, it's not that important in the first week. You just want to make sure the car is running. But that's been tough as well because there wasn't that much running."

Updated Date: Mar 15, 2018 17:22 PM

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