Sports

Wolff: Hamilton will strike back at Ferrari

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has backed Lewis Hamilton to exact swift revenge at Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix after a chastening defeat in Formula 1's season-opener in Australia.

Sebastian Vettel's comprehensive victory for Ferrari has put Mercedes on red alert ahead of the Shanghai race weekend, but Wolff insists Hamilton has the steel to strike right back after finishing second in Melbourne.

"Lewis is the best Lewis that I've seen in the last four years - both on and off the track," said the Austrian.

"He's become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne.

"You need to be careful to manage your own expectations.

"If you think you are going to cruise to victory in the future, based on a track record of success, you'll be proven wrong very quickly. You need to put the finger in the wound, identify your weaknesses and then respond."

Ferrari have shown impressive early pace, with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen taking fourth and all the signs point to another tight battle between the two top teams in China.

A buzzing Vettel, who romped to four successive world titles with Red Bull from 2010 to 2013, will fancy his chances of further getting under Hamilton's skin.

Wolff is under no illusions about the threat posed by Ferrari.

"There are still many areas where we can be better," he said.

"It's not a case of looking at the competition for inspiration, but of getting our own homework done to maximise our performance."

Also clear from the early skirmishes is that Red Bull have lost their fizz as young Dutch driver Max Verstappen took fifth while Daniel Ricciardo endured a weekend that nightmares are made of.

The Aussie spun into a wall in qualifying and ground to a halt during the race on lap 29, dealing a blow to Red Bull, who were expected to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari. - AFP

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