Lewis Hamilton will be looking to make a strong start to the 2014 Formula One season by claiming pole position for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.
And unlike last season, he most certainly has the pace to do it:
As seen in pre-season testing and the practice sessions in Melbourne, the Mercedes is the quickest car out there at the moment.
Not only did Hamilton set the fastest lap in Friday's practice session, but teammate Nico Rosberg was second fastest, trailing the Englishman by 0.157 seconds.
This seemingly underlines the idea that Mercedes are the team to beat this season:
Come the end of qualifying on Saturday, it would not be surprising to see an all-Mercedes front row, with Hamilton on pole position.
Despite pre-season worries with their car, Red Bull managed to stay competitive in Australia.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth-fastest in practice, but the quadruple world champion would have to pull off something really special to claim pole here.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after practice, per BBC Sport:
It's been a very strong first day for us. We've had a very difficult pre-season with numerous issues so it was refreshing to get some laps in and get a first proper feel for the car.
We can see there is quite a gap to the Mercedes and the Ferrari, but we are starting to feel what that gap is and by the end of the weekend we will have a clearer idea.
The most drastic rule changes in the sport's history have shaken things up and the era of Red Bull, winners of both the drivers' and constructors' championships in the last four years, may be over.
The most significant alteration has seen the engines change from the 2.4-litre V8 to a smaller, more efficient 1.6-litre V6 turbo.
And Mercedes have seemingly adapted best to the changes. As reported by Reuters, McLaren's Jenson Button said:
We're nowhere near the quickest. We were two seconds off them (Mercedes) in the test, we're over a second off them in the long runs.
I think everyone is about a second off them in the longer runs. They're very quick.
This will be music to the ears of the Mercedes team—especially for Lewis Hamilton.
The 2008 world champion and former McLaren driver has not had the pace in recent seasons, but it seems he will this season.
If he can make a strong showing in qualifying to claim pole, the 29-year-old will be the man to beat in Australia and potentially across the whole season.
Other than his teammate, Hamilton's closest opponent for pole will likely be Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who was third-fastest in practice.
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