• McLaren driver feels personal boost from move to Monaco
• ‘It looks like it could be different to the past couple of years’
Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren will be a frontrunner pushing for victories throughout the new Formula One campaign, rather than hanging on to Red Bull’s shirt-tails as was the case last season.
“I think it’s because there is such a big difference from last year’s winter testing when we hardly did any laps before we got to the first race,” said Hamilton.
“On the final day [in Barcelona on Sunday] I did 115 laps, great mileage, so it was a positive way to end the winter testing. I think we were one of the top teams for mileage. I also kept a nice amount of fuel in the car for all my tests. I wasn’t really bothered with positioning. What matters is when we get to the first race.”
The general perception is the championship will certainly be far closer than last year when Sebastian Vettel clinched his second successive title with four races to spare, claiming 15 poles and 11 wins en route.
Lotus and Mercedes also appear to be in the hunt, with Hamilton saying: “It looks like it could be different to the past couple of years where we’ve had the Red Bull much quicker than everyone else. A couple of the teams have different exhaust solutions. Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves have a similar solution. The others, like Lotus, has a different solution, so do Mercedes and they still seem to be quick.
“So it will be a battle as to which of the designs has the longest road of development and how far ours can go. It’s going to be interesting to see who is quick and who is not.”
Hamilton credits his recent move to Monaco for helping increase his feel-good factor ahead of the new season. The McLaren driver switched to the principality last week, leaving behind his apartment in Zurich of the last two years.
“I just fancied a change. It was a bit boring where I was living before, not many people around, so it was good to move,” Hamilton said. “Where I’ve moved to there are quite a lot of people that I know, quite a lot of the drivers are there. I can meet up with them if I want to do training, and my trainer is also just up the road. I’ve settled down quite well.
“There’s more of a social life, there’s better weather, it’s by the sea, so overall a lot better. It’s also kind of cool I’ll get to be at home whilst a grand prix is going on. It will be pretty neat. There’s a definite feel-good factor.”
With the new campaign opening in Australia next weekend, Hamilton has barely had time to lay down any roots before leaving again to finalise preparations ahead of the season opener.