Hamilton & Mercedes anticipating three-team battle for victory in Australia

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Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team both expect Red Bull and Ferrari to challenge for victory from the first race in Australia next year.

With no substantial regulation changes and now the 2019 tyres being kept for 2020, it is expected the top three teams will converge in terms of performance.

Historically, however, the six-time champion notes it is usually Mercedes and Ferrari only who challenge each other in the early races but he isn't resting on another slow start for Red Bull.

"I really have no idea how they will start next year," Hamilton said via Crash.net. "Generally, towards the end of the year, they are strong. Last year, they were quick in Brazil, they were fast in Abu Dhabi.

"It's more often they get pretty strong towards the end of the year, I don't know why that's the case. They haven't been starting the season as strongly as Ferrari or us.

"But next year could change, you have to expect that that might be the case. Again, we're focused on doing our job and not worried about what others do."

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Hamilton isn't the only Mercedes member pointing specifically to the threat posed by the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

"We don't just have to fear Ferrari," technical director James Allison told Auto Motor und Sport. "Red Bull is also an extremely strong team and we don't go into a single race with the confidence that we will win.

"It is clear to us that between today and Melbourne 2020 we have to make our car a lot faster if we want to have a chance against them but this task is not meant to be easy. It is the ultimate challenge."

During 2019, a pattern emerged of Ferrari often out-pacing Mercedes in qualifying, notably scoring six straight poles between Spa and Mexico,  while it is Red Bull who are closer on Sundays. 

"Speed in the race is an important factor because you can put pressure on your opponent to make mistakes," Allison claimed.

"If you have a faster car on your opponent's gearbox, he doesn't have many good options and the advantage of the faster car in the race gives you many strategic advantages.

"But of course, we would be happier if we had racing speed and could start from pole position," the Briton added. "That must be our goal next year."