Hamilton: My desire to win the title has doubled (March 30, 2017)
Laurence Edmondson [ Source: ESPN UK ]

Lewis Hamilton (left). Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton says his motivation to win the championship has doubled this season and insists his level of self-discipline is higher than ever before.

The Mercedes driver lost out on the championship to teammate Nico Rosberg last year and this season looks set to go up against Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in a battle for the title. Speaking after he lost the opening round of the season to Vettel, Hamilton said he would return to his Monaco home between races to ensure he is fully rested ahead of the next round in China.

"I had a fantastic fight the last few years and obviously last year was the closest that I had," he said. "I want to win the world championship more than ever before, and while that hunger last year you would think the hunger could not be anymore, it has frickin' doubled.

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Horner: Red Bull need to find 0.5s to join title fight (March 30, 2017)
Laurence Edmondson [ Source: ESPN UK ]

Red Bull. Kalisz/Sutton Images

Christian Horner believes Red Bull is 0.5s off the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari but is confident the RB13 has the development potential to catch up.

Red Bull had a disappointing start to the season with home hero Daniel Ricciardo failing to make the start of the Australian Grand Prix due to a gearbox sensor issue and then retiring after 29 laps with a fuel cell problem. Max Verstappen scored 10 points with a drive to fifth behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, but it was clear from both qualifying and the race that Red Bull has work to do to catch the ultimate pace of Mercedes and race winners Ferrari.

"To be honest I don't think we're that far behind," Horner said. "With Mercedes I think we have about half a second to find. Ferrari have been very impressive here and probably had the quickest car here. We probably had the third quickest car here and we've got to find a good half-second to get into the fight ahead. Max was pushing Kimi [Raikkonen] hard all race but we didn't have the pace of [Sebastian] Vettel or [Lewis] Hamilton.

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Hamilton: F1 needs Alonso in a competitive car (March 24, 2017)
Laurence Edmondson [ Source: ESPN UK ]

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton says Formula One needs Fernando Alonso to return to the front of the grid in a competitive car before the end of the Spaniard's career.

Pre-season testing hinted at the possibility of a three-way battle for this year's championship, with Hamilton's all-conquering Mercedes team likely to face challenges from Ferrari and Red Bull. Alonso, however, looks set to be in a battle to stay off the back row of the grid after McLaren struggled with the performance and reliability of its Honda power unit throughout testing.

Hamilton is looking forward to fighting Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on track, but said what F1 really needs is Alonso in a competitive car.

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It will be difficult for Ferrari to change its sidepod design Sutton Images

Sebastian Vettel says it is impossible to predict a Ferrari title challenge in March, continuing the Italian team's careful management of expectations going into 2017.

Ferrari arrives at the Australian Grand Prix as many people's favourites for the championship after a very impressive pre-season in Barcelona. Lewis Hamilton frequently stated as much during the winter, with many expecting a closer fight at the front this year following three years of unmatched Mercedes dominance.

Vettel thinks there are too many unknowns with 2017's bigger, faster cars for anyone to make an accurate prediction about the pecking order at this stage.

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Hard-working Ricciardo hopes for reward for effort (March 24, 2017)
Ian Ransom [ Source: Reuters ]

 Formula One - F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 23/03/2017 Red Bull racing driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia poses during the driver portrait session at the first race of the year. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

Daniel Ricciardo will again carry his nation's hopes of a first home winner at the season-opening Grand Prix at Albert Park on Sunday and it would be a well-earned victory for the Red Bull driver after a punishing week off the track.

The pin-up boy of Australian motor racing, Ricciardo's profile has grown year by year since humble beginnings with the defunct Hispania Racing team in 2011.

Since replacing compatriot Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014 after two years with Toro Rosso, the affable 27-year-old's popularity has soared in his home country and his 'shoey' celebration -- drinking champagne from his race boot on the podium -- has been adopted enthusiastically by local athletes.

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Mercedes look to make early statement in Australia (March 23, 2017)
Ian Ransom [ Source: Reuters ]

Billiards

Beefier cars and bulked-up drivers will hit Albert Park circuit on Sunday for Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix where many fans will be hoping at least one team can strike an early blow against dominant Mercedes.

Revised aerodynamics and fatter tires are among a raft of technical changes that pundits feel could bring the Silver Arrows back to earth after they swept the drivers and constructors' championships for the last three years running.

Ferrari's strong performance during winter testing has added to expectations that the sport is in for a shake-up, even as F1's new American managers seek to rejuvenate a series plagued by inertia.

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Daniel Ricciardo says he was 'super intimidated' when he first met Helmut Marko. Peter Fox/Getty Images

It would be difficult to find anyone in the Formula One paddock who thinks Daniel Ricciardo is not ready to win a world championship.

The man who dubbed himself "the peasant's world champion" of 2016 -- after finishing as best of the rest behind the Mercedes drivers in 2014 and 2016 -- has enjoyed a remarkable rise since stepping up to the Red Bull team three years ago. Though Max Verstappen earned plaudits last year for his exciting racecraft and aggressive approach to overtaking, the teenage Red Bull driver is a raw talent with plenty to learn. Ricciardo is as close to the full package as you will find on the grid.

In 2016 he overcame two major setbacks to finish as most pundits' driver of the year, displaying the sort of mental fortitude needed to win a championship in Formula One. When he lines up on the grid in Australia for this weekend's 2017 curtain-raiser he will carry the expectations of a nation on his back -- despite a proud motorsport heritage and two popular drivers in the sport's recent history, no Australian has won a championship since Alan Jones in 1980.

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