McLaren-Mercedes' driver Lewis Hamilton has geared up for the new Formula One season with a jibe at last season's double world championship winning Red Bull team, saying they're just a drinks company.
McLaren team Principal Martin Whitmarsh promised dramatic changes to the car in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday and Hamilton believes neither McLaren nor Ferrari would let Red Bull dominate the sport.
He said, I am 100 per cent certain that neither McLaren nor Ferrari will ever let that happen. They (Red Bull) have not been there as long as our teams. Our teams have got status they would like to keep. For many, many years it has been McLaren and Ferrari at the front and now we have got a new team that has come and knocked us off the top. But I am really certain that either team will do absolutely everything in their power to make sure they can remain at the top.
He then aimed a jibe at Red Bull saying, Red Bull are not a manufacturer, they are a drinks company. It's a drinks company versus McLaren/Ferrari history. I don't know what their plan is. Our team is building to become a bigger manufacturer, like Ferrari, and I can only see our team being there for a ridiculous amount of time. It is a pure-bred racing team.
However, despite his confidence, Hamilton is also realistic and knows that that McLaren are backward in terms of early-season pace and would struggle to match that of Red Bull or Ferrari.
Red Bull will have improved their reliability from last year, he said. They will have the pace and the reliability this year, as will Ferrari. Those two are definitely the hardest to beat. Sebastian's (Vettel) confidence, as champion, has probably gone up but I would say more so because for the second year in a row he has probably got the fastest car. He has got a ridiculously fast car but so has Fernando (Alonso), it seems.
I am sure Mark (Webber) will be competitive as he was last year. I am sure he will want to bounce back from last year. He had a difficult year with lots of ups and downs and this year he will want to be strong and more consistent.
Both McLaren drivers, Hamilton and Jenson Button, have been frustrated by McLaren's poor downforce levels in pre-season testing. However, Hamilton claimed he was optimistic, saying, As an athlete, as a competitor, optimism is something you have to hold. You always have to have that.
I'm never one to give up. I'm not going to sit here and say 'the championship is over, blah, blah, blah'. I'm ready and when the car is ready I will be at the front and I will win races. Just because we don't have a winning car right now, that doesn't mean it won't become a world championship-winning car. We'll see.