Lewis Hamilton admits that winning the Formula 1 Drivers’ title in 2018 will be his greatest feat despite already holding four titles because of the competition from Ferrari and Red Bull Racing.

Mercedes have been the dominant team since the V6 Turbo era began in 2014 and were largely unchallenged as they romped to four consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles.

The 2017 season was the first time the Silver Arrows team were troubled by another team after Ferrari challenged them for race wins on a regular basis — but in the end their superiority was clear as they won the both the titles with multiple races to spare.

The 2018 season was expected to be another Mercedes dominated campaign after they showed imperious pace during the pre-season tests, but, the start of the season has been anything but a stroll for Mercedes. Three races into the campaign and the reigning champions are yet to taste victory.

Mercedes were favorite to win the first race in Australia before a technical glitch gifted the win to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, but the slice of bad luck only affected them in the first race as the next two races in Bahrain and China saw them being outperformed by Ferrari in terms of raw pace, which has never happened in the last four years.

The German driver took his second win of the season in Bahrain and was favorite to take his third in China after qualifying on pole position. But poor strategy cost the Italian team a win and handed it to Red Bull Racing, who thought on their feet.

Hamilton did make up ground on Vettel in China, but is still nine-points behind the Ferrari driver. Apart from the German, Hamilton is likely to face competition for the title from the two Red Bull drivers — Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, while his teammate Valtteri Bottas has shown improved performances this season, finishing ahead of the four-time world champion in the last two races.

"Who knows what the season holds? If it continues the way it is, it's going to be very tough to win,” Hamilton told Autosport. "But if there's an opportunity, and we were to finish on top, it would mean even more, as it's even a tougher season than before."

The 2018 season is shaping up to be the most competitive in recent years with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing equally matched in terms of race pace. If the first three races are to go by, this season could throw up many surprises as it progresses.

The F1 juggernaut’s next destination is the Baku street circuit in Azerbaijan — the scene of one of the most chaotic races of 2017. Hamilton and Vettel fell out after an on-track collision handing the win to Ricciardo and with all three teams so closely matched, it could be a battle of the strategists in 2018.