Lewis Hamilton is upbeat on Mercedes' chances in Melbourne, yet the four-time world champion sees another team potentially stealing its thunder Down Under.
Both the Silver Arrows squad and Red Bull Racing abstained from producing one-lap wonders in pre-season testing as they focused on their race pace.
Hamilton was attentive to Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen's long runs however, and suggests the Milton Keynes-based outfit could actually lead the charge next week, especially if a rumored upgrade of its RB14 is implemented for the season opener.
"I think this year is going to be exciting, because last year there was a big difference between teams in the beginning, and then they got closer," Hamilton told the media at a Petronas sponsor event in Turin on Wednesday.
"But this year I think it starts this close and then it's going to overlap, and separate, and overlap during the year, as people are developing.
"Because we don't bring upgrades at the same time, I think Red Bull will bring something at the first race, which will be interesting to see," he added.
"I think Red Bull are the fastest at the moment, potentially. They have some sort of upgrade coming, of some magnitude, two-to-four tenths or something like that - that's what I heard."
Hamilton described the differences in design philosophy which exist between Mercedes and Red Bull, but says performances levels should remain close.
"Their car, they have generally a slightly different philosophy, they always build a car that has lots of downforce," explained the 33-year-old.
"Their maximum downforce has always been more than everyone else's downforce. But that doesn't work always everywhere.
"Some places where you have longer straights - cause they're very slow on the straights, normally, but they're fast through the corners. This advantage shifts through the year.
"I'm super confident in my team and the work they've done, I just think it's going to be close."