Lewis Hamilton is hoping that Mercedes will prove to be closer to Red Bull this weekend, and not a second a lap behind their rivals like they were during the previous race in Saudi Arabia.
Hamilton finished in fifth place in Jeddah, but he was over 30s behind race winner Sergio Perez despite the intervention of a safety car closing the field up before the midway point.
While both Hamilton and his team mate George Russell did manage to finish ahead of the two Ferrari drivers in Jeddah, he said it was crucial that they find a way of picking up the pace when it came to fighting Red Bull in 2023.
“If you look at the last race, I think it was a decent result given the distance and the pace disadvantage we had in qualifying,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 on Thursday in Melbourne.
“We still managed to get fourth and fifth and we’re second in the constructors championship at the moment," he pointed out. "We beat the Ferraris, who have definitely started with a better package than we have.”
However Hamilton was remaining realistic - indeed, almost pessimistic - when it came to the team's chances this weekend in the Australian Grand Prix.
"This weekend I think I’m just hoping for some rain, if I’m really honest," he admitted. "It would make it a little bit more exciting for us from my point of view.
"I’m just hoping the gap isn’t a second and I hope that we can just hit the ground running with the set-up.”
Set-up had been the key phrase in Jeddah, with Hamilton hinting after the race that Russell had qualified and finished ahead of him purely on the basis of a 50-50 call on the choice of settings.
Russell rebuffed that notion this week, and Hamilton appeared to have shifted his stance somewhat and acknowledged that his team mate had done a better job in preparing the W14 for the race.
"Obviously George did a fantastic job all weekend, put the car exactly where it needed to be," he offered. "I struggled a little bit with the balance that I had."
Whatever the set-up, and regardless of how this weekend's race goes, Hamilton acknowledged that Mercedes had a lot of work to do this season to get back on an even footing with their rivals.
“We’ve got a great group of people that are working really hard back at the factory that are trying to fix the issues that we have," he told the media at Albert Park Circuit.
"It’s not something that’s going to happen in one race. It’s going to take a few races. Hopefully as short as possible to get there!"