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Hamilton favourite, feels Horner

Melbourne: Christian Horner, the man who has guided Sebastian Vettel to four consecutive world championships, has a new tip for the top and it is not the German.

Horner believes that Lewis Hamilton is already favourite for the title this season, which begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Never mind the talent of the driver, who was world champion in 2008; the obvious reason for Horner’s assessment is that Hamilton’s Mercedes team appear to have the fastest car for 2014 and the only one that appears likely to finish a race.

Mercedes have emerged from arguably the most shambolic pre-season in the history of Formula One with a car so clearly better than the rest that Horner fears the sort of whitewash that he had got used to doling out to the rest.

“We could well see more domination, just not from us,” the Red Bull team principal said. “If Mercedes were to finish two laps ahead of the opposition in Melbourne, it wouldn’t be a surprise given what we have seen in pre-season testing. The gap is massive. We know Lewis is extremely talented, naturally fast and in a good team, so he is probably the favourite going into this season.”

Hamilton is confident enough, saying that he has “the tools” to repeat his 2008 championship win, and it could be that his only opposition will come from Nico Rosberg, his teammate.

“Lewis and Nico — who else is there? It has to be those two going for the title,” Horner said.”Mercedes are going into the season the best prepared and Lewis and Nico are an equal pairing. One would assume the competition will be between them.”