Formula 1: McLaren's boss predicts tight season

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael says all but two teams have cars within a second of a lap of each other and that aspect will lead to a very intense and hard-fought season. "You've got nine teams within a second," he said. "That is going to make it close. It will make it extremely tight through the qualifying sessions in Melbourne." Michael added that Mercedes were "fast" and McLaren would be "in the mix".

The season is starting in Australia on 17 March and Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton already impressed with the fastest times on the final two days of pre-season testing in Barcelona last weekend. Rosberg was fastest overall, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Hamilton. McLaren driver Jenson Button was third fastest, 1.314 seconds slower than Rosberg.

"You can clearly see Mercedes are fast," Michael said. "They have been fast all the time. They look like they've got their car together. Behind that, it's really difficult to see anything else. When everyone is on the same tyres, you still don't know where the fuel loads are and you're not going to know that until qualifying in Melbourne and we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought we knew."

Rivals have claimed that McLaren are a little behind the top four teams like Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus but Michael disagrees. "We'll definitely be in the mix," he said. "In terms of confidence of whether we can be on the front row and win in Melbourne, I just don't know. I wouldn't say I was confident or not confident. I'm neither way, just because I'm being honest. We just don't know."

You can already bet on the outcome of this Formula 1 season at Bet365, here are the odds for the top five favourites to win the Drivers' Championship:

Sebastian Vettel - 11/8
Fernando Alonso - 11/4
Jenson Button - 7/1
Lewis Hamilton - 8/1
Kimi Raikkonen - 14/1

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