Horner: Red Bull still way off competing with Mercedes and Ferrari

Daniel Ricciardo didn’t have a great start to practice

Two-time defending Australian Grand Prix champion Sebastian Vettel has warned his Ferrari is in even better shape than 12 months ago ahead of this weekend's Formula One season opener in Melbourne. "Vettel and Ferrari are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season past year and the German said they are hoping to 'turn the page".

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says the Ferrari threat is very real.

"And we don't know how much they've improved".

"Judging from the performance in Barcelona (testing), it looks like we will have a proper fight on our hands in Melbourne".

But Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas countered: "As a team we've learned a lot from the package we had in testing and how we can optimise it better for the first race".

Aussie favourite Daniel Ricciardo announced a year ago that he was joining Renault for the 2019 season, and he partners Nico Hulkenburg who will hope to prove his pace beside his new teammate.

The four-times champion will bid for a third successive win at Albert Park's season-opener, having foiled pole-sitter Hamilton amid a virtual safety auto deployment past year.

They have an unchanged driver line-up this season.

"I've got great memories of this track".

Over the winter break the Scuderia replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto taking the role of technical director, while promoting and swapping Charles Leclerc, after an impressive season with Sauber (now Alfa Romeo), with Kimi Raikkonen.

The 21-year-old Leclerc, Ferrari's youngest race driver since 1961, is one of a number of tyros seeking to make an early impression in Australia. "It's something I've kind of also realised over the past years and especially last year that I definitely only have one career and I don't want to be in the situation that after the season where I should have done this or that".

The team said on Tuesday it had expedited an upgrade for the RB15 auto in time for Sunday's race, a month earlier than scheduled.

"I see us behind Ferrari over the race distance but ahead of Mercedes".

Having switched from Renault power to a Honda engine for 2019, Horner had previously said the move could be the "missing ingredient" for Red Bull after frustrations with their former supplier.

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