WORLD champion Kimi Raikkonen and title runner-up Lewis Hamilton are expected to fight out Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix as Ferrari and McLaren reignite their fierce rivalry.
The taciturn Finn, known as The Iceman, swept to the F1 title in his first season as Ferrari's No.1 driver in the last race in Brazil, pipping Hamilton by by one point in a controversial 2007 season dominated by the Spygate scandal.
Hamilton was on track to land the drivers crown in his first season in Formula One for McLaren, before he faltered in the last two GPs for Raikkonen to seize Ferrari's 15th drivers and constructors title.
Pre-season testing indicates that Ferrari and McLaren are superior on times and set to dominate early practice sessions ahead of Sunday's opener over 305km around the Albert Park street circuit.
Ferrari have won six of the last nine Australian GPs, while Raikkonen posted three of the fastest laps in the race driving previously for McLaren in an era that was dominated by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
Seven-time world champion Schumacher believes this season will once again be dominated by either his old team Ferrari or McLaren.
McLaren dual world champion Fernando Alonso returned to Renault after a fractious relationship with Hamilton while Ferrari surged from behind for an unexpected title win.
I believe we are going to Melbourne with a competitive car, Raikkonen said this week. The tests in the winter went really well and we did everything possible.
The F2008 is a step forward from the car we had last year. The team has done a great job, especially in the areas where we weren't strong, like the behaviour through slow corners and over the curbs.
We should be strong in every situation, although you never know for sure.
Hamilton, who won four GPs and was on the podium in eight other races last season, says he is more determined to take this year's championship after his stellar debut season.
I want to win even more, he said this week. I think I'm more confident, and the team I have behind me are stronger and I know what I want. AFP