F1: Party-boy Lewis Hamilton ready to get back to work

Lewis Hamilton says his busy offseason — spent partying with celebrities — won't spill into his preparation for the new Formula One season.

epaselect epa05206124 British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes looks at his iPhone while attending a press conference on the occasion of the start of the new racing season in Fellbach, Germany, 11 March 2016. The 2016 Formula One season starts on 20 March 2016 in Australia.  EPA/Marijan Murat
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Lewis Hamilton spent the off-season criss-crossing the globe to party with A-list celebrities. But Formula One's reigning champion is adamant there will be no hangover when he returns to work at this week's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The clear bookmakers’ favourite to win a third successive title with Mercedes, Hamilton will arrive in Melbourne after a whirlwind trip to New Zealand, where he took to the skies in a helicopter on Wednesday above the mountain resort of Queenstown.

Hamilton’s frequent flying and party lifestyle prompted some pundits to voice concerns about his focus and energy levels in the leadup to Sunday’s race at Albert Park.

However, the 31-year-old says his competitive drive remains as sharp as ever and his feet will be firmly on the ground once he enters the paddock, but says the competition should be tougher this year.

“There certainly needs to be some extra in my tank, as the competition will be stronger than ever this year,” Hamilton, winner in Australia last year and in 2008, said this week.

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Many invested in motorsport’s pinnacle series will hope Hamilton is right about the level of competition he expects to face this season. Another win in Melbourne from pole position for the Briton could add more voices to the growing weariness of the Silver Arrows’ dominance.

The constructors champions are bullish about their car after near-flawless pre-season testing, however, and teammate Nico Rosberg may again loom as Hamilton’s stiffest competition in Melbourne.

While Hamilton has been living life like there is no tomorrow, there is also a sense that time is running out for his German rival, whose Mercedes contract expires at the end of the season.

After Hamilton wrapped up his third title in Texas last year, Rosberg closed out the season with three successive wins, and at Albert Park he will hope to prove the late flourish owed more to his racing than a dip in his team mate’s motivation.

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