Vettel aims for ultimate win with Ferrari

Laine Clark
AAP

It has been dubbed "The Decider".

For the first time in Formula One history, two four-time world champions will go head to head - Sebastian Vettel and defending titleholder Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Debate over just who is the greatest driver of their era looks set to be decided this year with both in form and in line to equal Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio's five world crowns.

Only Michael Schumacher (seven) has won more.

Both baulked at talk of joining Fangio's elite club ahead of Sunday's opening GP in Melbourne.

However, Vettel reckoned he had an even bigger prize in sight - claiming his maiden world title with Ferrari.

"I am searching for the ultimate satisfaction - to win in a Ferrari which is the greatest team in history," Vettel said.

"That's the target now to win with Ferrari and win against the best, and Lewis is one of them."

Vettel, 30, won four-straight titles from 2010 with Red Bull.

But after switching to the Scuderia in 2015, he has been left behind by Mercedes' Hamilton - until now.

Scorching test times in Spain last month by Ferrari have the defending Australian Grand Prix champion poised to settle the pub debate - who is better? Vettel or Hamilton?

Hamilton, 33, is in front statistically with the most race wins (62 to 47) and pole positions (72 to 50) ahead of Sunday's 58-lap race.

And the Mercedes' driver ominously hinted at not having reached his full potential, despite winning three of the past four world titles.

"It's not something I have really thought about. to be honest," Hamilton said of comparisons with Vettel.

"It's a long season so you don't really think about those sort of things, about matching others.

"In my mind, I am trying to push the envelope and see how far I can take the ability I have and reach my full potential but I don't know what that is."

Hamilton is looking forward to meeting Vettel's 2018 challenge.

"When you come to the end of your career, you want to know you competed against the best and, to be the best, you have to go up against the best," he said.

"It's been a great experience racing Seb. He has four world titles - the most of any driver at the time.

"I think this is an exciting year for Formula One fans that we have two four-time world champions battling it out."

Vettel said Hamilton did have weaknesses.

"Yeah, just not many," Vettel laughed.

Hamilton's former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg suggested this week inconsistency was the Briton's weakness, much to the multiple world champ's bemusement on Thursday.

"I think I've proved that that's not the case last year," he said.

"I think there's a lot of people who need to get headlines and that's one way of (doing) it."