Williams star Juan Pablo Montoya believes Ferrari will find it tough to win the world championship again this year because of the increased challenge from McLaren.
McLaren beat Ferrari in the first race of the season
The Colombian finished second to David Coulthard in the first race of the season and believes McLaren have made a significant step forward for 2003.
"I think this year will be a tough year for Ferrari to win because McLaren seems very strong," said Montoya in the run-up to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
However, Montoya admits that the true picture of how the year will develop will not emerge until McLaren and Ferrari race their new cars.
Both teams have started the year with updated versions of their 2002 cars. The new Ferrari is due to make its debut at the fourth race, with the McLaren at the fifth or sixth.
This wide track suits our car - I look forward for a really good race
Juan Pablo Montoya
on the Malaysian GP
Montoya said: "We have to wait and see when Ferrari and McLaren come out
with a new car. This will make the season very interesting."
Williams have started the season with a new car, and Montoya is still unsure about its true level of competitiveness.
But he did say he expects to have a good weekend at the demanding Sepang track near Kuala Lumpur, where Williams finished first and second last year.
"This wide track suits our car. I look forward for a really good race," Montoya said.
"Based on last year's performance, Williams have a decent
chance. The car is good."
Montoya said he had already put behind him the mistake that saw him spin out of the lead of the Australian Grand Prix, handing victory to Coulthard.
"I made the mistake and I had to pay for it. It was my fault," he said.