Fernando Alonso feels the pressure is off Lewis Hamilton this year, but has warned the Briton he potentially faces a tough task to retain his F1 crown.
Double World Champion Alonso was on hand at the Algarve Motor Park on Monday to unwrap Renault's car for the 2009 season, although he will only get behind the wheel for the first time on Wednesday.
Alonso, who won more points in the final six races of last season than any other driver, is incredibly upbeat about his prospects of a third World title.
That might not bode well for old adversary Hamilton, but the 27-year-old is convinced the McLaren driver will feel more at ease after winning his maiden Championship.
"I think there's less pressure on Lewis this year," said Alonso, who won back-to-back titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
"When you win a Championship you are a Formula One World Champion forever, and it means you can enjoy your racing.
"If you make a mistake in one race you are experienced enough to know the Championship is long and you have time to recover.
"But when you are waiting for that first championship there is more stress because you don't want to waste any opportunity.
"But once you have that first title, then there is less pressure."
However, the wide-ranging regulation changes, notably relating to aerodynamics, the much-derided introduction of KERS and the return of slick tyres, means teams began the design of this year's car with a blank sheet of paper.
Alonso feels that could count against Hamilton and McLaren if they are not up to speed from the opening race in Australia, especially given the ban on in-season testing.
"Maybe it will be more difficult because all the cars will be mixed after starting from zero," added Alonso.
"If you use the same regulations for two or three years, it is normally difficult for the cars that win Championships to lose their advantage.
"That advantage is maintained for years, so maybe it is easier to win back-to-back Championships when the regulations stay the same."
Conversely, Alonso appreciates McLaren could be the team that hits the ground running.
"If some team discovers something different compared to the others, maybe they win three or four races in a row and the championship becomes much easier," added the Spaniard.
"If this is the case with McLaren, it may be an easier Championship for Lewis compared to last year.
"But you never know. We need to wait and see. Anything is possible this year."