With his pet bulldog in tow and sparkling gold chains draped over his Mercedes shirt, Lewis Hamilton struck a confident pose the day before practice starts at Formula One's Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton added to his reputation as one of the most eccentric characters of F1 by bringing Roscoe, one of his two bulldogs, to the packed pre-race news conference.

Roscoe was perfectly behaved, settling in under the table where Hamilton took a seat between Max Verstappen and Marcus Ericsson.

"It's great to have your pet with you," Hamilton said, before adding that Roscoe had quickly fallen asleep. "I don't think anyone in history has brought their dog to a (F1) press conference, but I do things differently."

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The scene was befitting of the driver who entered the year as the preseason pick to lead the title race following the stunning decision of last year's champion Nico Rosberg to retire.

After all, everything had to break just right for Rosberg to finally end Hamilton's two-year run at the top in yet another duel between the Mercedes teammates, while the rest of the field lagged behind.

But Hamilton arrives at the fifth race of the season facing new challenges from both within and without.

With two wins in four races, Sebastian Vettel has Ferrari oozing with confidence from the top of the points standings.

And far from installing himself as Mercedes' No1 driver, Hamilton has watched newcomer Valtteri Bottas pull away to an impressive debut victory at the Russian GP last round.

"I already said from the beginning of the season that [Bottas] was competition. I wasn't surprised he got the win," Hamilton said.

Hamilton has one win this season and two runner-up finishes to Vettel, who leads the British driver by 13 points. Bottas is only 10 points behind Hamilton.

He hoped that the two-week break since Sochi will get him back on track.

"We have a good understanding [of] what went wrong on our side of the garage," Hamilton said. "We have experience of having won with a strong car [for Bottas] and a car that struggled. I can't say that it will be better this weekend, I hope so."