“WE’RE NOT SURE IF WE’RE AHEAD OR BEHIND”
ROSBERG BELIEVES FERRARI THREAT TO MERCEDES IS REAL
Mercedes is expecting a renewed challenge from Ferrari during the season-opening grand prix in Australia later this month.
Following the conclusion of eight days of running over the last two weeks in Barcelona, Mercedes sits comfortably at the top of the mileage counter with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but topped the timesheets on just one day.
In contrast, Ferrari largely dominated the times, going fastest on six of the eight days, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sharing top spots.
While Ferrari set out its stall to chase outright lap time from its new SF16-H challenger, Mercedes focused on reliability with its F1 W07. The Anglo-german team didn’t use either of Pirelli’s super or ultra soft compounds, and largely only ran on the medium tyre – barring some short runs on the soft.
Pirelli estimates the lap time difference from the ultra soft to the medium to be between 1.8-2.3 seconds.
Mercedes’ Rosberg said the team had deliberately held back from outright speed runs in order to keep rivals guessing about its performance, but conceded Ferrari had looked impressive so far. “We know that Ferrari is very close, they’ve been very quick,” said Rosberg. “All of the teams have their strategists, so we know more or less what fuel the other teams are running and they know our fuel. So we know more or less where we are compared to Ferrari, that’s why I say it’s close. But we’re not sure if we are ahead of them or behind them just yet.”
Comparing race simulations between the four Mercedes and Ferrari drivers made for interesting reading, with Hamilton averaging the fastest stints, but less than 0.5s quicker than the slowest Ferrari on a similar tyre run.
“We have to see if this car can be a winner, but I think the first impression is very positive,” said Vettel. “We are happy with the step we have made [over 2015], but in terms of reliability Mercedes seems very strong.
“We have tried to close the gap, which was quite big last year. I think we’ve done a good job during the last season and now I think the new car can close the gap even further, but we have to be patient a little longer to see.”
The one blot on Mercedes’ week came when Hamilton lost track time due to a transmission issue on the final morning. “Better to have it break now than in Melbourne,” said Hamilton of the failure. “I’ve pushed the car here and there, but when we get to Australia we can really open it up.”