It's Red Bull versus McLaren claim their rivals

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/27. Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday 22 February 2012.

Sebastian Vettel leads Lewis Hamilton during pre-season testing in Barcelona

Mar.15 (GMM) A general consensus has emerged in the Albert Park paddock, about the likely pecking-order this weekend in Australia based on Winter testing.

This year’s longest-ever Formula 1 season looks set to be very closely contested, but experts, pundits and insiders largely agree about the rough shape of Saturday’s Melbourne grid.

“From what I saw in the tests, Red Bull and McLaren seem to be at a similar pace,” Francesco Nenci, Kamui Kobayashi’s race engineer at Sauber, told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

“Then comes Mercedes and then our team along with Lotus and Ferrari. But we’ll only really find out here,” he told Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio in Melbourne.

Steve Nielsen, Caterham’s sporting director, agrees.

“Red Bull and McLaren are the best, Mercedes is a little bit behind and then it’s Lotus, Ferrari, Sauber and Force India,” he said.

And given that the top three teams will presumably dominate the first six positions in Q3, the last part of qualifying “should be exciting”, Nielsen smiled.

But so will the fight at the front, with McLaren’s Jenson Button desperate to end Red Bull’s two-year run of dominance.

“With quite a big change in the regulations in terms of the blown diffuser, now is the interesting time to see whether Red Bull can hang onto the advantage they have had,” said the Briton.

“If they can, it is going to be very difficult to beat them over the next few years.”

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