Mercedes has emerged as the early 2014 Formula 1 season favourite, but just about everyone in the Silver Arrows outfit is keen to play down the significance of the team’s early form.
Amid the crises that World Champions Red Bull and Renault F1Sport are enduring, it is obvious that works engine-chassis makers Mercedes and Ferrari have their noses in front – on the basis of the opening test at Jerez.
And of that pair, Mercedes out-lapped Ferrari to the tune of almost 300 kilometres – a race distance – over the four days in southern Spain.
Nico Rosberg even did a full grand prix simulation, complete with pitstops, while others were grappling simply to run their radically-new cars.
“There was an element of psychology in the Mercedes game,” respected Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt said.
“They wanted to demonstrate strength at a time when the great enemy Red Bull was on the floor,” he mused.
Officially, Mercedes has played down any suggestion that it is the early title favourite.
“It is too early to know,” Toto Wolff told the Spanish-language Motorpasion.
“It is just testing and so you can’t say much. But it was good that we were able to do so many laps, Nico [Rosberg] even did a race simulation, which is something that the others were not able to do.
“Only in Australia will we see something representative,” added Mercedes’ head of motorsport. “The cars are going to change a lot until then, there is a lot more testing to do.”
Rosberg agrees that, while Mercedes had a successful test in southern Spain with good reliability, “a lot of work” still lies ahead before Melbourne.
“Performance-wise we don’t know where we are because you can’t really compare to the other cars, but that’s not the focus right now,” he insisted.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton added, “It’s a bit early to say this definitely, but right now the car feels pretty good. So far so good; now we just have to continue working hard and see what happens in Bahrain.”
“For me it’s too early to say who is quick,” Sauber driver Adrian Sutil agreed.
But “I think the Mercedes package looks quite strong,” he told Britain’s Sky. “They did a lot of laps and I have a feeling that they are in the front right now.”
Others with Mercedes power are also happy. Sir Frank Williams’ team moved from the Renault camp over the winter, and after grandees Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, lapped more than any other rival at Jerez with the new FW36.
“Frank Williams went to the Mercedes motor home on Thursday night to personally thank Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff,” Schmidt revealed.
Sutil, however – having moved from Mercedes engines at Force India to Ferrari-powered Sauber over the winter – said that Ferrari is also in good shape after Jerez.
Ferrari is also happy with its new red works chassis, the F14T. The famous Maranello marque has struggled with its wind tunnel data in recent years, but a complete overhaul is now bearing fruit.
“The technical parameters of the Formula 14T, as well as the aerodynamic validation we saw on track, match our expectations and provide a solid starting point, which we must now exploit as much as possible,” said team boss Stefano Domenicali. (GMM)
Subbed by AJN.