Feb.28 (GMM) With 17 days to go until Melbourne, triple world champion Niki Lauda believes Ferrari maintains a commanding lead at the front of the 2008 formula one field.
The Austrian legend and former Ferrari and McLaren driver told his local daily Kronen Zeitung that, contrary to speculation that McLaren has closed the gap in recent days, the Italian team is between "0.5 and 0.8 seconds per lap" ahead of all comers in full race trim.But Lauda cautions observers to withhold their estimation of the true pecking-order until after the formula one circus has left Albert Park in just over two weeks' time."Melbourne is an atypical circuit, just like Monte Carlo."We will only know the true balance of power at the second race in Malaysia," he explained.Veteran Renault engineer Pat Symonds, meanwhile, in the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, depicts a tantalising prospect for the forthcoming battle behind Ferrari."According to our calculations, McLaren are part of the big second group to which BMW, Red Bull, Williams and ourselves belong."And depending on the circuit, there are only about three tenths separating the best from the worst," he added.Williams' Sam Michael paints a slightly more common picture, by estimating that McLaren is clearly the next best team after Ferrari."Ferrari are about three of four tenths ahead of them (Ferrari), and seven or eight tenths before the group including BMW, Renault, Red Bull and us," he said.