Mar.24 (GMM) Heads are scratching as to the true pecking order in 2018.
Mercedes went into the Melbourne season opener as the favourite, with most thinking Red Bull and then Ferrari trailed closely behind.
Once running got underway, some teams estimated Mercedes’ true advantage to be a whopping eight tenths per lap — which would be a worry for the spectacle.
“I hope you do all get bored,” team chairman Niki Lauda said in Melbourne.
“It is mine and Toto’s responsibility to see it that way.”
But boss Toto Wolff is not so sure.
“I believe that our lead is less than many predict. The others brought upgrades to Melbourne, but we didn’t,” he said.
And no matter the qualifying outcome, Red Bull is more confident for the race.
“I think we’re closer to them in the race,” said team boss Christian Horner. “In qualifying Mercedes can turn up the power and we’re powerless against that.”
Dr Helmut Marko agrees: “In qualifying we’re three, four tenths behind. But more importantly, we’re good in the long runs.
“They have their special qualifying mode for the engine and they win three or four tenths when they turn it on,” he told ORF television.
“Even in race trim they have 30hp more, with better fuel consumption and they start with 15kg less fuel. That’s about three tenths per lap.”
As for Ferrari, Marko said: “They are there, but I hear that their engine is even thirstier.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel said he is not happy with the balance in Australia, but insisted he is not worried.
“We don’t have to worry,” said the German. “We’re all close together, we just have to improve in some areas. We’ll see in a couple of races.”