As Mercedes’ rival teams pack up their air freight for Melbourne, the extent of their awaiting challenge in 2015 is now crystal clear.
Last week in Barcelona, as the winter testing season ended, the true superiority of the reigning champions’ new W06 car was let out of the bag with fury.
Christian Horner, boss of the 2014 runner-up Red Bull, said some of the laptimes posted by Mercedes were “ominous” and even sometimes “depressing”.
It is widely said in F1 circles that winter testing form is not reliable, and that teams routinely travel to Australia not knowing the true pecking order.
But, in modern times, that is no longer entirely true.
“We do know how the others are going,” Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg admitted, according to the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.
“We have one guy who focuses solely on how fast the others are. We have data and graphs where we can see how the others are going,” he added.
According to Auto Motor und Sport, that Mercedes ‘guy’ is James Vowles, who is in charge of sophisticated GPS-based simulation programmes that will be showing the Brackley team’s lead and how far rivals Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull are behind.
Vowles admitted: “Mercedes knows almost as much about where Ferrari is as Ferrari does about itself. And vice versa.”
Reportedly, Mercedes’ programmes show that its genuine advantage over the next fastest car was a staggering eight tenths per lap in Barcelona.
And the aforementioned three chasers are apparently divided by just a single tenth.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean told RMC Sport: “I cannot tell you where we are because that is confidential, but I can clearly tell you that the best team is Mercedes.
“I think they are second in front of everyone at the moment, so they have done a pretty amazing job,” the Frenchman added.
Williams’ calculations appear similar, with technical boss Pat Symonds revealing that Mercedes’ gap remains “pretty similar to what it was a year ago”.
And Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is quoted by the Spanish daily AS: “In two weeks we will know something more, but it is clear who will be on the front row of the grid.
“Our goal should be to be the next two places,” added the German.
Mercedes’ Rosberg agreed: “We will have good races at the start of the season.
“We are the favourites because we won the championship last year and now in the pre-season we have also been the fastest. We are very optimistic.” (GMM)