Mercedes is bracing for another Malaysia-style battle with Ferrari this weekend in Bahrain.
After losing to Sebastian Vettel in the Sepang sun, Mercedes hit back in cooler China last weekend with a one-two victory.
But Ferrari began its Bahrain race weekend in the best possible way, as the red cars set the fastest times.
Mercedes then appeared to hit back in the second Friday session.
But team boss Toto Wolff warned: “The Ferrari looked the quickest car out there. Very stable quick tyres … lap times.
“That was a Freudian (slip),” he grinned. “Tyres! We just need to get our act together and analyse it.”
Tyres, indeed, is the keyword, as Ferrari is managing them better than Mercedes on the so-called ‘long runs’, while the silver cars continue to dominate over a single lap.
Both Mercedes drivers agreed on Friday that their Italian rivals appear “dangerous” in Bahrain.
Many paddock dwellers are expecting a Lewis Hamilton versus Vettel title battle to develop throughout the season.
In Bahrain, for instance, the German broadcaster RTL arranged a rare double interview involving the two protagonists — notably excluding Hamilton’s German teammate Nico Rosberg.
F1 supremo Ecclestone even stopped by just before the cameras rolled to chat to the two biggest stars of the 2015 season.
“He (Rosberg) is the same calibre as Lewis,” the 84-year-old said. “But Lewis looks in good form.”
Vettel, however, will be hoping an FIA investigation into an incident on Friday does not dent his Bahrain hopes.
The quadruple world champion collided with Sergio Perez in practice, but it was Ferrari’s radio warning of a “brake problem” that reportedly raised eyebrows among the stewards.
It is believed the FIA suspects it was merely a codeword to warn Vettel about a loose wheel, which could result in a grid penalty. (GMM)