Felipe Massa is not sure F1 fans should expect Mercedes to be toppled from its back-to-back title-winning perch in 2016.
As the Brazilian got his first taste of Williams’ new FW38 on Wednesday, he declared that it felt “better” than its predecessor, which finished third overall behind Mercedes and Ferrari last year.
“It feels better than last year’s,” Massa told Globo Esporte, “but I don’t know if it will be enough to be faster than Ferrari and Mercedes.
“I hope we can fight this year with Ferrari,” he added. “With Mercedes? I don’t know. They are very strong.
“There is a big chance we will see another championship with one team only,” said Massa.
Beginning his 14th race season in F1 this year, Massa said he is basing his comments on having watched first-hand the behaviour of Mercedes’ new car from beside the Barcelona track.
“I was in the circuit yesterday and saw how competitive their car is,” he said.
“It’s fast, it does not slide at the front or the back, the wheels do not lock under braking — there is nothing wrong. It seems to be very easy to drive,” added Massa.
Massa’s countryman Felipe Nasr, who drives for Sauber, agrees with his fellow Brazilian.
“I was watching the cars in the middle of the track yesterday and at a certain moment (Sebastian) Vettel and the Mercedes (Lewis Hamilton) were close together,” he said. “The Mercedes overtook the Ferrari and disappeared.
“I don’t know what fuel they had, but they had the same medium tyres,” he added, before predicting a third-consecutive title for Mercedes this year.
And those predictions are coming even before Mercedes has completed the specification of its ominous new car, let alone tried the new ‘ultra soft’ tyre.
“We will not have this (softest) tyre at this test,” Nico Rosberg revealed, “because we didn’t order them from Pirelli.”
The German admitted: “We haven’t shown our cards yet. We’re still holding back — but for sure the car is quick.”
World champion Hamilton confirmed that Mercedes’ reluctance to hit full throttle with all of its 2016 parts is an effort to surprise its rivals.
“Here (at the first test), you try to show as little as possible so that nobody has time to copy what you’ve done,” he said.