Ahead of the final week of pre-season testing, it seems Mercedes and Ferrari are still ahead of the pack in 2016.
Finishing third for the past two years was Williams, but Felipe Massa seemed to acknowledge that the Grove team may not achieve the leap it wants.
“I really hope we can race the guys in front,” he told Australia’s Fairfax Media, “but maybe Red Bull is in front so we have idea who will really be the team we are going to fight in most of the races.”
Massa said his only real prediction so far is that Mercedes is still leading the field, which is backed by evidence in Auto Motor und Sport (Germany) and the BBC (Britain) that suggests the German engine is the most powerful.
Brazilian Massa admits that may not be what the fans want to hear.
“The fans want to see different cars winning races, but this is the most difficult thing for formula one to make it happen,” he said.
All eyes, therefore, are on Ferrari, the team with the best chance of taking on Mercedes this year, and Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both say the 2016 car is better than its predecessor.
“Everyone is going to be saying that their car feels better than last year,” Williams’ Valtteri Bottas smiled to the Finnish broadcaster MTV.
And analysing the opening week of testing in Barcelona has proved difficult, with Mercedes reportedly having used only a single engine and no ultra soft tyres.
Force India, on the other hand, has been accused of ‘showboating’.
“No, we did nothing like that,” insisted Sergio Perez when asked if the team had put up artificially fast times by removing all the fuel from the car.
“Our times are completely genuine, even if it is hard for everyone to assess where they are. But I can say that we are moving in the right direction.”
All the while, Mercedes appears ahead of the pack.
“There are other teams that have looked good but it will come down to a fight between Ferrari and us,” predicted Nico Rosberg, according to Le Figaro.
As to which of them is the strongest, Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene thinks more will be known after this week’s last four days of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
“According to our drivers and engineers, we have a good car,” he told La Stampa newspaper.
“But we still lack the comparison with Mercedes under identical conditions. I guess in the next four days of testing, we will get a clearer picture of where we stand,” Arrivabene said.