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2018 F1

Mercedes leads by maximum two tenths – Lauda

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Niki Lauda thinks Mercedes’ advantage over its rivals is as small as two tenths.

In Barcelona testing, the reigning champions did not even use the softest ‘hypersoft’ tyre, indicating it is more than confident it will dominate in 2018.

“The hypersoft was never part of our programme,” Mercedes team chairman Lauda told Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

“Our main focus was reliability, because only three engines are allowed the whole season.

“Our preparation was better than in was in recent years so I can go to Australia with confidence. But I see ourselves with Red Bull and Ferrari on a similar level.”

However, bookmakers have marked out Mercedes as the clear favourite heading into Melbourne.

“I am not a bookmaker and have no idea how they get their odds,” the triple world champion insisted.

“I see us a maximum of two tenths ahead, behind Red Bull. Then comes Ferrari,” Austrian Lauda added.

But he admitted that the 2018 car has been born well.

“The W09 is easier to drive — even Bottas handles it well,” said Lauda.

“What I noticed were the incredible cornering speeds, which is of course great for the fans at the track. As is the higher noise level.”

What he doesn’t like is the Halo.

“Now you can hardly see the driver’s helmet,” said Lauda. “The fan cannot see who is sitting in the car, so we have to improve that.”

Lauda also said he is not a fan of Liberty Media’s decision to ban ‘grid girls’ and replace them with ‘grid kids’.

“That was an American overreaction to ‘Me Too’. Grid girls were always part of formula one, and using children was already done in football. It’s not innovative.”

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