With Mercedes already cast as the early title favourite, boss Toto Wolff is tipping reigning champions Red Bull to bounce back from an early crisis.
Red Bull and engine partner Renault struggled simply to run the title-defending new RB10 at Jerez, causing Bernie Ecclestone to single out Mercedes as the new 2014 favourite.
“Anything can happen under the new regulations,” the F1 chief executive told the Indo-Asian News Service this week. “So I would not want to comment much on what could happen this season.
“The way things worked out at Jerez, Mercedes seem best prepared to succeed with (Nico) Rosberg winning the title,” Ecclestone added.
Mercedes’ commercial chief and co-owner Wolff, however, is not so bold, despite the new silver W05 managing something at Jerez that no other team could — a full race simulation.
“It was more than we expected with the debut of the new power unit,” the Austrian told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But we are cautious.
“Our integrated approach brought benefits to the operation of the systems and reliability, and supplying four teams helps us to collect information,” he said.
“But only in Melbourne will we evaluate the performance.”
It has been said that Mercedes as well as Ferrari – as the only works chassis-engine makers in the pitlane – have a clear advantage in F1’s all-new V6-powered era.
“At this stage (yes),” Wolff admitted, “but certainly in the long term I would say no.
“Red Bull and Renault have had a big handicap not to have driven the four days, but it is too early to talk about overturning hierarchies.
“It’s not good for F1 that a manufacturer is in trouble, but I am sure they will come back strongly. Hopefully a bit less than before!” he added.
Wolff, referring to Sebastian Vettel, told Germany’s Auto Bild: “First, they have an outstanding driver.
“Secondly, they have put together a group of people that works very well. Thirdly, they have the resources from the parent company.
“So there’s no reason that Red Bull will not once again be the benchmark.”
In the driver department, however, Wolff said Mercedes is lacking nothing — not even compared to Ferrari’s ‘superteam’ of champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
“Our pair is better!” Wolff proclaimed. “The other two (Alonso-Raikkonen) are strong, but I would not trade Hamilton and Rosberg for anyone in the world.”
Finally, Wolff spoke about F1’s controversially-milder V6 engine tones for 2014, and the ‘ugly’ new noses.
“I think the engines sound great on the straights,” Wolff told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Mainly because you can even hear the hissing of the turbo.
“I like it, and the critics will get used to it — it’s a spectacular, modern sound.”
As for the noses, it has been said that Mercedes’ solution is arguably among the most attractive of an unseemly bunch.
Wolff said: “Honestly, I don’t really like any of them, even if we have more of a classical approach.
“But that doesn’t mean that we are not still considering some possible variations in the wind tunnel.”
© RIF | GMM