Having consistently played down his expectations for 2013, Lewis Hamilton is now predicting a win.
Until this weekend, most pundits had been forecasting a Red Bull versus Lotus battle for the forthcoming season opener, with next-best McLaren and Ferrari perhaps slightly off the ultimate pace.
But on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton exploded to the top of the times with the winter’s best laptime. Nico Rosberg then went even quicker in the first half of Sunday, the last day of running before the circus heads off to Australia.
“Everywhere in the paddock, respect is being shown for Mercedes,” said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner.
There are, however, outstanding questions. Didn’t Mercedes also show good pace before last season, when ultimately the 2012 car fell badly off the development pace?
And isn’t there a huge difference between one-lap qualifying pace and the new tyre-degradation dominated grands prix?
Finally, is the W04 really a title contender?
“It’s not ‘no chance’ and not ‘definitely we will’,” Hamilton said. “We will definitely be able to win a race at some point.”
Added Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg: “At the very least, Mercedes’ betting odds have changed now!”
Fastest lap times on the 8th day of Barcelona F1 wintertesting:
|1||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||1:20.130 min||131||Soft|
|2||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1:20.494 min||120||Soft|
|3||Jenson Button||McLaren||1:21.444 min||122||Soft|
|4||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber||1:21.541 min||118||Soft|
|5||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1||1:21.658 min||50||Soft|
|6||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:21.664 min||112||Soft|
|7||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||1:22.415 min||42||Soft|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:22.514 min||100||Soft|
|9||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||1:22.524 min||31||Soft|
|10||Charles Pic||Caterham||1:23.115 min||116||Soft|
|11||Jules Bianchi||Force India||1:23.167 min||62||Soft|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:23.628 min||91||Soft|
|13||Max Chilton||Marussia||1:24.103 min||49||Soft|