Mercedes in ominous form ahead of season opener

Lewis Hamilton was in fine form for Mercedes AMG Petronas during the final pre-season F1 test of 2015
Lewis Hamilton was in fine form for Mercedes AMG Petronas during the final pre-season F1 test of 2015

Mercedes head to Australia for next weekend’s 2015 season-opening race as strong favourites to retain their world crown after dominating the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

The Brackley-based team are once again looking unstoppable with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg set to resume their personal duel after the pair dominated the 2014 F1 World Championship.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg set fast times in their new W06-Hybrid cars at last weekend’s test, with the latter clocking the fastest time of anybody on the soft compound Pirelli tyres.

The Williams-Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas ended the final day of the test second fasted, with the world championship-winning team from last year again looking very strong with just one week to go until the opening race of the new season in Australia.

The advantage Mercedes has above rivals looks like it could be a similar margin to last year, although Williams, Red Bull and Ferrari team members have been quick to state their belief that they are in a position to challenge.

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, is keen to play down his team’s strength. He said this week: “You can never take anything for granted in motor racing.

“Yes, we look good at the moment but anything and everything is possible. You know testing is always difficult to read.

“It has looked good, but for us it is now about proving we can do the same on a race weekend - a glass half empty mentality. I think we can be slightly optimistic though.”

Having seen his team win 16 out of 19 Grands Prix last year, Wolff feels that his team and drivers need to keep looking forward if their success is to continue, adding: “We need to be ahead of the game.

“You need to anticipate what’s happening in the future, what’s happening with regulations.

“You need to be firmly on top of the political game and understand the technologies you can employ in the future. We are working very hard in all areas.”

After his performance on-track at the Circuit de Catalunya, the venue that hosts the Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton said: “The test went well for me and the team.

“The new car certainly seems able to produce what is required and I am now looking forward to travelling to Australia and starting the season.

“After a long break it will be good to start properly and see what I have to do to retain my title.”

Rosberg, who has impressed during all three pre-season tests, added: “Testing has been good for me and I think I am ready to start my 2015 attack.

“I have put the disappointment of 2014 firmly behind me and I am now keen to start racing. I think we are all in for another great F1 season.”

Hamilton will carry the number 44 on his Mercedes-Benz instead of the number one that would signify him as the reigning world champion. Drivers in F1 can now choose their own car numbers, with Hamilton opting to keep the same number he had last season..

The 30-year-old Briton explained: “I could have chosen the number one for my car this year, but number 44 is special to me and I have won many races with this number. I have decided to carry the number 44 on my car for the 2015 season as I attempt to defend my crown.”