FEBRUARY 25, 2013
Lauda sees Mercedes still behind Red Bull
Mercedes has taken "an important step forwards" since the end of the 2012 season.
That is the claim of new team shareholder and chairman Niki Lauda, as Nico Rosberg expects race wins later this year and Lewis Hamilton plays down expectations.
"We're not looking at wins at the moment," Briton Hamilton, who has moved from McLaren over the winter, said after testing the new W04 late last week in Barcelona.
"As I've said, we're hoping to be fighting in the top ten."
Most insiders believe Hamilton's caution lies somewhere between pessimism and reality.
Triple world champion Lauda, at least, sounds more confident.
"I don't mean that we are better than Red Bull," he told Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo. "It seems they again have the fastest car.
"But we have taken an important step forwards compared to last year," added Lauda.
"Our car was born well, with no chronic problems, and with great potential to develop it, which is what we're doing.
"I think we have put ourselves in the group with McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus," he said.
"The differences between us are very small, as is the difference between the group (of chasing teams) and Red Bull."
Lauda thinks Hamilton is preparing to over-deliver on his expectations for his first season with Mercedes.
"I believe Lewis saw the challenge to win with Mercedes as great, but probably less now than what he (first) imagined," said the famous red cap-wearing Austrian.