FEBRUARY 26, 2016
Pecking order similar to 2015 says Kvyat
After a full winter, and with a field full of new cars, it appears little has changed about the pecking order in F1.
"I have the impression that, over the winter, the order has not really changed," said Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat as the first half of pre-season testing ended in Barcelona.
In fact, if anything, Mercedes might even have pushed its advantage out even more, with Williams chief Pat Symonds describing the silver team's reliability in initial testing as nothing short of "amazing".
Kimi Raikkonen, however, is part of the Ferrari team that has pushed hard to produce a Mercedes-beater for 2016.
Surely, the first week of 2016 running has the red camp worried.
"Why should it worry me?" the unflappable Finn wondered.
"We are interested in what we are doing, not the others. Of course I would like to have done more laps but that is just testing."
Mercedes' pre-season, however, has gone so well so far that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have been on duty in Barcelona all week, to share the unprecedented amount of testing laps that are being accrued.
"They're having a laugh," an insider working for a rival team said on Thursday.
For F1 - as it tries to spice things up by tweaking the qualifying format for 2016 - there is a risk that an increase in Mercedes' domination will utterly turn off the fans.
"Boredom has nothing to do with it," F1 legend Alain Prost told Welt newspaper.
"Each team, each manufacturer starts from the same position -- Mercedes has just done the best job, it's as simple as that," he said. "It's always been the same in formula one.
"If someone adapts to new regulations better than everyone else, that doesn't mean you start to question everything. You just have to work hard to close the gap," said Prost.
That gap between Mercedes and the rest, however, appears to still be there for 2016.
But Williams' Felipe Massa says the season should still be exciting.
"Taking Mercedes and Ferrari out, there will be a very big fight," he told Brazil's Globo, "and I put ourselves in this fight with Red Bull and Force India."
And there will be other interesting elements to 2016: whether McLaren-Honda can make progress, the newly Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, and the impressive new Ferrari 'B' team Haas.
"I must say that Haas is a surprise," Williams' Valtteri Bottas told Finland's MTV, referring to the early pace of the Gene Haas-founded American outfit.
Newly Mercedes-powered Manor has also been impressive in Pascal Wehrlein's hands, even if his Indonesian-funded teammate Rio Haryanto has made notable errors.
And Haryanto's pace is so far from Wehrlein's that Bild, a major German daily, concluded the Barcelona test wondering if the 23-year-old is in fact from 'Blind-onesia'.