Innovative Mercedes still out in front

Sergio Marchionne remains determined to see Ferrari win its first world championship in nearly a decade.

"We will work tirelessly to bring the championship back to Ferrari," the Maranello marque's president wrote in a letter to shareholders, "investing where necessary.

"The Ferrari racing heritage is not only the key to innovation in our road cars," Marchionne added, "it is critical to the value of our brand."

As the letter was being read, Ferrari's new red and white car was being driven to the top of the timesheets in Barcelona by Kimi Raikkonen, as the pre-season reached its mid-way point.

But that doesn't mean Ferrari's title dream is definitely on track.

"Quite certainly, Mercedes will again be the team to beat," Force India's Nico Hulkenberg said on Thursday as the first of just two four-day tests ended.

Indeed, the car that is stunning onlookers and rivals alike in Spain has been the new silver one.

Not only has the reliability - in Lewis Hamilton's words - been "incredible", the W07 is also truly innovative.

During the week, Mad Max-style bargeboards, and a new nose dubbed 'Bruce' due to its resemblance to the shark in the movie Finding Nemo, have appeared.

And yet, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are yet to even try Pirelli's new 'ultra soft' tyres.

"My impression is that other teams have already laid their cards on the table," said Rosberg. "We still have our aces up our sleeves, but I am sure that we will be very fast."

No one disagrees.

"Mercedes is still in front," Ferrari insider Leo Turrini wrote on his blog. "If you take Hamilton and Rosberg's times on the medium (tyre) and do a quick calculation for the ultra soft, the situation is clear."

(GMM)

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