MARCH 25, 2018
Mercedes can't be beaten until 2021 says Marko
All the talk in the Melbourne paddock is about a button on the Mercedes steering wheel that triggers 'Party mode'.
Lewis Hamilton coined the phrase earlier in the weekend, but after going seven tenths quicker than the nearest Ferrari in qualifying, he played it down.
"I can assure you we don't have a party mode," said the Mercedes driver.
But Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko insisted that's not right.
"Everyone else finds a tenth or hundredths on their last lap. He finds eight tenths," he told Bild newspaper.
Even Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted: "There is a party mode, but it's switched on at the start of Q3. There is no different mode between the first and the last lap."
Whatever the case, it is a depressing situation not only for Mercedes' rivals, but F1 fans who were hoping for a closer battle in 2018.
"Mercedes is playing with everyone," said Marko. "They can decide with their power modes how far ahead they are. But this time they apparently got it wrong and are too far ahead.
"I said to Ferrari: Mercedes is five tenths ahead and they said no. But everyone has been asleep," he added.
"With that engine, no one can beat Mercedes," Marko insisted. "They're in a different world.
"We have a very good car and that's why we're close. But with these engine regulations, it will be the same until 2021."
So Marko thinks the FIA and Liberty should intervene before then to install engine parity between Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda.
"Even Ferrari is waking up now," he said. "They begin to realise that they will never catch Mercedes with these engines.
"We need engine parity, which was always promised," Marko continued. "But these engines are much further apart than 3 per cent apart. So the FIA has to act now."
McLaren-Renault boss Eric Boullier agrees: "Mercedes designed a very competitive engine from the beginning and it seems difficult to reach them.
"I think now we need Liberty and the FIA to be sufficiently restrictive to close the gap and have more cars fighting on the track," he is quoted by Marca.