|Much to the chagrin of the British F1 media who had to endure many long seasons watching Michael Schumacher (now past his prime) destroy the best England had to offer. It now appears the old man has the measure of his younger teammate Nico Rosberg. But will the Mercedes have the pace to beat Adrian Newey's spectacular Red Bulls?|
Despite setting the pace at Barcelona on Friday, Ross Brawn reckons Red Bull enter the 2011 season as the 'reference point' for their rivals.
Old man Michael Schumacher gave the youngsters a driving lesson on Friday at the Circuit de Catalunya, clocking a 1:21.249 as he ran Mercedes GP's updated package, which included a revised front wing and new turning vanes.
However, he wasn't the only Mercedes driver near the front of the timesheets as Nico Rosberg was third quickest when he hit the track in the afternoon, just 0.539s behind his teammate.
Team boss Brawn says reigning World Champions Red Bull Racing will be the team to beat when the season kicks off in Australia later this month.
"Red Bull has clearly gone into this year in quite a strong position and that is who I anticipate will be our reference point in the early point of the season," said Brawn.
"That is who we have to beat to win races. So that is my judgment, but I don't think it is unachievable and things change quite quickly in F1."
"The racing is going to be quite fascinating with the tires and all the other new factors, the rear flap adjuster, KERS, all these things coming in. So it may not be the fastest car that is winning the early races.
"We will be pretty respectable in Melbourne, but I honestly don't know where people are at the moment because I don't know what fuel loads people are running."
Michael Schumacher was not getting carried away with his headline time at Barcelona on Friday and suspects his rivals have not yet shown their true hand.
"We've been looking good today and have had a good three days," he told reporters in the Barcelona paddock. "We are developing the car step-by-step. The main issue that we have here at the test is trying to find the right balance and optimizing the car's performance, and that has worked pretty well. Obviously we look forward to going to Australia. I'm not sure everybody has shown their cards completely yet, it's something we'll have to see in Australia."
Asked if the Mercedes was now in the top three, Schumacher responded: "All I can say is that we have seen that our package works here reasonably well. But whether everybody has shown their true potential is something we will find out in Australia."