- Second Bahrain Test - Day Two
Cars closer in performance than people think - Button
Jenson Button believes the opening grand prix will be a lot closer than people think after analysing what some of his rivals have been up to this week in Bahrain.
After the second pre-season test last week, Mercedes looked to be in a dominant position - both in terms of pace and reliability - but the pecking order has been less clear this week. Button thinks there are several teams capable of springing a surprise, not least Red Bull which began to show its true pace on Friday.
"[At] the last test I would have said the Mercedes was very strong on one-lap pace but the Williams was quicker over a race distance," he said. "But at this test, obviously the Mercedes is still as quick as it was and the Williams also, but you have the Force India that looks competitive, you also have the Red Bull that looks competitive and you also have the Ferrari that looks a lot more competitive over the last week as well."
Button said every driver in the pit lane will be analysing what their rivals are up to.
"It's changing all the time, there's a lot of guesswork going on but it's very difficult not to try and guess what people are doing. We're all competitive and it's absolute rubbish when drivers say we are concentrating on ourselves - utter crap. We all know that and I've had some of them as my team-mates! I think it's important to do your own programme, and we do that because we're experienced, but you look at the times and you see what people are doing over a long run. You'd be stupid not to.
"We know that there's work to be done on our part and there are a lot of cars that are competitive. It's not going to be 1.5s between cars like we might have thought looking at the times last week. I think the grid is going to be a lot tighter in Australia than we thought, which is a good thing because it looked a bit of a mess in terms of having eight seconds between [all] the cars and one second between each team. It's going to be a lot closer and it will be a good fight in Melbourne."
Asked who would be leading the way if the current pecking order was frozen until Australia, Button said: "I think you would say Mercedes because it's a big team and they've had a very good start. Williams have had a great start and I'm very happy for Frank [Williams] that they've had a good winter so far, but it's obviously more difficult for a smaller team to update as quickly as a big team.
"And Red Bull ... you always have to worry about Red Bull. If they can put a few laps together you can see their pace and they're strong. It's a good looking car and it looks like it should work, even if you're not looking at it from an aerodynamic point of view. I think when they do get reliability, if they do, they will be very competitive."