Triple world champion Niki Lauda thinks “at least five teams” could be in the running to win the opening grand prix of 2013.
“So the best structured (ones),” said the famous Austrian, “Red Bull, us (Mercedes), Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus. “After what we saw in winter testing, I would say that any of them could win at Albert Park,” he told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper in Melbourne.
Lauda, whilst still a television pundit for German television, is a new shareholder of the Mercedes team, and the board chairman.
Many believe Red Bull are the ultimate favourites – and Sebastian Vettel was quicker than the two Ferraris in opening practice – but there have also been suggestions the reigning world champions are struggling.
“There is no panic,” Dr Helmut Marko told Bild newspaper. “A place on the podium in Melbourne would be a good result. The field is much closer together.”
The two Ferraris were just off Vettel’s pace early on Friday, but test driver Marc Gene was quoted by EFE news agency: “I think Vettel and Red Bull will be the ones to beat in the first races.”