Wheels24

McLaren: 'Bulls won't dominate'

2012-03-15 08:06

MELBOURNE, Australia - World champion Sebastian Vettel is still the man to beat but competition for the F1 title looks much closer than 2011 when Red Bull dominated.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "It looks pretty close at the top end of the performance table, going by what we've seen in testing. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I don't think any team looks dominant."

Sauber chief Peter Sauber predicts Red Bull and McLaren out in front, with Ferrari soon recovering from what appeared to be a sluggish start in testing.

"The combination Vettel/(Adrian) Newey (technology chief) has worked well in the past two years," Sauber added. "I don't think there will be any fundamental change this year but the tests have shown that the leaders are very close and that the gap to midfield teams has dwindled."

TIGHTER CHAMPIONSHIP

Mercedes team chief Norbert Haug believes F1 predictions often turn out to be wrong: "One thing is clear: Vettel will be well equipped to win and he is the driver to beat if you want to win the title."

Luis Perez-Sala of HRT thought Red Bull would not dominate as in 2011 and saw Lotus and Mercedes challenging the big three - Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. "Things are going to be more even this year," he forecast, "and I believe that the championship will be decided by the last races."

Lotus chief Eric Boullier was cautious: "Let's see how well the Red Bulls compete this season... the tables can turn so let's wait and see."

Toro Rosso's Franz Tost was more assertive: Red Bull and Vettel in front.

Caterham's Tony Fernandes wanted to wait and see: "It's too early to tell but Red Bull Racing has dominated the previous two seasons, the rules have stayed largely the same and the Bulls haven't lost any key personnel. It all points to another very strong year."

SIX CHAMPS

Back to Whitmarsh. The Bulls looked good in testing, as did Mercedes; Ferrari was "always there or thereabouts".

"The fantastic thing about F1 is that it's impossible to say at the moment: we'll have six World champions on the grid in 2012 and that speaks volumes about the incredible strength in depth of the field.

"Factor-in race winners such as Mark Webber and Felipe Massa and you see that we're set for an incredibly close season."