BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The top three finishers in the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27 probably won’t be Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez, but the Mercedes, Ferrari and Sauber drivers did finish off preseason testing in Barcelona last week with the fastest overall lap times.
Yet while the Red Bulls are really the cars to beat, the Ferraris are quick, Mercedes has improved, and Sauber could be a dark horse.
Although the test lasted five days, each team could only run four of them so it was only on days two and four that the top cars were on the track at the same time. Fastest respectively on each of the five days were: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault RB7), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Perez (Sauber Ferrari C30), Schumacher (Mercedes W02) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes.)
“Favorites?” Alonso mused. “I think it is still the top four teams — McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, and maybe this year Renault, and Williams also is having a good winter. So it is very open for Australia. Hopefully we can be there and we can be fighting for the podium, and for the victory. In three or four races there will be a much clearer picture and hopefully we will be there.”
The Sauber team found the C30 to be stable in the high speed bends but lacking in the slow speed turns. Perez said his ultra quick lap (set in qualifying trim) didn’t really put Sauber out front.
“People think that now I will go to Melbourne and win, but we have to be realistic,” the Mexican rookie said. “This won’t happen.”
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button lagged down in 14th and 15th.