Although drivers have moved to different teams and there's only one tyre supplier this year, as well as the usual regulation changes, things at the sharp end of the grid look likely to remain familiar. It's never wise to put too much stock in the...
Although drivers have moved to different teams and there's only one tyre supplier this year, as well as the usual regulation changes, things at the sharp end of the grid look likely to remain familiar. It's never wise to put too much stock in the winter test times but Ferrari, McLaren and Renault appear to be the teams to beat as Melbourne's season opener approaches.
The general consensus of opinion is that it will be a Ferrari/McLaren battle for the 2007 title, or at least a Ferrari/Fernando Alonso one. Certainly those two teams were consistently quick over the winter but Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella is optimistic after the last test at Bahrain.
The Italian finished third fastest on the final day and teammate Heikki Kovalainen was second. "Things went pretty well for us this week," Fisichella told the team website. "From the first day on Tuesday to the final day, we made some good progress with the car, and that's a positive sign."
"There was a big step forward with the balance and set-up, and I think we look more competitive now. For sure, we are still behind Ferrari in particular, they looked very strong this week. McLaren are a little bit ahead too, and BMW are competitive as well, but I think we have made a good step forward."
Despite being the current constructors' champions, many people doubt Renault due to the absence of world champion Alonso. Fisichella is quick to talk up the French squad's determination, although he conceded that only being the best will satisfy. "The atmosphere is good and the motivation is high," he commented on how things are within the team.
"Is everybody happy? No, and we are not satisfied, because you can only feel like that when you are at the front. But the team is doing a fantastic job at the moment. You only have to see how hard they worked at the track to repair Heikki's car this week, to know their commitment is 100%. And we have new developments from the factory too, so everybody is pushing hard."
Naturally, anticipation is high for Melbourne -- after a long winter of testing everybody is eager for race action to resume. At the start of the 2006 season Renault won the first three races; Fisichella scored one of those victories but what are the Italian's predictions for the Australian GP this time around?
"I think we have a good estimate of where everybody is, but until you start running at the race, you never know," he said. "I think we have to aim to be on the podium. The reliability of our package is very good at the moment, and that can be a big asset in the opening races. The team is hungry, and ready to go. Everybody is looking forward to seeing what we can do."