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Marko concerned by Ferrari sandbagging

NEWS STORY
14/03/2017

As we head to Melbourne, certainly as far as Ferrari is concerned, there is a certain amount of deja vu.

Last year, as is the case this year, Ferrari tops the timesheets, both its drivers posting the fastest laps over the course of the eight days of pre-season testing.

Last year, Kimi Raikkonen posted the best time over the course of the eight days, a 1:22.765. This was posted on ultrasofts, as was the 1:22.810 posted by teammate Sebastian Vettel.

While Vettel was a mere 0.045s off Raikkonen's best, Nico Rosberg was 0.245s slower - his best time set on softs - and Lewis Hamilton 0.857s, also on the softs.

This year the gap to the Mercedes duo is greater, with Valtteri Bottas 0.676s off Raikkonen's best (1:18.634) and Hamilton 0.718s.

Furthermore, while Raikkonen's best was set on the supersofts and Vettel's on the ultras, Bottas' best was on supersofts and Hamilton's on ultras.

At the same time Ferrari reliability is clearly improved with the Italian team just 405 miles down on the Silver Arrows, compared to 1,272 in 2016.

However, one of the biggest question marks as we left Barcelona was Ferrari's true outright pace, for on their quickest laps both Raikkonen and Vettel were visually and audibly holding off on the main straight... the prancing horse was sandbagging.

With Lewis Hamilton already claiming that Ferrari is bluffing, and is the quickest car out there, Red Bull's Helmut Marko shares the Briton's view, pointing out that to sandbag in this manner shows a worrying confidence.

"Ferrari is very strong and reliable as well," he told Red Bull's Servus TV. "That's the difference to last year.

"What worries me somewhat is I know Vettel very well," he continued. "He provocatively lifted on his fastest lap on the start and finish straight. Everybody could tell. And if you do something like this, then your self-confidence and the knowledge about having a lot more in the car is huge.

"Nobody has shown his cards properly," he admitted. "If you carry 10 kg more fuel, you gain about 0.35 seconds, furthermore, engine mappings differ. This can gain you up to one second… or not.

"A lot has been kept in the dark. But if the (Australian) race would have taken place with the same kind of temperatures we had (in Barcelona) then Ferrari would be in front, for sure."

Talking about his own team, he admitted: "We had a few nasty failures, actually, it was the same one each time. Therefore we weren't able to make the amount of progress we had aimed for.

"But, traditionally, for Melbourne, there will be a lot of new parts that look different, though the livery will stay the same."

Surprisingly, Marko feels that Bottas didn't match Hamilton and could be a weak point for Mercedes, even though the Finn was quicker - on harder tyres - and completed more laps.

"Barcelona has shown that Bottas cannot go at the speed of Hamilton," said the Austrian. "Should Mercedes have the same kind of technical dominance, there will not be the same 1-2 formation again. Then, others will be able to place themselves between the Mercedes drivers."

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