Q: Nico, Mercedes are doing better than most of your rivals. What is it that you and the team take away from these past four days?
Nico Rosberg: We have learned massively. This is the time where you learn from every single lap that you do, as we’ve discovered a number of reliability issues that you only discover when you do many laps and when you push the car to the limit. These have been important discoveries. Now we have a couple of days to sort them out and hopefully reduce the issues we run into. In Melbourne we want to finish the race, so little running now would poison that endeavour.
Q: When you look up and down the pit lane, where would you say Mercedes are compared to your competitors?
NR: Well, yes, right now it positive for sure. In terms of reliability I’ve managed to complete a race distance today, so that was good, but nevertheless the car did break afterwards which tells us that we’ve still got some way to go. So problems do pop up here and there, but in comparison to other teams we seem to be in a good position with the reliability. But it has to be somewhat ‘bulletproof’ if you are eying good results in the races.
Q: Even if you downplay the fact that Mercedes have the upper hand right now, do you personally feel that you have a car that could make you a title contender?
NR: I don’t know yet. It is much too early to make any predictions on who has it and who does not. And eyeing the test times doesn’t really make things clearer. Take my time today: we’ve done some qualifying-style practice so took out a lot of fuel which most of the others didn’t do. That explains the gap. But again, the feeling is positive. More than that I don’t know myself.
Q: So if you don’t know where the car is, how about the driver - what will be the biggest challenge for a driver this season?
NR: All the new systems. The whole hybrid power - there is a lot complications in that. Then coming to terms with the fuel saving to make it to the chequered flag. Bahrain, for example, will be a tough one. When I did the race distance in the afternoon it was difficult to make it with the one hundred litres we are allowed. That will be an issue for all of us.
Q: How do you see Red Bull in the context of favourites this season?
NR: Definitely it is clear that we are ahead in testing at the moment with regards to reliability, as we’ve been able to do so many more laps than them and covered so many problems as a result of that. We’ve been able to solve and cure, so by the time we get to Melbourne most issues should be behind us - hopefully.
Q: What part will the tyres play this year?
NR: The tyres are modified to last season, so there are some differences and so new problems will come our way now. We have less downforce, so we are wearing the tyres less which could mean that there will be an issue in bringing them to temperature, whereas many times last year they were overheating. So there will be new challenges - never a dull moment! (laughs)
Q: How will that work with the fuel consumption? Will you get told by the pit wall every lap how much you can use - meaning how fast you can go to stay within the limits of the computer calculations?
NR: It’s the first full-blown race distance and for testing that Bahrain is a pretty tough place. It was a real challenge to do a full distance with the hundred litres. That will need a perfect interaction between pit wall and cockpit in the races. We are working on that - like on everything else - to get it bulletproof for Melbourne.