James Allison believes his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team will have to keep an eye on the progress of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing outfit in 2018 after an impressive pre-season for the Milton Keynes-based outfit at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during the past two weeks.
Daniel Ricciardo’s timesheet-topping lap on Wednesday was the fastest ever seen around the Spanish circuit on the current configuration, and it opened a lot of peoples eyes, including those from Mercedes-Benz, who were forced to settle for second and third with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas respectively.
Allison, Mercedes’ technical director, says Red Bull could possibly be the team they are fighting for the championships in 2018, and with Scuderia Ferrari also showing good speed, it could be a three-way fight at the front.
“I think there’s three quick teams and there’s no doubt that Red Bull are going to be people that we’re going to be fighting with this year,” said Allison to Sky Sports. “There’s clearly no doubt about that.
“It’s still not possible to say for sure if we’ve got our nose in front of them or they’ve got their nose in front of us, but you can say it’s close.”
Allison feels Red Bull will arrive in Australia for the opening race of the season with different-looking bodywork, and as a result he feels there is still some performance to come from the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
“I don’t know what their engine plans are, but looking at what they’ve brought here, I’d say they’ve still got some bodywork to bolt on before Melbourne,” said Allison.
“But no one really sandbags. There’s no point in sandbagging. You’re here to test. And you’re only going to do a valid test if you find out what your car can do.
“The thing you can do to change the absolute pace is to have more or less fuel in the car, to have the engine turned up more or less depending on what particular test you’re making with it.”