JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, Spain (AFP) – Preparations for the Formula One season start in Jerez on Sunday with the first of three four-day testing sessions and with Mercedes looking to lay down an early marker for continued dominance.
Mercedes, who will also use the Spanish track to launch their 2015 car on Sunday, cruised to the constructors’ championship last season, whilst Lewis Hamilton edged out teammate Nico Rosberg for the drivers’ title.
A series of technical changes at the start of 2014 gave Mercedes a huge jump on their title rivals.
However, with comparatively few tweaks to the rules this off season there should be far more competition at the front of the grid.
Despite their success, Hamilton and Rosberg endured a frosty relationship last season with Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff at one point describing their battle as “two enemies competing for the world title”.
However, Hamilton is determined to remain on top for as long as possible.
“Anything less than what I did last year is not going to be good enough,” said the Englishman, who won 11 races on his way to a second world championship.
“But I can be better. There are going to be 20 races this year, there were eight races that I didn’t win, so you can always get better.”
Red Bull were the best of the rest in 2014 despite finishing nearly 300 points adrift in the constructors’ standings.
The Milton-Keynes based team came into Jerez last year on the back of four consecutive world drivers and constructors titles but suffered a torrid time in registering a mere 21 laps in four days. Their performance improved as the campaign wore on, with Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo winning the only three races not won by Mercedes.
However, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel endured a nightmare campaign which precipitated his move to Ferrari with 20-year-old Russian Daniil Kyvat taking his seat at Red Bull.