JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, Spain (AFP) – Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso believes reigning champions Mercedes will be unable to repeat their domination of the rest of the grid from last season.
Mercedes won 16 of 19 races in 2014 as Lewis Hamilton beat out teammate Nico Rosberg for a second world title.
Alonso has returned to McLaren for the new season after a fruitless five-year spell at Ferrari in search of a third world crown.
There was little for a huge crowd at the first day of pre-season testing in Jerez to cheer as Alonso managed only six laps and finished over 18 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel, who has succeeded the 33-year-old at Ferrari.
Vettel went fastest, but Mercedes impressed once more as Rosberg logged a record 157 laps for the first day of testing.
“Definitely they have an advantage in performance, at least to start the season. They have the continuation of a dominant car, so it is a little bit easier than for us who have a new power unit,” said Alonso.
“We have a very streamlined, aggressive car design and I don’t think that Mercedes will win so many races this year. They are the favourites, yes, but I think all the other teams are closer than last year.”
McLaren have shunned their association with Mercedes in favour a return to Honda engines for the first time in 22 years.