Jenson Button used to drive for both Williams (his first year in 2000) and Mercedes (when it was known as Brawn, and he captured the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship).
He pegs those two teams, and not his own McLaren squad, as front-runners heading to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix next week.
“It has been a messy winter for a lot of people in terms of mileage on circuit. The two that you would pick out that look strong and consistent are Mercedes and Williams,” Button told Sky Sports.
Button doesn’t know whether their pace would translate to Melbourne. But the reliability aspect is something those two teams have got down.
“Those two are the teams that I think looked strongest over winter testing, whether that will be the case when we get to Melbourne – it is a very different circuit to Bahrain – we have to wait and see.”
The Englishman also said Red Bull, which has had a rough winter, could still surprise on one-lap pace. He also said F1’s two newest teams – Caterham and Marussia – stand a good chance of scoring their first career points if they can make the finish.
In 14 prior Australian Grands Prix, Button has three wins (2009, 2010 and 2012). He finished ninth in last year’s Australian Grand Prix, in the first race with what proved to be a troublesome 2013 chassis.
Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost hopes to see sacked driver Daniil Kvyat return to Formula 1 in the near future, saying the Russian “deserves” a place on the grid.
Toro Rosso dropped Kvyat twice through the 2017 season due to poor form, with his final dismissal coming after the United States Grand Prix in October.
Kvyat is no longer part of Red Bull’s motorsport program and is exploring options both inside and outside of F1 for 2018, and Tost feels he could be energized by some time away before returning.
“I am still convinced that Daniil has a very high natural speed. He was sometimes even faster than Daniel Riccardo, but somehow last year and this year he couldn’t show the potential that is within him,” Tost told the official F1 website.
“He was involved in many incidents, but in his defence I also have to say that he had many reliability issues and that didn’t help build up confidence. Being the victim of too many incidents killed the performance he would have been able to show.
“Maybe a short break – to get organized again – and probably we will see Daniil back at his usual performance level with another team.
“Sometimes he was too aggressive at the beginning of the race. The first corner was his weak point. He wanted too much in the first hundred meters – success by any means!
“That puts you under pressure – unnecessary pressure – and that never works.
“I hope for him that he gets another chance, as I think he deserves to be in F1.”