Red Bull’s Horner says Mercedes could lap field twice in Oz

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By now, it’s been established that Mercedes is the favorite going into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix while Red Bull, the reigning four-time World Champions, are battling to be competitive after a dismal run of preseason testing.

No doubt the other teams in the paddock are thrilled at this development, but Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, appears to have indicated that while his team won’t be their dominant selves, Merc’s tandem of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg may very well pick up where they’ve left off.

‘You could see a higher level of domination than we had last year,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. “Looking at Mercedes’ race simulation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone in Melbourne. They have a massive advantage.”

Whether it’s a last-minute bit of preseason mind games or not, only Horner knows for sure. But his additional declaration to the Mail that Hamilton is the favorite to become a two-time World Champion does go along with what’s being predicted by at least some observers going into Melbourne.

“What we know about Lewis is that he is extremely talented and naturally fast,” he said. “And he’s in a good team, so he’s probably got to be the favorite going into the season.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has also made Hamilton his pick for the title this season, even though he told Germany’s Sport Bild that Red Bull’s top gun, Sebastian Vettel, will ultimately be the best to adapt to the new 2014 regulations “once his car gives him the chance to do so.”

Speaking of the RB10, Horner is confident that the team and engine partner Renault will be able to turn things around by the time the World Championship calendar enters its European stage later this spring.

‘We believe it is inherently a good car,” he said, again to the Mail. “I have every confidence in the team. There’s no panic. There are engineering solutions and there is no better set of engineers in the pit lane.

“By the time we get to the European races in May, we should be OK.”

Fernando Alonso confirmed for Toyota LMP1 test in Bahrain

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SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.

Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.

Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.

Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.

“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.

“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”

Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.