Nico Rosberg believes that the rest of the Formula 1 field has made inroads into Mercedes’ pace advantage over the winter and can pose a greater threat to the German marque in 2015.
Last season, Mercedes swept to both championships by claiming a record-breaking 16 wins and 18 pole positions, leaving its rivals lagging far behind.
However, the Silver Arrows are yet to top a single day of testing so far in 2015, with Rosberg finishing in sixth place today behind teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari has been the team to beat over the winter, finishing fastest on three days and in second place on a further three occasions.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Rosberg said that Mercedes was surprised by the shrinking gap but well aware of the threat posed by Ferrari.
“It’s clear in the way the others have really stepped up their games,” Rosberg said. “The lap times are surprising to us. In relation it seems that Ferrari has made the biggest step at the moment.
When asked if Ferrari could rival Mercedes this year, Rosberg said: “For sure, yes. Definitely our eyes are wide open at the moment.”
Rosberg only took part in the morning session in Barcelona today after suffering a small neck injury. As a precaution, he was replaced by Hamilton for the afternoon, and the German explained how a change in seating position caused the problem to flare up.
“I liked it [the seating position] different,” he said. “But I can’t drive the one I like. My neck doesn’t like that one.
“I changed it in the winter. It’s incredible how a couple of millimetres change everything.”
Despite not topping the timesheets today, Mercedes was the quickest team to post its best lap time on the medium compound tire, suggesting that on a level playing field it may still be the team to beat.
Rosberg will be back in action for Mercedes on Sunday, with Hamilton enjoy a full day of running in Barcelona tomorrow.