Nico Rosberg has played down fears that Mercedes Grand Prix's new W01 challenger is not on the front-running pace following the first pre-season F1 2010 group test at Valencia in Spain last week - and he vowed that the next time the cars take to the track at Jerez later this week, it will be the Silver Arrows leading the way.

Rosberg wound up just ninth-quickest outright at the end of the three-day session around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, almost a full second-and-a-half shy of the best effort from Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. Team-mate and returning multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher was only two spots better in seventh, with the new Sauber, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault all separating Mercedes from its scarlet rivals.

That caused team principal Ross Brawn to subsequently reflect that the Brackley-based outfit's contender is 'a little bit off the pace,' as it suffers predominantly from handling and balance issues [see separate story - click here].

Both Rosberg and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, however, have been quick to assure that there is no need to panic yet amidst suggestions of early sandbagging on heavy fuel loads - as they asserted that the true picture of who lies where in the pecking order may not become apparent until the campaign revs into life with the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir in just under six weeks' time.

"At the Jerez tests the veil will continue to be lifted and a more detailed picture will emerge," Rosberg told German newspaper Bild, before adding: "We will certainly be at the top."

"At the first test, Ferrari did the best job of those teams in attendance," acknowledged Haug, speaking to Auto Motor und Sport. "At the next test, and later at the first race, it may be quite a different story."


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