Driver-turned-commentator Martin Brundle has predicted the battle for the 2012 F1 World Championship will much closer this season.

Brundle, who moves to Sky Sports this year and who will be in the commentary box with former BBC Radio 5 Live man David Croft, added that Mercedes could spring a surprise. Brundle also expects Ferrari to be right in the mix, even though the Scuderia appears to be on the back foot in pre-season testing, with Fernando Alonso admitting recently that the new Ferrari F2012 is a 'complex machine' [see separate story - here].

"I think the cars are going to be much closer this year," Brundle told reporters, including Crash.net, during the recent Sky Sports F1 press day. "Getting rid of the blown diffusers is going to even the cars up massively - they have got less places to go now [in terms of development].

"It will be interesting to see what Mercedes do [when the car is launched on Tuesday]. Somebody texted me this morning to say how happy [Mercedes team principal] Ross Brawn looked at the circuit [in Barcelona] and I think Ross wears his demeanour on his face and in terms of his general behaviour. I think the Mercedes could be a strong car.

"I am sure they will sort the Ferrari out [too]. It has some really interesting pieces on it. [Overall] I just think it will be massively close - and a lot of the goodies aren't on the cars yet, some of the teams don't want to show their hands."

Croft meanwhile also believes that Mercedes could do well and he added that a win for Michael Schumacher is not out of the question, providing the newly launched F1 W03 is competitive.

"Everyone keeps asking me that at the moment," Croft replied, when quizzed on who he is putting his money on for the F1 2012 title, "and until we see a couple more tests I am not going to nail my colours to the mast.

"You have got to put [Sebastian] Vettel on the short list. You have got to put Lewis [Hamilton] on the short list too because of the way he goes out, and even if the car is not good enough to win, he will give you that chance to get that win. But I am waiting to see what Mercedes have got up their sleeve. There is a reason why Ross Brawn does what he does - and normally it is because he has found something and it is the best route for success. Also the Mercedes car just looks that little bit different from what we have seen. I am quite excited about the test [in Barcelona] and seeing what they have got up their sleeve.

"So at the moment, I'd say Vettel, Lewis - and Jenson [Button], for the odd race as well. Maybe we will see Michael Schumacher winning a race this year too. I think he has still got it in him and if the car can deliver a race win he will make the most of it. As for Ferrari, if they say they are not happy already, then you can bet your bottom dollar they are really worried. I don't know why they have come out and said what they have said. They have put the pressure on themselves..."

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