Former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen has said he doesn't expect to see Mercedes challenge for honours during the 2013 F1 season following the opening pre-season test of the year at Jerez.
Mercedes endured a tough start to the test as both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton hit trouble on their first days at the wheel of the new F1 W04, although the final two days of running passed without major issue as the duo put much needed mileage on the car.
However, double champion Hakkinen said he wasn't overly impressed with the performance of the Brackley-based team in the four-day test and didn't feel it had shown the pace needed to challenge for honours – instead backing his former McLaren team to be the ones to watch.
"With the first test you never really get a 100 per cent picture of exactly where the performance of the car is,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live
. "I believe at the next test in Barcelona, that is going to be more interesting to see who is at the top of the list.
"[However] I have a strong feeling McLaren are on top form this year. Mercedes were not exactly up to the speed I expected them to be, so I don't see them competing too much this year."
While not expecting Mercedes to emerge as challengers straightaway, Hakkinen did back Hamilton's decision to end his time at McLaren to sign with the team – arguing that it was time for the Briton to take on a fresh challenge away from the team that had guided his career.
"Lewis has been with McLaren for so many years and I think, for him, it was time to change," the Finn said. "It's just a job to be honest. There are no emotional feelings about it, you are there to win, you are racing with the team and you do your maximum for the team. Lewis has now moved to Mercedes and that is going to be interesting because his team-mate Nico Rosberg is also a very quick driver."