Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg
and even Jenson Button
could be the men to chase next season after it was reported that Mercedes may enter the 2014 F1 season with as much as 100bhp in hand over its rivals.
A new wave of technical regulations sees the top flight switching from its ageing V8 engines to 1.6-litre turbo-charged V6s for the 2014 campaign, with Mercedes, Ferrari
all hard at work honing their new powerplants ahead of their debut in pre-season testing.
Although all three have dropped hints about their progress in recent weeks, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport
claims that Mercedes could enter the season with a distinct power advantage over its rivals. Mercedes apparently called for a wider rear tyre to be introduced next season, presumably in a bid to cope with its expected power output, while neither Ferrari
felt obliged to do so. Although there has, naturally, been no confirmation of figures from any of the three manufacturers, recent quotes would suggest that confidence is high in both Brackley and Brixworth.
“There are signs that Mercedes is one step ahead,” the report claimed, “In the paddock, it is said - behind closed doors - that its engine has 100 horsepower more than the Renault
or Ferrari. Mercedes is not confirming that, but those in charge appear unusually confident.”
Should the rumours prove to be true, it could spell the end of the recent Red Bull-Sebastian Vettel stranglehold on the world championship. Although the Milton Keynes team has faced strong opposition from the likes of Ferrari, McLaren
and, latterly, Mercedes and Lotus, Vettel has managed to guide it to a hat-trick of Renault-powered titles since 2010, and is currently on course to make it four in a row this season.
After a tough time spanning the same period, Mercedes finally appears to be hitting its stride in 2013, with both Nico Rosberg
and Lewis Hamilton
having claimed race wins and pole positions. The works team is currently second to Red Bull
in constructors' standings with nine races remaining, with Hamilton fourth in the individual table, 48 points adrift of Vettel.
Next season, Mercedes will add the Williams
team to a stable of customers which already includes both McLaren
and Force India, although the Woking-based squad will be heading in Honda's direction when the Japanese giant enters the fray in 2015. With aerodynamic influence reduced by the new regulations, engine power – which will be boosted by additional 'regenerative' technology more powerful than the current KERS devices – will take centre stage in determining performance.