Nico Rosberg admits that he is pleasantly surprised to be F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's tip for this year's world championship, but insists that an improved Mercedes team will give him a good shot at glory.

The German won twice in 2013, taking the chequered flag at both the Monaco and British grands prix, but faded to sixth in the overall standings. However, the opening pre-season test of 2014 was full of potential for the Mercedes team, with Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton enjoying better reliability than many of their expected rivals, and the Three Pointed Star's new V6 'power unit' topping the times on three of the four days, albeit with customer teams McLaren and Williams.

Ecclestone's comments regarding Rosberg's chances came in the wake of the Jerez test, and saw the 83-year old supplant regular tip Sebastian Vettel with the Mercedes pilot for 2014.

"That's a cool statement from him," he told the Berlin Kurier during an appearance for sponsor Thomas Sabo, "On [one] hand, it is unfortunately still a bit early to talk about the title, but it was a strong performance by the team [at Jerez]. I went round and round.... We have much to learn, [but it was] a nice feeling when you see how little the others could drive."

Rosberg is under no illusion that the likes of Vettel - whose Red Bull team managed just 21 laps over the four days - is going to struggle when racing gets underway in Australia, but hopes to be able to put Mercedes at the head of the field on a more regular basis.

"There is no joy for me when other [drivers] drive less," he insisted, anticipating a close battle with the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, "but I will be happy if we have an engine that is good enough to win. It is obvious that Red Bull and Renault have problems with their new powertrain, so perhaps we have done our homework a little better.

"The first test went really well, and we are doing well - the new Mercedes appears reliable from the beginning. How we really compare to the competition, we do not know yet. We are in a good mood and this season will win a lot of races."



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