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Mercedes 'is still ahead', insists Marchionne

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The traditional pre-season game of 'pass the parcel' about who goes into 2017 as favourites continues. This time it's Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne who is keen to claim underdog status.

Kimi Raikkonen was fastest after eight days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Ferrari were also a close match for Mercedes in terms of reliability and mileage.

Mercedes is giving the impression of being seriously worried by Ferrari's improved form in 2017. That's given rise to speculation that Ferrari - and not Mercedes - might be lining up as the team to beat.

"It looks very positive for Ferrari, that's for sure, and I don't think that's a bluff," Lewis Hamilton said on Friday. "Their pace this week has been spectacular."

But Marchionne wasn't happy with being handed such an extra burden of expectation. He insisted that Mercedes were still favourites to win races and titles again this season.

"We had two goals for the Barcelona tests," Marchionne said.

"Firstly, to be competitive with Red Bull Racing. And secondly, to have a reliable car. For me, Mercedes is still ahead."

Overall, Marchionne is feeling positive about the impact of new tyre and downforce regulations changes for 2017.

"It will be interesting," he said. "The cars are so much faster and the drivers will really have to earn their money.

"I think they'll be much sweatier when they get out of their cars!"

And Marchionne also spared a thought for the traumas faced in testing by the struggling McLaren team. "I wish them a good recovery," he said.

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