Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has tipped the Haas F1 Team to spring a few surprises this season based on the outfit's impressive form in pre-season testing.
The US team was a consistent and fast runner last week at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, its new VF-18 car, dubbed "the white Ferrari" by paddock insiders, outrunning most of its mid-field rivals, although fuel levels were unknown as Wolff noted.
"In our statistical data they looked pretty quick, but then again if someone is 20kg lighter, it’s eight tenths difference," said the Mercedes executive, speaking this week in Turin.
"I very much hope they are there. They deserve it. Gene [Haas] has taken some risks. He’s a true entrepreneur. Crazy Guenther is giving it all. He’s a good operator. He knows what he’s doing."
Wolff agrees that a massive mid-field battle is likely brewing this year, with any of the contenders capable of clinching the title of "best of the rest".
"There is also Renault which will make a step forward and McLaren," he said.
"Williams has been looking good on the long runs. So I think there are a lot of teams who are just behind the top three that could be a surprise."