Mercedes boss Toto Wolff expects an "even smaller" advantage over Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Mercedes one-two in Australia hid the fact Ferrari led much of the grand prix and arguably threw away victory with a questionable strategy call. Though it seems Mercedes has retained an advantage over one lap, locking out the front row in Melbourne, Ferrari's fast starts are a point of concern for the world champions.
Wolff thinks the characteristics of the desert circuit will swing the balance back towards Ferrari in Bahrain this weekend.
"We have made a solid start to the season," Wolff said. "However, while our advantage in Melbourne was a healthy one, it was nevertheless close enough that those bad starts could easily have lost us the race. Bahrain is a track that should suit Ferrari, so we expect even smaller gaps and a very close match this weekend. After a successful debut for the new tyre regulations last time out, we can also expect an interesting strategy battle during the race -- so there is plenty to look forward to."
One point of interest this weekend is the different tyre allocations chosen by Mercedes and Ferrari under the new regulations. While Ferrari has opted to take three of the hardest available compound, the medium tyre, Mercedes has gone aggressive with just one of the compound it spend the majority of winter testing on and therefore more soft tyres than its nearest rivals.
Technical chief Paddy Lowe thinks the low chance of rain in Sakhir makes tyre choices even more vital.
"Bahrain is quite a different track to Melbourne, so it will be interesting to see how we fare," Lowe said. "One thing you can normally guarantee is that it will be dry. Unlike the rain-hit Melbourne weekend, this will provide plenty of opportunity for track time. Thanks to their evening timings, qualifying and the race in Bahrain see much cooler track temperatures than the mid-afternoon FP1 / FP3 sessions -- making the latter somewhat unrepresentative. This potentially makes tyre selection even more of a factor.
"We know already that there is a marked difference between the allocations selected by competing teams for this race, so we could see a few surprises. A big positive from Melbourne was seeing how well the new tyre rules delivered in terms of strategy variation - and we expect to see more of the same here. We've seen close battles throughout the field in both years of twilight racing in Bahrain, so we look forward to hopefully providing another spectacular evening for the fans."