Mar.16 (GMM/ Pat Fry, Ferrari’s technical director, thinks Red Bull remains clearly ahead of the F1 field.

There is lots of talk that the reigning champion team is now closely matched by McLaren, with a big chasing group nipping at the heels headed by Mercedes.

But Briton Fry told the Guardian newspaper: “I think Red Bull are ahead of the rest at the moment. Maybe half a second.

“We’re guessing about fuel levels used in testing but I would say Red Bull are between five and seven tenths ahead of everyone else.”

Fry recently wrote off Ferrari’s chances of a podium this weekend in Melbourne, but – at least in the most recent hours – drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso are sounding more positive.

“At the moment we don’t know who is fast and who is not,” insisted Alonso, according to Marca. “Don’t pay much attention to what is said.

“We are not even going to know anything until Malaysia — a normal circuit.”

HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa, at least, is daring a prediction.

“Maybe (Sebastian) Vettel will win again, but if he does, he will have more sweat on his shirt,” the Spaniard is quoted by EFE agency.

As for Ferrari’s apparent problems, de la Rosa commented: “All I know is what I read, but think about how much time has passed since the last test.

“Two or three weeks in formula one is a world.”