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F1 2017 Preview: Will Mercedes continue to reign supreme?

Read Sport logo Read Sport 4 days ago Stephen Camp
F1 Winter Testing In Barcelona - Day One © Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport F1 Winter Testing In Barcelona - Day One

One of the biggest questions ahead of the 2017 season is whether Mercedes-Benz can hold onto its dominance in Formula 1.

It’s a new season, a fresh opportunity to fall into the chasing pack and finally be beaten, but is Mercedes really on the cusp of being usurped as the top dog on the track?

With world champion Nico Rosberg out of the picture, in from Williams comes Valtteri Bottas to fill the empty seat.

Another departure from Brackley was executive technical director Paddy Lowe who has since moved in the opposite direction and . James Allison has been brought into the team after his early departure from Ferrari last season.

The new W08 is certainly a beautiful car, but it also has to be one of the most complex in terms of its aerodynamic design; many small winglets, turning vanes and trimmed edges can be spotted across the chassis.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport © Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport

Across winter testing Mercedes got up to speed very quickly as it has done in recent years, moving to softer tyres and ramping up the speed without many reliability issues to be concerned about.

On the final day of the first test Hamilton was supposed to be on track in the morning as it was a wet weather test, however a small electrical issue did hamper his running.

Team-mate Bottas wasted little time in getting up to speed in the car, often topping the time sheets when not focused on long runs, while Hamilton followed up – showing that the W08 was a consistent runner.

There has been talk amongst the paddock as to whether the is an issue with the new M08 EQ Power+ power unit; it is rumoured that there is a problem with the crankshaft, however Mercedes has since rebuffed this speculation.

Charles Coates/Getty Images Sport © Charles Coates/Getty Images Sport Charles Coates/Getty Images Sport

Can Mercedes withstand the pressure from their rivals behind in the form of Red Bull and Ferrari? It is without a shadow of a doubt that 2017 represents a clear chance for a change of the guard.

Ferrari has been very quick in testing, even while blatantly backing off in sectors to prove it still has plenty left in the locker should it need it, although in what power modes it was running, no one really knows.

Red Bull, albeit not setting blistering pace through the tests, flew quietly under the radar with a very stripped back, simple looking RB13.

Compared to the W08, Red Bull has a very basic looking chassis, but this can be awfully deceptive given the capabilities of  Adrian Newey, of which his rivals are all too aware.

While the other teams on the grid do not perhaps look as much of a threat to the world champions, no one should be underestimated.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport © Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport

If Mercedes really wants to hold onto its long-standing advantage over the rest of the field, it will have to hit the ground running in 2017, with Ferrari, Red Bull and other teams looking to have upped their game dramatically, it’s going to be tough going.

There is no questioning whether the team has the resources or personnel to do the job as it is largely unchanged from 2014, but with the pressure now being applied by the chasing pack, it will be interesting to see how Mercedes can react to being under pressure.

With Rosberg and Lowe no longer in the team, will some of ingredients of its winning formula be lost? I don’t think so.

Are its other rivals much closer? It certainly feels that way, but how close remains the ultimate question.

It is still the team to beat, but no-one will pass up the opportunity to seize the crown away from them if even the smallest chink in its armour appears.

Time will tell whether the W08 can live up to its predecessors and prove that its dominance remains intact.

However, the time for questions is now over, 20 races lie in wait…

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