Toto Wolff believes Mercedes’ advantage over the midfield has shrunk in the off season as shown by Valtteri Bottas’ troubles in overtaking in Melbourne.
Bottas started the grand prix 15th on the grid after a crash in qualifying and a gearbox penalty.
He raced his way to eighth place at the chequered flag but benefitted from a Safety Car and the retirement of some of the drivers ahead.
In fact Bottas overtook just three drivers; Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne; as he battled to pass on the Albert Park circuit.
Wolff says this is because the gap has closed.
“I think this is the reality now,” the Mercedes motorsport boss told Autosport.
“He overtook more people than anybody else. He overtook Stroll, he overtook Ocon and he overtook Vandoorne, so made it three times, and then was lucky with the safety car.
“His timing was spot on and he wouldn’t have made it into the top 10 without that, but I think the whole field is much more bunched up and there is no such situation of one car cruising through the fields like we have seen before.
“Welcome to the new world.”
And with Max Verstappen struggling to pass Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso, Wolff says the top three aren’t as far ahead as others are complaining.
He added: “I expect these three teams to be able to win races and go for the championship and you can see behind the group – there is McLaren, Renault and Haas – they are right up there, and for Max and for Valtteri it was not possible to overtake these cars.”