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Published: 14:36 | 20/3/17

Mercedes anticipating tougher 2017

Mercedes expect a bigger challenge from their rivals in 2017, the team's Head of Motorsport Toto Wolff has said.

Mercedes have dominated the sport in recent years, winning all but eight of the last 59 races as they have claimed three consecutive drivers' and constructors' championships.

Changes in regulations resulted in a huge drop in lap times during pre-season testing in Barcelona, with Ferrari in particular enjoying a strong winter testing programme, and Wolff is wary heading into this weekend's season-opener in Australia.

"What we've seen from Barcelona is that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk. We'll see how that pans out in Melbourne, because we still don't know about the fuel loads, weights or power settings of the other cars," Wolff said.

"[But] we take every one of our rivals seriously and respect every team's ability to find that magic bullet. They are all full of very clever people - the best in the world in their fields.

"We have done the best job we possibly could over the winter and, if we are not the fastest in Melbourne, then it's about finding out why and what needs to be done to get us back to that top spot.

"It's a challenge we will take on with great motivation and energy. Setbacks can provide a long-term opportunity because you constantly need to improve yourself.

"As the old saying goes, it is when the flag drops that the bull***t really stops."

It is hoped the new wider and faster cars will attract fans back to the sport and Wolff believes the changes will prove a big hit.

"Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent - just like Formula One cars should be," he said.

"I have been out on track watching them and, next to the previous generation of cars, these are properly spectacular cars. From a fan perspective - and a part of me will always be a fan - it really is something special.

"Any true motorsport lover simply has to see them in the flesh!" 

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