Mercedes expects Ferrari and Honda to close during 2016 F1 season

Mercedes is refusing to take its overwhelmingly dominant position in Formula 1 for granted ahead of the 2016 season

F1 records have tumbled over the last two years as Mercedes has clinched back-to-back drivers' and constructors' championships since the arrival of the current 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged hybrid power unit.

While Mercedes will not have stood still over the past few months in terms of improving its system, it is adopting the stance its rivals will have made considerable gains of their own.

"If we look at what Ferrari has done over the last 12 months, it's remarkable," said Andy Cowell, the managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains.

"Their improvements have been a huge credit to their reshuffle, their enthusiasm. Everybody here is going 'I wonder how we're going to do?'

"Nobody here is assuming we are going to win. Everybody here is assuming we're going to get beaten by Ferrari, and Honda are a big threat."

After a poor 2014, Ferrari emerged as Mercedes' nearest challenger in 2015 as it won three races with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel at the wheel.

Honda endured a wretched season last year in partnership with McLaren on its return to F1, encountering numerous issues with an engine that was also considerably down on power.

Assessing the Honda challenge, Cowell added: "They have come in quickly and they are learning in front of the public, but they're hugely determined.

"They are partnered with McLaren, who are hugely determined.

"We know exactly how McLaren work in terms of a data-driven approach, so they are going to make some big, big gains."

Renault, too, has also had its fair share of problems since its own dominant spell at the end of the V8 era when it powered Red Bull to four consecutive championships from 2010-13.

The French manufacturer is now back as a fully-fledged works entrant, although it is not expecting much in the way of success over the next two years as it ramps up its personnel and resources.

Despite that, Cowell added: "Then there's Renault's determination as well, as they've shown with them becoming a lot more involved now in Formula 1.

"Instead of just being a power unit provider there has been a team restructuring.

"There are going to be some great stories to talk about."

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