Mercedes F1 car will be nearly in Melbourne spec when tests start

Mercedes believes it will have little opportunity to upgrade its new-for-2016 car ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix once Formula 1 testing starts on Monday

The reigning world champion team officially unveiled its latest challenger, the F1 W07 Hybrid, on Sunday with the target of clinching constructors' and drivers' titles for the third successive year.

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According to executive technical director Paddy Lowe, the car that hits the track at Barcelona will not be too far removed from the one that runs in Melbourne.

Teams have previously begun testing with a 'launch spec' car and added substantial updates over the course of what used to be a three-test pre-season spread across a month or more.

This year there are just two tests, back to back, and then a two-week gap to Australia.

"We've now reached a new minimum in terms of winter testing, with two banks of four days," said Lowe.

"That's something the team has been preparing for by producing better designs and undertaking better preparation and testing in the R&D lab so that we're as well placed as possible to hit the ground running.

"What's different for 2016 is actually not so much that there are only two tests, but that they're both very close to the first race of the season.

"This has notably reduced the extent to which we can upgrade the car from 'launch spec' to the first-race spec.

"That window is now very narrow, which reduces the number of potential upgrades ahead of the opening grand prix weekend."

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Lowe also feels rules stability means there has been little chance for the car to undergo a significant overhaul.

"It's very tough to find performance under a stable set of regulations and we were particularly pleased with how the car turned out in 2015 when we had the same situation," said Lowe.

"The team did a fantastic job - digging very deep to find all sorts of innovations in areas that might have been considered static.

"2016 is another carry-over year from a regulatory point of view and potential gains inevitably become harder to find under these circumstances.

"This is what tests an engineering team the most and I must say that this team has been very good at that. It's far easier to find performance when you have a new set of rules, that's for sure."

It has resulted in the car going through what Lowe describes as an "overall evolution" for this year.

"It's difficult to have a complete revolution when the rules have stayed pretty much the same year on year," he said.

"But we aim to make minor revolutions wherever we can, even within a small context.

"We may look at a completely new packaging solution or suspension concept, for instance.

"So while the car may look very similar to its predecessor from the outside - as is inherent within stable regulations - underneath there are quite a lot of mini revolutions that make up an overall evolution for the new season."

Autosport will have comprehensive live coverage of all eight days of pre-season Formula 1 testing and the team launches

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