Ecclestone backs Mercedes for 2014 title, Force India a 'dark horse'

Ecclestone backs Mercedes for 2014 title, Force India a 'dark horse'

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is one of the many who want to see a new champion in the upcoming season, ending the four-year domination of Sebastian Vettel over the sport. The new regulations make the season unpredictable and the F1 czar sees the Mercedes-Nico Rosberg combination best prepared to win the title.

Reigning champions Red Bull struggled at the opening pre-season test at Jerez last week, clocking only 21 laps over four days owing to overheating and power unit issues. Rivals Mercedes, on the other hand, racked up 309 laps through Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg with Mercedes-powered cars (Force India, McLaren and Williams) recording 875 laps in total.

"Anything can happen under the new regulations. So I would not want to comment much on what could happen this season. The way things worked out at Jerez, Mercedes seem best prepared to succeed with Rosberg winning the title," Ecclestone told IANS over phone from London.

The 83-year-old last week described the Jerez test as a "farce", largely because of the teams' travails in adjusting to the new power units. The 1.6 litre turbo engine is more efficient than its predecessor but doesn't produce the roaring sound of the V8s.
Ecclestone feels that the first few races of the season could be a lottery, giving midfield teams like Force India a chance to spring a surprise.

Asked whether Force India can reach the elusive podium this year, the British magnate said: "Why a podium? I would love to see them win a race. And I am confident they can achieve that. They might not be as strong as the Mercedes but as their customers, Force India should progress farther up the grid."

The Silverstone squad has shown improvement over the years and finished sixth ahead of established teams like Sauber and Williams in 2013. Force India's only podium finish came in 2009 when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second at Spa from pole position.  The 2014 season begins at Melbourne March 16.

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