sport

Alonso: Mercedes the target

Fernando Alonso believes Mercedes to be the surprise of the Formula One season - and now the benchmark for Ferrari to aspire to.

Come the start of the campaign, rumours implied Mercedes had adapted more to the new regulations compared to fellow power-train suppliers Ferrari and Renault.

But it is fair to assume no-one expected Mercedes to blow away their rivals as they have done this season and usurp Red Bull as the force to beat.

From the 11 grands prix over the first period of the season, Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have claimed 10 poles and won nine races between them.

With eight grands prix to run once F1 returns from its summer break later this month, it is simply a question of when and not if Mercedes will win the constructors' championship and one of their drivers the main prize.

"Mercedes have surprised everybody," said double world champion Alonso.

"Now we are getting used to seeing them dominate every weekend, but I remember when we were in Jerez and Bahrain testing these new cars with very complex technology.

"We were all struggling, but straight away they were okay, and now from 11 races they've won nine and nearly always been on the front row.

"I would say they have been the biggest surprise - a good surprise - this year."

By contrast, Alonso has again driven beyond the capabilities of his car, hauling himself on to the podium twice in the 11 events.

Consequently, both he and Ferrari have nothing much to play for other than being the best of the rest, albeit with the determination to one day soon be battling Mercedes for honours.

"Mercedes are motivation for us," added Alonso.

"We know we can do a much better job as we haven't done a good one so far.

"We are making some progress, but the benchmark has changed - last year it was Red Bull, this year it's Mercedes.

"We simply have to get on top of our problems and try to arrive at their level."