Press tips 'small advantage' for Red Bull
Most leading specialist publications see Red Bull as the continuing pacesetter in formula one.
In their recent analysis, outlets including Auto Motor und Sport (Germany), La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy) and Autosport (Britain) believe world champion Sebastian Vettel again resides the best car ahead of the 2012 season.
"They still have an advantage, but it's smaller," agreed Jenson Button, according to Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.
His boss Martin Whitmarsh added: "Red Bull has a solid, fast car, better than us in slow corners, but we're better in the fast ones."
Switzerland's Sonntagsblick, however, sees McLaren actually ahead of the energy drink-owned team, with Mercedes in third place and Force India a surprise fourth.
"Red Bull is faster (than Mercedes)," said the German marque's boss Ross Brawn, "and clearly a little more than we had hoped for," he told Auto Motor und Sport.
The international publications said Lotus, amid their chassis flaw problems, rank anywhere between third (Auto Motor und Sport) and eighth (Blick).
According to the same press, Ferrari is in trouble, ranking no higher than fifth in the lists of the aforementioned publications -- and the authoritative Auto Motor und Sport predicting nothing short of a disastrous season for the fabled Italian team.
Felipe Massa is quoted by Spanish reporters as saying Barcelona was "a little more positive" than the Jerez test recently, and he was asked to rank the development of the new F2012 car out of ten.
"Probably more than five. There is still much to do, but now we are closer than we were," said the Brazilian.
As for whether the car is a race winner, Massa added: "I hope so, but it's very difficult to say anything in testing," he is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat.
Indeed, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi ended last week's Barcelona test with the quickest time, but Blick's veteran correspondent Roger Benoit warned against taking that too seriously.
"When with the same tyres at the same time, (Mercedes' Nico) Rosberg was a second faster per lap than Sauber's Japanese," he said.
"In testing, the truth is seldom revealed -- if the teams used lie detectors, they would all be laying exploded around us."
According to Britain's Sun newspaper, Kobayashi confirmed: "I don't think McLaren and Red Bull are slow.
"We don't really wish for wins or podiums. For us this is a bit too far away."
Instead, the midfield battle looks extremely tight, with Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio surmising that Sauber as well as Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams are all in there.
"It will be race to race," Toro Rosso's Giorgio Ascanelli told the Italian press. "From what we've seen so far, this fight will be amazing."
And Oricchio concluded: "As for HRT and Marussia, who have not even presented their 2012 cars, they undoubtedly have capable people, but also almost as many difficulties."