A general consensus has emerged about the likely pecking-order this weekend in Australia.

Based on winter testing, this year's longest-ever F1 season looks set to be very closely contested, but experts, pundits and insiders fairly agree about the rough shape of Saturday's Melbourne grid.

"From what I saw in the tests, Red Bull and McLaren seem to be at a similar pace," Francesco Nenci, Kamui Kobayashi's race engineer at Sauber, told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"Then comes Mercedes and then our team along with Lotus and Ferrari. But we'll only really find out here," he told Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio in Melbourne.

Steve Nielsen, Caterham's sporting director, roughly agrees.

"Red Bull and McLaren are the best, Mercedes is a little bit behind and then it's Lotus, Ferrari, Sauber and Force India," he said.

And given that the top three teams will presumably dominate the first six positions in Q3, the last part of qualifying "should be exciting", Nielsen smiled.

But so will the fight at the front, with McLaren's Jenson Button desperate to end Red Bull's two-year run of dominance.

"With quite a big change in the regulations in terms of the blown diffuser, now is the interesting time to see whether Red Bull can hang onto the advantage they have had," said the Briton.

"If they can, it is going to be very difficult to beat them over the next few years."