‘Mercedes, Ferrari set for exciting battle’


Former F1 driver Niki Lauda is predicting a tense and thrilling season-long duel between Mercedes and Ferrari in 2016.

The two teams were neck-in-neck in the opening race in Melbourne, and while Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished one-two for Mercedes, the result might have been different had it not been for a mistaken tyre call from Ferrari.

As Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said afterwards: "We were there – this is the news."

Lauda, who is now employed as Mercedes' non-executive chairman, expects Ferrari to remain a threat throughout the season

"I'm afraid we'll see more of this because Ferrari is quick. There's no question about it," said Lauda.

"It's going to be exciting, so I look forward to the next one."

Sky Sports F1 analyst Mark Hughes also believes Ferrari have cause for optimism in Bahrain next week.

"Essentially, the Ferrari was around 0.5s per lap more competitive in Bahrain qualifying than it had been in Australia," Hughes wrote about the 2015 season.

"If (an important if) the switch of tracks finds the same benefit for Ferrari this time around, it would suggest a Mercedes qualifying advantage in Bahrain of no more than 0.3s.

"Different season, different cars, but the patterns and traits of performance between the two cars does seem quite similar this year to last.

"A Ferrari that can get to within 0.3s of a Mercedes in qualifying might very well be able to match its pace on race day."

While Arrivabene is impressed with the pace the Ferraris have shown, he knows a lot of hard work lies ahead if they're to continue to challenge Mercedes.

"The pace in the race is very good. The car is very good," he said. "But we don't have to give up. We need to continue to push because every race has its own story.

"So we need to turn the page and look forward and to think about the next one to do, not what we have done [in Australia], but even better for Bahrain."