Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits that Ferrari’s performances are giving Mercedes serious pause for thought.
Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel secured an impressive one-two in Practice Two in China on Friday, and Wolff took note of what he called Ferrari’s “raw performance”.
After Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dominated the first practice session at the Chinese GP, the Scuderia headed out on the supersoft compound for the second session and dominated.
Raikkonen set the fastest time – a 1:36.896 – which was quicker than any time set during last year’s three practice sessions.
The SF16-H has been struggling with reliability problems, but they are increasingly matching Mercedes for pace.
Still, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene urged caution.
“We had a good Friday, not a bad one,” the Ferrari team principal said. “Unfortunately you’re not gaining position on the grid or points in the championship. It’s a good start but the weekend is still long.
“I can say that the Mercedes team of this year is the strongest one we have seen in the last 10 years. To be able to win against them you have to work and to be better than them. Even so, we are doing our best to have a good result.”
Wolff, who was sitting next to the Italian in the press conference, was having none of it, however.
“Before answering the question I’d like to give the flowers back,” he said. “They are pushing us very hard. You have seen today, it’s raw performance.”
Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe echoed Wolff’s words.
“We’re very close with Ferrari on both single lap and long run pace across all three tyre compounds, so we look set for an exciting weekend.”
Noting Ferrari’s reliability problems, Wolff saw it as a result of not yet fully coming to terms with their significant jump in performance.
“We have seen that raw performance in the last couple of races,” he added. “They haven’t been able to pull it all together because they made another big step from 2015 to 2016, similar to the step of 2014 to 2015, in order to have the package to deliver and be reliable. That is obviously not an easy task.
“Down to sheer performance they are really pushing us. That is good, that is what competition is about.”
Nico Rosberg also seemed to take note of the growing threat.
“It looks like we are quick here again – but in the afternoon we saw that Ferrari are also very quick, so we are definitely looking out for them and we’ll have a bit homework to do tonight.”