Ferrari began the season hoping to win two or three races in 2015. They brought engine upgrades in Montreal and Monza which have seen the red team creeping ever closer to the dominant Mercedes F1 cars. Yet even as recently as the Russian GP, James Allison was cautiously optimistic about 2016 when he said, “We have got a good chance of being competitive with or without in-season development”, adding that he believed Ferrari had made up 8 tenths of the 1.6 second defect they faced to Mercedes in 2015.
Just three races later, Ferrari team boss Maruzio Arrivabene is now making bolder claims about Maranello’s challenge to Brackley. “If you want my honest expectation [for 2016], it is not to be closer to them but to be in front of them. I tell you that with humility, but we are closer even now so we must be in front next year.”
Much of the gains are attributed to the Ferrari power unit department to whom Arrivabene gives credit. “I want to take this occasion to thank them because, for us, the engine is the core of the car,” and he claims there are big opportunities to find even more chunks of time in the chassis and aero departments.
There were a handful of laps during the Brazilian GP where clearly the Mercedes pair were pushing each other and running close to flat out. Rosberg received a message that suggested Lewis was deploying all his engine modes in an attempt to pass the German shortly after the first round of pit stops.
From laps 16 to 31 at Interlagos, the average lap time defect from Hamilton to Vettel was a mere 0.169 of a second. Back in Sochi, this same gap throughout the race was closer to a second a lap. In the rain hit Austin race the Hamilton/Vettel average lap time differential was much smaller and in almost dry conditions towards the end of the race had fallen to around 0.25s.
The disaster that was the Mexican GP for Ferrari means little could be gleaned on the Ferrari game of Mercedes catchup, but next time out in Abu Dhabi will almost definitely be dry, and Vettel may even challenge for pole position.
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