Niki Lauda thinks Ferrari is poised to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes' dominance in 2016. Although the German marque has wrapped up the drivers' and constructors' titles yet again this year, team chairman Lauda thinks 2015 was a very different situation to 2014.
"In 2014 it was easy to see our advantage," the F1 legend told Italy's Autosprint. "We had the best engine and the best chassis. But this year Ferrari has made a great deal of progress. Since they had the new engine in Monza, I would say that in terms of power and efficiency, the 20hp advantage that we had is gone now."
"Now, the Mercedes chassis is still better, but I expect the situation to be different again next year, because it is hard for one team to maintain a technological advantage for a long time. When you are already almost at the top of the performance possible with the technical regulations, it is difficult to make progress. So then you are within reach of those who are behind you," Lauda added.
Interestingly, Mercedes has backed a revision to the 2016 rules whereby rival manufacturers will be able to continue to develop their 'power units' into next season. The number of development 'tokens' was also increased with Mercedes' approval, although Lauda insists: "It was the only way for us to behave."
"It doesn't happen often that a team allows others to catch up by changing the regulations," he said, "but we also have to recognise that the way the rules were written was stupid. Even Honda, who came late, would have even less tokens for development, which was ridiculous -- the rules were wrong."
"For Mercedes it is more satisfying to win in the context that there is more competition, and I have never been scared of competition in my entire life. So if the rules are badly written, you have to change them," added Lauda. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing