When Ferrari puts its 2016 challenger on track in February, the entire world of F1 will wonder if it can be a Mercedes-beater. And arguably the keenest observers of all will be the partisan Italian press. "2016 is the year of truth," declared La Stampa newspaper. "The Scuderia has one last step to get back to the top."
After two years of utter Mercedes dominance, the F1 world has been micro-analysing Ferrari's resurgent form this year. In Brazil two weeks ago, the red team appeared to now be tantalisingly close. But then in Abu Dhabi, Mercedes flexed its full muscle again. "Maranello should be very concerned," Corriere dello Sport said after the weekend's season finale, "because the superiority of Mercedes is still very strong."
La Stampa continued: "When the Mercedes drivers start from the front and make no mistakes, they are invincible. The question now is whether three winter months is enough for Ferrari to close that gap." Even boss Maurizio Arrivabene admits that, despite Ferrari's impressive resurgence this year, there is no guarantee the team will be closer next year. "But one year ago it seemed like mission impossible. Now we know that it is possible," he said.
Sebastian Vettel, who won three times versus Mercedes combined sixteen in 2015, also acknowledged that while Ferrari has made steps in 2015, "The last step is the hardest". F1 veteran David Coulthard agrees that Mercedes' current level of dominance is almost "unprecedented". "People thought Red Bull was bad, but it was all tight margins," he told the Telegraph. "This is something else. I do not even remember Ferrari in the early 2000s enjoying such a significant pace advantage." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing