Although Lewis Hamilton claimed his third victory in four races this year at the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 20, Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff still sees Ferrari as a major threat for the team’s title bid this year.
“It was a huge relief as both cars lost brake power [during the race],” said Wolff, hiding his disappointment at losing a one-two finish with Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari finishing second.
Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg finished third, after losing his brakes on the penultimate lap, while Hamilton had to hang on as he completed the contest after his brakes failed from overheating as he headed towards the chequered flag.
“It was a shame for Nico because he was having a great race and did some great overtaking,” added Wolff. “We need to analyze the overheating problem.”
“And looking at the result, we were not dominant and Ferrari are catching up. We need to do everything we can to continue to beat them,” he added.
As Wolff lamented Mercedes’ relative loss of superior performance against Ferrari, the Italian team were uncertain if they should laugh or cry – Raikkonen saying he was disappointed not to win the race and four-time champion German Sebastain Vettel lamenting his own performance after finishing fourth.
The Italian team, which ended a two-year win drought when Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix, saw the “ice man” Raikkonen roll back the years on April 20, with a resurgent second place behind championship leader Hamilton in Bahrain.
And for many observers, including Ferrari team chief Maurizio Arrivabene, Raikkonen is showing the performance levels that will lead to him earning a new contract with the scarlet scuderia.
Ferrari is planning another major upgrade to their power package for the Canadian Grand Prix in June – news that will delight the tifosi and most neutrals, but shrewd paddock observers believe Mercedes has plenty of potential in hand and will match their nearest rivals as the season unfolds.
Raikkonen, on current form, not only deserves another year at Ferrari, but could emerge as a title contender, according to Arrivabene whose hands-on approach to his job has revived team spirit.
“I am really happy for Kimi!” said the Italian, whose emotional and humorous connection to his work has delighted all observers.
Hamilton still optimistic
Hamilton, however, is still confident his Mercedes team have the potential and resources to fend off Ferrari’s resurgent form and stay on top in defense of their Formula One world titles this year.
“I’m confident,” he said after the 36th win of his career.
“Ultimately, I think we’re trying to win both championships so I guess the team won’t be 100 percent happy because we want to finish one-two,” Hamilton added.
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe added that he was not too concerned, or nervous, about Ferrari’s resurgence.
“Nervous is not the right word. It’s a competition. This is a more normal championship, where teams compete to win each race—and it’s never easy,” he added.
THE TIMES AND AFP