After a tumultuous 2014 campaign, the Italian outfit regrouped impressively this year, but Sebastian Vettel only won three times versus Mercedes’ combined 16.
“Mercedes will continue to be strong next year,” F1 legend Alain Prost predicted in an interview with Bild newspaper.
“Ferrari will move closer again, but I see Mercedes in front of them, and then Red Bull,” the Frenchman added.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo agrees that Mercedes may be too big a challenge for its main rivals in 2016, telling Perth Now that he thinks the German camp actually “increased the gap this year”.
“I don’t want to get too excited,” said the Australian. “Obviously I probably set too high expectations at the start of the year, so I think the next goal is to play it down and see what happens.”
Ferrari’s Vettel has a similar view, arguing that Mercedes’ level of dominance is perhaps unprecedented — and greater even than his run of four consecutive titles at Red Bull between 2010-2013.
“Honestly, we never had that level of domination,” the German told the Spanish sports daily Marca.
“The first year I won by a few points only to Fernando (Alonso), Mark (Webber) and Lewis (Hamilton). And then in 2012, the first seven races had seven different winners.
“That’s very different to what we have now,” said Vettel.
“The rules are not changing much for next year,” he continued, “and it is likely that Mercedes will be very strong again.”
As far as official goals go, however, Ferrari chiefs Marchionne and team boss Maurizio Arrivabene are targeting nothing but the best.
“If I’m completely honest,” Arrivabene also said at Ferrari’s Christmas party, “we do not want to be closer to Mercedes, but ahead of them. With all humility, just being close to Mercedes cannot be our goal.”
President Marchionne agrees.
“The balance sheet of Ferrari is good,” he is quoted by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. “What we need now is results on the track. It is important to win the first race of the season in Australia.
“I know the work that has been done quietly by the team, without making a fuss. But now we win,” Marchionne added.