Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne is expecting a close fight with Mercedes in 2016.
Earlier this week, the Italian-Canadian boldly targeted nothing less than world championship spoils for the Maranello team this year, after Ferrari closed the gap to dominant Mercedes last season.
“I am pleased that Marchionne is not putting pressure on (Maurizio) Arrivabene and the team!” joked Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi as Ferrari was launched in the Milan stock exchange.
But Marchionne knows well that the red team will have a fight on its hands.
“I do not quite believe the words of Toto Wolff when he says that he fears us,” said Marchionne.
“I pay more attention to Niki Lauda who says Mercedes will win again. We are not afraid of anyone so let’s see what happens in Melbourne,” he added.
Indeed, in the last days of 2015, former Ferrari legend and now Mercedes team chairman Lauda had commented on the looming 2016 championship battle.
“Ferrari is on the right track to make further progress,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “as it may be easier for them to improve both in the chassis and the power unit (than it is for Mercedes).
“(Sebastian) Vettel was also quick, he won and his hunger has grown,” Lauda added.
“As for us, we were better above all else with the hybrid engine, but we arrive at the point where our margins for improvement are reduced. However, we have experience and we know what to do to defend the margin that we had until the last race of the (2015) season,” he said.
Ferrari team boss Arrivabene said this week that all will become clearer next month, when the new cars get up and running at the first Barcelona test.
“I know the work we have done and are doing,” he said. “We have some idea of what the others are doing, but needless to say it is pointless to say at this stage of the year that you are number 1.
“On February 22, we will try to understand where we are and where are the others. Then there will still be a month before the first race to know if it is necessary to improve or if we are strong enough, while still putting in the effort,” Arrivabene added.