Whether Ferrari can take on Mercedes next year is arguably the biggest question of the winter.
“The target” for 2016, confirmed team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, “is to cancel the smile from the face of my friend Toto (Wolff).”
Indeed, Mercedes’ Wolff admittedly recently that, while the German squad was dominant in 2014 and 2015, he is “permanently sceptical” that the era will end soon.
“About 2016,” confirmed driver Nico Rosberg, “I am confident that the team will make a great car for me again next year.
“But we are aware of the red (Ferrari) threat,” he told Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper, “and do not want them to get much closer than they are now.”
Ferrari was the only team able to beat Mercedes at all last season, although Sebastian Vettel’s three wins were dwarfed by the 16 victories shared between Rosberg and the world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Some, therefore, have scoffed at Arrivabene’s championship target for 2016.
“So what do you want me to do in terms of objective?” he hit back. “To tell everybody that I would like to be second next year?
“Of course (winning) is our objective but it doesn’t mean we are going to achieve it. But we will try very hard,” said Arrivabene.
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen said it is “obvious” that Ferrari made a lot of progress between 2014 and 2015.
“Whichever way you look at it,” he insisted, “it has been a lot stronger from the team than the previous year.
“Obviously the aim is always to try to be in the front and Mercedes has always been very strong in the last years with everybody else trying to beat them,” added Raikkonen.
“Is it going to happen? We hope so at least. We have to wait until we put the cars on the circuit in a test and the first few races — then we really see where we are.
“Obviously there’s a lot of work being done at the factory, numbers and stuff, but it’s never the same until we’re really on the circuit. Then we can see it pretty well, or feel it quite quickly, after a few laps, if it’s going to be a good one or a not so good one.
“I’m sure we’re going to have a strong package,” said Raikkonen, “but is it strong enough? Time will only tell.”