Many have admitted their surprise that, notwithstanding the big rule change this year, the Italian team managed to close a big gap to Mercedes over the winter.
“Mercedes and Ferrari is the perfect duel,” said retired world champion Nico Rosberg.
“I just don’t know how Ferrari managed to strike back, especially given how far behind they still were last year,” he told Sky Italia.
Indeed, even Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera admits that “A strong Ferrari is good for F1”.
It has triggered rumours that Pirelli’s 2017 tyres, obviously more suited to the Ferrari than the Mercedes at present, were deliberately developed that way.
Tronchetti Provera denies it.
“The tyres are the same for everyone,” he told Italian radio Rai.
“Mercedes has celebrated great successes and at the moment are in a bit of headwind, but I am convinced that they will soon be back.
“The reason for Ferrari’s good performance? It is simply that the team built an excellent car. Perhaps this progress surprised some people but we should recognise the achievement,” Tronchetti Provera added.
Actually, some saw Ferrari’s strong performance coming in advance, with Sebastian Vettel in particular volunteering at every opportunity to help Pirelli test its 2017 tyres.
“Tyres: that’s Vettel’s strength,” the German’s former teammate Mark Webber told Germany’s Auto Bild.
Pirelli’s Tronchetti Provera said: “Sebastian Vettel worked incredibly seriously in terms of developing the 2017 tyres.
“He was always available to us, when so many others were not.”