Feb.3 (GMM) Ferrari is emerging as a shock contender to take on mighty title defenders Mercedes in 2015.
After Nico Rosberg stunned the paddock with his 157 laps on the W06’s debut on Sunday, world champion Lewis Hamilton could manage ‘only’ 91 on Monday amid a water leak.
But the Mercedes driver said at Jerez: “It (the 2015 car) feels the same as it did last year which is a good thing.”
Hamilton also said ultimate pace at this stage of the winter is “irrelevant”, but it is nonetheless noteworthy that Sebastian Vettel has topped the times on both test days so far.
“Things could definitely be worse,” the Ferrari newcomer smiled, “such as they were last year.”
Vettel is referring to Red Bull’s dismal start to its pre-season campaign a year ago, before the team went on to finish the championship as runner-up behind Mercedes.
So if ‘Red Bull 2014’ is the model, Ferrari appears in very good shape so far, despite losing the highly-rated Fernando Alonso to the currently-troubled McLaren-Honda project.
There is an air of excitement about Ferrari’s prospects, with the Corriere dello Sport borrowing a phrase from Vettel’s former team by declaring: “Ferrari has wings.”
Indeed, even the ultra-dominant Mercedes camp is taking Ferrari’s fast-start seriously.
Bild newspaper said team chairman Niki Lauda accompanied Mercedes designers Andy Cowell and Aldo Costa to a trackside vantage point on Monday.
“I wanted them to see just how fast the new Ferrari is going through the corners,” F1 legend Lauda confirmed.
“We could not compare it with our car, though, because it was not running at the time.”
Also notably quick so far at Jerez is the new Sauber, despite the Swiss team’s awful 2014.
An ideal reference for Sauber is its new race driver Felipe Nasr, who last year was the reserve driver at Mercedes-powered Williams.
“I felt very little difference between the new version of Ferrari (engine) and the Mercedes I had last year,” the Brazilian is quoted by Globo.
“I did not expect it, which makes me believe that, now with a better engine, Ferrari and us can improve,” Nasr added.