May 31 (GMM) Ferrari got a head-start with its title-challenging car for 2017.
That is the claim of Toto Wolff, boss of the Mercedes team which won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ championships on the trot.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, however, is now 25 points clear in this year’s chase, while the Italian team is leading Mercedes by 17.
“To our knowledge, Ferrari started development of its car very early — in December 2015. For us it was only March 2016,” Wolff told Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
“By then, Ferrari already had more than 50 per cent of its resources on the new car,” he added.
“Ferrari has perhaps a 16 week lead, and in that time you can find downforce worth four or five tenths,” said Wolff.
As far as the drivers’ crown goes, Ferrari might also have a tactical edge.
The team is denying it, but there are suspicions Kimi Raikkonen was deliberately disadvantaged by Ferrari so that Vettel could win last Sunday at Monaco.
“Of course you have to ask that question, even if there was no need for them to do so,” former F1 driver Alex Wurz told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
“But obviously the world championship is in the foreground,” he added.
Sunday’s events left Raikkonen obviously upset, but La Gazzetta dello Sport says it is a “nice problem” for the Maranello team to have.
“It was similar for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg,” said correspondent Luigi Perna.
“It will now be interesting to see how Ferrari handles it. Kimi almost never shows his emotions in the way he did in Monaco,” he added.
It could actually be a timely boost for Finn Raikkonen, as speculation had already started to bubble that Ferrari might replace the 37-year-old for 2018.
“His contract is coming to an end, I believe he would like to race again next year and it will be possible if he continues to go as he did in Monaco and does not cause difficulties within the team,” said Perna.