Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda believes that Sebastian Vettel’s hunger has grown since joining Ferrari at the beginning of the 2015 Formula 1 season.
Vettel walked away from Red Bull at the end of 2014 to move to Ferrari, with whom he claimed three race wins in 2015 and posed the most stringent challenge to Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the front of the field.
Although Hamilton and Rosberg split the remaining 16 race wins between themselves and amassed a new record total in the constructors’ championship, the resurgence from Vettel and Ferrari has made Mercedes wary of a greater fight in 2016.
Speaking to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Lauda said that Vettel’s hunger has grown since making the move to Ferrari, and believes that the Italian marque is set to make further improvements ahead of the 2016 season.
“Ferrari are once again Ferrari and we saw that by how they were able to close the gap,” Lauda said.
“Sebastian Vettel caused us some issues as he is fast, won and his hunger has grown.
“They are on the right path to make even further progress. Ferrari can improve in terms of design and aerodynamics, along with the power unit.”
Lauda also dismissed the idea of collusion between Ferrari and Mercedes in the engine politic stakes that recently caused F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt to join forces in a bid to reduce the power of the manufacturers.
“Let’s clear one thing: Ferrari are a rival to Mercedes, and one that we must always defeat,” Lauda said.
“We aren’t talking about an alliance. In terms of politics and on major issues there are similar interests that Honda and Renault also agree on.”