Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff thinks that Ferrari’s lack of pace in last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix was specific to the Sochi Autodrom circuit and not a sign of things to come in 2016.
Ferrari entered 2016 hopeful of mounting a serious challenge to Mercedes after a strong showing in pre-season, only to struggle to keep up with the German marque in the first four races of the season.
The deficit was particularly worrying for Ferrari in Russia last weekend when Kimi Raikkonen finished as Ferrari’s lead driver but over 30 seconds down on race winner Nico Rosberg.
Talking to reporters after the race, Wolff refused to read too much into Ferrari’s pace, believing the deficit to be largely down to the nature of the track in Sochi.
“The track is very different with a very smooth surface, and we saw that the pace of many teams was different to the races before,” Wolff said.
“Williams was very strong, Red Bull weren’t, and Ferrari weren’t as good as expected. This is a circuit where you have to get it right in terms of mechanical grip and aerodynamic downforce – and engine power plays a role.
“I would say that the dent in the Ferrari performance is Sochi-specific. But that is only my guess.”
Mercedes’ advantage was perhaps even bigger than the 30-second gap between Rosberg and Raikkonen suggested, considering that the race winner was hindered by an issue on his power unit in the second half of the race.
Ferrari’s main problem so far this season has been with the reliability of its cars, as both Raikkonen and teammate Sebastian Vettel have hit trouble in the opening four races.