Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes it is impossible to write off Ferrari’s chances ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season given the sea-change in the sport’s technical regulations.
Mercedes dominated F1 through the first phase of the V6 hybrid era, starting in 2014, winning three consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles and all but eight races in the past three years.
For 2017, the technical regulations have been overhauled in a bid to make the cars faster and look more radical, prompting many teams to shift their development focus early.
Ferrari endured a difficult 2016 season, going without victory for the second time in three years, as well as suffering internal losses, most notably parting company with technical chief James Allison.
Aerodynamics is expected to be the biggest battleground in 2017, prompting concern for Ferrari’s fortunes given specialist Allison’s departure and the team’s traditional weakness in that area.
However, Wolff believes that it is impossible to dismiss Ferrari’s chances given its resources, particularly at a time when the regulations are changing so drastically.
“In 2012 and 2013, [Mercedes] were not the favorites, then with the regulatory change we became successful,” Wolff told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It could happen to Ferrari. It has the potential and resources to go back to being competitive.”
Allison’s position was assumed by Mattia Binotto, who previously worked as Ferrari’s engine chief before being promoted to the role of chief technical officer.
Wolff believes that Ferrari’s decision to promote from within was the right one, with a strong Italian identity working to the team’s strength.
“They focused on being an Italian team. For me, that is an added value, not a restraint,” Wolff said.
“Ferrari does not need mercenaries. I am convinced that the decisions taken by [CEO Sergio] Marchionne and [team principal Maurizio] Arrivabene are moving [Ferrari] in the right direction.”