N after the Friday training Ferrari could hope. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen were ahead in both disciplines: on one lap and in the endurance run. One day later the tide turned again. In qualifying for the Chinese GP, Nico Rosberg dashed all red hopes for pole position in 1: 35.402 minutes. In the race, Ferrari robbed itself of the chance to fight for victory. Vettel rammed his teammate in the first corner. 'We would have had a very, very good opportunity to win in a normal race,' mourned team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
Qualifying as an indication of Mercedes games
But it really is ? You can't get rid of the impression that Mercedes is just playing with its biggest rival. And the power of the V6 turbo only turns up when it is really necessary. Qualifying gives an indication of this. In the second part of the timed practice, Rosberg lapped the course in 1: 36.240 minutes. On soft tires, mind you.
There was easily enough time to make it into Q3. Experts fear that the return to the 2015 qualification format will give Mercedes in particular a real wild card. Because the Silver Arrows can now afford the luxury of choosing the best tire for the race start without a ticking clock in the background. So sometimes a bit harder. As in China the soft. Q2 determines the mix on the grid for the top 10 in qualifying.
Everyone else had to pull the softest mix available to make it safely into Q3: the supersofts. Both Ferraris were faster than Rosberg. But only just under a tenth. For the hunt for pole, Mercedes also switched to the supersofts. In the first run, Rosberg put in a 1: 36.111 min. So just under its soft lap, although the Supersoft was nominally 7 tenths faster. Raikkonen stayed under the Rosberg mark in the first shot. In the very last run, however, the World Cup leader filed 7 tenths off the stopwatch. It smells like that Mercedes released more engine power for the decisive shot and previously throttled the engine.
Strong Ferrari helps Mercedes
Raikkonen was missing over half a second, Vettel 8 tenths. However, both did not get a perfect lap, but instead made mistakes. It was heard in the paddock that the red racers should have had a time of 1: 35.6 minutes.Even with the world championship team of the past two years, the big gap was pushed to faulty laps of the opponent.
It is noticeable that Mercedes Ferrari speaks strongly at every little opportunity. Even before the weekend, Rosberg said: 'Ferrari had problems. We haven't seen their full strength yet.' Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff emphasized: 'Ferrari is challenging us. You have taken another giant step. As big as from 2014 to 2015.'
It was the answer to Maurizio Arrivabenes' flowery words: 'Mercedes is the best team I have seen in Formula 1 in the last 10 years.' Even the technical problems with Lewis Hamilton's car are the result of the Ferrari danger, says Wolff: 'If you are pushed to the limit as we are, something like this can happen in motorsport.'
One thing is clear: a strong Ferrari would help the all-time winner. Because close victories against the most successful racing team in Formula 1 history are easier to sell from a marketing point of view than if you drive the red one in the face. And because it makes calls for new engines quieter. Only Ferrari can't be faster.
Even after the Chinese GP, Mercedes was certain that they had not yet seen the real strength of the Maranello racers. Again, Ferrari did not have a smooth race. In addition, the Ferrari V6 is still under the limit. 'They were even more conservative here than in Bahrain,' said Wolff.
Arrivabene does not want to talk about Red Bull
From Montreal onwards, a well-known racing team could catch up and become a real challenger again: Red Bull. Then comes the more powerful Renault V6. The subscription world champion showed a strong race from 2010 to 2013 in China.
'Red Bull was a surprise for us. They were close in qualifying. But Ferrari is the greater danger. It's our turn,' said Rosberg. 'It would be great if Red Bull could strike back this season,' said Wolff. And what does Ferrari say? 'I don't want to talk about Red Bull's performance,' said Arrivabene on race Sunday. Doesn't that say it all?