Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says he will only accept that Ferrari does not still have a power unit advantage once the first competitive sessions of the season are complete.
Ferrari’s greatest strength in 2019 was its power unit performance, with the team enjoying a clear advantage over its rivals in terms of straight-line speed for much of the season. However, after a number of technical directives were issued during 2019, over the winter Ferrari reached a settlement with the FIA when the governing body said it could not be convinced the power unit was always being run within the regulations.
Pre-season testing suggested Ferrari has since lost its power unit advantage, but Wolff is not assuming anything until the opening race weekend in Austria next month.
“Last year’s Ferrari power unit was much more powerful, but we haven’t seen it yet,” Wolff said. “Only in a qualifying session and the race is everyone really going to show their hand, and we haven’t seen that.
“I’m obviously always on the pessimistic side — we need to catch up, we need to come out with a reliable and powerful and drivable engine and I hope it’s enough. But I also wouldn’t discount Honda and Renault — I think pretty much every single power unit supplier is pretty much on par now.”
Wolff also expects reliability to play a key role in this year’s championship given a run of eight races in 10 weeks, following a significant delay to the start of the season.
“I think first of all this new calendar and coronavirus throws some new challenges at us. I think reliability is going to be a fundamental part of the first races — the cars have come out of the container straight from Australia, there’s not a lot of time to run them on the dynos, and we’ll be using every session to learn. So the reduced race calendar is a challenge for everybody and the team that has the quickest car and the most reliable package will win the championship.
“I think it’s good that we have a solid eight-race European calendar. I believe, or would hope, that the two races in the Middle East at the end of the year are being confirmed soon, and then we have to see how every single country develops. I think it’s a moving target and I would very much hope that we have a good overseas calendar in autumn.”