Chinese GP: Ferrari title is 'not realistic', says technical boss

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton tops second Chinese Grand Prix practice
Chinese Grand Prix
Venue: Shanghai International Circuit. Date: 10-12 April
Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; text commentary on BBC Sport website; highlights on BBC One

Ferrari says it is "not realistic" for them to think about beating Mercedes to the title this year despite Sebastian Vettel's victory in the last race.

The German is three points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes after two races.

Ferrari technical boss James Allison said: "Mercedes have a bit more horsepower and a bit more downforce.

Man invades track in Chinese GP practice

"Until we have closed those two gaps, it's not realistic to talk about title challenges."

Ferrari had their worst season in 21 years in 2014, the nadir of a slump in performance that convinced Fernando Alonso to leave the team two years before the end of his contract because he had lost faith that they could give him a car in which he could win a third world title.

Mercedes v Ferrari: Andrew Benson's practice analysis
Hamilton's average over his run was 0.7secs faster than Vettel's but it was noticeable that the Mercedes' tyres went off faster than the Ferrari's, just as was key in the German's victory in Malaysia two weeks ago.
Hamilton managed 11 flying laps before his times dropped off, while Vettel was able to continue for a further three. This could be an important advantage in the race for Ferrari.

Ferrari have made significant progress this season, thanks in large part to a big step forward in performance from their engine, their biggest weak point in 2014.

But Allison said there was no reason at this stage to revise the aims the team set for themselves at the beginning of the season.

"We thought it was realistic to score a couple of wins," Allison said. "We'll take whatever comes our way and will do our best to close up [the gap] as much as we can.

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen impressed on the first day of practice, finishing second behind Hamilton in P2

"But sticking with the objectives we set at the beginning of the year is still realistic."

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest to Hamilton in practice at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, and the team looks set to be Mercedes' closest challenger over the weekend in Shanghai.

Hamilton appeared to have an advantage in pace of at least half a second a lap in both single-lap, qualifying trim and on race-simulation laps.

But it seemed clear from Friday practice that Ferrari continued to have lighter tyre usage than Mercedes, an asset that was a key factor in Vettel's win in Malaysia two weeks ago.

But the conditions are significantly cooler than in tropical Malaysia - the forecast is for dry weather, with temperatures expected to rise to about 20C in the race from 16C on Friday - so it should be easier for Mercedes to keep the tyre situation under control.

Chinese GP: All eyes on Vettel and Ferrari in Shanghai

Vettel said: "For us, target number one is to be right behind Mercedes. You have to accept they are very strong and then as the season goes on we will try to get closer and closer."

Hamilton said: "The Ferraris look like they are just as quick as in the last race but hopefully we're quicker. Generally, it looks like it is going to be quite close."

Chinese GP coverage details

Chinese GP practice results

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