Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda believes Ferrari have now caught up with Mercedes in terms of power unit performance and believes that could bring an end to their dominance in 2016.
Mercedes entered into the turbo-hybrid V6 era with a power unit well ahead of its rivals, allowing it dominate in both 2014 and 2015 as it secured both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships with relative ease.
However the team has often come under pressure from Ferrari, with the Italian team having claimed three wins so far, whilst Sebastian Vettel sits just 21 points adrift of second placed Nico Rosberg, having led him before crashing out of the Mexican Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
Lauda has warned Mercedes must pull out all the stops to find a competitive edge, as he believes their engine advantage has now been wiped out.
“This year to do better than Ferrari we had to make a lot of progress,” he told Italy’s Autosprint.
“Since they introduced the updated engine at Monza, I would say that they have matched us in terms of power and efficiency.
“The 20bhp advantage we had is now gone. Now we are at the same level of power – we know this for certain because of the reference we have.”
The tirple world champion expects the grid to be closer next year as Mercedes reaches a performance plateau where it will stuggle to find gains compared to its rivals.
“The picture will change in 2016, because in F1 you can’t sustain your technical superiority for a long time,” added the Austrian.
“We know the others can catch up. When you are at the limit of the performance of the regulations it’s difficult to make big progress, which is easier for those behind us.”