Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari is 'very, very close' to matching Mercedes in performance and echoes his team principal Toto Wolff's comments that 2016 will be a much tighter contest.
The reigning F1 world champion says he has always been wary of the threat Ferrari poses throughout his career in the sport and fully expects them to continue to match the level of development it has been making already in 2015.
When asked about Niki Lauda's beliefs that the Italian manufacturer has matched Mercedes in terms of engine power and performance, Hamilton feels his team still has the edge and is keen for Mercedes to continue its developments to maintain its dominance.
“I think they took their last step in Austin and they are very, very close,” Hamilton said. “I still feel that Mercedes makes the best engine, so I still think there are areas where we are stronger, but they have come a very long way from the power they had with Fernando last year.
“They have made a huge, huge step and I anticipate next year will be even better, so we have got to continue and it's harder when you are at the top to keep that gap, it's much easier to chase. I don't know if they will make any more improvements this year, but definitely next year is going to be very close.”
Having spent time at the Mercedes F1 base in Brackley before and after the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton has been filled with confidence the team is making progress on its 2016 car but says nobody can be sure the difference in performance between his car and Ferrari's until the cars race next year.
“I've experienced racing Ferrari as the main competitive team in the past, so I have no doubt at some stage they will be the main competitors,” he explained. “They have made some amazing progress this year, so you have to assume they will make more progress for next year. Whether or not they will match us or be ahead, I have no idea.
“I still have 100% confidence in the decisions the team are taking and the progress they are making. Who knows how much progress they are making in their preparations for next year, but what I do know is I have the best group of guys pushing flat-out for me, so hopefully we'll still be there.”