Nico Rosberg believes that Ferrari cannot be underestimated as a potential threat to his F1 world championship ambitions, despite winning the first three races of the 2016 campaign quite comfortably in his Mercedes.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton remains Rosberg's closest threat despite being yet to win – the Briton has finishes of second, third and sixth from the opening rounds – and the nearest Ferrari challenge currently lies fourth overall, in the shape of Sebastian Vettel, who posted a rare DNS in Bahrain to interrupt podium finishes in rounds one and three.
The Scuderia's issues were compounded by its two cars colliding at the start in China as Vettel attempted to avoid the overtaking Daniil Kvyat, and Rosberg is convinced that there is more to come from the Italian outfit.
“I'm not really sounding any notes of caution – I'm just realistic,” the German claimed, “Ferrari, amongst others, haven't shown what they can do yet. They took each other at the last race and, from there, it was just messy. A lot of things have been going wrong but, for sure, they are a lot quicker than they have shown, and we think they're very, very close to us.”
While he's keeping one eye on the Prancing Horse, however, Rosberg insists that he is not counting anyone out with just three races on the board, not least his own team-mate, who has managed to put up some points at each round, despite problems – such as being forced to start at the back of the grid in China - blighting his effort to keep pace at the top of the table.
“I'm pleased with the way I've been driving over the first three races – for me, it's not six in a row because three were last year and that doesn't count for anything in this year's championship - but my opposition has had a really messy start,” the German confirmed, “I definitely expect them all to bounce back, especially Lewis, and it's going to be a great battle against them as always.
“It will be tough [to win the title], even if I have some points lead now, because it is such a long season. Three races is a seventh of the whole thing and there are 450 points still to take. I'm only 30-something in front so it's a massively long way to go and it's not really changing the situation much.”
Given his 36-point advantage, Rosberg is guaranteed to leave Sochi this Sunday still at the head of the drivers' standings regardless of his result, but a DNF allied to a victory for any of his rivals would make a big dent in his lead. It is closely-packed behind the German, as Hamilton sits on 39 points, three ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and six clear of Vettel. The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen completes the top five overall on 28 points.